Stuckey: A Pair of Regression Candidates Take the Bump on Wednesday
Getty Images. Pictured: The Cardinals’ John Gant and the Twins’ JA Happ.
It’s a bit early in the season to look at MLB pitcher regression candidates as the sample size isn’t enormous. However, two of the pitchers at the top of my list are starting tonight, so I figured I’d share a quick snapshot of that pair. As always, don’t just assume regression will happen on any given night because a pitcher has been getting lucky.
Ultimately, it comes down to the value of the number, but monitoring these advanced statistics can give you a much more accurate picture when it comes to evaluating how a pitcher is performing.
John Gant, St. Louis Cardinals
Next Projected Start: Tonight at Brewers
- ERA: 2.15
- xERA: 5.68
- FIP: 4.40
- xFIP: 5.26
- SIERA: 5.93
This list has to start with Gant, who has struggled mightily with control so far this season. Look no further than his K-BB ratio of 1.04, which is almost unbelievable for a starter with a 2.15 ERA through six starts.
Yes, he does benefit from a very good defense behind him. However, no defense can help a starter with Gant’s current peripherals maintain his surface statistics. Putting runners on base at an extremely high clip (1.70 WHIP!) will end in disaster when you are striking out fewer than eight batters per nine innings. And it’s not like Gant is missing barrels.
I’m not sure how much longer Gant will remain in the rotation, especially as the Cardinals get healthier in that department. I do believe the former reliever is much better suited for a role out of the bullpen, but I’m hoping the Redbirds give him a few more starts from a selfish betting perspective. The return of Miles Mikolas — who made his second rehab start in Triple-A on Tuesday — will likely mean the end of Gant’s time in the rotation.
Until then, the St. Louis bullpen better be ready to go tonight after an extra-innings affair Tuesday night as it’s just hard to see Gant ever getting through five innings with his control struggles.
Betting Outlook: I personally played Milwaukee -155 overnight.
J.A Happ, Minnesota Twins
Next Projected Start: Tonight at White Sox
- ERA: 1.91
- xERA: 4.22
- FIP: 3.84
- xFIP: 5.39
- SIERA: 5.20
Like Gant, Happ is also overperforming his SIERA by more than three runs. That’s troubling to say the least.
Happ doesn’t have the same walk problems (7.3% BB rate) as Gant. However, there are plenty of other worrisome signs for the southpaw, starting with this lack of strikeouts. Happ is one of only eight starters this season (min. 20 IP) with a strikeout rate of less than 15%. His minuscule 5.08 K/9 is a career low by a wide margin, which makes sense given his fastball velocity drop.
So, how has the 38-year-old lefty been able to post a 2-0 record with a sub-two ERA in his first five starts? Well, you can start with a strand rate north of 85% and a .171 BABIP that sits more than 100 points below his career average. In fact, only Wade Miley has a lower batting average on balls in play this year among starters who have thrown at least 20 innings.
The regression monster is coming for Happ. There’s just no way balls will continue finding gloves and runners will continue getting stranded against the stuff (or lack thereof) that Happ now has in his arsenal.
That correction could easily start tonight against a White Sox team that has dominated lefty starters over the past two seasons. Then again, I’m not in a rush to back Dallas Keuchel given some of his peripherals — although that just seems to be the norm with the soft-throwing, strikeout-averse lefty.
Betting Outlook: I don’t see any value in this particular game from a side perspective, but I don’t mind the over 8 one bit.