2017 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Ranking regression candidates among AL Pitchers – CBSSports.com

The thing I really enjoy about analyzing player performances in this way is that it helps remove personal bias.

Heading into 2016, I loved Rick Porcello because his peripherals suggested he was better than his past performance or his ADP. Well, he was great and personally, I really enjoyed that. Of course, the numbers say he was also lucky, and now everyone is going to overdraft him.

On the flip side, Marcus Stroman and Dallas Keuchel were two of my least favorite pitchers heading into 2016. Throw Zack Greinke in their too. They not only regressed, but also got really unlucky. So of course, the regression wheel tilts to the other side. They should all be better than they were in 2016.

The only downside of this is that some pitchers consistently outperform (or underperform) their peripherals. They aren’t perpetually lucky or unlucky, but it can sure look like it. That can make this type of article look silly, but it’s hard to give up on those guys. After all, there were a lot of people saying something very similar about Rick Porcello heading into last year.

1
He’s the 2017 regression poster boy.
2
Happ came in a very close second to Porcello. Very little about his 2016 was real.
3
He just had his best year since 2012 at age 33. It won’t last.
4
He was lucky to have an ERA below four and luckier to win 16 games.
5
They’re going to call it a sophomore slump, but the warning signs were there all along.

You can read all about Rick Porcello in my 2017 busts column largely because of the near certainty that he regresses. Porcello will likely be worse across the board, much like No. 2 on this list, J.A. Happ.

Happ is a 34 year old who topped 180 innings for the first time his career in 2016. He was rewarded with a 20-win season. Had to be elite right? Not at all.

Happ struck out 7.5 batters per 9. His career mark is 7.6. He had a 3.96 FIP. His career mark is 4.16. In other words, he was mostly J.A. Happ. He was one of six pitchers to throw between 190-200 innings with a K/9 below eight and a BB/9 over 2.5. While teammate Aaron Sanchez was on the list (he’s another regression candidate), the rest of the list included Trevor Bauer, Dan Straily and Adam Wainwright. Expect Happ’s numbers to look more like his career numbers (and what his profile suggests) than 2016.

While I think most people agree that Chris Tillman‘s 2016 isn’t repeatable, I spent a good portion of Michael Fulmer‘s rookie season expecting him to regress in season. I guess he did since he had a 5.54 ERA in his last seven starts, but his full season numbers look more impressive than they should. Fulmer also had a big jump in innings pitched last year, which always raises at least a yellow flag for the following season.

1
Pineda can’t be this much worse than his peripherals.
2
Rodon started to break through in the second half and his luck started to change.
3
Paxton’s 2.80 FIP was as good as almost anyone in the American League.
4
Stroman has a Dallas Keuchel season coming at some point, maybe in 2017.
5
Keuchel was as unlucky in ’16 as he was lucky in ’15.

Michael Pineda got rocked last year. I won’t argue that. He was still unlucky.

Pineda gave up the second highest BABIP (.339), the fifth highest HR/FB rate (17 percent) and had the 15th worst strand rate (70.7 percent) among qualified starters last year. That helps explain why his ERA was a full run higher than his FIP. Now, the counter argument is that his ERA was also a run higher than his FIP in 2015. Still, I can’t give up on a pitcher with his strikeout ability and upside. At the very least, Pineda should be better in 2017, but he could be great.

Now we’ll focus on Stroman and Keuchel, who I didn’t like at all last year at this time. Both pitchers do an excellent job of getting ground balls and leave something to be desired in the area of bat missing. I was against drafting both heading into 2016 because their profile lends itself to depending on defense and batted ball luck. Now, with both coming off of what I would consider to be very bad luck, I’m more open to both.

Both Stroman and Keuchel should be expected to throw more than 200 innings with an ERA in the mid 3’s. Stroman has even more upside because he’s younger and showed better bat missing ability late in 2016. Even if that doesn’t improve, he’ll regress in a positive way from 2016.

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