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Using SIERA to Identify Overachievers Worth Fading in 2023 Fantasy Baseball

Tony Gonsolin - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Draft Sleepers, MLB Injury News, Starting Pitchers

With Opening Day rapidly approaching, it's time for part two of my two-part series on how to use SIERA to identify pitchers who had an ERA that was not truly reflective of their overall effectiveness. The first piece focused on underachievers, but in this article, I will focus on some ERA overachievers from the 2022 season.

There are so many statistics in baseball, and it's one of the reasons I love the sport so much. But not all stats are created equal and some are much more helpful than others when doing our research. Skills-Interactive ERA (or SIERA) has been around now for over 10 years and much like xFIP, SIERA attempts to quantify the skills that underpin a pitcher's ERA.

SIERA attempts to take into account how specific skills (strikeouts, walks, ground balls) interact with each other in order to help pitchers limit runs. SIERA weighs these skills, moving up the skills of pitchers who have high strikeout and/or ground ball rates and low walk rates. What I intend to do is look at some of the biggest disparities between ERA and SIERA from 2022 in an attempt to find some pitchers who should have had higher ERAs based on their skills. Some of these pitchers might be total fades, while others might be guys who are fine, but who are just being drafted too soon for my liking.

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Largest ERA Overachievers in 2022

Let's start by eliminating the pitchers that we aren't all that concerned about this coming season. Despite the big gap between his 3.09 SIERA and ridiculous 1.75 ERA, I don't think we should be too worried about Justin Verlander. I'll toss Sandy Alcantara in that category, too, as we've seen him dominate for a full season and even a modest raise in ERA isn't going to really dent his overall value that much. The same goes for Dylan Cease, who can make up for an ERA increase with just massive amounts of strikeouts. I'm simply not going to be the guy who tells you not to draft those three early in your drafts this week.

Patrick Sandoval and Nestor Cortes Jr. are both atop our list, which isn't a bad thing since the bottom of the list is where you will actually find the biggest overachievers. I don't really have an issue with either of these guys and I've been a Sandoval fanboy for several seasons now because of his swing-and-miss offspeed stuff.

We can ignore Chris Flexen and Adrian Sampson, as they failed to secure rotation spots for their respective clubs this year and you're probably not drafting them. Jose Quintana is out three months and wasn't even a lock to break into a really good Mets rotation even if he was healthy. I'll do my best to touch on the rest of these pitchers who made the list and I'm going to break them down into a couple of different categories.


The Pretenders

Johnny Cueto, Miami Marlins
Zack Greinke, Kansas City Royals
Cal Quantrill, Cleveland Guardians

I don't want to spend too much time on this first group of pitchers, and if you are relying on these three pitchers at any point this season then you know things are probably not going well for your team.

We have a couple of "has-beens" and a "never was" here first with Cueto and Greinke both somehow managing to stay in big league rotations despite their best years being far behind them.

Greinke is the opening-day starter for Kansas City but finished last season with only a 1.9 WAR and struck out a career-low 12.5% of hitters. His velocity is entirely gone and he's completely reliant on his superior control. He's not likely to replicate an ERA under 4.00 with how often he's allowing the ball to be put in play, especially with a 41% ground ball rate.

Cueto is nothing more than an innings eater at this point in his career and he could be in real jeopardy of losing his spot in the rotation if he pitches poorly with Braxton Garrett being a young pitcher in Miami who is honestly more deserving of being their fifth starter. Cueto was able to log 158 innings last year but offers no strikeout upside anymore (15.7% K%) as he's remade himself as a groundball/control pitcher (ala Greinke).

And that leaves us with Cal Quantrill, whose 3.38 ERA feels quite a bit like fools' gold. He doesn't miss bats often (16.6% K%) and was pretty lucky last season with a .278 BABIP and 9.6% HR/FB rate, especially when you consider he only sports a 42% ground ball rate, too.

These guys aren't good pitchers. They're mediocre pitchers at best and they don't offer any strikeout upside. If you're counting on them for ERA and WHIP, they're bound to let you down.


Michael Kopech, Chicago White Sox
Dean Kremer, Baltimore Orioles

Kopech's first full season as a starter was a massive disappointment, and I was someone who had high hopes for him after he had flashed some impressive stuff as a reliever coming off his multi-year absence from arm surgery. His fastball settled back in around 95 MPH, not the 97-98 we saw from him in 2021 and his slider wasn't all that good as his main secondary pitch, registering a negative pitch value.

He walked way too many guys (11.5% BB%) and struck out just 21% of hitters. He was also incredibly lucky to get away with a 9.4% HR/FB when he was a predominately fly ball pitcher (GB% of only 35.7%) and sported the second-lowest BABIP (.223) of any starting pitcher last season.

Kremer had by far his best season as a starter, but he fits the same bill here as Quantrill as a guy who doesn't strike many hitters out (17% K%) while allowing a lot of fly balls and hard contact.


They're Good But Not THIS Good

Martin Perez, Texas Rangers

ADP: 280
Baller Move: 285

So how did a 31-year-old pitcher with a career ERA of 4.43 turn in a career year with an ERA of 2.89 over 196 innings last season? To his credit, Perez has really remade himself over the last several years by embracing the cutter over the curveball, which started all the way back in 2019 in his year in Minnesota.

And we had seen Perez go on these little mini-tears the next few seasons when he pitched really, really well...only to see him regress back to average at some point.

But last year he did it for a full season and I'm still not quite sure how he pulled it off. A 51.4% ground ball rate certainly helped, but his numbers just about everywhere else were pretty much in line with what he had done in Boston from 2020-2022. All for one number that is.

Perez had just a 6.5% HR/FB rate, the lowest of his career since 2015 and 10% lower than his last year in Boston. He's certainly figured out how to pitch and best use his arsenal at this stage of his career, but it's logical to think he's more of a 3.50 to 4.00 ERA guy than a sub-3.0 guy as he was last year. He's not being over-drafted that badly, just temper your expectations, and don't expect him to replicate his career-best numbers again.


Tyler Anderson, Los Angeles Angels

ADP: 234
Baller Move: 240

Anderson is coming off a career year for the Dodgers in which he went 15-5 over 30 starts and set a career-high in innings pitched with 178. Now he moves across town and to the American League for the first time as a member of the Angels' rotation this year, slotting in as the #3 starter for the Halos behind Shoehei Ohtani and Patrick Sandoval.

Anderson's success was fun to see as he was a very talented pitcher trapped in a terrible ballpark for years in Colorado, but is it sustainable? He dumped his strikeouts (19.5% K%) for better control and has completely abandoned his curveball for a cutter/changeup combo that has helped him cut down on flyballs and home runs.

But the lack of home runs allowed seems bound for regression as his 6.4% HR/FB feels rather fortunate for a guy with only a 40% GB%. The move to a better hitters' park won't do him any favors either. His profile and Perez's are awfully similar in that both guys could have peaked last year and been the beneficiaries of some good luck on batted balls.


Tony Gonsolin, Los Angeles Dodgers

ADP: 181
Baller Move: 220

Speaking of batted ball luck, I'm not sure I can remember a guy who had more of it than Gonsolin last year. His BABIP of .207 was the lowest of any pitcher who threw 100 innings last season. He finished with a 16-1 record and the regression that we were all waiting for on his ERA never came.

But it's likely to come this season. It has to, right? He's a good pitcher with four quality pitches, but he struck out just under a batter per inning, and his advanced metrics point towards a solid, middle-of-the-rotation type arm, not an ace. His 84% strand rate, 43% GB rate, and 8.3% HR/FB rate all played a role in that crazy-low ERA, too.

He'll start the season on the IL but is likely to end up working his way back into what could be a six-man rotation for the Dodgers. He's the one guy on this list that really stands out to me as a major fade at his ADP, and our RotoBaller rankings reflect that as our expert rankers have him 40+ spots behind his ADP.


Julio Urias, Los Angeles Dodgers

ADP: 46
Baller Move: 50

This is where it gets tough because the last two guys here are really good young pitchers who are likely to pitch well again this year for really good teams. Urias had the second widest gap between his ERA and SIERA, right ahead of his teammate Gonsolin and right behind Manoah.

I'm not a big Urias fan, so you won't find him on many of my teams, mainly because I am simply not willing to pay this high of a price for him when there are other guys with more strikeout upside usually available in the same range.

You're likely drafting Urias for some safety here as he's now put together two really solid seasons in a row and he's going to rack up wins (he has 37 in the last two years) pitching for such a good team.

But his projected ERA this season ranges between 3.19 (ZiPS) and 4.04 (Steamer) and you're only getting about a strikeout per inning from him. It's nothing personal, Julio, I just don't think he is a true ace and I'm fine passing on him and going after guys like Gausman, Castillo, and Javier in the same ADP range.


Alek Manoah, Toronto Blue Jays

ADP: 53
Baller Move: 61

The story here with Manoah, who sports our widest margin with a -1.6 run differential is much the same as the others on the list. And it's honestly a little bit of everything. As I said with Urias, I'm not predicting some kind of sharp decline for Manoah, he's likely to have another solid season for Toronto. But this ADP looks badly inflated to me and I can't in good conscience be drafting him ahead of guys like Robbie Ray or Framber Valdez.

Let's start with Manoah's strikeouts (or lack thereof). After a solid 27.7% K rate in his 2021 rookie campaign, he struck out just 22.9% of hitters he faced last season. I am always hunting strikeouts with early-round pitchers and Manoah looked quite ordinary in terms of whiffing opponents last season.

If he was a ground ball guy, then maybe I could live with the lack of strikeouts, but Manoah's GB% last season was just 37.5% last year and 39% in 2021. He got away with it last year as his HR/FB rate was only 7.1% but he's not likely to keep getting away with it while pitching in a hitters' park against some of the stacked lineups in that division.

His ERA projections range from 3.43 to 4.06 which would be what I would expect from him this season. Simply said, he dropped his ERA a full point last year without doing anything better than he did in his rookie year and striking out FEWER hitters. He's a major regression candidate and a guy I am comfortable passing on at his current ADP.

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