Regression Candidates: Josh Hader, Taylor Rogers, Will Smith (2022 Fantasy Baseball)
Welcome to another edition of “Regression Candidates”, where we dig into some analytics each week to identify two players due to heat up and two likely to cool down. Several players changed teams before last week’s trade deadline — especially among relief pitchers. Several current and past closers are wearing new uniforms this week. Of these, we picked two whose new teams may be the recipient of some positive regression and two who may be disappointed with their acquisition.
For each pitcher below, we list some relevant stats (through Saturday, Aug. 6) along with their “-” stats on the season. For those unfamiliar with ERA-, FIP-, and xFIP-, they are the equivalent of their namesakes but adjusted for home stadium and league. These stats are on an index, with 100 being average and lower being better. “-” stats are especially beneficial when a player changes teams. For questions about any of the other stats listed below, check out our sabermetrics glossary.
Positive Regression Candidates
By far, the biggest name among relievers to move was Josh Hader. Hader was his usual dominant self early in the season but went through a rough patch in July, which caused his ERA to spike. Assuming there is nothing wrong with him physically, the Padres shouldn’t be too concerned, though. Even with the spike, Hader’s ERA- is about league average on the year, and his FIP- and xFIP- are much better than average. A big part of Hader’s problem this season has been with the long ball. He’s giving up 1.8 HRs per nine innings this season. Should that regress, he’ll be back to his old self.
If Hader is on your fantasy roster, there is no need to panic. He should be fine going forward. If he’s not, he’s an excellent trade target from a manager spooked by his terrible July.
Part of San Diego’s acquisition price for Hader was Rogers. Much like Hader, Rogers started the season strong but has seen his ERA climb every month. He’s a bit above average on the year in ERA-; however, his FIP indicates he’s been a bit unlucky. A .327 BABIP against him furthers this notion. The flip side is a very low HR/9 rate of 0.21, which could offset things a bit (and why his xFIP- is higher than his FIP). Even so, we’ve likely seen the worst of Rogers this season, and chances are things will improve for him in Milwaukee.
The rub for fantasy managers is that Rogers is no longer a closer, as Devin Williams is now the man for the Brewers. If you are in a saves+holds league, however, there’s reason to expect that he’ll generate plenty of holds as we advance.
Negative Regression Candidates
Considering he hasn’t been very good this year, it’s odd to see Smith listed in the negative regression space. The Astros must’ve been desperate for a lefty or seen something they think they can fix with him. Because based on the numbers, it looks like things can only get worse for Smith. His ERA/ERA- aren’t too bad at around league average. However, his FIP/FIP- and xFIP/xFIP- are a cause for concern, as they are quite high. Couple that with a .266 BABIP and a 4.7 BB/9, and it doesn’t give you much confidence in a turnaround for Smith.
Smith only has fantasy value in leagues that include holds, and he may still garner some in Houston. However, he probably won’t vulture any saves as he did in Atlanta, as the Astros have better options to fill in for Ryan Pressly. If you are in a league that values holds, there are probably better options on your waiver wire.
Diekman’s profile is very similar to Smith’s. He’s a left-handed former closer used in a setup role this season with an average ERA/ERA- but below-average FIP/FIP-. Also, like Smith, his walk rate is extremely high this season at 6.7 per nine. This kills his WHIP and makes him a high-risk setup option for the White Sox. It is also unlikely he’ll see any save opportunities the rest of the season.
Chicago needed a lefty for their pen, so the acquisition made sense from that standpoint. For fantasy purposes, though, there is risk with him even though Diekman’s been a nice source of holds so far this season.
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