Should you buy Drew Pomeranz?

Is Drew Pomeranz the real deal? (USATSI)
Is Drew Pomeranz the real deal? (USATSI)

Athletics pitcher Drew Pomeranz was basically written off heading into the year. Despite being a strong prospect at one point in his career, Pomeranz had a tough time adjusting to the majors. Some of that could have been due to pitching in Coors Field, but Pomeranz's peripherals weren't necessarily eye-popping. The move to a bigger ballpark would certainly help, but it was worth wondering whether he would ever live up to his former promise.

He's proved a lot of people wrong this season. Through 52 innings, Pomeranz has a 1.90 ERA, and has emerged as a legitimate Fantasy stud. Will it last?

Pomeranz has seen a lot of improvement this year, but there are still some reasons to be concerned. While his peripherals have taken some strides forward, Pomeranz walk rate is still below-average. That's less of an issue in Oakland, where there's a lot of foul territory, but it's still something for owners to keep an eye on moving forward. 

More concerning, however, is his 90.9 strand rate and his .235 BABIP. Strand rate tends to be about 70 percent for most hitters, and Pomeranz is way over that threshold. Eventually, some of the runners he's putting on base will come around to score. Pomeranz's 90.9 percent strand rate is actually the highest figure in the majors among pitchers with at least 50 innings. It's just not sustainable.

BABIP has been dissected on these pages before, so most owners are familiar with it. Pomeranz's .235 figure is ninth-lowest among pitchers with at least 50 innings. His career average in the category is .285, suggesting he's been lucky with balls in play. That's not necessarily a surprise considering his ERA is 1.90. Pitchers can't get much better than that, and we know that's not a sustainable figure. 

Using FIP and xFIP, we can look at what Pomeranz's ERA could wind up being once things normalize. Pomeranz currently has a 4.10 FIP and a 3.87 xFIP. The problem here is that his 4.10 FIP is more likely to be accurate. Pomeranz has been prone to giving up home runs over his career. That could be a product of pitching in Coors, but it doesn't help that his homer rate has remained somewhat high in Oakland. There's a chance he allows home runs at a league-average rate, and his xFIP is actually his true talent, but we don't have a large enough sample to say that definitively. Fantasy owners would probably be happy with a 3.87 ERA moving forward, but a 4.10 ERA might hinder his value.

The real problem here is that Pomeranz has very clearly improved. But his performance has been so good that it could lead to owners overrating him. He's made some huge steps this year. He's using his sinker more, throwing harder and getting grounders at a good pace. Those are all signs of a good pitcher. At the same time, he's simply not this good.

Deciding what to do with Pomeranz depends on how your other owners view him. If he's viewed as an ace, or a number two starter, he's probably worth dealing. He should still provide some Fantasy value moving forward if you can't deal him, but don't expect him to be a number one starter moving forward.

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