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MLB Pitcher Studs and Duds - Advanced Metrics Leaders for SIERA (Week 24)

justin verlander fantasy baseball rankings pitchers draft sleepers MLB injury news

Welcome back to fantasy baseball and RotoBaller’s Statcast Pitcher Studs and Duds article series! Each week, I select one advanced metric, choose two pitchers with strong values and two with poor values, and analyze what those values may mean for future performance.

I wrote about skill-interactive earned run average (SIERA) back in Week 7, and it's time to pay it another visit. SIERA quantifies a pitcher's performance by trying to eliminate factors the pitcher can't control on their own; it considers balls in play and adjusts for the type of ball in play. The formula and more info can be found here.

SIERA is a great metric for identifying how well pitchers have performed, which can be useful for the rest of this season as well as for looking ahead to next season. Let's take another look at one of my favorite pitcher metrics!

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received five total writing awards and 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, tops in the industry! Congrats to all the award winners and nominees including Best MLB Series, NFL Series, NBA Writer, PGA Writer and Player Notes writer of the year. Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!


SIERA Studs for Fantasy Baseball

All stats are current as of Sunday morning, September 18, 2022.

Kevin Gausman: Toronto Blue Jays
12-10, 3.45 ERA, 2.96 SIERA

Kevin Gausman has been one of baseball's better pitchers overall this season with a 3.45 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 28.1% strikeout rate, and a 2.96 SIERA which is even better than his ERA. However, his second-half ERA of 4.16 leaves something to be desired, and his back-to-back five-run outings have not helped fantasy managers. What's going on with Gausman, and what can fantasy managers expect from him for the rest of this season?

Let's start with his overall numbers. Gausman's SIERA has benefitted from his high strikeout rate. Gausman has been a strikeout machine over the past few seasons and has generated an impressive 15.4% swinging-strike rate thanks to a 95-MPH fastball and a devastating split-finger fastball.

One aspect that oddly hasn't seemed to impact his SIERA is his batted-ball profile. Gausman has allowed hard contact this season with an exit velocity in the 33rd percent of baseball and a hard-hit rate in the 45th percent. Further, his 24.7% line-drive rate is one of the highest among qualified pitchers. This combination has led to a high .365 BABIP, which negatively impacts the SIERA calculation. Despite this, Gausman's is still strong overall.

Looking specifically at his second half, the good things are that Gausman has maintained a stellar 2.80 SIERA and 29.6% strikeout rate. The not-so-good thing is that he has a .355 BABIP and his ERA has suffered. Further, Gausman's batted-ball profile has led to a bunch of home runs lately, including seven in his last four starts.

The dilemma for fantasy managers is that underlying metrics don't matter as much as actual numbers at this point in the season. Gausman's strikeout numbers and ability to pitch relatively deep even in poor outings have saved him somewhat, but the HR have limited his ceiling.

Gausman's next matchup will be a tough one at the Phillies, and he hasn't inspired confidence lately. However, the strikeouts have been there and the SIERA suggests he has pitched well. I would be hard-pressed to sit Gausman in the fantasy playoffs given his upside, but would not feel great about it.

Justin Verlander: Houston Astros
17-3, 1.78 ERA, 3.16 SIERA

While Gausman's underlying numbers suggest he has been one of baseball's better pitchers, Justin Verlander's peripherals have made him one of baseball's best this season. The veteran has compiled an excellent 17-3 record with a 1.78 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, and 27.2% strikeout rate. One underlying blemish is his 3.16 SIERA which, while still very good, is much higher than his ERA. What do things look like under the hood for Verlander?

The reason for Verlander's relatively high SIERA is that he is a fly-ball pitcher. He has always gotten fly-ball contact and this season has been no different with a 42.8% FB rate.

However, the reason that fantasy managers don't have to worry about this is that Verlander avoids hard contact. His exit velocity and hard-hit rate are in the 64th and 74th percent of baseball, respectively. SIERA may knock this, but the end result is non-damaging contact, as indicated by his .235 BABIP.

At 39-years-old, Verlander is making a push for another Cy Young award and has been a huge fantasy asset. He is still striking hitters out, generating soft contact, and pitching deep into games. Verlander should continue to dominate for fantasy managers down the stretch.


SIERA Duds for Fantasy Baseball

All stats are current as of Sunday morning, September 18, 2022.

Marco Gonzales: Seattle Mariners
10-13, 3.89 ERA, 5.01 SIERA

I have mentioned several times this season that some players have a knack for outperforming their underlying numbers. Marco Gonzales is notoriously one of those pitchers.

The 30-year-old has put together a decent 3.89 ERA despite a 1.32 WHIP, 12.9% strikeout rate, and 5.01 SIERA. Gonzales is rostered in 35 percent of leagues, so he is available for fantasy managers. Is there any sneaky upside to picking up Gonzales down the stretch?

I actually think that Gonzales isn't an automatic pass at this point. His limitations are obvious. He doesn't strike anyone out, isn't overpowering, and heavily pitches to contact, hence his higher WHIP. However, he has done some things that have worked despite his SIERA.

First, he has done a good job avoiding hard contact. His launch angle of 14 degrees isn't great, but his exit velocity and hard-hit rate are in the 82nd and 68th percent of baseball, respectively.

Second, he has managed to pitch close to six innings per start.

Third, he has a strong schedule the rest of the way. Gonzales could face the Royals on the road, the Rangers at home, and the Tigers at home.

Fantasy managers who have made it this far may not have to worry about streaming pitchers. However, Gonzales doesn't appear to be a bad option in points leagues despite some of his underlying metrics. He has managed to limit runs and hard contact while pitching fairly deep into games.

His lack of strikeouts and high WHIP take him out of roto consideration, but his schedule does make him worth a look in points leagues should fantasy managers need a little extra support.

German Marquez: Colorado Rockies
8-11, 5.14 ERA, 4.38 SIERA

German Marquez seems to be a recipient of bad luck this season. His 5.14 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, and 18.4% strikeout rate are poor, but his 4.38 SIERA suggests that he has pitched better than that. Marquez is also widely available, as he is rostered in 36 percent of leagues. Does he have anything to offer fantasy managers over the last few weeks?

The short answer is Marquez does not offer enough for fantasy managers to put their trust in him. He has pitched more to his SIERA in the second half with a 4.39 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. However, he has gotten hit very hard this season; his exit velocity and hard-hit rate are both in the bottom 10 percent of baseball.

Further, Marquez has the misfortune of pitching his home games in Coors Field, and it has shown. His home-road ERA difference is a stark 6.78 vs. 3.50. His final few starts look like they will be against the Giants, at the Giants, and at the Dodgers. The Giants are a decent matchup, but two of these three are an absolute no.

Sometimes, a player's underlying metrics may be better than their peripherals but still aren't good enough. This is the case for Marquez, who simply does not offer enough upside to fantasy managers despite having a SIERA almost a run lower than his ERA.

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