Nearly three months into the season, I looked at three American League starting pitcher disappointments and wondered if we should expect them to experience better days ahead. The Major League ERA at the time was just 3.88, the first time it was below 4.00 since 1992. It has risen since, but barely, as it still sits at just 3.93. That means the busts are hurting your fantasy team even more than usual. So let’s take a look at how these three pitchers have fared since and what we could expect in 2012.
Fausto Carmona | 6.17 ERA at the time, 5.23 ERA now
Carmona’s ERA has dropped, as it almost had to given how inflated it had been, but he still posted a weak 4.40 ERA since the article was posted. Interestingly, he is pitching almost identically to last season when he finished with a respectable 3.77 ERA. His HR/FB ratio has bounced around during his career, but the biggest reason for his awful ERA is just a 62.1% LOB%. I am actually not sure exactly how he has accomplished that, as that is usually caused by an inflated BABIP or HR/FB ratio. Though his HR/FB ratio is certainly above league average, about 13% is not that crazy, and his BABIP is just .292. Along with his HR/FB ratio, his LOB% has jumped up and down during his career too, so this absolutely looks like a case of poor fortune and just random variance. His poor strikeout rate does limit his potential fantasy value, but he is nearly guaranteed to enjoy better results next year and he will likely be undervalued in AL-Only leagues.
Derek Holland | 4.69 ERA at the time, 3.92 ERA now
At the time, Holland’s xFIP was 3.84, and that metric has dropped just slightly to 3.79. And would you look at that, an ERA estimator doing its job well in predicting where a pitcher’s ERA will end up! Sure enough, Holland has shaken the bad luck demons and posted a 3.18 ERA since, despite his skills remaining constant according to xFIP. This is exactly how it’s supposed to work. Despite adding 2.1 miles per hour to his fastball velocity, which is quite significant, his K% has declined a bit, as well as his SwStk%. In fact, for a pitcher, especially a lefty, with such strong velocity, you would think he would generate a higher SwStk% than just 7.7%, which is nearly a full percentage point below the league average. If he could maintain this velocity increase, then it does give him an opportunity to improve his strikeout rate, and his minor league track record suggests this is possible. Given the increased GB%, the improved control and velocity spike, he looks like a solid target for next year with some additional upside.
Max Scherzer | 4.61 ERA at the time, 4.39 ERA now
Like Carmona, Scherzer has seen better results since, but a 4.16 ERA is still not what fantasy owners had in mind when they drafted him. His SIERA and xFIP marks have actually remained relatively stable over the past three seasons (including this one), but the standard luck metrics have all bounced around, causing the ERA fluctuations we keep seeing. Of course, this has led to all kinds of attempts at justifying the results as more than just poor fortune, without much evidence. Early in the season, Scherzer’s fastball velocity was down, which was a concern. But if you look at his velocity chart, it has been in a beautiful upward trend all season, and has brought his season velocity back up to what he averaged last year. He has thrown his slider a bit more this year, which should have helped his K%, but has not, though his SwStk% is up a tad. With a F-Strike% at a career high and a pretty strong number, his control should remain good. I would prefer to see some more ground balls, but with strikeout rate upside (his SwStk% suggests a better K/9) and the disappointing season he has suffered through on the surface, he is another good target for all leaguers.