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Starting Pitcher Advanced Metrics Leaders for ERA-xERA - Statcast Studs and Duds (Week 2)

Shane Bieber - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, MLB Injury News

Welcome to the first edition of RotoBaller’s Statcast Pitcher Studs and Duds article series for the 2024 season! Statcast provides a ton of insightful advanced metrics that can be used to understand pitchers' performance and predict future fantasy performance. Diving into underlying stats is one of my favorite aspects of fantasy baseball and I am happy to be back doing that with you all for another season.

Each week, I will select one stat, choose a few pitchers with strong metrics and poor metrics, and analyze them to determine how their future performance may change. As we only have a few games of data, I will start by comparing pitchers' ERA to their expected ERA (xERA) from 2023. This comparison can generally be used to find pitchers who got lucky or unlucky based on their underlying performance.

I will take a close look at many metrics and aspects of pitch types throughout the season to hopefully help fantasy managers gain the edge in their leagues. For now, we'll start by reviewing a few pitchers who could be in line for regression compared to their performance last season. Once again, welcome back to the 2024 season and the Statcast Pitcher Studs and Duds series!

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball waiver wire pickups and weekly lineup resources:

 

ERA-xERA Studs for Fantasy Baseball

All stats are current as of Sunday morning, March 31, 2024.

Carlos Rodon, New York Yankees

3-8, 6.85 ERA, 5.34 xERA, 1.51 ERA-xERA

Carlos Rodon only pitched 64 1/3 innings in his first season with the Yankees due to a left forearm strain, and those innings were not pretty. The 31-year-old went 3-8 with a 6.85 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, and 22.4% strikeout rate. A potential silver lining was his 5.34 xERA, which was still poor, but a run and a half lower than his ERA. Could a healthy start get him back to his 2022 ways?

The first issue is that Rodon's batted-ball profile is not conducive to Yankee Stadium. He has been a fly ball pitcher over the past several seasons and 2023 was no different. His 2023 average launch angle was 22.1 degrees and he gave up extremely hard contact. Consequently, he endured a career-high 2.10 HR/9 rate and a poor 15.2% HR/FB rate.

The second issue is that Rodon is essentially a two-pitch pitcher, so he has little room for error. His fastball and slider both had nearly identical velocities and spin rates in 2022 and 2023, but his fastball got much worse results. This is somewhat puzzling, as even his pitch location was similar. This oddity could partly be reflected in the difference between his ERA and xERA.

Rodon has always been considered a potential fantasy ace but only has two excellent seasons in his career. Last season's results may not have been indicative of his underlying performance, but his xERA was still uninspiring. He has had an erratic spring, which hasn't made things clearer. Overall, even if Rodon were to experience some positive regression, I would be very uncomfortable trusting him for 2024.

Hunter Greene, Cincinnati Reds

4-7, 4.82 ERA, 3.82 xERA, 1.00 ERA-xERA

Hunter Greene was considered a top fantasy prospect for some time and now has two big-league seasons under his belt. However, he has yet to live up to the hype. He posted a lackluster 4.82 ERA and 1.42 WHIP with a 30.5% strikeout rate in 112 IP in 2023. One glimmer of hope beyond the strikeout rate was his 3.82 xERA, which was a full run lower than his ERA. Can he finally reach expectations in 2024?

Greene’s 98.3 mph fastball paired with his slider should have all the makings of a dominant pitcher, and his strikeout rate and 13.4% overall swinging strike rate met expectations. What didn’t meet expectations was his poor batted-ball results.

He didn’t give up much contact at 72.5%, but what he did allow was very hard. Greene’s average exit velocity and hard-hit rate were both in the bottom 20 percent of baseball to go with a 17.4-degree launch angle. Consequently, Greene gave up a poor .339 BABIP and 14.3% HR/FB rate. His pitch location and high velocity may have led to such hard-hit metrics, as he tended to leave the ball in the middle of the plate.

Greene has yet to show his true potential, but there are enough signs to make me think he could put it all together in 2024. His two-pitch mix has the strikeout skills and his underlying skills were much better than his results. Given that he is still young, I think he can improve his pitch location and get closer to his expected results.

 

ERA-xERA Duds for Fantasy Baseball

All stats are current as of Sunday morning, March 31, 2024.

Blake Snell, San Francisco Giants

14-9, 2.55 ERA, 3.77 xERA, -1.52 ERA-xERA

2023's reigning National League Cy Young Award winner finally found a new home in the same division. Blake Snell will join the Giants after compiling an excellent 2.55 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 31.5% strikeout rate in 180 IP with the Padres. His peripherals were strong, but his 3.77 xERA was mediocre and over one-and-a-half runs higher than his ERA. Could fantasy managers see a down 2024 season?

Snell has yielded erratic fantasy results throughout his career and several potential reasons stand out. The first is his lack of durability. Snell has never pitched 200 innings in his career and has thrown at least 180 just twice. He won Cy Young Awards in both of those seasons, but injuries have plagued him overall.

Injuries may have contributed to his uninspiring numbers, but his walk rate is definitely a factor. Snell owns a 10.9% career walk rate and ironically had a career-high 13.3% clip last season. Despite his upside, Snell's output is prone to considerable variability due to his career 1.24 WHIP. His batted-ball profiles have always been above average but have also varied over time.

Snell is an excellent strikeout pitcher, has ace-caliber upside, and will benefit from his new home park. However, he has experienced a roller-coaster career due to high walks and injuries.

The consistent variability he has experienced gives me pause to commit to him from a fantasy perspective, and the fact that he is coming off of such a strong season gives me particular concern. I expect him to be a fantasy contributor, but would not be surprised to see his 2024 ERA meet or exceed his 2023 xERA.

Shane Bieber, Cleveland Guardians

6-6, 3.80 ERA, 4.83 xERA, -1.03 ERA-xERA

Like Snell, Shane Bieber has gotten varied results throughout his career while enduring numerous injuries. 2023 was no exception, as he managed just 128 IP with a 3.80 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and 20.1% strikeout rate. These numbers were some of the worst of his career, but his 4.83 xERA suggested that he could have been much worse. Bieber is no longer being drafted like an ace, but should fantasy managers trust him in general?

The main trend does seem to be issues stemming from injury. Bieber's overall velocity dropped between 1.0 mph and 1.5 mph between 2021 and 2022 and persisted through 2023. Bieber managed to pitch successfully despite the lack of velocity in 2022, but his small margin of error became apparent in 2023 when he got hit extremely hard.

The good news is that Bieber actively worked on these issues this offseason with Driveline. As a result, he got his fastball back up to 93 mph and reworked his curveball, which was a key secondary pitch earlier in his career. He also looked sharp this spring with a 1.56 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 17 1/3 IP.

Bieber took a big step back in 2023 and had even more discouraging underlying numbers. However, he focused on improving key aspects of his game and the small sample of spring results suggests that he may have corrected them. Given the high fantasy impact he has provided in the past and his work this offseason, I am hopeful that Bieber can right the ship in 2024.



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