Twisting Oliver: One-category pitching dynamos

As we all know by now, no decent pitcher is only going to be strong in one rotisserie category—well, at least no projection system is going to predict it that way very often.

The reality is that most of the guys on this list should perform strong in at least a couple categories, but stay with me. What I’ll be trying to do is find players whom Oliver projects will specifically perform well in one of the five standard 5×5 pitching categories.


Leo Nunez: The Marlins’ closer may not be very high on your list in terms of bankable closers despite his hot start (2.28 ERA and 9.51 K/9 despite career marks of 4.44 and 6.70, respectively). Oliver doesn’t necessarily believe he’ll keep up his current rate (projected finish of 3.96 ERA and 7.44 K/9), but it does see him notching 26 saves the rest of the way, which is tied for the best in baseball.

Matt Capps: One of the players Oliver projects to share the saves lead is the Nationals’ current closer. Capps isn’t quite performing above his career norms to the degree that Nunez is, but Oliver does see some regression in both his ERA (3.94 the rest of the season) and K/9 (7.19). It also sees him collecting 26 saves for a much-improved Nationals team.

Matt Lindstrom: The Astros’ closer definitely has the look of a player who can sustain his current pace. His career ERA of 3.81 and K/9 of 7.58 are pretty on point with his current marks of 3.33 and 7.77, respectively. That said, Oliver actually sees a regression in ERA (4.39), but still sees him successfully closing out 24 games (ninth best). If you can take the ERA hit, he’s probably one of the cheaper closers out there.


Colby Lewis: After a pretty impressive start, the Rangers starter has started to come back to earth a bit. Oliver remains bullish. Lewis is projected to win nine more games this year, while posting an ERA of 3.13 and striking out 8.19 batters per nine innings. The nine wins is the 11th-best total Oliver projects.

Shaun Marcum: The Blue Jays starter has been one of the season’s pleasant surprises during his first full season back from Tommy John surgery. I’m a little skeptical that he can register the 134 innings we’re currently projecting. If he does, though, Oliver projects nine wins to go along with a 3.31 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP. He’s not going to strike a bunch of guys out, but Oliver says he’ll improve upon his current rate of 6.86 (to 7.17).

Mark Buehrle: Never a sexy option, the White Sox hurler is quietly having a decent season despite a 3-6 record. Oliver projects the record to improve, joining the logjam with a projected nine wins, even if it sees him regressing in ERA (4.04 the rest of the way after a 3.63 so far this year).


Stephen Strasburg: I realize the Nationals starter’s debut will likely have his price at an all-time high, but it does bear reminding that Oliver absolutely loves this guy. If there’s a way to get your hands on him before he debuts, I highly recommend it. Even if he only gets the 55 innings we’re currently projecting, those will be some spectacular frames. Oliver projects a 2.71 ERA. Oliver is also projecting a K/9 of 10.13, which is the third-highest rate it projects for any pitcher.

Luke Gregerson: I’ve talked about the Padres middle reliever on several occasions, but even if the Padres hold onto Heath Bell and Gregerson never gets to close, he’ll still have some value in the rate stats. His projected rest of season ERA of 3.03 is the eighth-lowest. If your league is counting holds, he’s just that much more valuable.

Mat Latos: I have to admit that my suggestions on the young Padres pitcher have been all over the place. I recommended drafting him, suggested selling high and now I’m telling you that he’s a great guy to have if you need to lower your team ERA. The only thing that really keeps his value relatively low is his projected 89 innings. I don’t quite know what to make of that, but his projected ERA of 3.14 is the fifth-lowest of any starter.


Ted Lilly: The Cubs starter has been a little unlucky on the W-L front (1-5), but you could argue that he’s probably gotten a little lucky on ERA (3.69 despite a xFIP of 4.86). Well, Oliver projects improvement almost across the board, including WHIP. In fact, his projected 1.11 WHIP is the 10th-lowest and fifth-lowest among pitchers projected to pitch at least 80 innings the rest of the season.

Sergio Romo: Like with ERA, there’s a good argument to be made for stocking your team with solid middle relievers in an effort to win the rate categories. The Giants middle reliever probably isn’t going to close, but his 1.14 WHIP will certainly help. Romo comes with the added bonus of not hurting you much in ERA (3.31) and even pitching in a little on strikeouts (8.45 K/9).

Matt Thornton: I probably could have put the White Sox setup man in the ERA category, too, but he works well here. Many think there’s a decent chance that he’ll end up closing before the season is out. Even if that’s not the case, his 1.14 WHIP (tied for 15th-lowest in Oliver projections) will come in handy.


Jonathan Sanchez: There have been glimpses of the Giants lefty’s potential genius for several years. Now, we’re getting a full view. His 2.63 ERA and 8.96 K/9 are spectacular. Realistically, he’s probably not available in your league. Still, I’m putting him on here because there aren’t a lot of great undiscovered resources for a sexy stat like Ks and his projected total of 143 is the fifth-highest. His projected 3.97 ERA and 1.35 WHIP aren’t great, but not so bad to make you worried about acquiring him.

Max Scherzer: In his first game back from the minors, the Tigers starter struck out 14 in 5.2 innings. If that doesn’t prove that he’s at least capable of helping you as a one-category dynamo, I’m not sure what will. Oliver projects a 3.82 ERA and 1.26 WHIP, which won’t hurt, but you’ll want him for those 125 strikeouts that are the 16th-highest projected total.

Brett Myers: The Astros starter is still owned in just 12 percent of ESPN leagues despite a 3.04 ERA and solid strikeout numbers (59 in 74 innings). I’m sure his 1.39 WHIP has something to do with that, but if strikeouts are what you’re after he’s probably as good as you’ll find on the waiver wire. He’s projected to strike out 123 the rest of the season, which is the 20th-highest total. Do be aware that his ERA is projected to rise significantly (4.58) and his WHIP isn’t going to get any better (1.38)

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  1. Tony Starks said...

    hi brett – thanks for the good work. was curious though, how often do the oliver projections get updated? i was just skimming thru and noticed that grady sizemore is still projected for 429 ABs. considering he had surgery last week and it’s been known he’d be out a considerable amount of time for a couple wks now i’m thinking they aren’t updated as often as they could be. also pretty surprised that beckham is still expected to perform so well over the rest of the season. i’m thinking eventually a line is drawn in the sand and we have to give up hope. i realize this doesn’t pertain to this article but wasn’t sure where else to mention this stuff. thx

  2. Brian Cartwright said...

    The projections are updated weekly, usually Monday morning. Each player’s page has the date of the last update.

    As I said above, various THT staff and/or consultants maintain the MLB depth charts, where season ending injuries would be reflected.

  3. Toffer said...

    Brian – When Oliver was originally intrroduced on this site and I purchased a subscription, we were promised a series of articles about how it works, its success, etc. Since then there hasn’t been a single article. I’m curious what happened to that plan. I’m particularly interested in how you project ERA. It seems that you essentially accept a pitcher’s past ERA as true and then adjust by park, age, etc. That is, Oliver doesn’t seem to use any DIPS-like input; is that a fair assessment?

  4. Brian Cartwright said...

    One disclaimer to the readers – I do all the Oliver calculations, which includes formulas for estimating playing time, but others on the THT staff do the MLB depth charts.

    I do think Strasburg will pitch more than 55 IP the rest of the season. He had 97 in 2008 and 118 in 2009. I’ve read the Nats don’t want to over extend their most valuable investment, but a maximum increase of 50 IP over his previous high will give about 165 in 2010, 110 more than what he has now. It’s up to the Nats management how they schedule those innings. Strasburg would be expected to get 20-21 starts going every 5th day, but he’d have to be limited to 5 IP per game to not exceed 110. They could let him go and remove him as the game results dictate, but then might have to shut him down before the end of the season. This might not be optimal if the team finds themselves in contention late in the year, so another option would be to give him an extra day of rest several times between now and October.

  5. Brian Cartwright said...

    Toffer, I apologize. These are still planned, and I am scheduled for an article this Friday featuring projections of today’s first round draft picks. I will introduce the article with my methodology of college projections, with examples of past college projections of current major leaguers.

    It’s just that I am still spending more time maintaining and improving Oliver than I thought I would be at this point, as well as this being the busiest time of year for my day job, putting in 60-65 hours a week.

  6. Brian Cartwright said...

    As I said, I was scheduled…but real work took it’s toll and I pulled it back. Honest, I do have this to-do list which includes articles as well as programming.

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