Reviewing Pod’s Picks: Starting Pitcher

Finally, we have transitioned from the hitters to my favorite group of players, the starting pitchers. This is where the most disparity in opinion comes and so it will be fun to take a look back at how my starting pitcher Pod’s Picks performed.


Bullish

Andrew Cashner

My Preseason Rank: 66 | Preseason Consensus: 111 | Actual Rank: 41

I thought I was done when it was announced that Cashner would open the season as a member of the Padres bullpen. But it didn’t take very long for the team to put him back into the rotation, as he made his first start on April 20. The last sentence of my original post summed up my ranking perfectly when I wrote that “my ranking may prove to be conservative as it was based on a mere 130 innings pitched projection.” Cashner ended up throwing 175 innings, which did indeed make my ranking of 66 look too conservative, even though it was so much more bullish than the consensus. Although Cashner did have the year I expected from a surface perspective, he was disappointing in the sense that his strikeout rate was well below expectations. Whether he sacrificed strikeouts for control, I don’t know, but if it doesn’t rebound, it caps his fantasy value and might actually cause him to be overvalued in 2014.

Shelby Miller

My Preseason Rank: 60 | Preseason Consensus: 89 | Actual Rank: 21

I figured that the difference here related to his innings pitched projection. At that point, we still didn’t know who the fifth starter was, so I may have been slightly more aggressive with both the playing time and performance projections. I certainly didn’t expect a 3.06 ERA though and I am a bit concerned about the significant second half strikeout rate decline. This is especially true since Miller is essentially a two-pitch pitcher and threw his fastball over 70% of the time.

Jason Hammel

My Preseason Rank: 49 | Preseason Consensus: 75 | Actual Rank: 127

It was clear from these rankings that even the other three rankers did believe somewhat in Hammel’s 2012 breakout, but just not to the degree that I did. I was wrong of course. In fact, his ERA rocketed to its highest mark since 2007 when Tampa Bay was still called the Devil Rays! His fastball velocity spike didn’t stick, his SwStk% and strikeout rate fell to pre-2012 levels and his ground ball rate was the lowest of his career. Basically, everything went wrong a season after everything went right. BASEBALL!

Shaun Marcum

My Preseason Rank: 56 | Preseason Consensus: 77 | Actual Rank: Unranked

The combination of the fly ball Marcum moving to pitcher friendly Citi Field sounded like a match made in heaven. It was not to be though. Injuries to his neck, biceps, back and hand, plus season-ending surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome (which likely caused those maladies), ruined his season, which should give him a mulligan even though he posted a 5.29 ERA when he was actually on the field. He still possesses solid enough skills to find a job in a Major League rotation, but health will be the key.

Brett Anderson

My Preseason Rank: 46 | Preseason Consensus: 66 | Actual Rank: Unranked

Oy vey. I have been an Anderson fan boy since his minor league days, but he’s been a doctor’s best friend for the most part since. But typically when he was actually healthy, he pitched well. That was not the case this year though, as he posted a gruesome 6.04 ERA and suffered from the deadly trio of a high BABIP and HR/FB ratio along with a low LOB%. All of his skills remain solid though and he’s an extreme ground ball pitcher. I am still not ready to give up on him yet and if he ends up in someone’s rotation, you better believe that I’ll be taking the plunge once again.

Bearish

Ryan Vogelsong

My Preseason Rank: 92 | Preseason Consensus: 59 | Actual Rank: 138

It was only a matter of time that his mediocre skills caught up to him and he couldn’t fall back on good fortune to save his ERA. The luck gods got him in one fell swoop, as his BABIP and HR/FB spiked, while his LOB% collapsed. His velocity dropped to below 90 mph, fueling a strikeout rate and SwStk% decline as well. He’ll be back in the Giants rotation, but he’s hardly a rebound candidate.

Matt Harrison

My Preseason Rank: 89 | Preseason Consensus: 64 | Actual Rank: Unranked

Well, I guess I get credit for this one even though he was limited to just 10.2 innings after undergoing surgery for a back injury and thoracic outlet syndrome. Even if he returns healthy next year, there’s little upside here given his weak strikeout rate. After a lost season, he’s likely to rightfully be ignored.

Jarrod Parker

My Preseason Rank: 73 | Preseason Consensus: 49 | Actual Rank: 64

Although Parker’s skills deteriorated, he traded HR/FB rate luck for BABIP luck. I thought he had some strikeout rate upside given a pretty good SwStk%, but instead his strikeout rate actually fell and his strong minor league ground ball rates have yet to materialize. The unfortunate thing is that even if he does improve his peripherals, which I think he could do, he’s at risk of regression in the luck metrics, which means that his ERA wouldn’t actually move. I remain on the fence.

Wade Miley

My Preseason Rank: 93 | Preseason Consensus: 70 | Actual Rank: 71

The consensus nearly nailed this one (though remember that the number includes my bearish ranking, so the other rankers were more bullish than a 70 average). Miley posted slightly worse skills than during his surprising 2012 rookie campaign, as his walk rate jumped and SIERA increased by 0.20 runs. It’s not that obvious how he was able to once again beat his SIERA, though I would guess it was due to the inflated LOB%, which more than offset the high HR/FB rate. If he can maintain that high ground ball rate, then I’d consider him a decent enough option in mixed leagues, but he may be overvalued given two straight seasons of a mid-3.00 ERA.




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Mike Podhorzer produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X: 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.


6 Responses to “Reviewing Pod’s Picks: Starting Pitcher”

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  1. Joe says:

    Is this referring to last week’s (which I would assume you mean because of the word “reviewing”) or next weeks podcast? I looked for one last Thursday (12/5) on the iTunes Store and did not see it. I thought that Eno mentioned there would be one during his chat.

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  2. Will says:

    Obviously you hit on more SPs then most, so props to you on that, but I did want to ask about Jordan Zimmermann. I think you all had him around 30, and at the time I commented on the fact that he was regularly undervalued. Then I saw you predicted a high-3s ERA based on looking at his SIERRA and the like… but I’ve watched him pitch for four years now, and his command, multiple speeds, intentional shift to pounding the strike zone more, etc., give me good reason to think he will continue to overperform such estimators, while his team (combined by his ability to go deep into games) will make wins more likely than your average pitcher. Sure, the K rate isn’t ideal, but otherwise he will be more likely than not to return surplus value into the foreseeable future IMHO.

    All that said, you regularly killed it with your projections, so I’d be interested to hear what you think about this…

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    • Yeah, Zimmermann has consistently outperformed his peripherals, but I have yet to figure out exactly what he does that isn’t showing up in the stats. He has given up a higher than league average LD% throughout his career and just a league average IFFB%. That combination simply should not yield a low BABIP.

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  3. Ruki Motomiya says:

    To me Anderson and Marcum’s health woes make them poor options to buy low because even if they do good it won’t be for long and those kind of players, be they pitchers or hitters, are best served via the wire (Unless you’re in some mega league) or maybe a trade.

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  4. Feeding the Abscess says:

    Cashner’s second half was pretty solid. In 75.1 IP, he posted:

    65.7% first strike
    79.4% contact
    9.9% SwStr

    His 20.8% K, 6.5% BB second half rates put him in this grouping of pitchers:

    Latos: 21.2%, 6.6%
    Holland: 21.1%, 7.7%
    Cain: 20.8%, 7.2%
    Griffin: 20.8%, 6.6%
    Shields: 20.7%, 7.2%
    Greinke: 20.6%, 6.4%
    Corbin: 20.7%, 6.3%
    Lackey: 20.7%, 5.1%

    Of these, Cashner’s second half had the highest GB rate and second highest first strike rate.

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