10 Starting Pitchers Most Likely to Regress in 2013
10 Starting Pitchers Likely to Regress in 2013
Every year in baseball there are a handful of pitchers who perform well above their expectations. That player may have toyed with history or simply had a career year, either way identifying the players due for a regression can add a much needed boost to any fantasy draft or team projections analysis.
Some examples of pitchers who should have made this list last off-season are Ian Kennedy, Cliff Lee or Tim Lincecum. Kennedy won 21 games in 2011 and followed it up with his worst season in an Arizona Diamondbacks jersey. Cliff Lee had a 2.40 ERA in 2011 and won 17 games in 2011. His follow up performance was not nearly as good, he sported a 6-9 record, and his ERA rose by .75. Cliff also failed to pitch a complete game shut out for the first time since 2007, a stark contrast from his 2011 season when he threw 6 of the gems. In 2012 Tim Lincecum showed MLB that he is, in fact, human. His ERA from the 2011 to 2012 just about doubled, he failed to record 200 innings for the first time since the San Francisco Giants unleashed him in 2008. Tim let up 26 more earned runs than his previous high of 81 in 2010 and way above his 66 earned runs let up in 2011, allowing a robust 107 in 2012.
How many people wasted a first or second round fantasy pick on Cliff Lee or Tim Lincecum? Tons. Those sad souls would have benefitted from the knowledge of a statistically predictable backslide. I am a man of the people. As such I would like to use my 100 percent infallible prediction skills to help you avoid that predicament. This is the list of 10 players I believe will post statistics inferior to those they had in 2012.
10. David Price
David Price 20-5 2.56 era 8.74 k/9 205 k 25 Quality Starts
To be clear, just because Price is due to regress doesn’t mean he won’t be a stud. Even in dominant years it is hard for pitchers to get to 20 wins. I expect his strikeouts to remain about the same, but look for a bump in his ERA, probably closer to the upper 2.90s and a win total closer to 15 or 16. Another thing to look out for is his inning pitched. Since 2010, Price has thrown 209.2, 224.1 and 211 innings respectively for the Tampa Bay Rays. That type of workload will wear out arms. Just something to keep in mind.
9. James Shields
James Shields 15-10 3.52 era 8.82 k/9 223 k 20 QS
After his trade to the Kansas City Royals everything is going to get harder for James Shields. His run support will go down, and his motivation or focus could follow as it so often does to pitchers who deserve better. Look for his ERA to hover around the same, maybe even inflate a bit. I expect his win/loss split will be closer to even (12-12, maybe worse). Over the last six seasons Shields has racked up 1,330 innings pitched, averaging 221 innings a year while never dipping below 203. Conditions are perfect for a huge backslide, and maybe even an overwork injury
8. Chris Sale
Chris Sale 17-8 3.05 era 9 k/9 192 k 19 QS
Sale was an absolute beast for the Chicago White Sox until late July, but was much closer to average the rest of the season. In his last 13 starts he let up 39 runs over 81 innings. That’s nearly a run every two innings pitched. While these second half statistics aren’t awful, they are not the dominant Sale we saw for the first four months of the season. Look for a lower win total and a higher ERA, closer to four than three.
7. Gio Gonzalez
Gio Gonzalez 21-8 2.89 era 9.35 k/9 207 k 22 QS
This wasn't an easy pick for my regression list. Preseason most people thought that the Washington Nationals trade for Gio was going to help their staff, but nobody expected him to post a season with 21 wins, an ERA under three and a top three finish in the Cy Young voting. He sported a career low Batting Average On Balls In Play (BABIP, the luck statistic) of .264, and an unsustainably low .41 HR/9 innings pitched. He won’t be that kind of stud again this year. I expect a win total closer to 15 than 20, and an ERA around 3.10. There is a shot I am completely wrong about Gio, and that he has transformed into a perennial Cy Young candidate, but I don’t think so. If you want a Cy Young candidate from Washington, look to Steven Strasburg
6. R.A. Dickey
R.A. Dickey 20-6 2.73 era 8.86 k/9 230 k 27 QS
This pick is similar to my David Price regression. Dickey had the best year EVER for a knuckle ball pitcher, so the odds he will reproduce those numbers are very low. Couple that with the competition upgrade he will face moving from the NL to the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL East, and I’d say regression is pretty likely. 13-15 wins, 3.20 era, he’ll be good but not Cy Young good.
5. Jake Peavy
Jake Peavy 11-12 3.37 7.97 k/9 194 k 23 QS
Peavy 2.0 looked like he was in his 20s again in 2012 (most of the time). Much like teammate Chris Sale, he came out firing, tailed off, then finished strong. You may be saying ‘why is an 11-12 pitcher on a list of players likely to regress?’ It’s because his win/loss record is a bit skewed. At one point Peavy lost four straight starts at the end of June, but he only allowed one, one, three and four earned runs in those efforts. I think if Peavy pitches the whole season, his stats will look something like 13-10, 4.0 ERA 180 K’s. However, I think the likelihood of Peavy staying healthy for a second season in a row is very unlikely, which is why he found himself in the top five of this dubious list.
4. Lance Lynn
Lance Lynn 18-7 3.78 era 9.20 k/9 180 k 16 QS
Lance Lynn quietly put together an 18 win campaign last year for the St. Louis Cardinals. That’s pretty astounding considering he started the year at the bottom of the Cardinal rotation. I don’t think Lynn is as good as his record shows. Now with news coming from the Cardinals organization that long time pitching guru Dave Duncan is taking an undisclosed amount of time off to tend to his wife with brain cancer (best of luck to the both of them), the potential for the whole Cardinals pitching staff have shrunk. Lance pitched well above expectations last year, inflating his win total with five straight W’s to end the season. However, wins are misleading, as he only averaged five innings in those five wins, and one was in relief. I’d look for a much more average 10-12 wins, an ERA of 4.0-4.50 in a similar amount of inning pitched (176 in 2012).
3. Kris Medlen
Kris Medlen 10-1 1.57 ERA 7.83 k/9 120 k 10 QS
Medlen started the season as a reliever, got the starting nod on July 31st ,and never looked back. He posted nine wins in 12 starts and allowed only nine earned runs in those 83.2 IP. His numbers, while astronomical, are totally unsustainable over the course of an entire season. In 2012, Medlen pitched 138 innings, but only 83.2 of those were starting pitcher innings (54.1 IP in relief). The Braves are looking to put this young stud at the top of their rotation next year, and for good reason. Like I’ve said, just because a player will regress doesn’t mean he won’t be an asset to his team. I’d say if Kris can pitch 180+ innings with a sub 3.25 ERA, the Atlanta Braves management will be content. Either way, I’d bet my house that Medlen will statistically regress with a full seasons starting pitching workload.
2. Kyle Lohse
Kyle Lohse 16-3 2.86 ERA 6.10 k/9 143 k 24 QS
Lohse has put together a few pretty good years for the Cardinals since he signed in 2008. However Lohse’s historically low strikeout per year average should drop to closer to his career average of 118 (in years he pitched 170+ innings). Lohse only had 6.10 k/9 , but still posted a 2.86 ERA. I know what you’re wondering ‘how did he do that?’ His BABIP was the 7th lowest in the NL at .261. For a pitcher with a higher strike out rate I would attribute his BABIP to hitters being unable to locate his pitches (Matt Cain and Clayton Kershaw both had lower BABIP), for Lohse I think his BABIP trends more towards the ‘he got lucky and the balls were hit to players’ side of the scale. Keep in mind, Lohse is still a free agent. That tells me GM’s are of the same opinion as I am, and would like to keep this 34-year-old off their roster, at least at Lohse’s current asking price. Look for a 13 win season, with a 3.40+ ERA.
1. A.J. Burnett
AJ Burnett 16-10 3.51 era 8.01 k/9 180 k 20 QS
Burnett’s Pittsburg Pirates debut season looked like the quality expected for the years he was a New York Yankee. In his reinvigorated 2012 campaign he threw 202.1 innings for the Pirates last year. In AJ’s entire career he has thrown for 200+ innings four times (2012 makes five). Each time AJ Burnett has posted a 200-inning season, he came back the next year and underwhelmed.
2002 Florida -- 12-9 -- 3.30 ERA -- 204.1 IP
2003 Florida -- 0-2 -- 4.70 ERA -- 23 IP Tommy John Surgery
2005 Florida -- 12-12 -- 3.44 ERA -- 209 IP
2006 Toronto -- 10-8 -- 3.98 ERA -- 135.2 2 DL stints, missed 2 months
2008 Toronto -- 18-10 -- 4.07 ERA -- 221.1 IP
2009 NYY ---- 13-9 -- 4.04 ERA -- 207
2010 NYY ---- 10-15 -- 5.26 ERA -- 186.2
2012 Pittsburg -- 18-7 -- 3.78 ERA -- 202.1
History is telling us something here. AJ has had an injury-plagued career, and he’s not getting any younger. Plus, he’s a Pirate now, and everyone knows Pittsburg sacrifices the Pirates to the sports gods so the Steelers and Penguins can win championships. Remember when the Road Runner would trick Wile E. Coyote off the edge of a cliff, and he stares at the camera for a second and plummets straight down? That’s the kind of change you can expect for AJ Burnett from 2012 to 2013.