Positive & Negative Regression: Tyler Mahle, Madison Bumgarner, Zack Greinke (2022 Fantasy Baseball)
Pitchers have outperformed hitters by and large thus far, a few weeks into the 2022 season. After looking at home run regression last week, we’ll turn our attention to a few of these pitchers this week. Even though most have looked pretty good so far, a few have had some bad fortune. Below is some detail on four starters – two primed for some positive regression and two likely to see some negative regression on the horizon.
Positive Starting Pitcher Regression Candidates
Tyler Mahle (SP – CIN)
Fantasy managers thought enough of Mahle to make him the 35th starting pitcher off the board on average in drafts this year. Those who drafted him are likely having second thoughts about now, however. Five starts into the season, he’s sitting on a 6.45 ERA and a 1.66 WHIP. If you have him on your roster, there are some signs that he may be able to turn it around soon. First of all, his ERA Estimators look much better than his ERA:
Mahle hasn’t been hit hard, as evidenced by his low xERA. He hasn’t even given up a home run yet, so his xFIP and SIERA are higher than his xERA and FIP. His problems stem from a few things:
First off, he’s walking too many batters. He’s always had some control issues, but his current 4.43 BB/9 is higher than usual. In addition, he has struggled mightily with men on base. His 54.1% strand rate is one of the worst in the league. Last, he’s had bad BABIP luck as players are hitting .388 against him when they put the ball in play.
If Mahle is on your roster, hold onto him. He’s still striking guys out, and if he can get the walks under control, he should be able to turn things around.
Aaron Nola (SP – PHI)
A few weeks ago, I just wrote about Nola as a candidate to rebound in 2022. Yet here we are again, five starts into the season, and I’m saying the same thing. So we have to wonder whether he’s a pitcher whose peripherals are always better than his actuals. The reason for optimism with Nola is simple. Much as was the case in 2021, it feels like he is close to becoming the fantasy ace he was earlier in his career again. He’s striking out 11 batters per nine, and his K/BB% of 27.1% is top 10 in the league. Plus, his ERA Estimators look good:
Take away the five HRs he’s given up, which have inflated his ERA, and he’s a top-notch fantasy starter. He has an excellent K-rate and a low WHIP, and the wins will come as he has a good offense behind him.
Nola hasn’t been terrible this season, but you likely want more if he’s on your roster. Be patient. He may still turn into the guy you were hoping for on draft day.
Negative Starting Pitcher Regression Candidates
Madison Bumgarner (SP – ARI)
When you see Bumgarner’s sparkling 1.17 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, it’s easy to think that maybe the old MadBum is back. But upon closer inspection, you’ll notice he’s only striking out 5.9 batters per nine innings and that the BABIP against him is extremely low at .197. In addition, Bumgarner’s ERA Estimators tell a very different story than his ERA:
The only positive in this chart is the xERA, which is still pretty good. Looking closer at the Statcast data, Bumgarner’s HardHit% is down slightly from last year at 36.8%, and his barrel rate is low at 2.9%. However, that’s not enough to be convinced of a late-career comeback in my book. His FIP/xFIP/SIERA range from mediocre to bad, and his SwStr% of 7.3% indicates he’s not fooling many.
Bumgarner is still available in most leagues. If he’s on your waiver wire and you consider adding him, wait a bit. If he’s still looking good after a few more starts, maybe we can reassess. For now, it’s probably best to hold off.
Zack Greinke (SP – KC)
Zack Greinke is another veteran hurler who looks like he may be turning back the clock. That is unless you like strikeouts, of which he only has six all season in 22 IP. His ERA of 2.86 and 1.09 WHIP are excellent, however, and it wasn’t that long ago that Greinke was still a high-end starter. A look at Greinke’s ERA Estimators suggests he may be doing it with smoke-and-mirrors, though:
His FIP isn’t bad, and his xFIP and SIERA are high partly because he’s only given up one HR this year. But his xERA is downright scary. Greinke is giving up a ton of hard contact with a HardHit% of 48.7%. Combine this with the fact that he’s pitching to contact, and you have a recipe for disaster. If batters continue to hit him this hard at this high a rate, it’s only a matter of time before the wheels come off.
Greinke is rostered in about half of fantasy leagues. If he’s on your roster, you may want to look for other options – especially since you’re not getting any K’s from him anyway. If you see him on your waiver wire, keep looking.
Whether you’re new to fantasy baseball or a seasoned pro, our Fantasy Baseball 101: Strategy Tips & Advice page is for you. You can get started with our Sabermetrics Glossary or head to a more advanced strategy – like Maximizing Your Potential in Multi-Lineup Contests – to learn more.