SIERA Overperformers: Starting Pitcher Regressers

Yesterday, I shared which starting pitchers have suffered from the most rotten luck so far this season by comparing their ERAs to their SIERA marks. Naturally, today it’s time to look at the opposite side of the coin — those whose ERAs are not supporting by their underlying peripherals and have significantly higher SIERA marks. Let’s take a gander.

Tom Koehler 16.2% 10.5% 0.213 85.9% 7.0% 2.25 4.65 -2.40
Mark Buehrle 14.3% 7.4% 0.293 80.4% 1.8% 2.11 4.44 -2.33
Shelby Miller 18.2% 13.2% 0.255 90.9% 15.4% 2.79 4.84 -2.05
Jeff Samardzija 20.7% 7.7% 0.273 80.4% 4.2% 1.62 3.61 -1.99
Alfredo Simon 14.6% 6.3% 0.216 88.7% 12.5% 2.45 4.35 -1.90
Julio Teheran 19.4% 6.8% 0.211 84.0% 11.3% 2.20 3.93 -1.73
Dillon Gee 15.6% 7.1% 0.226 84.7% 9.5% 2.73 4.41 -1.68
Johnny Cueto 28.8% 6.8% 0.160 99.5% 13.0% 1.25 2.70 -1.45
Wily Peralta 18.1% 4.6% 0.263 83.0% 13.3% 2.05 3.50 -1.45
Sonny Gray 21.3% 8.6% 0.261 83.9% 9.5% 2.10 3.51 -1.41
Adam Wainwright 22.6% 6.1% 0.254 81.6% 5.4% 2.11 3.37 -1.26
Justin Verlander 18.4% 9.4% 0.295 71.2% 2.7% 3.15 4.33 -1.18

I highly doubt anyone will be duped into buying Tom Koehler, but in my shallow 12-team mixed league, he’s been on a team and active for a couple of weeks now. The funny thing is that this is the exact same pitcher that was terrible last year. Actually, he may just be a bit worse — his SIERA is actually higher and sits at an ugly 4.65. He has benefited from the holy trinity of luck and there’s zero chance this continues. He’ll be the most dropped pitcher in CBS leagues soon.

We have enough of a history to know what Mark Buehrle is. His fantastic early season results are entirely the result of just one homer allowed over nine starts. That has led to a high LOB%. Again, I highly doubt anyone is actually buying the veteran, but if you’re an owner, beware that regression often comes quick. Don’t be surprised if one of those three inning, three homer, eight runs allowed affairs occurs. The luck dragons sometimes tend to even things out in a hurry.

Welcome to your first strong sell high candidate — Shelby Miller. If you haven’t glanced at the peripherals and simply looked at his ERA, you’d think this was a young budding star taking another step forward. Instead, we find red flags galore. His SwStk% has dropped to below the league average and his overall strike percentage has fallen precipitously. His velocity has been fine, but rather than continue to mix in more of his secondary pitches, he’s throwing his fastball even more this year. Every one of his pitches sports a SwStk% below 10%. That’s not good. I’m not sure if there’s any more of an explanation than the fact that you can’t throw your fastball 75% of the time and expect long-term success.

Poor Jeff Samardzija. He’s this year’s exhibit #1 for why W-L record is a silly way to evaluate a pitcher. He has received the second lowest run support in baseball with just two runs a game.

Alfredo Simon, really? If you blindly picked him up, run before the clock strikes midnight.

Julio Teheran is making me look stupid for being bearish on him this preseason. Or is he? So far, I would actually take this as a win, as his peripherals have declined, but another round of superb fortune is making him look like one of the best young pitchers in baseball. The Braves do sport the third highest UZR/150 in baseball, suggesting that Teheran may very well manage to outperform his SIERA. But certainly not anywhere near to this degree.

Johnny Cueto, wow. Obviously no one has true sub-2.00 ERA skills. His 2.70 SIERA tells us that although he hasn’t pitched like the best pitcher in the history of the world, he’s still been freaking awesome. The injury risk is the only reason to sell here.

For a guy that averages 95 mph with his fastball, you would expect a better strikeout rate than what Wily Peralta has been able to muster. But, his control improvement represents real progress and it’s backed by a jump in strike percentage. His perceived value likely still isn’t all that high, so while he’ll obviously see his ERA rise, he’s probably a hold.

Because of the electric debut last year and all the preseason hype he has received, Sonny Gray‘s perceive value is likely sky high at the moment. Even though his peripherals have predictably taken a hit, his overall skill set is fantastic. Because you may very well get quite the bounty for his services, it’s probably worth shopping him around for a top hitter. But I wouldn’t argue if you decided to hold.

I purposely decided to end this list with Justin Verlander to point out what most probably hadn’t realized. His skills have deteriorated to the point that his SIERA has climbed above 4.00 for the first time since 2008. And his strikeout rate hasn’t slipped below 20% since that year either. His walk rate is on a three year uptrend as well. With his fastball velocity down another notch, you have to wonder when his surface results begin to catch up with the decline in his stuff. Only two homers allowed over nine starts have deceived us into thinking this is just another strong Verlander campaign, but don’t be fooled. There are some real concerns here.

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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.

30 Responses to “SIERA Overperformers: Starting Pitcher Regressers”

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  1. Mr baseball says:

    I actually think Verlander has learned how to pitch to the situation. Ease off at times and step up effort in others. These aren’t robots here, but highly skilled athletes.

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    • frivoflava29 says:

      Does “pitching to the situation” also include walking more batters and striking out less? Because that’s what he’s doing.

      Verlander has always been known to lay off his fastball in particular as needed — to a degree. But, that doesn’t explain any of his results thus far, and he’s still a prime candidate for regression. Just wait until he gives up four homers in consecutive games and tell me how much of a robot the dude is.

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    • Ryan says:

      I’m wondering the same thing about Verlander. Watching him pitch, it seems like he’s figured out more of the “skill” of inducing weak contact since he can’t blow people away anymore. We see pitchers that have different levels of susceptibility to the longball all the time, so what’s to say that isn’t a skill that can be developed?

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      • OBlock says:

        I can buy that he could develop that type of skill, but even if you believe that you’d have to accept that his command has declined as has his ability to miss bats. That’s not a good thing even if he has some type of wizard over weak contact.

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  2. Swfcdan says:

    Totally buying the concerns on Verlander, last start his mechanics were a mess and hes FB was around 90-92. His K/BB is awful and you can tell by watching him, his pitches just arent sharp anymore. I dealt him away getting Price back recently, happy that should be a big win for me over the season. Even if he turns it on late again you shouldnt want him this year, still cant understand how he looked acelike in the playoffs last year?

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  3. chris says:

    What sort of return could one expect for Sonny? I love the guy but I feel like his value might be at its high point for the year and people in my league love trading for pitchers. I’m thin at 1B and I’ve sent out separate offers for Freeman, Abreu and C Davis. I should be ecstatic if any of those were accepted, right? Maybe Adrian Gonzalez if those three are a no-go?

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    • Ryan says:

      I’ve been offered Chris Davis in one deal and Posey in another for Sonny, to give you an idea. I’m torn and still weighing the offers.

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      • Roger says:

        uhh don’t be torn… take either of those offers and don’t look back. That’s insane. Hitters are definitely more valuable and less replaceable than pitchers, who constantly pop up on the waiver wire (unlike elite hitters)

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    • Steve says:

      Hitting seems to be at a premium this year. And elite SPs are rare but you can stock mid-tiers and still put up competitive stats. If someone is offering Davis/Posey, I’d snap accept. That said, I traded Matt Carpenter for Sonny last week.

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    • chris says:

      I just got offered Adrian Gonzalez and I think I might accept.

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    • Andrew says:

      I’d rather have Gonzalez than Davis. Of the four Davis is the only one who gives me pause as a return for Gray, but I think I’d still pull the trigger on that if I had a solid staff.

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    • Babyspittle says:

      I traded away Evan Longoria + Shelby Miller for Pablo Sandoval + Sonny Gray earlier this season.

      My league uses strikeouts as a scoring category (low strikeouts wins, obviously), and I have Nolan Arrenado as well – Sandoval is a backup.

      I expected a monster season from Longoria this year or last – but doesn’t seem to be happening.

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  4. JMo37 says:

    Hey Shelby, Why dont you give Bartolo a call.

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  5. RoidRage says:

    I just traded Starlin Castro FOR Sonny Gray. I think this is a good deal even if he regresses a bit, plus he has pretty good keeper value for next season (It’ll cost $14 out of a $300 budget, 10-teams). That did, however, leave me with Andrelton Simmons as my only SS so I flipped Cespedes for Andrus which I wasn’t thrilled about but my OF is deep and those guys’ value is about even.

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  6. Mike says:

    I had only been kind of following Cueto and knew he had been benefiting from some luck. But holy crap, .160 BABIP? 99.5% strand rate? That’s not just luck, that is the gods of providence gently rocking you to sleep before each start.

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    • Mike says:

      Don’t think too hard about metaphor guys, I certainly didn’t.

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    • Baloo says:

      If you look at his past seasons he’s a guy that has always had a low BABIP, so while this is very low, Cueto has not just been some completely lucky pitcher.

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      • Flag says:

        Cueto’s BABIP is nearly 120 points below his career average. Oops, I should say “was”. Regression arrived last night and man is she in a nasty mood.

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  7. Beavers says:

    Every single site advised drafting Verlander. They claimed “his skills are still awesome and he’ll come at a discount. He’s still an ace.” I had him last year and he was terrible for where I drafted him. I completely stayed away and I’m glad. He’s done. Anyone who owned him last year could see this.

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  8. Baloo says:

    I knew I was seeing something when I was selling on Verlander. Traded him and Parra for Pence and Adam Lind after Votto went down in my 12-team ESPN league. He’s been walking a metric ton of batters and has been getting a lot of run support. I’m expecting that he’s going to fall hard again soon, don’t think he’ll have the 2nd half that he did last year, his peripherals just do not look good.

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  9. majnun says:

    The “I was wrong (so far)” line about Teheran, “but I’m counting it as a win” is very make fun-able. That’s like the gold standard of things that make fellow stat heads wince. Almost no one plays in a Sierra league. If the entire point of fantasy baseball was to predict Sierra then it would be pretty boring.

    This is really useful, and a fair warning to Teheran owners. But it’s not a victory, at all. You can (and should?) continue to be bearish on Teheran, but up until this point in the season you were very wrong. That’s okay.

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    • majnun says:

      Eh, who cares, -1

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    • Jason B says:

      Whatever, I thought your point was well taken. Even if all signs point to regression, you’re right in that what he HAS done is already booked and is also very good. Good point, short arms.

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  10. dave says:

    You said that Wily Peralta is probably a hold at this point, and I agree. How would you rank him compared to Tyson Ross and Eovaldi? thanks

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  11. StatCop says:

    Glad to see that Buehrle has made this post look stupid for thinking that it could predict a stretch of bad luck or blowout or whatever coming soon based on his early fortune. Stats don’t work that way. Luck doesn’t work that way. 10 heads in a row does not mean you know anything about the 11th. Phrasing it in a cutesy way like the “luck dragons” doesn’t make it any less stupid a thing to assert.

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    • Heh? When this was published, his ERA was 2.11. Since then, he has posted a 3.83 ERA. With that low strikeout rate, that’s not even shallow, mixed league worthy.

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