The review of the 2011 season has just begun and it is time to look at one of my favorite all-encompassing numbers, the ERA-SIERA differential. The pitchers with the largest differences between the two are likely to over overvalued or undervalued in fantasy leagues next season, depending on which end of the list they fell on. Today I will look at those whose ERA was most below their SIERA marks, suggesting that these pitchers may be disappointments next year.
Unsurprisingly after the flurry of recent articles on Hellickson, he appears at the top of this list. If you just take his peripherals at face value, then you might expect him to massively bust next season. However, as I observed several months ago and Bradley Woodrum looked at more in depth earlier this week, Hellickson should have no problem increasing his K/9 next year, and perhaps significantly. That should offset some, though not all, of the regression his ERA will face once his .223 BABIP jumps and his 82% LOB% falls back to Earth. On strictly an ERA basis, he will disappoint many next year, but it will really depend on your league when it comes to how he is valued.
Judging by the comments from the excellent article written by Dave Cameron last week about Justin Verlander‘s 2011 performance, it is clear that what I said in my own recent article about fans getting more upset about knocking down a top pitcher, versus hyping up a lower tier hurler, is absolutely corrcet. So I get that every time I call Weaver lucky and not this good, people will get mad. But unfortunately this is reality. Of course, Weaver has outperformed his SIERA rather significantly in four of his six seasons, so it is reasonable to believe there may be something missing in the statistics we analyze. That said, he outperformed his SIERA by more than a full run this year, which was easily a career high. He has consistently maintained a lower than league average BABIP and HR/FB ratio, which does make it harder and harder to argue this is all luck. Still, if he gets drafted as a top five overall pitcher in fantasy leagues, his owners are going to be disappointed.
I want to believe that most fantasy owners will immediately chalk Vogelsong up as a fluke. It is clear that he is a much better pitcher than he was when he was previously in the Majors, but an xFIP- of exactly 100 tells you that his skill set has only improved to a league average level. Pitcher half his games in AT&T Park probably helps a bit, but there’s no way he strands runners at an 80.4% clip again. With a well below average SwStk%, that K/9 is also going to fall. When you throw in the poor offense supporting him, you really aren’t left with much. He may very well drop into the reserve round in savvier mixed leagues, but he will absolutely get drafted in NL-Only leagues and is almost a guaranteed to generate a loss for his owner.
Here is a new name that I have not seen all season long and these lists. Saunders is no stranger to this type of list as he made his debut back in 2008 when he posted a surprising 3.41 ERA, despite a 4.71 SIERA. He expectedly busted the next two seasons, but he’s back again making us stat-mongers scratch our collective heads. With his pathetic strikeout rate, he really needs to exhibit pinpoint control or at least induce a ton of ground balls. Unfortunately, he does none of those, meaning that he is at the mercy of his defense. I highly doubt he gets sniffed in mixed leagues, but NL-Only leaguers tempted to take a cheap gamble thinking he won’t kill you should think again. His upside is limited by his poor strikeout potential and therefore has a much larger downside that makes him just not worth a roster spot.
There he is, the list’s resident apparent lucky pitcher, who appears here on an annual basis. I was going to mention his name while writing the Weaver blurb but figured I would wait to make the comparison down here. Cain looks eerily similar to Weaver in that both are fly ball pitchers (or at least were, as Cain has finally induced more grounders than flys), display good control and typically post strikeout rates in the 7.0-8.0 range. They are even well below average in the same two luck metrics, BABIP and HR/FB ratio. Cain has been doing it about a season longer than Weaver and has outperformed his SIERA literally every season of his seven years with the Giants, six of those being full seasons. Obviously, this should no longer be considered luck, though some seasons he does get lucky and his already good HR/FB suppressing ability becomes crazy, like this year’s 3.7%. Amazingly, this is one the second season Cain’s SIERA has been below even 4.00, and the career best FB% led to his lowest SIERA mark ever. I still will probably never draft him, but he looks as safe as ever.
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