Strength of schedule: Adjusting pitcher values

Last week, I wrote a piece Evaluating Hitter Schedules This week, I will mimic that format while substituting in pitchers for hitters, although there is one main difference in that pitcher results in schedule-rating barometers come less often in team-wide waves than the hitters. So, here are five players whose perceived values should be altered thanks to their strength of schedule.

Note: all data used in this article was aggregated by the fantastic website BaseballProspectus.com, and it only includes pitchers with at least 25 innings pitched.

Matt Moore, Rays
On the surface Matt Moore has all the sabermetric characteristics of a guy destined for regression. He has an absurdly low .197 BABIP so far this season, a 91.8 percent Left On Base Percentage (LOB%) which is the highest in major league baseball, and his ERA is only a little more than half his xFIP (2.29 ERA, 4.24 xFIP). However, Moore also has the highest Opponent’s Slugging Average (oppSLG) in baseball at .448, meaning that the hitters he has faced have hit for more pop for the year than the hitters any other pitcher has. I still think he’s going to regress because of that LOB%, but instead of up towards his 4.24 xFIP, I think he’ll regress more towards a 3.50 ERA or so the rest of the way as he faces worse hitters.

Jordan Zimmerman, Nationals
To me, Jordan Zimmerman is one of the most blatant sell-high candidates among starting pitchers. He has a huge name, has already amassed seven wins, his 1.62 ERA is less than half his xFIP, and most importantly for his trade value he is currently the number four pitcher on the ESPN Player Rater. Added onto those basic regression indicators is the fact that Zimmerman also has the fourth lowest oppSLG in major league baseball (.395), meaning the batters he has faced have hit for essentially no power. That probably is a large part of the reason his HR/FB rate is only 5.4 percent so far this season, and as he faces better hitters, I’d look for him to get worse and worse. Sell high while you can.

Tony Cingrani, Reds
Cingrani impressed in his short stint in the big leagues, but due to a crowded rotation, he still got sent back down to Triple A. Over his six starts, Cingrani posted 11.18 K/9 to only 2.45 BB/9, which would seem to indicate that he has the upside to be elite despite never being touted as an ‘elite’ prospect.

Well, that indication would be wrong, and is a big reason why digging deeper pass the base-most stats is a good idea. Through those six outings and 33 innings, Cingrani also has the lowest Opponent’s On Base Percentage (oppOBP) in major league baseball at .310, meaning the aggregate OBP of every hitter he has faced is only .310. So, that means that his 2.45 BB/9 rate is definitely in question, as he was facing hitters that were already prone to not walk, as is the 11.18 K/9 rate, as guys with low OBP’s generally strike out more. In a keeper format, if I owned Cingrani, I’d be looking to move him right now.

Yovani Gallardo, Brewers
A quick glance at Gallardo’s stats would make it seem like the Brewers starter has become way, way worse this season, dropping from his usual nine or more K/9 rate down to a sub par 6.67 K/9. However, Gallardo also has the second highest oppOBP in major league baseball at .340. Given that, his walk rate of 3.26 BB/9 so far this year is actually really encouraging, and implies that once he faces worse competition that number should come down, perhaps even to around 3.00 BB/9. I wouldn’t pay draft day value for Gallardo, but if I could flip a Cingrani or sell high on a Patrick Corbin type for him, I’d happily do it.

Roy Halladay, Phillies
Anyone who watches baseball could tell you that Roy Halladay just didn’t look like himself this season, but his awful statistics before his recent surgery belie just how bad Doc really was in 2013. Yes, an 8.65 ERA speaks for itself, as does his 6.24 FIP and 4.17 xFIP—however, what the casual fan might not know is that these stats were accumulated against the second lowest oppOBP in all of baseball. That means that not only has Halladay been horrible, but he has been horrible against some of the worst competition in baseball. I hate to say it, but unless he looks drastically different after these surgeries, I don’t think Doc is going to have any fantasy value the rest of his career. I wouldn’t even speculate on him in a keeper league, as sad as that might be.

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Comments

  1. Brad Johnson said...

    I wouldn’t kick a useful player to the curb for Halladay, but if you have an open DL spot, the upside on Halladay is higher than any other stash player in baseball.

    Moe is right to point out that the outlook is bleak. However, if I’m looking at speculative keepers just for 2014, I’d have Halladay higher on my list than some of the top pitching prospects like Gerrit Cole or Dylan Bundy. You’ll get to observe a month and a half of Halladay to get a sense of where he’s at whereas the prospects end up as a shot in the dark.

    Of course, I’m only talking about 2014 without considering cost. If your keeper format has only a modest cost increase (i.e. $2 per year), the calculus is entirely different.

  2. Jason said...

    I always struggle to compare a pitcher’s value to an offensive player.  For example, I’ve been offered Jose Veras and Matt Moore for Buster Posey.  I have depth at catcher, but my pitching staff is middle of the road, and I only have one closer due to injuries.  I’m tempted to take it, but don’t want to be caught overvaluing pitchers.  What do you think?

  3. Will H. said...

    What do you mean by JZ’s (two Ns, btw) big name? He is constantly overlooked and I’ve been happy to get him for much cheaper than he’s been worth three years running. And sure, he’ll regress a bit but if you actually watch him pitch he has amazing command, leading to weak contact, and that is not something new. “Most blatant” is way too strong here.

  4. Moe Koltun said...

    Brad,

    I hear what you’re saying about stashing Halladay, but I just flat-out don’t agree with you about him being a more valuable flier than Bundy, or Cole, or even a guy like Taijuan Walker.

    I watched about five of those Halladay starts, and he just looked done to me. Combining the eye test with these stats that say he faced pretty poor competition just tells me that a legitimately unknown commodity, especially one approoved by scouts, is a more intriguing speculative bid than a commodity we’ve last seen broken.

    That’s just my opinion, and I think there’s some weight to your argument, I’d just personally prefer many, many of the top pitching prospects to Halladay for 2014.

  5. Moe Koltun said...

    Jason,

    I think that trade may be a little bit bad for you value-wise, but given your situation, I think I’d also be tempted to take it. First I’d let the rest of your league know Posey’s on the market, and I’m betting you’ll get an offer of a similar pitcher to Moore plus a way better closer than Veras for him, which I’d be happy to take.

    My issue with that deal is Veras just isn’t a sure thing to log enough saves to make a difference given you only have one other closer, so I might shy away from that deal, especially since I love Posey and have him as my #1 rated catcher the rest of the way.

  6. Moe Koltun said...

    Will H.,

    At no point in that piece did I say Jordan Zimmermann (you’re right, two n’s, my fault) is not a good pitcher, and I have watched four of his starts so far this year, and he has great pitchability and command. There’s no question about that.

    That being said, he can still be a sell high. As I mentioned in the piece, he is fourth on the player rater, and that might mean that you could fetch a top 10 pitcher back for him, which Zimmerman still clearly is not.

    Oh, and I said ‘one of the most blatant’ which is completely different than ‘most blatant’—if you’re gonna arbitrarily pick out my proclimations (which,  yes, sometimes are heavy-handed) at least give it the proper context.

    And given how far below his ERA his FIP is, and the horrible competition he’s faced (as I outlined in this article) I completely, 100% stand behind that statement. I just flipped Zimmermann and Mark Trumbo for Strasburg in one of my leagues, and I couldn’t be happier about the double sell-high.

  7. donut said...

    Agree with the author and respectfully disagree with the previous poster. An open DL spot would be better served on a guy like Beachy or even Daniel Hudson (yes really). Not to mention those prospects who are probably owned in many competitive keeper leagues.

    Halladay is cooked.

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