Baseball Duck Tales – 2017 Season Wrap Part 1 (AL)

Updated: November 14, 2017

After a great World Series and some time off of baseball, we’re back to… talk about baseball. Today I want to take a end-of-season look at our 2017 Duck leaderboard. The final leaderboard serves as our retrospective for all pitchers for the 2017 season, and a potential way to look under the surface and see if anything we see here can serve as a predictive primer for future performance.  As per usual for posterity if you’re just finding this series, the Duck rating is a formulaic way to look at important pitching metrics and dig a little deeper underneath the surface statistics that we are generally most privy to as fans. To find how we calculate the Duck, check our original introduction here. Another side note: The 80 IP minimum used in our calculations are as a starter, so it doesn’t account for any relief appearances.

For reference, here are the 2017 league averages for starters according to Fangraphs:

  • SwStr%: 9.80%
  • K%: 20.60%
  • BABIP: 0.299
  • BB%: 8.10%
  • xFIP: 4.41
  • HardCon%: 32.30%
  • ERA: 4.49
  • WHIP: 1.36

This 2017 Wrap will be the first of a two part series in which we’ll take a quick scan of one interesting Duck rating from each team in the league, starting with the American League.

AL East

  • BAL: Dylan Bundy (79th)
    • What a hot and cold season for Bundy. Started the season with some dominant starts, but he really tailed off and became just a solid back end fantasy starter. He never ended up taking that step forward that we’ve been waiting for since he was drafted. Maybe that step just doesn’t come. The strikeouts aren’t really where we want them to be (152 in 169.2 IP). I think he’s fine, but maybe he’s just that.
  • BOS: Drew Pomeranz (70th)
    • Pomeranz is such an interesting case. At first glance, it’s hard to complain about the ERA in this environment. The Duck tells us that we should be wary though. The high WHIP and high strand rate seems like a ticking time bomb in that ballpark.
  • NYY: Masahiro Tanaka (7th)
    • The talk is all about Luis Severino in New York, and for good reason, but we’ve talked about Tanaka before in this series. He’s the poster child of a good pitcher who had a bad season. The home runs were THE problem, and that shows how volatile pitching is. Tanaka was above average on the positive end for every metric involved in the Duck, and ERA was the only outlier. He’s sticking around in New York, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a better ERA/WHIP combo than Severino in 2018.
  • TB: Alex Cobb (112th)
    • I’ve historically been a fan of Alex Cobb. Before his run-in with the injury bug, he was in conversation as an elite pitcher. I just don’t think the upside to be much better than the 3.66 ERA is there. A 4.24 xFIP is okay, but not sexy. The strikeouts have never been sexy at the major league level, and a K/9 below 7.00 is hard to swallow.
  • TOR: Marcus Stroman (45th)
    • Stroman is the enemy of the Duck. His money is obviously made with an amazing groundball rate, and that’s not a contributor to our metric here. He’s one of the kings of “pretty good” at everything, and that just puts him at a high floor SP3 who pairs with an elite K flamethrower. That’s been the Stroman story for a few years and that’s as safe a bet as we can make for any pitcher going forward.

AL Central

  • CLE: Mike Clevinger (71st)
    • I just want to start out by saying that the Indians had four pitchers in the top 20 of our season-ending leaderboard. That’s just insane (It’s almost like they had one of the best pitching staffs ever.). But I really want to bring up Clevinger. He falls just behind Pomeranz on the leaderboard, but he’s easily the more exciting pitcher. It’s hard understand why he carried a sub-3 ERA across 120+ innings, with limited control and more loud contact than desired, but a 3.50/1.25 pitcher with good strikeouts going forward is definitely useful.
  • CWS: James Shields (124th)
    • I didn’t have a lot of options here since they traded everything that breathed and at the end of the season the only requirement to pitch for the squad was to have all limbs attached and live within a 25 mile radius of the ballpark. PSA: don’t draft James Shields.
  • DET: Anibal Sanchez (28th)
    • That is not a typo. The Duck likes the fact that he didn’t give up many free passes, and feels he was more unlucky than anything with a serviceable 4.18 xFIP and a ballooned BABIP. I don’t know how actionable this is, since he’s not actually with the team anymore at this point. Maybe keep an eye if he goes somewhere favorable and accidentally runs into a few decent starts.
  • KC: Jakob Junis (82nd)
    • I’m secretly a fan of Jake Junis, since he was pivotal to some deep playoff runs for me this season in fantasy. Really though, I just don’t think he’s special. Anyone that can pitch to a 4ish ERA will be fantasy relevant, and he should be on radars and maybe even drafted late in some very deep leagues, but he’s going to be passed around like a bottle of crown in most leagues (+10 for anyone who gets that reference).
  • MIN: Ervin Santana (83rd)
    • The Twins surprise duck would obviously be Ervin Santana. I want to play a little devil’s advocate here. The only thing that eventually matters is the final numbers, and Santana found a way to overcome some glaring flaws to put up the season line that he did. Obviously, regression is in the cards, and probably in a big way, but maybe that regression isn’t to a 4.50 ERA but closer to a 3.85 which, again, is very helpful in this environment.

AL West

  • HOU: Charlie Morton (23rd)
    • How cool is it that Charlie Morton was a thing? How cool is it that he clinched the first World Series for that team? He’s been aggressively “meh” for so long and he put together just a fantastic season. This isn’t too different a case than Danny Duffy in some ways, where Morton finds another gear and turns up the gas on his pitches and sees some success. All that being said, just like Duffy had struggles losing velocity and passing out in Burger King drive-thrus, Morton could see some of the same, but hopefully he’ll have some respectability to at least get to Whataburger instead.
  • LAA: Parker Bridwell (119th)
    • Don’t draft Parker Bridwell. Literally nothing about this can go that well. In the best case scenario he doesn’t obliterate your ratios on a weekly basis.
  • OAK: Jharel Cotton (122nd)
    • I’m just sad about this. I was really interested in Cotton going into this last season after he flashed some promise in late 2016. The ballpark in Oakland seemed tailor-made for someone with Cotton’s arsenal, but it just didn’t come to fruition. I’ll definitely be eyeing him coming into next season. He’s someone where how he looks in Spring Training might actually matter to see if he sticks in the rotation in the future.
  • SEA: James Paxton (11th)
    • We love James Paxton. He’s just fun. He’s one of just 11 pitchers who is “green” across every metric on the leaderboard, meaning he’s trending positively in every metric in the rating. The big question mark for Paxton remains the health piece. The stuff is there, the amazing nickname is there, now we just wait for 200 innings of electric performances.
  • TEX: Andrew Cashner (150th)
    • Fun fact: there are 153 pitchers on the Duck leaderboard with at least 80 starters innings pitched. To find someone with a better ERA than Cashner on the season, we have to move up 57 spots (Gio Gonzalez. We’ll probably discuss him soon.). Another fun fact: Cashner sucks. Just don’t.

Stay tuned for part 2 of our End-of-season Duckdate soon!


All statistics pulled from Fangraphs leaderboards.

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