We've reached the final installment of the preseason regression series, and there's still one thing I want to be clear about. There is no universal "normal" for the peripherals I've discussed here. There is an average, but that doesn't apply across the board.
There are hitters who will consistently have a low or high BABIP. There are pitchers who will consistently give up more more home runs than average. We just have to be careful not to just assume they're that type of player without a large enough sample size for it to stabilize.
Fangraphs does a great job of explaining the stabilization points here.
One of my favorite things about that is that something like BABIP stabilizes at a different rate for hitter (820 balls in play) than pitchers (2000 balls in play).
Kyle Hendricks Chicago Cubs SP
|Hendricks' career year will not be repeated.|
John Lackey Chicago Cubs SP
|Lackey came back to earth a little in 2016 but he was still aided by the Cubs defense.|
Julio Teheran Atlanta Braves SP
|Somehow Teheran gives up a ton of hard contact but has a low BABIP and HR/FB rate.|
Junior Guerra Milwaukee Brewers SP
|Guerra's fortunate batted ball luck made him rosterable in 2016. Neither will continue this year.|
I want to be clear that just because I have two Cubs pitchers as the top regression candidates doesn't mean I think they'll be bad pitchers or a bad team.
Kyle Hendricks is good at what he does and I would expect him to continue to be good. He's still the most likely pitcher to see his ERA go up by a run or more. Unless he gets some Rick Porcello win luck or throws a lot more innings, he's not going to be a top-30 pitcher again.
In fact, all the Cubs pitchers are likely to see a little regression because their defense was so spectacular. Defensive metrics just aren't that sticky from year to year, and they're going to have to find a place to put Kyle Schwarber.
Speaking of unsustainably low ERAs, Junior Guerra had a 3.71 FIP last year, a 4.42 SIERA and a 2.81 ERA. He's going to come crashing back to reality so hard that there is no reason to draft him in a mixed league.
Robbie Ray Arizona Diamondbacks SP
|Ray is either going to breakout or become known as "National League Michael Pineda".|
Zack Greinke Arizona Diamondbacks SP
|Greinke regressed a little too hard in 2016. Time for a bounceback.|
Gerrit Cole Pittsburgh Pirates SP
|Cole struggled with his stuff and had bad luck. One should come back for sure.|
Aaron Nola Philadelphia Phillies SP
|No pitcher had a bigger difference between his FIP and ERA in 2016 than Nola.|
Yes, Robbie Ray could be the National League version of Pineda. Then again, if you read the AL version of this article you'd know that I expect Pineda to regress as well. It would be great if Ray could do a better job of reducing hard contact in 2016, but there's also a pretty tenuous relationship between hard hit rate and BABIP allowed. The relationship between K rate and strand rate is much higher, which suggests Ray should at least improve in that area.
Greinke was a pitcher I called a bust all last spring, but he's not that bad all of a sudden. As long as he stays healthy, I would expect Greinke to get the home runs under control, and I'd expect a significant increase in his strand rate. Those two things alone would help his results tremendously and make him a value at his current ADP of late 7th round.