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Positive & Negative Regression: Aroldis Chapman, Joe Barlow, Devin Williams (2022 Fantasy Baseball)

by Scott Youngson | @jscottyoungson | Featured Writer
May 16, 2022
Devin Williams

Devin Williams has pitched much better than his numbers suggest so far this year.

Welcome to another edition of “Positive & Negative Regression,” where I dig into some analytics every week to identify two players due to heat up and two who are likely to cool down.

This year, we haven’t looked at relievers yet, focusing on offensive players and starters instead. We’re about a month into the season now, though, so let’s look at a few firemen who stand out. There are a ton of relievers out there, so I filtered the data to include only pitchers who had two or more saves or five or more holds on the season. In addition, the player had to be rostered in at least 50% of leagues.

Below are two pitchers who have pitched better than their ERA indicates and should turn things around. In addition, are two hurlers who have some worrisome underlying stats and are due for some negative regression. Please note all statistics are through Saturday, May 14th, and should you not be familiar with any of the terms, check out the glossary here.

Positive Regression Candidates

Devin Williams (RP – MIL)

Williams is the set-up man with the highest roster percentage, and thus, he’s rostered in more than holds leagues. This is understandable since he contributes so much to the non-save categories and would be one of the top closers in the league if something were to happen to Josh Hader (RP – MIL). However, it’s worth questioning whether he should be held onto when sporting a 5.25 ERA and a 1.75 WHIP. The answer is “yes,” but there is a caveat. Let’s take a look at some numbers:

ERA WHIP xERA FIP LOB% BABIP K/9 BB/9
5.25 1.75 3.26 2.62 68.8% .417 15.75 8.3

The good news is that Williams’s BABIP is exceptionally high, his LOB% is below average, and his K/9 is insanely good. His changeup is still inducing many swings and misses (22.5% SwStr% on the pitch), and his fastball has been effective. So what’s the caveat? His BB/9 rate has been terrible. Specifically, he’s only throwing his changeup for strikes 30% of the time vs. 40% last season. If he doesn’t get that under control, his WHIP will remain high. But if he’s on your roster, don’t panic yet. The stuff is still there.

Giovanny Gallegos (RP – STL)

It was hard to find a second candidate here, but if you are worried about Gallegos’ 3.75 ERA, don’t be. He had one disastrous outing when he gave up four earned runs before recording three outs. Other than that, he’s only given up one other run the entire season (that it came the game before the four-run affair didn’t help ease fantasy managers’ minds). Take a look at some of his underlying statistics:

ERA WHIP xERA FIP LOB% BABIP K/9 BB/9
3.75 1.17 2.43 2.21 64.3% .314 7.5 2.3

His WHIP is solid, and his xERA and FIP indicate he was a bit unlucky in that one outing. His relatively low LOB% and somewhat high BABIP confirm this. His K/9 rate is low for him, but his SwStr% is still high, so the strikeouts should rebound. Last, despite some preseason chatter, there is no closer committee in St. Louis. Ryan Helsley (RP – STL) is the only other Cardinal to record a save this year, which came on the next opportunity after Gallegos’ meltdown. He seems to have excellent job security currently.

Negative Regression Candidates

Aroldis Chapman (RP – NYY)

On the surface, Chapman appears to be doing his usual thing. Eight saves with none blown and a 1.54 ERA will make any fantasy manager happy. However, there are a few stats that are a bit concerning:

ERA WHIP xERA xFIP LOB% BABIP K/BB HR/FB
1.54 1.37 4.23 4.88 87.5% .226 1.3 0%

While the ERA looks good, the xERA and xFIP are not as rosy. The xERA suggests he’s been hit relatively hard, and the xFIP is very high – in large part because Chapman hasn’t given up an HR yet. In addition, his LOB% is well above league average, and his BABIP is well below. All this indicates he’s been a bit lucky to this point. More concerning, however, are his strikeout and walk rates.

Chapman is striking 9.3 batters per nine, which isn’t terrible for most, but it is for him. His career K/9 is 14.8, and last year he was at 15.5. He’s also walking more batters than ever at nearly seven per nine innings pitched. This all leads to the K/BB ratio of 1.3, which is historically low for him. The last time he was anywhere close to this level was the 1.7 ratio he posted back in 2011. That year he was still striking batters out at a high rate but was walking 7.4 per nine. In 2022 his K-rate is down, and his walks are up.

It’s still early, so maybe he just needs more time to get on track. However, if you have an opportunity to sell high on Chapman, you may want to consider it before the blown saves start coming. He wasn’t great last season, and he may not have as long a leash as he’s had in the past as the Yankees have several excellent options in their pen to replace him if he starts to struggle.

Joe Barlow (RP – TEX)

Towards the end of spring training, there was much chatter that the Rangers would be going with a closer by committee approach. Many doubted Barlow would be the closer as had been presumed most of the offseason. However, those concerns appear to have been overblown, as Barlow has all, but one of the Rangers’ saves this year. Perhaps it is because he hasn’t blown one yet and has a shiny 1.59 ERA and a sparkling 0.79 WHIP. If we look under the hood, though, there are some indications that not all is well:

ERA WHIP xERA FIP LOB% BABIP K/9 HardHit%
1.59 0.79 5.73 4.01 97.2% .167 11.1 46.2%

Based on some of these numbers, Barlow has been very fortunate. As his xERA indicates, he’s been hit very hard this season. His hard-hit rate is over 46%, and his barrel rate is over 19%. In addition, he’s stranded many runners, as indicated by his LOB%, and his BABIP is extremely low. Barlow has had Lady Luck on his side in 2022, so if you have an opportunity to sell high on him, you should consider taking it.


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Scott Youngson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Scott, check out his archive and follow him at @jscottyoungson.

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