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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.



Patrick Corbin – 2018 Fantasy Outlook

Patrick Corbin is a post hype sleeper who is one of many pitchers to lose significant time to Tommy John surgery.  He lost all of his 2014 season and half of 2015 to the recovery.  Pre-surgery, he went 14-8 with a 3.41 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 2013 at only 24 years old. When he returned in the second half of 2015, he pitched very well but completely fell apart in 2016.  In 2017, he had a bit of a bounce back with a 4.03 ERA but still a high WHIP of 1.42!  I love that his ERA finished above four and his WHIP was so high.  He will be overlooked in many leagues due to his final numbers and even may go un-drafted in shallow leagues.  That would be a mistake.

I’ll stop talking about all the negatives and get to why I think you should draft him.  He’s got one of the best sliders in the game, in fact, his slider ranks 9th in all of MLB sandwiched between Carlos Martinez and Carlos Carrasco!  That’s good company. The bad news, his fastball is in the bottom three for qualified starters.  OUCH Bro!  However, he’s increased his slider usage (2nd most by % thrown in 2017) and decreased his fastball usage as well.  

Let’s do a little digging into Corbin’s profile. In 2017 he turned in a career high Swstr % at 11% but it’s not as if he didn’t have solid SwStr rates previously (10.8% in 2015, 10.7% in 2013). Plus his velocity is back up near 93 mph which won’t blow anyone away but it’s another indicator that he’s fully healthy and the Tommy John surgery is behind him. Another aspect he’s been able to bring back is the ability to induce popups which were back up to 10%. That combined with a near elite 50% GB rate means the home runs should decrease. Home runs have been his Achilles heel but at under 30% FB rate, I’m expecting his HR/9 to drop for the 3rd straight year to around 1.1/9. Ok, so he’s getting ground balls and popups, increased his K rate by 3% and decreased his BB rate from 9% to a respectable 7%. 

He’s clearly trending in the right direction and now three years removed from the surgery, and should have no restrictions on innings. Can we talk BABIP? In2017, his BABIP was .328, that’s pretty high. Here’s why: he was tied to the WHIPing Post a few too many time last season.  Two of them he was BABIP’ed to death by the Brewers on the road and the Padres (of all teams) at home; the other two were road games against the Rockies and the Cubs where he gave up the gopher ball.  Now I hate kicking out stats especially since he can’t avoid the Rockies at home because they are division foes but you’re likely benching him there and against the Cubs in Midsummer at Wrigley.  Taking out those two games, his ratios for 2017 look like this: 3.35 ERA, 1.36 WHIP.  Not too bad!  Now the WHIP is high but again the BABIP should come down closer to league average couple that with a decrease in home runs and walk rate and now he’s looking like #3!

Here are my projections for 2018:

195 IP, 14 Wins, 3.62 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 184 Ks; he’s going around 250 overall and SP #70! That’s absolutely nuts especially since he did throw 189 IP in 2017 and could be a candidate to be a 200 inning horse and a #3 on your fantasy team.  I’ll have to mention the humidor which would certainly help reduce home runs but no one knows if that’s actually happening this year. If it does go in, it’s only going to help Corbin.