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Lucky 2020 Pitchers To Avoid In 2021 (Fantasy Baseball)

Feb 8, 2021

Expect major regression from Brad Keller in 2021.

The final pitching lines of 2020 were more influenced by luck than any season we’ve ever seen, given the small samples produced. The league leaders in innings pitched barely reached 80 innings, and a full season would have been 12 games started. All ERA and WHIP figures need to be taken with a big grain of salt. There were some very wonky pitching lines that would certainly have normalized over a full season’s sample. In this post, we will go through some pitchers that seemed to benefit from good fortune last year and might be over-priced for 2021.

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Expected Weighted On Base Average

We took a look at this in the Lucky 2020 Hitters To Avoid in 2021 post as well, but it’s just as important to view for pitchers. Here are the top 20 pitchers that benefited most from good luck, as told by xwOBA.

Six contact-heavy starters at the top there. Keller, Keuchel, and Davies all posted sparkling ratios last year, aided by lots of luck. Those are not names going high in the draft, but even in the later rounds, you should have some pause before picking them up. The more interesting names are outside of the top five, with guys like Plesac, Maeda, Burnes, and Lamet all posting huge breakout seasons last year but potentially having good fortune to thank. The good news for that grouping is that those guys all get a good (or great) amount of strikeouts, so the hard contact they allowed is not as concerning.

The only names on this list that will be drafted in standard leagues that I would really be actively avoiding are Keller, Davies, and Gonzales. I think their awesome ERA and WHIP values from last year will garner much more interest than they deserve, and I expect major regression from all of them in 2021.

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Expected ERA

Baseball Savant also produces an “expected ERA” metric. This is based on strikeouts, walks, and batted ball data. Here are the biggest beneficiaries of luck by that metric.

Lots of the same names with elite pitchers (Bieber, Darvish, Gallen, Kershaw) coming into the fold. I would not worry about any of those names as they are high strikeout, low walk guys that have done more than enough to prove themselves.

K/BB

The most predictive pitcher statistics out there all involve strikeouts and walks. It is very rare for a pitcher to have success without having a strong K/BB ratio. In 2020, there were a handful of starters that posted strong ERA’s without doing much in this category. I would be very skeptical of these names repeating. Here they are:

Fried is a very good pitcher, but there’s little doubt that he ran awful hot last year with that 2.25 ERA. His ability to get ground-balls in bunches certainly helps things, but the lack of strikeouts and lack of an elite walk rate really will make it tough for him to keep the ERA under 3.00 in 2021. Much of the same is true with Dustin May, he has an awesome sinker that really limits the damage, but I don’t think a 2.57 ERA is really feasible. I’d hesitate on those two names as well.

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Jon Anderson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Jon, check out his archive and follow him @JonPgh.

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