The second half of the MLB season is about to begin, so it is a good time for us to analyze which pitchers may by overvalued right now and worth fading the rest of the year.
The All-Star break of the 2015 Major League Baseball season is now over and we hope to continue our banner year that saw us finish at +51.16 units with our MLB picks for the first half of the year as documented in the Sportsbook Review Forum over the season’s second half! Now that we are coming out of the break, we feel it is the perfect time to take a look at what pitchers we feel are overvalued right now and thus worth fading the rest of the season.
Now, not all of these pitchers are dreadful, but the one thing they all have in common is that their mainstream stats are running ahead of their sabremetric stats, and as such we are looking for negative regression from these hurlers the second half, making them prime targets to go against at good value prices. This is a follow up to our undervalued pitchers to follow the rest of the season which we presented last week.
So without any further ado, here is our list of starting pitchers that we feel have overachieved so far this year and are worth fading at good prices the rest of the way.
Hector Santiago (Angels): Santiago is 6-4 with a sparkling 2.33 ERA, and he even has a nice strikeout rate with 8.14 per nine innings, although his walk rate of 2.82 could use some improvement. Still in all, it would seem that he deserves to have a better record, right? Well, not necessarily as we expect that ERA to start heading north very soon given his extremely low 30.7 percent groundball rate combined with a very lucky .244 BABIP allowed so far that gets magnified when you consider that he allows so many batted balls in the air. That has led to a 4.33 xFIP that is a full two runs higher than his ERA, which is almost always a red flag.
Chris Young (Royals): We were a bit leery of including Young here because he seems to belong on this list every year and yet seemingly never manages to regress as much as you would expect. Still, while we may be tempting fate, we simply do not see Young maintaining a 3.00 ERA considering he would have trouble breaking a plane of glass with his fastball averaging 86.2 MPH, not surprisingly leading to a low strikeout rate of 5.79 per nine innings, combined with the lowest groundball rate in the entire Major Leagues among all qualified starters at 27.8 percent. And yet he has somehow gotten away with surrendering a .212 BABIP! Young’s rabbit’s foot has to wear off eventually and we feel his ugly 4.92 xFIP is a better indicator of his true ability at this stage of his career.
Nick Martinez (Rangers): Martinez may have already begun his regression after an unrealistically hot start as he has now evened his record at 5-5, although there is still plenty of room for more correction with his ERA still currently standing at 3.43. Martinez has weak command numbers with a low strikeout rate of 5.29 per nine innings and a high walk rate of 3.15, and his 9.3 percent HR/FB ratio is the highest among Texas starters. Martinez was highly regarded when he was first recalled by the Rangers last year and that may lead some to just glance at his current ERA and immediately jump to the belief that he is starting to fulfill his potential. However, the truth is that he has not really pitched all that well as evidenced by his 4.66 FIP and 4.87 xFIP.
Yovani Gallardo (Rangers): We do not mean to pick on the Rangers here and we do not even think that Gallardo is a bad pitcher. However, his hot stretch to close out the first half of the season has suddenly thrust him among the American League leaders in ERA with his current 2.62, and while we like Gallardo we do not put him at that kind of elite level. After all, his command rate is still not good at 6.27 strikeouts vs. 3.18 walks per nine innings and his is still benefitting from allowing a .267 BABIP. Yes he was trending in the right direction before the break, but perhaps too much so to the point where he has now become overvalued for a pitcher that still owns a 4.04 xFIP despite the stellar ERA.
Dan Haren (Marlins): Haren has had a pretty successful Major League career that would have been much better if not for a plethora of injuries, and many would say that he deserves better than a 7-5 record this year pitching for a bad Miami team given his fine 3.24 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. We do not necessarily share that belief, and it has nothing to do with Haren’s history of wearing down in the second half of the season. Rather, it has to do with him not really pitching as well as those numbers so far given he constantly pitches to contact with 6.41 strikeouts vs. only 1.78 walks per nine innings and most of that contact is in the air as evidenced by his low 31.8 percent groundball rate, and that combination does not seem to support his lucky .251 BABIP allowed at this stage. As that figure normalizes, look for Haren’s numbers to converge to his current 4.14 FIP and 4.40 xFIP.
Wei-Yin Chen (Orioles): The Orioles have over-performed as a team while making the playoffs each of the last two seasons and they still have a chance to do so again this year, pointing to the brilliance of Manager Buck Showalter. However, they have had several individuals over-performing vs. their peripherals the last few years and Chen fits that bill this year. Chen may be 4-5, but he has a 2.78 ERA and has allowed more that three earned runs just once in 17 starts, and even then he allowed a reasonable four runs. However, it seems he has been doing it with smoke and mirrors when you consider he has escaped by allowing an abnormally high 83.7 percent strand rate without really having overpowering stuff, and he also has a high HR/FB ratio of 13.2 percent. Granted his 3.84 xFIP is better than most pitchers on this list, but that is still more than a full run higher than his ERA and he still has a 4.21 FIP.
John Lackey (Cardinals): Lackey is another pitcher that has had a long and successful Major League career, and he looks solid again this year at 7-5 with a 2.99 ERA while pitching for the team with the best record in baseball. Believe it or not, that ERA is actually the highest of the regular Cardinals’ starters this year, which should give you an idea of just how great the St. Louis staff has been. However, Lackey is also the only regular Cardinal starter with an xFIP over 4.00 at 4.01, which makes the 2.99 ERA seem rather fraudulent. That becomes even clearer when you consider that the xFIP is on par with Lackey’s career 3.98 ERA, so we expect something around a 4.00 ERA from Lackey over the remainder of the season.
Tom Koehler (Marlins): Koehler is the second Miami hurler on our list and he has very similar mainstream numbers as Haren at 7-5 with a 3.40 ERA while pitching for a losing ballclub. Unfortunately, Koehler also has a similarly mediocre strikeout rate of 6.24 per nine innings and a far worse walk rate of 3.03 per nine, and he is also allowing more than one home run per game at 1.19 per nine innings. Koehler has a high 11.9 percent HR/FB ratio and he has benefitted from a .260 BABIP allowed that does not figure to continue. Those peripherals have all contributed to a 4.49 FIP and 4.31 xFIP that point to Koehler coming down to earth the rest of the season.
Edinson Volquez (Royals): Volquez is 8-4 with a 3.31 ERA for a Kansas City team that has the second best record in all of baseball behind only the other Missouri team the Cardinals, but things are not as good as they seem on the surface. Volquez has struggled with his control walking 3.31 batters per nine innings, and it is not as if he records an inordinate amount of strikeouts to make up for it as he is only averaging 6.79 per nine. Yes the groundball rate is good at 47.5 percent but that has still not prevented a 4.19 xFIP. Volquez failed to record a Quality Start in his last three outings before the All-Star break and we think that marked the beginning of a regression that should continue.