Statcast Pitcher SIERA Analysis: Week 26

Welcome to the Studs and Duds article series from RotoBaller’s Statcast Launcher! Each week, I picked an advanced stat, picked two best and two worst performers, and analyzed what those stats might mean for the future fantasy release. At the end of the season, I’ll be revisiting one of my favorite metrics: SIERA.

SIERA is an excellent measure for capturing the independent performance of a pitcher. It quantifies a pitcher’s performance by trying to eliminate factors that the pitcher cannot control on their own. The pitch independent throw (FIP) is a statistic that also attempts to do this, but unlike FIP, SIERA considers balls in play and adjusts to the type of ball in play. The formula is found here for those who want to get to the heart of the matter. SIERA is a stat that I use throughout the season to get an overview of how the pitchers are performing compared to where they should be.

At this point in the season, stats throughout the season are unlikely to help fantasy managers make their final roster decisions. That being said, it’s never too early to start analyzing how some players are performing this season and what it could mean for them next season. As I have done throughout this series, I will not be focusing on the obvious fantastic stallions for this article. Let’s take another look at SIERA this season!

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SIERA studs

All statistics are up to date as of Sunday, September 19, 2021.

Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies

(8-8, 4.48 ERA, 3.20 SIERA)

Aaron Nola is generally a high-end fantasy pitcher, and while he’s looked like him at times this season, he didn’t fit that mold overall. It has posted pedestrian area figures so far, particularly its 4.48 ERA. That being said, his SIERA 3.20 is one of the best in baseball. Should his stats worry fantastic managers, or can they expect a positive regression in 2022?

There are several signs that point to better numbers for Nola. First, he didn’t allow a lot of contact. His 73.6% score is in the top 20 in baseball. In addition, his 5.2% walk rate is a career best and his 30.3% strikeout rate is excellent. Nola’s BABIP of .307 is higher than his career rating of .294, but that may not be due to bad luck alone. His batting profile is poor overall, but it’s one of the worst we’ve seen from Nola. His 89mph average exit speed and 37.2% hard hit rate aren’t that far off his career average of 87.8mph and 34.6%, but his launch angle of 14.1 degrees is the highest of his career and is much higher than his Career Average of 9.6 degrees. Nola’s SIERA suggests there is nothing to worry about, but I find it difficult to pull such a strong SIERA out of his batting profile.

The 28-year-old has mixed signals under the hood, but he’s been a fantastic stallion his entire career. His underlying numbers suggest he’s been unlucky this season and was still able to display high-end control while hitting a ton of batters. His batting profile was at a career low, but his SIERA suggests it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Taking everything into account, I would consider this an unlucky season for Nola and trust him again in 2022.

(8-10, 4.13 ERA, 3.43 SIERA)

This veteran has been a staple of fantasy for many seasons now. Yu Darvish has been a low WHIP, high hitting pitcher throughout his career, and this season has been no different. However, the 35-year-old has posted a mediocre 4.13 ERA this season with an inflated 6.23 ERA in the second half. His SIERA 3.43 tells a different story, but what should fantasy managers think before next season?

The interesting thing here is that there is really nothing alarming under the hood for Darvish. His 27.7% K rate and 5.9% walk rate are in line with his seasonal scores, as is his SIERA of 3.54. His hitting profile has been average this season. His average exit speed and hard-hit rate are in baseball’s 68th and 81st percentiles, respectively. The thing that stands out is a launch angle of 16.7 degrees compared to a career average of 13.8 degrees. This led to a poor metric of 2.42 HR / 9 in the second half of the season. The abundance of home runs doesn’t match his solid SIERA, leaving fantasy managers in a conundrum until 2022.

It will be more difficult as we approach next season. On the bright side, Darvish has a bunch of strong underlying signs, such as his WHIP, strikeout rate and SIERA. On the other hand, his ERA has been poor lately and he has given up far too many circuits, despite his SIERA. Darvish will be 36 before next season, which still raises fears of decline. The underlying numbers are broadly supporting Darvish, and I’d be willing to draft it in point leagues if it’s worth a good value. That being said, I wouldn’t be comfortable hanging my hat on him as a sure-fire high-end fantasy pitcher.

SIERA Nipples

All statistics are up to date as of Sunday, September 19, 2021.

(12-6, 3.66 ERA, 4.73 SIERA)

This pitcher has come out of nowhere this season and has been a fantastic surprise. Chris Flexen played the 2020 season in the KBO League but was an effective starter for the Mariners in 2021, going 12-6 with a 3.66 ERA on 28 starts. It’s been a fantastic flight in 2021, and the fantastic managers are probably excited about what Flexen has to offer next season. However, his SIERA of 4.73, in addition to being much higher than his ERA, is one of the highest in baseball among skilled pitchers. Flexen probably helped Fantasy managers make it to the playoffs, but should he be trusted to do the same next season?

Flexen’s 5.4% walk rate is great, but his 1.26 WHIP is just poor because he gave up so many hits. A glance at his batting profile helps explain this, along with his high SIERA. His 89.7 mph average exit speed and 39% hard-hit rate are in baseball’s 28th and 47th percentiles, respectively. His 11-degree launch angle isn’t bad, but it’s not low enough with all the hard contact he’s allowed. Plus, his 83% contact rate is tied for the highest among qualified pitchers. The combination of allowing so much contact and particularly hard contact resulted in a BABIP of 0.303 for Flexen, which is actually lower than his career score of 0.316. The low ERA and relatively low BABIP despite his batting profile and SIERA suggest to me that Flexen has been very lucky this season.

Flexen is a low-hit, high-contact pitcher with a lower than normal batting profile and expected stats. Despite that, he’s put on a great season for the Mariners and fantasy managers. This one seems pretty straightforward to me. I would look to sell high on Flexen in the goalie / dynasty leagues and avoid him in the draft leagues next season.

(11-6, 4.11 ERA, 4.59 SIERA)

The latter pitcher has had a long career as a fantastic pitcher, but things haven’t been so good for Zack Greinke this season. The eccentric 37-year-old posted a lackluster ERA of 4.11 on 29 starts and has a 4.59. SIERA in support. Has the time finally come for fantasy managers to turn away from Greinke at this point in his career?

Greinke has changed his style of pitching over time and has never been a relentless pitcher. This means he needs to locate all of his locations well, and he has done so throughout his career. However, this season things haven’t gone so well. Greinke left his four-seam fastball in the center of the plate too often and kept his ball curved at times as well. As such, the hitters profited, leading to a rate of 1.53 HR / 9 which is much higher than his career average of 0.95. His batted ball profile was actually above average, with an exit speed and harsh hit rate in the 67th and 80th percentiles, respectively. However, with his SIERA so high, it seems Greinke has to adapt perfectly to his pitch arsenal to be effective.

Greinke has had a great career using what he has to work with, but this season hasn’t been so good. His peripheral numbers weren’t terrible, but his SIERA suggests Greinke has been lucky this season. His strikeout rate has never been great, but he’s also seen a big drop this season. That drop, combined with his age, makes me question his potential fantasy value in 2022. I’d be willing to draft Greinke towards the end of the draft, but I wouldn’t want to buy him as a fantasy mid-rotation. option.

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