On Tuesday, George Bissell took us through the landscape around the league in pitcher wins. The stat remains the most outdated statistic used in standard fantasy leagues, and the context dependency George notes makes it arguably the most frustrating as well. He also discusses the increase in bullpen specialization, and how its effect on starters’ workloads is making it much harder for rotation arms to pile up wins. With all of this in mind, let’s look at some players who won more games than we expected, and those who disappointed in the category.
PECOTA: 11; Actual: 22
While it would be unfair to say Porcello only won the American League Cy Young Award because of his gaudy win total, it’d be equally silly to say it didn’t play a role. Context was certainly a huge part of this for him, as he was backed up by the best offense in baseball. The Red Sox lineup didn’t take a day off during Porcello’s starts, either, as his average of 6.6 runs of support per start was easily the highest mark in the league. However, he also helped himself by pitching late into plenty of games, averaging almost seven innings per turn on the year. He was also able to limit runs (3.15 ERA) thanks to a strong defense behind him and a lack of free passes. David Ortiz’s retirement will hurt Boston’s offense some, but Porcello is a proven workhorse who will still have that same defense behind him. Expecting 20 wins again this year would be foolish, but he can get close to repeating that mark.
PECOTA: 11; Actual: 20
Porcello’s success this season was definitely a surprise, but no 20-win season was more shocking than Happ’s. Unsurprisingly, he also benefited plenty from his lineup, although Toronto’s offense was merely good rather than elite in 2016. They stepped up when Happ was on the mound, however, giving him an average of 6.1 runs per start. That mark only trailed Porcello among all starters. Happ did average just over six innings per outing, which certainly helped him out, and also pitched to an impressive 3.18 ERA. With that being said, he was aided by a low BABIP. His FIP, DRA, and cFIP all suggested he outperformed his true talent. With Edwin Encarnacion already in a new uniform and Jose Bautista possibly joining him, Toronto’s offense figures to take a decent step back in 2017. It’s hard to see Happ holding on to enough wins to even keep him in Porcello’s tier in the upcoming season.
PECOTA: 10; Actual: 16
On the surface, 16 wins don’t seem that impressive, but as George outlined wins are harder to come by these days. After spending 2015 as a swingman, not too much was expected from Roark. He busted those expectations with a big year that not only included those wins but also some Cy Young votes. Unlike the other two overachievers, the Nationals starter didn’t benefit so much from his offense. Roark had the 55th highest run support among the 74 qualified starters. Instead, he benefited from a heavy workload — he averaged about 6 1/3 innings per start — and a low BABIP. Although he suffered from the same peripheral-to-results discrepancy as Happ, Roark also has a more ground-ball-heavy approach that can limit damage. Plus, he doesn’t have nearly as much to lose in terms of run support in the coming year.
PECOTA: 13; Actual: 6
Shields could reasonably be included as an underachiever in any pitching category imaginable after his terrible 2016 campaign. To be fair to the former All Star, he was hurt by anemic offenses in San Diego and Chicago, as his average of 3.3 runs of support per start was the lowest among all qualified starters. On the other hand, he did nothing to help himself. He couldn’t make it deep into games, averaging just 5.5 innings per start. He also couldn’t stop allowing runs, with a 5.85 ERA that was somehow slightly better than his FIP, DRA and cFIP. The whopping 40 home runs he allowed were his biggest issue, and if he stays in Chicago all year that probably won’t improve. It’s hard to imagine he’ll be this bad in 2017, but given his downward trajectory and the White Sox rebuilding, he likely won’t be piling up the wins either.
PECOTA: 12; Actual: 6
Pineda is one of the more confounding pitchers in all of baseball, since his peripherals always say he should be awesome but the results never back it up. Like Shields, the long ball is always an issue with Pineda, and it’s hard to keep leads if you’re always prone to giving up dingers. He also suffered from a lack of run support, with a 4.1 average that interestingly enough tied with Roark. Unlike the Nationals’ overachiever, however, Pineda struggled to work deep into games, throwing just 5.4 innings per start. He is the type of pitcher who could turn it around in this category, as the stuff is clearly there and the possibility always exists for him to have better luck with the long ball. That, combined with a better, Gary Sanchez-led Yankees lineup, could get him back to double digits in the win column in 2017.
PECOTA: 13; Actual: 9
If you’re looking for a pitcher who checks all of the contextual boxes to hurt a pitcher’s win total, look no further than Archer. Pitched for a team with a bad offense? Check. The Rays were a bottom-third team by runs scored and gave him the fifth-lowest run support rate in baseball. Played for a team that leans heavily on specialized bullpen use? Check. Only the Angels’ starters pitched fewer innings than the Rays’. Play often in hitters parks, thus upping your home run rate? Check. While Tropicana Field is fine for pitchers, the rest of the AL East is hell. Archer pitched to a 2.65 ERA at home while allowing 0.88 HR/9. On the road, he had a 5.44 ERA and a 1.81 HR/9. The talent is undoubtedly still there, but the contextual factors will continue to play against him in 2017. Or, at least until Tampa Bay finds a prospect package to their liking. Either way, Archer is far too talented to be in this group for too long.
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