With all the controversy that is currently going on in baseball, players are trying to put things behind them as they prepare for the upcoming season. Two such players have been notable in this effort this past week and are former rotation-mates who have moved on from the Houston Astros two different organizations. I’m talking of course about Mike Fiers and Dallas Keuchel.
Dallas Keuchel after struggling to find employment for much of the first half of 2019, Keuchel landed in Atlanta and pitched well enough to secure a three-year contract with the White Sox. The 32-year has a good history of performing to his skills, in other words, there has not been a high degree of variance between his ERA and that which was expected, his xFIP in this case. That said, it says nothing of his skills or their recent trends, it just says in world full of pitchers with a wide variance of predictability, he has been one of the safer bets to get what you expected from him.
First and foremost, Keuchel remains a groundball machine, keeping an impressive 60% of his balls in play in 2019. This was to his benefit last year, pitching in front of one of the better team-defenses in baseball and should lead to some skepticism for 2020 as he moves to Chicago where the White Sox featured one of baseball’s poorest. Then keep in mind that this is a pitcher who has had a HR/FB rate in excess of 20% in his past two of three seasons and no less than 11% since 2014 and factor in, well park factors, Keuchel is now moving from a pitcher neutral/friendly park to one of the more homerun friendly parks may also not be in his favor. An ERA slide to the mid-4’s range is likely and a bid under $10 and closer to $5 is probably in your best interest.
For two successive seasons, Mike Fiers has defied the regression gods, posting sub 4.00 ERAs despite a steep decline in his ability to get generate strikeouts, continued high home rates, suppressed batting average on balls in play, and high left-on-base percentages. Pitching in Oakland has FIP his saving grace, showing improved ability in keeping the ball in the park there, but still producing FIP and xFIPs that are in the high 4’s to low 5’s. Fiers has managed to earn $10 or more dollars three years running but is always one step away from that flipping on its head and earning in the negative. As a result, he’ll cost less (and should!) than the amount he has earned and really should be considered more of an endgame, sub $5 play with the hope he has another season like this left in him. Even then, bench him weeks he is away if you can.