Future SP Disappointments: SIERA Outperformers

Every so often, I like to look at the difference between starting pitchers’ SIERA and ERA marks and rank them to determine who has been luckiest and unluckiest according to the former metric. This is an especially important exercise to do during trading season, both when looking to identify pitchers to trade for and which pitchers you own you should be looking to sell. Today I present the SIERA outperformers, those whose ERA is most below their SIERA marks. These are your potential sell high candidates.

Ryan Vogelsong 6.2 3.5 0.247 84.7% 5.7% 2.26 4.44 -2.18
Brandon Beachy 7.3 3.3 0.206 79.0% 7.0% 1.98 3.96 -1.98
Jeremy Hellickson 6.3 3.5 0.248 84.2% 11.6% 2.65 4.50 -1.85
Barry Zito 5.1 3.7 0.242 75.2% 8.6% 3.24 4.95 -1.71
Jarrod Parker 6.5 4.9 0.265 76.9% 3.6% 3.19 4.85 -1.66
Neftali Feliz 7.8 5.0 0.217 81.9% 7.5% 3.02 4.56 -1.54
Ted Lilly 5.7 3.5 0.224 64.4% 5.5% 3.14 4.62 -1.48
Wade Miley 6.0 1.8 0.268 74.0% 3.2% 2.44 3.84 -1.40
Brandon McCarthy 6.0 2.3 0.297 79.1% 6.3% 2.79 4.13 -1.34
Johnny Cueto 6.0 2.2 0.295 81.1% 6.8% 2.63 3.90 -1.27

As one of last year’s biggest surprises, Ryan Vogelsong is once again defying logic by posting weak peripherals, but managing to keep his ERA below 3.00. His HR/FB ratio is nearly identical at home and away, and his xFIP is rather close as well. The difference is a ridiculous .214 home BABIP and nearly 91% LOB%. There are a couple of factors likely contributing to the low overall BABIP though, but it still doesn’t seem like enough to drive it that low. And of course, there’s no way he’ll sustain that LOB%. His O-Contact% is higher than league average, suggesting weaker contact, while his LD% is below league average and IFFB% above it. That means he probably should post a better BABIP than the average pitcher, but still, his current mark and LOB% is just crazy.

The luck Gods are feeling bad for screwing around with Brandon Beachy last year (2.94 SIERA vs 3.68 ERA) that the pendulum has now swung the other way. His ground ball rate is up, which is nice, but his strikeout rate has taken a dive, while his walk rate is up a bit. He has induced popups at a below league average mark and the LD% is only a bit below league average. His O-Contact% is also barely above league average. So basically, there is absolutely no explanation here besides just amazing luck so far. With a SwStk% surprisingly below league average, he is a perfect sell high candidate.

I attempted to talk about Jeremy Hellickson a couple of weeks ago and he just continues to boggle the minds of stat heads across the world. A high O-Contact% provides a bit of an explanation. He and Vogelsong should start a pitching school. They are like clones of each other right now. I simply have to throw up my hands at this point.

This is why I am not a fan of Jarrod Parker unless it is a very deep league. While he may suddenly show the skills he has in the minors, his ownership and perceived value would obviously be a lot lower if his ERA actually matched those weak peripherals.

Neftali Feliz‘ injury was a blessing in disguise for his owners. They got all the good and he never had the chance to regress and give them the bad.

Too bad Ted Lilly got hurt, he was looking like another prime trade candidate before that.

Based on SIERA, Wade Miley of all pitchers has actually been the best performer on this list. He had a fairly underwhelming minor league career, though enjoyed a strikeout rate surge at Triple-A last year. His F-Strike% is only league average, suggesting his walk rate is due to rise, while his stuff isn’t exactly the swing and miss type. It’s easy to say he shouldn’t have any value in mixed leagues the rest of the way.

I was questioned several times about my placement of Brandon McCarthy in last week’s updated tier rankings. This is why. He’s on a bad offense, which means wins should be tough to come by, and his strikeout rate stinks, so he won’t contribute in that category. Plus, his ERA should be close to 4.00. So basically, he could be useless in mixed leagues quite quickly.

Johnny Cueto is working his magic once again and doing nearly exactly what he did last year. Though his BABIP has regressed as expected after last year’s .245 mark, he clearly hasn’t gotten the memo that the GABP is a home run haven. His overall HR/FB ratio is just 5.9% at home and only 6.8% overall. I think his name value has increased enough that you can get a fairly nice return for him.

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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

16 Responses to “Future SP Disappointments: SIERA Outperformers”

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  1. Robert says:

    Mike – Thanks for this very helpful piece. Will you be doing a companion article showing the reverse (i.e., ERA higher than SIERA)?

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  2. Robert says:

    To the comment above, I went ahead and took the difference.

    Max Scherzer – 3.07 > 5.88
    Jake Arrieta – 3.65 > 6.32
    Luke Hochevar – 4.08 > 6.57
    Mike Minor – 4.18 > 6.57
    Time Linceum – 3.92 > 6.00
    Joe Blanton – 3.41 > 5.40
    Gavin Floyd – 3.46 > 5.38
    Philip Humber – 4.12 > 5.92
    Adam Wainwright – 3.21 > 4.97
    Carl Pavano – 4.29 > 6.00

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    • DrBGiantsfan says:

      Lest anyone get the mistaken idea that Timmy has just been unlucky for an unusually long stretch, he hasn’t. He has no idea where any of his pitches are going, especially when he is in the stretch. He can look great for 1 batter or 3 or for 2-3 innings, but then he walks a batter or somebody gets a basehit, he goes into the stretch and it’s all over. The FB sails up to the glove side. He hangs his breaking balls and bounces the change. He’s always bounced the change, but hitters have figured out when it’s coming and don’t swing like they used to.

      I do think Timmy will turn it around, but it won’t happen until he gets his mechanics straightened out and can command his pitches, particularly in the stretch.

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  3. rjbiii says:

    Brandon McCarthy

    March/April 2012 Season:

    K/9 5.08, BB/9 2.31, K/BB 2.20, SIERA 4.38

    Last 30 Days 2012 Season:

    K/9 7.46, BB/9 1.78, K/BB 4.20, SIERA 3.49

    2011 Season:

    K/9 6.49, BB/9 1.32, K/BB, 4.92, SIERA 3.49

    Just seems like he’s getting his stuff under control after a difficult start to the season to me.

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  4. DrBGiantsfan says:

    A few comments on Vogelsong:

    1. Beyond the Boxscore has an article up looking at the relationship of CH% and weak contact and thus a low BABIP. The over/under seems to be around 11%. Vogey’s CH% is 12.9 so far this year. I’ve watched most of his games and to my eye his changeup has improved and he is throwing it more.

    2. He’s always had relatively low HR/FB. 5.7% is on the low end of his range but he’s done it before. Last year, he was right at 8%. When are people going to stop expecting the Giants pitchers to regress to league average HR/FB?

    3. Last year he junked the slider and replaced it with a cutter that’s a pretty darn good one. Cutter’s are easier to control and easier to conceal from hitters.

    4. If you watch Vogelsong’s games, he puts on a clinic on how to use the the 3 types of fastball. He uses 4 seamers up in the zone, 2 seamers down in the zone and cutters to jam LH hitters and get RH hitters to roll over. Hitters can try to sit fastball, but they don’t know which fastball they are getting and get very little time to figure it out while the ball is in flight.

    5. Have you seen the look he gets on his face when he has runners on base? I wouldn’t count on his LOB% to take a huge regression any time soon.

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    • KJ says:

      I agree- Vogelsong has *looked* great this season. He was successful against the stats last season and seems to be doing it yet again. I think he will undoubtedly regress a little, but he should still have a good finish. He’d have to have a ROS ERA close to 6 to finish the season at 4.44 and I don’t see that happening. I could see him at 4.00 for ROS and a finish around 3.40

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    • MP says:

      He went from 91.4 mph last season to 89.7 mph on the fastball this season. No “look on his face” is going to overcome that. Ticking time bomb…

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  5. John says:

    Its about time someone other than muself became believers in Vogelsong amd Hellickson

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  6. Bob says:

    Hellickson gets a disproportionate amount of his Fly balls as infield pop ups. If you accept that that is a skill, there is no reason to believe he’s going to regress to a normal HR/FB ratio.

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    • FanGraphs Supporting Member

      His HR/FB ratio is actually the highest on the list and above the league average. It’s the low BABIP and ridiculously high LOB% that are unexplainable. Well, the BABIP there are some explanations for, but not enough so to be this low. There is absolutely nothing to explain the LOB% though. No one has true skill that good.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        Well, Hellboy had similar LOB% throughout his minor league career, so if it’s luck he’s never been unlucky, or even had average luck.

        He does, in fact induce a disproportionate share of IFFB’s which tend to not allow runners on base to advance and are therefore just as effective as K’s in that regard in addition to their low BABIP and Error potential.

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  7. Adam says:

    Having watched Beachy he has induced a good amount of weak contact all year. A lot of fly balls that look like they are hit well and just die right in the outfielders glove a la Cain. He has that late rise on his fastball and for some reason guys just don’t square it up as much as you would expect. I guess the argument is that hitters are missing these fly balls being home runs by fractions of a second or millimeters on the bat, but he’s been this way the last two years consistently.

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  8. Paul says:

    The answer is the fastball. Every guy on this list save McCarthy has positive values for the various fastballs they throw (added together) and most of them throw it more often than the league average. Cutter, sinker, and split are included here.

    There seems to be a trend for a lot of guys to add a cutter or split and scrap one of their big breakers, or even the change. They can throw the pitch on the same plane with slighter movement and less velo difference. If you can command all those pitches, save the big breakers for strikeout situations only and just wear them out by adding and subtracting, sinking and running the various fastballs. This, by the way, makes Jake Peavy a good bet to keep up his season if he stays healthy, and for Cliff Lee to actually improve as SIERA indicates.

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  9. Tbone says:

    Jarrod Parker still has the upside and ability to improve. His K rate has improved over his last 5 starts(33 IP 28 K’s). The key for Parker is having consistent control.

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