The 2024 Projection Decliners: Pitchers

Luis Severino
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The full midseason run of the ZiPS projections have been completed, and while the standings updates are always a lot of fun, they tend to move in a similar direction to our FanGraphs standings, so they’re usually not the most shocking. What I find the most interesting are the player projections — not even the numbers for the rest of the season (the in-season model is simpler, but improvements in the full model are naturally going to be incremental), but the ones that look toward 2024 and beyond.

After looking at the hitter gainers and decliners and then the pitcher gainers, we’re wrapping this up with the list of the pitchers with the largest declines in projected 2024 WAR since my original projections to dig a little into what changed for each player. Sometimes it’s performance, sometimes it’s health, sometimes it’s a change in position. Let’s jump straight into the names, since I assume everyone reading this knows that ZiPS isn’t a cheeseburger or a hoodie.

One note: For this list, I looked only at the pitchers who have played in the majors whose sole decline isn’t because of injuries; otherwise, the list would simply be “dudes having Tommy John surgery” and fringe Double-A prospects who hit the wall suddenly. I doubt you need any help from a projection system to know why Carlos Rodón’s projection is worse now.

1. Alek Manoah, Toronto Blue Jays
2024 WAR: 3.8 preseason, 2.6 midseason (-1.23)
2024 ERA: 3.38 preseason, 3.87 midseason (+0.49)
2024 FIP: 3.80 preseason, 4.19 midseason (+0.39)

Manoah is lucky that this projection isn’t much worse than this; if you only watched him pitch, you’d assume he was the equivalent of Chris Davis out there. He did have a solid start against the Tigers, but I’m pretty sure that the Jays could trot out Pat Hentgen or Woody Williams and get a quality start against the 2023 Tigers.

As lousy as Manoah has looked, he’s good enough and had enough success in his first two seasons not to give up on him; you don’t have to even believe in the ERA over the FIP. But he probably shouldn’t be pitching for the Jays right now unless we’re talking low-leverage mopup innings.

2. Luis Severino, New York Yankees
2024 WAR: 2.0 preseason, 0.8 midseason (-1.21)
2024 ERA: 3.59 preseason, 4.45 midseason (+0.86)
2024 FIP: 3.68 preseason, 4.41 midseason (+0.72)

Sure, the homers will come down, and it’s unlikely Severino will continue to see a BABIP this poor, but there’s no way to explain around a year-over-year loss of about a third of your strikeout rate when combined with a similar ballooning of your walks. This Severino just has too many balls connecting with bats, and it’s hard to get around that. He looked to be in a strong position to make a run at free agency back in March, but while he’s stayed healthy, his actual pitching has likely cost him tens of millions of dollars this upcoming winter.

3. Noah Syndergaard, Los Angeles Dodgers
2024 WAR: 2.2 preaseason, 1.4 midseason (-0.83)
2024 ERA: 3.79 preseason, 4.23 midseson (+0.44)
2024 FIP: 3.98 preseason, 4.25 midseason (+0.28)

Thor’s stint with the Angels in 2022 was thoroughly unexciting, and he appeared to be a shell of the pitcher he once was, but at least he was more or less healthy for the entire season after missing all of 2020 and most of ’21. Right now, he’s making his way back from an issue with blisters, but there hasn’t been much thunder in Los Angeles, and he’s bled even more of his fastball velocity away. What especially worries me — and ZiPS doesn’t account for it — is that this is happening with an organization with an excellent record of fixing up misfit toys. At this point, he may have to turn into Frank Tanana to have a career, because he’s certainly no longer overpowering anybody.

4. Shintaro Fujinami, Baltimore Orioles
2024 WAR: 1.3 preseason, 0.5 midseason (-0.81)
2024 ERA: 3.76 preseason, 4.44 midseason (+0.69)
2024 FIP: 3.87 preseason, 4.15 midseason (+0.29)

I can definitely understand why the O’s picked up Fujinami, given the team’s recent sterling record at picking up hard throwers who are a wreck and transmogrifying them into shutdown short relievers, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s pitched much better — not good, but better — as a reliever in Oakland. I’d be shocked if he makes any appearances as a starter for the Orioles this season without some kind of plague travelling through the team’s starting rotation. I think I’d like to see him simplify somewhat in the ‘pen — just go fastball/splitter for awhile and stabilize things before worrying about any sliders. While Fujinami is not awful at actually throwing strikes, he’s getting off to way too many 1–0 counts, so the walk rate itself is justified.

5. Luis Patiño, Tampa Bay Rays
2024 WAR: 1.2 preseason, 0.4 midseason (-0.79)
2024 ERA: 4.03 preseason, 4.50 midseason (+0.47)
2024 FIP: 4.17 preseason, 4.64 midseason (+0.47)

The 2022 season was a wreck for the former Padres prospect, but ’23 has arguably been even worse, with Patiño struggling in the minors in whatever role he’s been used in. The Rays appear to have thrown in the towel on him as a starter after a 6.66 ERA in six starts to start the season. He’s snuck back into the majors a couple times this year, both for one ugly outing apiece; I think we’re beyond the point at which the Rays consider him in their plans as anything more than an emergency fill-in.

6. Chad Kuhl, Free Agent
2024 WAR: 0.7 preseason, 0.0 midseason (-0.75)
2024 ERA: 4.82 preseason, 5.44 midseason (+0.62)
2024 FIP: 4.90 preseason, 5.46 midseason (+0.55)

For a period last season, peaking right around his late-June complete-game shutout, there were some who were talking about Kuhl as being the pitcher who defied sabermetrics. That doesn’t typically end well — recall when Aaron Cook proved FIP was bunk somehow — and Kuhl has struggled since. He lost his job in the Nationals’ rotation while out with a foot injury and was mostly used in low-leverage situations upon his return in May, then was released a few weeks ago. He may not latch on with another team quickly due to extenuating circumstances outside baseball.

7. Sandy Alcantara, Miami Marlins
2024 WAR: 4.3 preseason, 3.5 midseason (-0.74)
2024 ERA: 3.35 preseason, 3.60 midseason (+0.25)
2024 FIP: 3.60 preseason, 3.59 midseason (-0.01)

Alcantara pops up on this list, but there are a couple of things that make for a pretty nice silver lining. First, it’s not like the newest projection is a lousy one; it just moderates the expectations for him coming off a career year. A loss of three-quarters of a win worth of WAR isn’t as dramatic when you project in All-Star territory! Amusingly, much of the loss isn’t even in his performance but in ZiPS’ faith in him having any ability to beat his FIP, as he had established in the past. It actually thinks Alcantara has been unlucky in a couple of ways; his strikeout rate has gone down despite similar plate discipline numbers from last year, and the computer thinks his slugging percentage against should be about 40 points lower if you look at the Statcast-type data.

8. Cal Quantrill, Cleveland Guardians
2024 WAR: 1.9 preseason, 1.1 midseason (-0.73)
2024 ERA: 4.14 preseason, 4.40 midseason (+0.26)
2024 FIP: 4.39 preseason, 4.52 midseason (+0.13)

I considered not including Quantrill here as he’s had shoulder inflammation, but in truth, he was already dipping deep into danger territory last season. Unlike Alcantara, he’s earned his 15% drop in strikeout rate, with hitters performing the double-whammy of swinging at more of his in-zone pitches and fewer of his out-of-zone ones. Being a pitch-to-contact guy is already a very slim way to succeed in the majors, but it’s even harder to do it when you’re allowing a lot of fly balls and not inducing particularly soft contact.

9. Ken Waldichuk, Oakland Athletics
2024 WAR: 1.8 preseason, 1.1 midseason (-0.73)
2024 ERA: 3.71 preseason, 4.31 midseason (+0.61)
2024 FIP: 3.75 preseason, 4.39 midseason (+0.64)

“Keep doing what you’re doing, but, like, double your walks,” has rarely been a dependable description of a successful season in the majors, and that remains the case here. Statcast has Waldichuk with the worst fastball in the majors this season at 16 runs worse than average; his teammate, Kyle Muller, has had the third least-effective heater in 2023. I’m not sure what Waldichuk’s path to success is at this point as his slider is basically the only pitch that’s working, and his command is overall a mess at the moment. He’s already had a stint in the bullpen this season, and unlike with Fujinami, he pitched equally as poorly.

10. Brandon Pfaadt, Arizona Diamondbacks
2024 WAR: 2.9 preseason, 2.2 midseason (-0.70)
2024 ERA: 3.59 preseason, 3.86 midseason (+0.27)
2024 FIP: 3.43 preseason, 3.74 midseason (+0.32)

Pfaadt retains very good long-term projections and has continued to pitch well in the Pacific Coast League, but you can’t just ignore his six starts in the majors, which were nearly uniformly terrible, when predicting the future. At least he didn’t allow four homers in a game after his debut, which is… something, I guess. The smart money is that Pfaadt is fine in the long run — lots of successful pitchers had abysmal early performances in the majors — but one can’t deny the risk is a bit greater now.

Top 2024 ZiPS Projection Decliners – Pitchers
Player 2024 WAR Preseason Change 2024 ERA Preseason Change 2024 FIP Preseason Change
Alek Manoah 2.6 3.8 -1.23 3.87 3.38 0.49 4.19 3.80 0.39
Luis Severino 0.8 2.0 -1.21 4.45 3.59 0.86 4.41 3.68 0.72
Noah Syndergaard 1.4 2.2 -0.83 4.23 3.79 0.44 4.25 3.98 0.28
Shintaro Fujinami 0.5 1.3 -0.81 4.44 3.76 0.69 4.15 3.87 0.29
Luis Patiño 0.4 1.2 -0.79 4.50 4.03 0.47 4.64 4.17 0.47
Chad Kuhl 0.0 0.7 -0.75 5.44 4.82 0.62 5.46 4.90 0.55
Sandy Alcantara 3.5 4.3 -0.74 3.60 3.35 0.25 3.59 3.60 -0.01
Cal Quantrill 1.1 1.9 -0.73 4.40 4.14 0.26 4.52 4.39 0.13
Ken Waldichuk 1.1 1.8 -0.73 4.31 3.71 0.61 4.39 3.75 0.64
Brandon Pfaadt 2.2 2.9 -0.70 3.86 3.59 0.27 3.74 3.43 0.32
Chris Flexen 플렉센 0.6 1.2 -0.64 4.61 4.17 0.45 4.75 4.38 0.37
Deivi García 0.0 0.6 -0.62 5.13 4.67 0.46 5.09 4.49 0.61
Simeon Woods Richardson 0.9 1.5 -0.61 4.56 4.07 0.49 4.46 3.98 0.48
Keegan Thompson 0.7 1.3 -0.59 4.33 4.18 0.16 4.72 4.40 0.32
Zach Plesac 0.6 1.2 -0.58 4.72 4.34 0.38 4.71 4.37 0.34
Spencer Turnbull 0.1 0.7 -0.57 5.06 4.63 0.43 4.65 4.19 0.46
Julio Urías 3.1 3.7 -0.55 3.48 3.22 0.27 3.71 3.48 0.23
Justin Verlander 2.8 3.4 -0.54 3.36 3.13 0.23 3.79 3.65 0.14
Roansy Contreras 1.3 1.9 -0.54 4.43 3.95 0.48 4.20 3.83 0.37
Matt Manning 0.5 1.0 -0.52 4.81 4.37 0.45 4.61 4.17 0.44
Michel Baez -0.3 0.2 -0.52 4.78 3.91 0.87 4.93 4.10 0.83
Jameson Taillon 1.3 1.8 -0.52 4.38 4.10 0.28 4.25 4.11 0.13
Jonathan Hernández 0.1 0.6 -0.51 4.80 4.26 0.54 4.62 4.33 0.29
Kyle Muller 1.4 1.9 -0.50 4.23 3.78 0.45 4.26 3.73 0.53
Brad Keller 0.5 1.0 -0.49 5.01 4.56 0.45 5.12 4.41 0.71
Eric Lauer 1.4 1.8 -0.49 4.28 4.04 0.24 4.59 4.27 0.32
Garrett Crochet 0.2 0.7 -0.47 4.31 3.59 0.72 4.26 3.55 0.71
Jose Castillo -0.1 0.4 -0.45 4.10 3.58 0.52 4.12 3.53 0.59
Grayson Rodriguez 1.5 2.0 -0.45 4.34 3.99 0.35 4.00 3.75 0.24
Ross Stripling 1.0 1.4 -0.44 4.37 4.10 0.27 4.47 4.15 0.32





Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

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tunglashrmember
10 months ago

Matt Mannings ERA is wrong in the table. His FIP is close but also wrong.

Dreamin
10 months ago
Reply to  tunglashr

2024 is not 2023