Regression Report: Starting Pitchers Edition

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

In my previous post, I discussed which Jays batters had been over-achieving and which ones were due for a power boost in the near future. We were able to conclude that we have a mixed bag of regression in the Blue Jays batting lineup. In this post, I will switch gears and examine the starting pitchers and how the rest of 2014 looks for them. Which pitchers will regress negatively and which starters have good things ahead of them? As you can see below, the data on our starting pitchers gives us a lot to think about.

R.A. Dickey

2010-2013 3.26 .273 6.77 2.35 10.2% 3.81 3.80
2014 4.65 .277 7.50 4.50 6.3% 3.96 4.50

I remember reading an article/interview where R.A. stated he wanted to decrease the amount of walks and home runs he allowed last season. Looks like he has avoided frequent home runs so far, but that HR/FB ratio will not stay that far below the mean for long. With Dickey, I think we can expect a statistical improvement if that pesky walk rate decrease to his standards. At the same time, we need to hope that that HR/FB rate takes its sweet time getting up to 9-10%. Dickey should altogether see more positive regression than negative regression as the season progresses, since that walk rate has much farther to go than that home run rate.

Mark Buehrle

2010-2013 3.94 .295 5.18 2.02 9.15% 4.04 4.22
2014 2.16 .290 5.40 2.43 3.0% 3.15 4.09

Simply put, Mark's advanced stats terrify me. While his BABIP is at a comfortable number, Buehrle's ability to dodge home runs so far this season means he is likely due for a long ball wake up call (rhyme, tee-hee!). Once our enemies remember how to hit home runs off of Buehrle, his ERA could balloon to a number resembling that 4.09 xFIP. This does not look good.

J.A. Happ

2010-2013 4.52 .290 7.84 4.37 9.3% 4.33 4.49
2014 4.37 .318 7.94 5.56 20.0% 6.02 4.60

This is a tricky one. Happ has been doing a fine job racking up strikeouts, but that high walk rate makes me nervous going forward, especially since Happ has typically allowed more walks than a starter should. That absurd HR/FB rate is due to regress dramatically, as will that BABIP number. Should the BB/9 decrease to something resembling that 4.37 number, I would think we should see slightly more positive results going forward. Having said that, we are talking about a pitcher whose talent ceiling has never been particularly high.

Brandon Morrow

2010-2013 4.45 .299 8.98 3.36 10.4% 3.96 3.88
2014 5.93 .359 8.56 5.60 8.7% 3.98 4.13

Don't worry, Brandon, I will not forget about you. Since Morrow is expected to avoid surgery and return to the team around the All-Star Break, I figure we should revisit what we have here. Morrow has done an amazing job over the last few seasons making sure his regular stats are as far apart from his advanced metrics as possible. This season, whether it was because of the growing injury or a small sample size or whatever, his walk rate shot straight up from his career norm. If he can bounce back successfully from his injury and get his control back, I see no reason why we cannot expect positive things from Brandon in 2014. Then again, that's what I was thinking back when the season started. We will see...

Drew Hutchison

2014 3.45 2.93 8.85 2.70 7.10% 3.13 3.58

Just so we do not end this article on a depressing note, how about we sit back and enjoy what we have in Drew Hutchison? The young man has been a solid contributor so far this season. His xFIP and HR/FB show that, yes, he will regress negatively, but not by much. I chose not to include his 2012 stats for comparison since Drew was a 21-year old rookie at that time, and numbers put up by rookies that young should generally be taken with a grain of salt. The fact that Hutchison is not the same pitcher now as he was in 2012 is a testament to that.


Going forward, we can reasonably expect more of the same from Hutchison and Happ, an improvement from Dickey, and a hard thud from Buehrle. Brandon Morrow remains as great a mystery as he has ever been. Aside from what to expect in terms of regression, what this data tells me is just how pronounced the Jays' need is for another starting pitcher. If regression occurs as expected with the Jays' pitchers, Hutchison will likely be the only starter in the rotation with an ERA lower than 4.00. If the team aspires to take advantage of a very out-of-sorts AL East, an upgrade has to happen as soon as possible.

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