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2018 Pitcher Projections Revisited

Featured Image Courtesy of AP Photo/Nah Y. Huh

Last week I posted my results from my 2018 hitter projections. This week, I take a look at the results from the 2018 season in respect to my pitcher projections. I did not include the relief pitchers that I projected and removed any projections for pitchers under 85-90 innings (either actual 2018 IP or projected IP). Of course, injuries are more prevalent with pitchers so I only have 68 SPs in the attached google sheet (link below).


What I’ve learned in my two years of calculating baseball projections is that pitchers are difficult to project. More difficult than hitters (duh). I mentioned in the hitters’ post that I will be projecting more player in 2019. My goal is over 400, but shooting for 450. That makes at least 150 pitchers which should lead to an overall better review at the conclusion of the 2019 season. People have asked what projection model I use, and it’s more of a combination of many different models to make it my own. I use everything from past performance, batting order, team context, injury history, xStats, batted ball profile, plate discipline, trends, etc. Anyways, here’s a couple SPs on both sides of the projection spectrum.

2018 Pitcher Projections vs Actual (IP, Wins, ERA, WHIP, SO) (click-bait)

Carlos Carrasco (SP – CLE)

Proj 186 16 3.43 1.12 204
Actual 192 17 3.38 1.13 231

Two years ago, Carrasco was considered an injury risk with just one season of at least 150 innings between 2011 and 2016. After the 2018 season, he now has two straight 190+ inning seasons both with at least 30 starts. Maybe my innings projection of 186 was risky but half of his injuries over the previous five seasons were fluky. What really catches my eye is Carrasco’s strikeout total with a strikeout rate of 29.5%, almost 5% over his career rate. Even though Carrasco will be age-32 when the 2019 season starts, he’s one of the more steady SPs and will most likely be had at a discount. He’s pitching better now that he ever has before and it’s backed up by a career-low 69% (nice) contact rate. I’m looking to snag CC (not Sabathia) as the 8th or 9th SP off the board.

Rich Hill (SP – LAD)

Proj 141 10 3.57 1.10 156
Actual 132.2 11 3.66 1.12 150

Lance McCullers Jr. (SP – HOU)

Proj 134 9 3.68 1.29 142
Actual 128.1 10 3.86 1.17 142

I’m lumping Hill and McCullers Jr. together because of their similar injury histories. My model was able to accurately project innings based on multiple years of lower but consistent innings totals. It’s interesting that I pegged McCullers strikeouts but was a bit off on ERA and WHIP. The WHIP projection was high because I didn’t anticipate that McCullers would successfully improve his control given his nasty breaking ball, and that was true. His low WHIP was due to his BABIP that went from .330 to .278. It’s safe to say I won’t be projecting more than 140 innings for McCullers in 2019. The Rich Hill story and the journey is an incredible one, I suggest you read up on how he got to this point.  Similar to McCullers, Hill puts up very good numbers but fails to throw a ton of innings. At what point will this all go belly up? Hill will turn 39 just before the 2019 season. I think one more season of around 120 innings with solid ratios is in order before the end for Hill.



Jameson Taillon (SP – PIT)

Proj 185 12 3.50 1.15 164
Actual 191 14 3.20 1.18 179

Back in late November 2017, I wrote a sleeper post about Taillon. I highlighted his above-average fastball, ground ball tendencies, and his insanely high second-half BABIP. I knew there was positive regression coming for Taillon but did not account for the addition of the slider (which he introduced it in late May). While the slider didn’t unlock a bump in K-rate last year, I think it will help increase his strikeouts for 2019. He’s already climbed high on big boards, so, unfortunately, he won’t come at a discount.

Dallas Keuchel (SP – HOU)

Proj 178 14 3.80 1.21 159
Actual 204.2 12 3.74 1.31 153

On the opposite end of the sleeper/bust spectrum, there’s Keuchel. Two main points I made with Keuchel were the health concerns and the razor-thin margins of his control. Without the luxury of missing bats, Keuchel’s success lies in his ability to induce ground balls at a rate almost no one else has achieved. Sure enough, his groundball rate went from 66.8% to 53.7% and his strikeout rate dipped yet again. Now, he did stay healthy, but the rest of my projections were nearly spot on. I cannot recommend Keuchel for 2019, there’s very limited upside.

Did not project well

Marcus Stroman (SP – TOR)

Proj 198 13 3.69 1.25 169
Actual 102.1 4 5.54 1.48 77

Carlos Martinez (SP – STL)

Proj 203 15 3.52 1.20 208
Actual 118.2 8 3.11 1.35 117

Ok, so Stroman was lost to injury and Martinez went sent to the bullpen mid-season. That’s tough to project, especially for Martinez who was essentially dubbed the Ace of the Cardinals’ budding staff. Despite Storman’s small stature, he threw over 200 innings in 2016 & 2017, so naturally, I project him for just under 200 innings. We know he isn’t a strikeout artist, but wow, those ratios took a tumble as well. The only thing I learned here is that pitching is so volatile, but we already knew that. Martinez’ projection wasn’t all that bad other than the innings differential thanks to the move to the bullpen. A huge jump in his walk rate is the reason for a bump in WHIP. Martinez is going to be tough to project in 2019, he should be back in the rotation, but his poor control makes for a wild ride.



Blake Snell (SP – TB)

Proj 177 11 3.81 1.28 182
Actual 180.2 21 1.89 0.97 221

I liked Snell coming into the year, I wrote a sleeper post on him in December. So, do I really have to take the L on him if I was higher than most coming into the season? No one expected Snell to win the AL Cy Young prior to the start of the season, and if you did, you should have made a pretty penny. Just look at those numbers! The best stat that proves how much better Snell was in 2018 is the K-BB%. In 2017 his K-BB% was 11.0% (slightly below average) and in 2018 it sored to 22.4% (elite). That and his overall contact rate went down 8.1%. For 2019, there’s regression coming, but how much? Is he a top 10 SP? I’m about to dive into my 2019 pitcher projections, so we will have to find out.

Chris Archer (SP – TB/PIT)

Proj 195 12 3.78 1.23 232
Actual 148.1 6 4.31 1.38 162

Less than one month into the season, I knew that Archer was going to be a bust. I wasn’t high on him in the preseason with my projections above, but there certainly wasn’t enough there to completely steer me away from him either. In June, I put together a blind resume article for FantasyPros comparing Archer to Tyler Skaggs. Believe it or not, Skaggs’ numbers looked a hell of a lot better. Even the move to Pittsburgh couldn’t resurrect his season. Archer saw his K% drop to its lowest since 2014 and while I expect a bit of a bounceback in that department based on the plate discipline, Archer needs to develop a third pitch before I can trust him. I think there will be too many five-inning outings without much of a chance for a win. Expect an ERA between 3.80-4.10 with a solid K rate, but that’s about it.



Fantasy Baseball Weekly Rundown: 4/28 – 5/5

I don’t want to keep writing about Mookie Betts every week because we know how good he is and he continues to embarrass Major League pitching. I’m just kidding, I love writing about Mookie, he’s the Betts! Sorry about that, but his OPS is over 2.0 this past week, and on the season he leads the league in AVG, HR, Runs, ISO, wOBA, OPS, WAR, saving 3rd World Countries, etc. His batting average is higher than his BABIP, .363 BA with a .313 BABIP, LOL. So, yeah I “heart” you Mookie.

Meanwhile, A.J. Pollock is doing his thing with five dongs and two steals in the last week+. I actually believe he’s a damn good player and this is his talent level when healthy. The problem is, he’s almost never healthy. That being said, he is healthy and I’m not selling. You likely drafted him after guys like Starling Marte and Elvis Andrus and if he can stay healthy you are looking at a top 25 type season. Something in the vicinity of 30 home runs and 25 steals. HUMIDOR WHAT!

Kevin Pillar has got a nice power/speed stretch going with three homers and two steals this past week. Oh nice, he’s kind of like a poor man’s Pollock. A poor Pollock is that even a thing? I don’t even know and I’m half Polish. This is more or less a hot streak for Pillar. I’d pick him up for now, but I’m not buying him at this level for the rest of the season. He’s going to wear down and go back to his true talent level. That’s ok, the 6 steals could end up around 15-18 with 14-15 homers. That’s a solid forth or fifth OF, so, yes he should be owned in all 12-teamers.

Old Man Nick Markakis is doing something he hasn’t done since his days in Baltimore. He’s hitting .458 with three home runs in the last seven days and has six dingers on the year after only having eight in all of 2017. It took Markakis until August to hit his sixth homer in 2017. I checked his batted ball profile along with xStats, and if you’re wondering, no, this will not last. He has however improved his plate discipline and should be a good source of AVG and OBP (for those leagues) and should be hitting in a good spot in one of the most exciting lineups in the league. He still likely ends up around .285/.360 with 12-14 homers, no speed but probably around 85+ RBI.

Dee Gordon is hitting a crazy .630 with five steals over the last week and has taken over the league lead in steals with 14. This is what Dee does, he steals bases. Any concerns about slowing down went out the window but his .415 BABIP won’t last. Yeah, he’s a .340 BABIP guy. Ok, so he’s basically a .290 hitter with 55-60 steals. Oh, that’s exactly what I projected him for this offseason. Great!

Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor started slow this year and fantasy owners were worried. What are their numbers now?  Ramirez is hitting .293 with 9 HR and 3 steals and is walking more than he’s striking out; Lindor is hitting .283 with 7 HR and 5 steals. Sounds like they are both going to be just fine. Everyone relax.

Quick hit: Eugenio Suarez came back from a fractured thumb in like 3 weeks! How? I don’t know but It doesn’t matter, he’s killing it with 2 HR and 12 RBI in the last 7 days. He’s now got 4 HR, 20 RBI and hitting over .300 in only 16 games. He shouldn’t be available but I’m buying his breakout.

FREEZING HITTERS
Kris Bryant and his dreamy blue eyes is 4 for his last 23. He does have a homer but to be honest, it was wind aided and was 2 rows deep at Wrigley. What’s interesting is that KB has reduced his strikeout rate and SwStr for the fourth straight year. That’s good but his FB% and launch angle are down. If you were expecting 40 HR from KB, you’re going to be disappointed. He’s more of a 25-30 HR hitter but he might hit .300, so that’s something, right?

This is the Cubs portion of the article; Javy Baez is hitting .200 in the last seven days with no homers. He has managed one steal so maybe he can weather these slumps by stealing bases. Doubtful, the Cubs are next to last in steals as a team. But he’s walking more, nope. I said this before, he had as many IBB as BB in 2017 because he hit in front of the pitcher. If he’s hitting higher in the order it’s good for his counting stats but bad for his OBP. Maddon has already moved him down after one bad week, so who knows what to expect. He’s still swinging out of the zone just as much and missing nearly the same as 2017. I’d be selling Baez and would have done it two weeks ago.

Paul DeJong is 3 for his last 16 with no homers,one run and no RBI in the last seven days. At least he’s but his K rate down to 31.7% though, right? This is the real Paul DeJong. The power is legit, but he’s going to have a lot more stretches like this one with a few hot streaks in between. They will very few and far between. I’m not buying DeJong, I’d be selling.

Rhys Hoskins was looking like a God among men through his first 70 or so games in the Majors. However, his line over the last week looks like this .083 with no homers, 1 R, 1 RBI, and an astonishing 11 strikeouts! This is just a slump, he’s still walking at just under 20%. If you thought Hoskins was going to turn into a .300 40 110 hitter in his first full season, then you will be disappointed. I think he could be that at his peak, but right now he hits too many fly balls to hit for a very high average. He’s more of a .260 hitter with 30+ homer power and great on base skills. I’d buy if someone is jumping ship.

HOT PITCHERS
Nick Kingham crowned as this week’s rundown pitcher of the week. I’m sorry, that was lame. Kingham ruled his opponents this week. I’ll let myself out.  2 starts with 16 Ks, 4 ER and 2 W this past week. Another Tommy John Surgery pitcher for the Pirates to ruin. His slider has been reinvented which means he’s got 3 plus pitches. He looks like the real deal. He’s not going to over power hitters but mixes in his secondary pitches very well. If it wasn’t for the 2-run jack by Domingo Santana in his last start, he’s would have completed another gem. I’m buying Kingham in all 12 team leagues and deeper.

Luis Severino and Gerrit Cole are my fifth and sixth best SPs right now. It’s way too late to buy Gerrit Cole but I believe in his stuff this year. The Pirates have got to be kicking themselves right now for not letting Cole use pine tar while pitching. LOL, I’m JK, right Tyler Bauer? Anyways, he’s got 77 strike out against 9 walks! He’s going to be very good this year but the high launch angle (18 degrees) and hard hit rate of 38% could create a few blowups in the future. Although when you strikeout everyone, does it matter? Sevy while not an dominant has given up an average launch angle of only 5.8 degrees and backs it up with a 52% ground ball rate. He’s got the safer floor than Cole by limiting home runs and keeping the ball on the ground.

Blake Snell’s like teen spirit is on a roll! I wrote that sleeper post back in December. He hasn’t given up more than 2 ER in a single start since his 2nd start of the season against the Yanks. He’s keeping his walks way down and finally missing bats like he was in the minors. You are witnessing Snell’s breakout and it Snells damn good! I’m buying him as a borderline top 30 SP. If an owner isn’t as fond of him, make an offer for him.

Sean Newcomb has put together a couple of very good starts. He’s kind of like Blake Snell back in 2017 but with more strikeout upside. He’s always had great stuff and high swing and miss numbers but his control has historically been bad. Well, he’s only walked 2 batters and struck out 16 in his last two starts. I like this kid and I’d be buying in 12 team and deeper leagues. His Zone% is up 3% so if he can keep the walks down, he’ll be very valuable. Expect some 4 IP 5 ER with 4 or 5 walk games but the good should out weight the bad.

Freezing Hurlers
David Price’s struggles hit a climax (and not in a good way) on Thursday night. He’s given up 12 ER and 19 base runners in his last 9 ⅓ innings. What’s up David? Do we need to get Dennis Eckersley to take trash about you again? I’m beginning to think Price’s best days are behind him. His average FB velocity is around 93 mph. Back when he was an ace, he was slinging it between 95 and 97 mph. His secondary offerings are just not that great. Without a dominant fastball you can see his K rate dropping and the walk rate is nearly up to 10%. I’d hold for now, he’s a good veteran pitcher. I want to see a few more starts and how he adjusts.

Carlos Carrasco serving up cookies to opposing batters in his last two starts. Tehehe. Carrasco’s skills all look to be intact. His velocity is fine, his walk rate is good, and his swings and misses are there, but the strikeouts are down (they will come back up). The only change is an increase in fly balls. His launch angle against is up 4 degrees from 2017. Maybe he gives up 2 more HRs than last year, so what. I’m not all that concerned, if a Carrasco owner is selling, I’m buying.

Jason Vargas and Chris Tillman can go back to being ignored in fantasy. Unless you’re stacking hitters against them. I wouldn’t be owning either of these guys or even streaming them. I’d actually be surprised if they are both pitching in the Majors in September this year.

Matt Harvey has been DFAed by the Mets as he refused to be sent to the minors. Wow, that escalated quickly. What a fall from grace for the Dark Knight. Back in 2015 his fastball averaged 96.7 mph and this year he averaged 92.6 mph. Here’s really the only other stat you need to know, in 2015 his xwOBA against was an incredible .255 and this year it’s .400! So basically, he turned every hitter into Alcides Escobar in 2015 and he’s turning everyone into Mike Trout now.

Snells Like Teen Spirit

Yes that title is a Nirvana reference from the early 1990s and this is a Blake Snell sleeper post.  My guess is some of you weren’t even born in 1991 when the song was released but that’s OK.  This is about the now!  I know most of us have had or streamed Snell in the past where he tied us to the WHIP-ping Postbut look for Snell to take another step forward in 2018.

On the surface Snell looks like he’s regressed from his rookie season in 2016 in terms of ERA, K%, and HR/9.  Oh cool, looks like a great sleeper Max!   Ugh.  I try not to give up on guys with pedigree and talent who are 25 and younger (Snell will be 25 in 2018).  Some positives include improvements in the most troubling part of his game and that’s BB% down 1.9% from 2016!  That’s a lot, but his walk rate is still too high at 10.8% but it’s a start.  Digging deeper, his Swinging strike % is still very good at 10.8%, so that K% of 21.8% is below where it should be.   He should be around 24% at least bringing that K/9 up between 9.0 and 9.5.  Ok, now we are getting somewhere.

His arsenal consists of a fastball, change up, slider, and curve.  His change and curve are both plus pitches.  I like that he started throwing his change up more as the season progressed because that’s been his best pitch.  The other thing that intrigued me along with the curve, his fastball graded out as a plus pitch as well in 2017!  He throws it at 95-96 so if he can command it, he’ll get some swings and misses on that pitch; so now he’s got 3 plus pitches! This is starting to sound pretty good.

While his overall 2017 season numbers don’t on the surface display the changes I’m hoping for from Snell, his 2nd half splits look like he’s already made adjustments.  Here they are: 23.7 K%, 8.0 BB%, 12.4% SwStr, 3.49 ERA, with a 3.56 FIP to back it up.  That’s in 77.1 innings so it’s a good sample.   If I narrow his splits down to his final 11 starts of 2017 from August 1st on, he made significant changes to his pitch mix.  He increased the use of his curve and change by 5.2% and 5.9% respectively while decreasing his slider and fastball by 4.4% and 5.8% respectively.  He made a conscious change to throw his most effective pitches more often.  Decreasing the fastball usage actually increased its value (mentioned above as a plus pitch).  Remember, he’s still young with only 218 IP in the majors so he’s still learning how he can use his arsenal to his advantage.

All of the stats listed above happened after he was sent to the minors for poor performance in the 1st half so it seems like he’s ironed out the kinks.  He totaled 173 IP in 2017 so there shouldn’t be an innings cap on him for 2018.  That being said, he started 31 games between AAA and MLB so his IP/start is not great.  That’s why I can’t project 200 IP even if I think he’ll get 30-32 starts in 2018.  He’s going outside the top 200 right around SP 60.  There’s very little risk involved with Snell at that pick.  I think he should be inside the top 45-50 for starting pitchers.  For 2018 I’ll give Snell: 11 Wins, 3.82 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 182 Ks in 177 IP.  Early Mock drafts have him going around 212 overall.