CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Top 10 Week: The Super... (06/30)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Hot Spot... (06/30)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Scott Ou... (07/01)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Manufactured Runs: Who... (06/30)

June 30, 2010

Fantasy Beat

SIERA Darlings

by Marc Normandin

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

With July approaching and nearly three months of innings behind us, now is a good time to take a look and see who is pitching better than their ERA. We're far enough into the season that owners are likely to be discouraged by a poor first half, and will hope to sell in order to salvage something—basically, the optimism that existed earlier in the season may have faltered for many an owner, and you should take advantage of it. Here are some key names to keep in mind—this list includes the 10 pitchers with the largest disconnect between their ERA and their SIERA, meaning many of them may be in line for a rebound. Now, just because there is a disconnect doesn't mean they will rebound, as some pitchers give us reason to believe that things will not change for the better, as you will see.

Name ERA SIERA Dif.
Justin Masterson 5.21 3.55 1.66
Max Scherzer 5.26 3.81 1.45
Scott Baker 4.97 3.55 1.42
Dan Haren 4.56 3.14 1.42
James Shields 4.76 3.41 1.35
Kevin Millwood 5.22 4.10 1.12
Ricky Nolasco 4.84 3.72 1.12
Wandy Rodriguez 5.64 4.55 1.09
Zach Duke 5.49 4.44 1.05
Kevin Correia 5.49 4.47 1.02

Justin Masterson has been a great big tease to fantasy owners this season. He's done his best against lineups littered with right-handers, thanks to a .250/.333/.317 line allowed against them, but southpaws have continued to be a problem for him--heading into 2010 lefties have hit .291/.386/.452 against the Cleveland right-hander, and that trend has continued this year (.320/.404/.433). Thanks to this—he's now faced more left-handed hitters than right-handed hitters, as opposing managers are well aware of this split—Masterson may not have a great shot of closing the gap between his actual ERA and his SIERA.

While Masterson's strikeout rates are a tempting treat for those who are considering sticking with him, realize that his walks are his undoing. He's handed out free passes to 4.4 hitters per nine innings pitched, the fifth-highest rate among the 115 pitchers who have logged 75 innings this year. His K/BB is just 1.7, and in leagues that use WHIP are you really that psyched about using a pitcher who has allowed a .371 on-base percentage to his opponents?

Another problem is that Masterson is an extreme ground ball pitcher--he has a 3.5 G/F ratio and 66 percent of his balls in play have been grounders this year. That would be excellent, especially when combined with his above-average punch out rate, if he were not playing in front of the worst defense in the American League that ranks 26 of 30 overall in Defensive Efficiency. For his efforts, Masterson has earned a .349 BABIP, which is about the last thing a pitcher who walks more than the league average needs.

Masterson has the ability to be an above-average starter, even with his severe splits against left-handers. The current problem is that he will never be that way consistently while pitching for a team with a terrible defense—while SIERA may be right to a degree about where his ERA should be, we will continue to see this disconnect unless the Indians trade for the Red Sox infield anytime soon.

Since being recalled from Triple-A, a sojourn taken for the sole purpose of fixing his mechanics, Max Scherzer has been the dominant force we expected him to be when we ranked him among some of the game's best pitchers heading into 2010. In the six starts since he has returned to the majors, Scherzer has an ERA of 2.95, is whiffing 12.2 hitters per nine and has given up just 0.7 homers per nine, this after a two month stretch that saw him post an ERA of 7.29, a homer rate of 1.9 and an average fastball velocity well below where he's sat as of late. Anyone who has stuck with him this long is probably going to hold on to him, but given it's just six starts and his ERA still looks iffy, you may be able to swing a deal for him where you at least get the better end of things, as long as you do it before his ERA approaches his SIERA any further.

James Shields' main problem may be that he pitches in the American League East, and therefore has to face Boston, New York and the Blue Jays with some regularity. This is borne out in his quality of opponent OPS, where he ranks #21 out of the 115 pitchers with 75 innings pitched minimum. Shields also has a BABIP out of whack with expectations given his batted ball distribution as well as the quality of the Rays defense—Tampa Bay ranks #4 in the majors in Defensive Efficiency thanks to converting nearly 71 percent of balls in play into outs—yet Shields has a BABIP of .343. We wouldn't notice his 1.4 HR/9 as much as we do in terms of his ERA if the Rays were converting balls in play into outs at the same rate for Shields that they do for their other pitchers. This is most likely a blip, and as we see the home run rate drop (Shields does give up the long ball often, but his career rate is 1.2, so we may see a dip as the year goes on) and the Rays defense do what it is capable of, his ERA will lower and move closer to his adjusted SIERA. Don't sell low on him, as there is no reason to worry about Shields, one of the better pitchers in the game who resides in an unfortunate division.

Kevin Correia has not pitched very well lately, but he's still the victim of some poor luck as you can see by the nearly one run difference between his ERA and SIERA. When you consider that Petco is involved, he should be on the inverse of this list, with the pitchers who have a better ERA than SIERA, but that's not the case. Unlike Masterson or Shields, Correia has faced relatively softer competition—he ranks #97 in quality of opponent OPS, allowing a line of .272/.355/.440 to hitters who have collectively hit .246/.320/.387. Oddly, his BABIP is not that high above the average at .306 (though that is further above what we may expect from a Padre pitcher). A combination of extra walks and extra homers have been the main problem, two things San Diego's excellent defense can do little about. While the league average strand rate for baserunners is 71.7 percent, Correia has stranded just 68.7 percent--when you see his 1.52 WHIP is also above the average (1.37), you can understand why his ERA is where it is.

The reason he is being brought up here is because the Padres have been in the market for adding pitching help before the trade deadline, and Tim Stauffer, recovering from an appendectomy, has been stretched out as a starter rather than a reliever during his rehab assignment in the minors. Given Wade LeBlanc, who has been filling in for Chris Young this year, has an ERA of 3.25 (and a SIERA of 4.57) has pitched well in his 14 starts, the Padres may be loathe to remove him, and Correia is the only real weak link in the rotation given his struggles. He will most likely be kept in the mix to help shorten the workload of the Pads younger starters, but he may not pitch every fifth day anymore—combine that with his struggles, which have come against weaker competition than most starting pitchers, and you can see why he may have very little value left in 2010.

Eric Seidman recently wrote about Ricky Nolasco once again underperforming his SIERA, so I won't get into detail here—you can check out that article. I also recently covered Dan Haren's struggles, and why I'm not 100 percent sure he's going to close the gap between his ERA and his SIERA this season (barring a trade to a team that can field and out of a park that seeks to injure his reputation).

Other notables: Randy Wells (3.94 SIERA; 1.02 Dif.), Kyle Davies (5.08 SIERA; 0.98 Dif.), Tommy Hanson (3.54 SIERA; 0.96 Dif.), Brandon Morrow (3.55 SIERA; 0.95 Dif.), Gavin Floyd (3.73 SIERA; 0.93 Dif.)

17 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

BurrRutledge

It's like rubbing salt into a fantasy owner's wounded psyche. Scherzer, Shields, and Nolasco all doing their part to keep my fantasy team out of contention this season. Scherzer doing admirably since fixing his mechanics in AAA, and I'm hoping James and Ricky regress to their SIERAs sooner rather than later.

Jun 30, 2010 13:36 PM
rating: 0
 
OTSgamer

Here's my question... did Congress pass a law making it illegal for the Rays to get either Shields or Davis a win? By my count, they are winless in their last twelve starts. For one of the best teams in the majors, that's hard to fathom. Meanwhile, I'm watching fantasy opponents go out and pick up guys like Craig Stammen straight out of Triple-A and then go out and get a win for a last place team over a first place team. Frustration.

Are you going to do a column for those who have overachieved their SIERA projection?

Jun 30, 2010 14:01 PM
rating: 0
 
Marc Normandin

I should be doing one of those this week, assuming earth-shattering news doesn't push it to a later date.

Jun 30, 2010 14:08 PM
rating: 0
 
theguarantee

Proud owner of Scherzer, Shields, Morrow and recently dropped Masterson. Frustrating season to say the least.

Great article though, informative and very interesting, I like the cautionary tale of some of these.

Hopefully a similar article for hitters is on the way?

You know what, while I'm here. I was going to post this in the previous OF Hot Spots comment section, but it's probably just as easy to go off-topic if you don't mind. Question on two outfielders:
Jack Cust
Dexter Fowler

Picked up Cust about a month ago as I am desperate for HR's. He has not delivered on that but has strangely been collecting enough singles that I have yet to abort...I know Cust is a bit notorious for HR binges, typically including a signature 3-HR game, always located on his fantasy owner's bench...but is it coming?

Fowler, I made the terrific mistake of trading for prior to the season, I released him and now I see he is back and is about 0-6 by my count, but has batted leadoff at least the past two games. Does he hold any fantasy value going forward? And would you say he or N. Morgan is a better bet going forward in a league with OBP?

Thanks a lot if you get the time, and keep up the good work.

Jun 30, 2010 14:17 PM
rating: 0
 
Marc Normandin

Cust has had a lot more liners than is normal for him, so he's probably just not getting under the ball the way he normally does. Given more time that should even out.

Fowler wasn't someone I was terribly excited by to start the season--he steals, but not at a very high rate, and his batting line isn't that great for someone who is at Coors. I think he'll be better in the future, but he's not quite there yet. Morgan is better for steals assuming you are not in a league with SB-CS. His BABIP is a lot lower than you would expect given his liners and grounders, so if that bounces back his OBP should as well.

Jul 01, 2010 09:53 AM
rating: 0
 
anderson721

Scherzer, Haren, Shields, and Nolasco here. Compounded by my first 2 picks being Fielder/ Sizemore. Can't wait for football .

Jun 30, 2010 18:24 PM
rating: 0
 
OTSgamer

I'll add to the sob story here... I drafted Grady Sizemore, Nate McLouth, Jack Cust, Chris Iannetta, Josh Beckett, James Shields, Max Scherzer, and J.A. Happ. Truth be told, it's a wonder I'm even competitive at this point.

Jun 30, 2010 18:45 PM
rating: 0
 
theguarantee

Traded Choo for Sizemore. Drafted Iannetta, Y. Escobar, Figgins, just to add to what I mentioned. Yep, PECOTA got us all. Has seriously helped me huge the past couple years though, you can't win them all I suppose.

Jun 30, 2010 19:26 PM
rating: 0
 
OTSgamer

Yeah, in many ways PECOTA has been my savior. It paid off big-time with Magglio Ordonez and Colby Lewis. Plus, I got Ubaldo Jimenez in like the fifth round just because everyone was so afraid of taking a Coors pitcher.

Iannetta really baffles me, honestly. It's hard to blame PECOTA too much for that one, given the way Rockies handled that. How in the world do you justify sending down a guy one week into the season after he had productive years in the past and you just gave him a long contract extension? Even now he's played his way into a glorified platoon with Olivo, and honestly I still figure he could be a fantasy steal if he had more playing time.

Jun 30, 2010 21:00 PM
rating: 0
 
Walter Shapiro
(882)

Nothing on the mysterious Scott Baker?

Jun 30, 2010 20:59 PM
rating: 0
 
Marc Normandin

Scott Baker may merit his own post, honestly.

Jun 30, 2010 21:09 PM
rating: 0
 
evo34

If SIERA is going to be used as a fantasy tool, it should really be redesigned as defense-dependent, since the defense a pitcher has had YTD will not suddenly become league-average for the rest of the season. As it is now (according to Swartz), SIERA is designed to reflect how a pitcher would perform with MLB-average defense.

Jun 30, 2010 22:57 PM
rating: 0
 
Marc Normandin

Which is why you will see me mention the quality of the defense behind the pitchers, as a reason as to why or why not they can reach their SIERA, or if that's the reason they are over/underperforming their SIERA.

Jul 01, 2010 09:50 AM
rating: 0
 
evo34

Again, would be much easier and more useful if you created a version of SIERA that already reflects defense -- rather than having to manually factor it in.

Jul 01, 2010 14:24 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Bill Baer
BP staff

That's tough because no one has come up with an airtight defensive metric yet and < 1 year of defensive data isn't too reliable. SIERA is probably better off being defense-neutral for the time being, but I don't want to speak for Matt Swartz or Eric Seidman.

Jul 01, 2010 22:59 PM
 
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

Oh I agree with you. The ground that needs to be made up in evaluating defense is really large, and you don't want to conflate the two issues. The reality is that over a full season for a starting pitcher, BABIP variance is made up by 75% luck, 13% defense, and 12% pitcher skill. SIERA picks up on the 12% pitcher skill, and removes the other 88%. In half a season, even more of BABIP variance is luck. You can tweak SIERA by some small fraction of a run to come up with an approximate defensive effect just like you should make a park adjustment to add runs for pitchers pitching in hitters parks, but SIERA as defense- and park-neutral going to get you most of the way.

Jul 02, 2010 07:31 AM
 
krissbeth

Drafted Iannetta, Shields, Sizemore, Haren, Scherzer AND Vazquez. I'm in 4th place and climbing in a very competitive league. It's not all about the misses. Keep your morale up and keep fighting.

Jul 01, 2010 11:05 AM
rating: 1
 
You must be a Premium subscriber to post a comment.
Not a subscriber? Sign up today!
<< Previous Article
Top 10 Week: The Super... (06/30)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Hot Spot... (06/30)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Scott Ou... (07/01)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Manufactured Runs: Who... (06/30)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Fantasy Article Expert League Auction Recap: CBS NL-Only
Fantasy Article Fantasy Tiered Rankings: Relief Pitchers
Fantasy Article Tale of the Tape: Fernando Rodney vs. Huston...
Fantasy Article Get to Know: Relief Pitcher Prospects
An Agent's Take: How To Get An Autograph Wit...
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: Shift Happenings
Baseball Therapy: The Thirty-Run Manager

MORE FROM JUNE 30, 2010
Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: Jacktastic!
Premium Article Future Shock: Org Watch: Rangers, Athletics,...
Premium Article Transaction Action: Disorderly Conduct
Premium Article Manufactured Runs: Who's an All-Star?
Premium Article Checking the Numbers: A No-No
Top 10 Week: The Super Surgeons
Premium Article On the Beat: Wednesday Update

MORE BY MARC NORMANDIN
2010-07-07 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Which LaPorta Is For Real?
2010-07-05 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Padres Taking It Slow With Lat...
2010-07-02 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Those Who Dare To Outperform S...
2010-06-30 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: SIERA Darlings
2010-06-26 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Saturday Schmorgasboard
2010-06-24 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Carlos Beltran Quandary
2010-06-22 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Andy Oliver To Replace Porcell...
More...

MORE FANTASY BEAT
2010-07-02 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Weekly Planner #14
2010-07-01 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Hot Spots: Relief Pitchers
2010-07-01 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Scott Out And A Second Helping...
2010-06-30 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: SIERA Darlings
2010-06-30 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Hot Spots: Outfield
2010-06-29 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Hot Spots: Catcher, Second Bas...
2010-06-28 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Hot Spots: First Base, Third B...
More...

INCOMING ARTICLE LINKS
2010-07-09 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Weekly Planner #15 - All-Star ...
2010-07-02 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Weekly Planner #14
2010-07-02 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Those Who Dare To Outperform S...