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5 bold starting pitcher predictions for 2020

Don’t give up on Jon Lester.

Getty Images/Pete Rogers Illustrations

Welcome to Starting Pitcher Week! It’s the men on the mound all week long here at Fake Teams, so be sure to stick around!

1. Jon Lester is a top 30 SP with a ERA below 4.00 and 15+ wins

Justification: 1.) Here is Lester’s BABIP from 2015-2019: 2015 (.303) 2016 (.256) 2017 (.310) 2018 (.290) and then you have 2019 (.347). His ERA was below 4.00 in each of those years except 2017. He was destroyed last year largely by the HR/9 which spiked to 1.36, a career high. Part of this is probably the juiced ball, part of it might be his age (36) and part of it is the fact that he dropped his fly ball rate by 20% as it lost about a MPH on speed. I think we see a nice bounce back this year.

2. Stephen Strasburg finishes outside the top 15 pitchers this year

Justification: Remember waaaayyy back in 2011 when the Nationals shut him down during the playoffs out of fear he would eclipse 180 innings? Well aside from the fact that I vehemently disagreed with that notion and figure you go all in when you get that far, they would go on to win the championship last year and he pitched 209 innings in the process. That was the 2nd most of his career (215 innings in 2014) a full 14% more than his third highest season (183 innings in 2013). The year after he pitched 215 innings he spent quite some time injured and in the minors, pitching just 127 innings with 11 wins, 7 losses, and an ERA that rose 14% from the previous year. At age 31, I think we see some injury/regression this year.

3. The Pittsburgh Pirates land in the top 7 in strikeouts

Justification: I am most nervous that Oscar Marin can’t live up to Ray Searage’s shoes as the Pirates’ new pitching coach. Ray worked magic with this team over his tenure. That said, the work that was put into the careers of Joe Musgrove, Chris Archer, Trevor Williams and Mitch Keller is real and this is a solid sleeper set of four pitchers. Last year they were 14th with 1,443 strikeouts, that was up from 2018 where they were 18th with 1,333, which was up from 2017 where they were 19th with 1,262 and finally 2017 was up from 2016 where they were 21st with 1,232.

4. Johnny Cueto returns to top 50 SP status

Justification: He’s fully recovered and while I’m not ready to say the 34-year-old is the 2.79 ERA, 18-win player of the 2014-2016 time, I think we see him return to a 4.00 ERA with 10-12 wins, 150 strikeouts, and a WHIP that is below 1.10. Shy of the injury slowing him down, he’s held up strong with everything else.

5. Jacob DeGrom wins 20 games

Justification: Remember that time he had a 1.70 ERA and just 10 wins? NO MORE! He finally has some help on offense, in the form of Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, JD Davis, and Brandon Nimmo. He will get run support and finally win those games where he allows one run instead of losing them.

2019 (Last Year’s) Bold Starting Pitcher Predictions

1 . For the first time in 10 years, the Dodgers are not in the top six in the league in ERA.

Result: Waaaayyyyyy wrong. They finished first with a 3.37 ERA, well ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays who were second with a 3.65 ERA. Between the Kershaw injury, the constant moving of starting squad, Julio Urias being in and out and Walker Buehler entering his second year, I thought this might all crumble.

2. We see one of the Top 10 pitchers go down to Tommy John: Max Scherzer, Chris Sale, Jacob DeGrom, Corey Kluber, Justin Verlander, Aaron Nola, Gerrit Cole, Clayton Kershaw, Blake Snell or Trevor Bauer.

Result: It’s not that I wanted this to happen but it was likely given the recent trend with Shohei Ohtani and Johnny Cueto and Taijuan Walker. I am happy to report this was incorrect.

3. A starting pitcher has four complete games pitched, up 2X from the most any pitcher had last season.

Result: This was reeeal close. Two pitchers had 3 complete games last year and they were in the same division. Shane Bieber and Lucas Giolito each had three complete games pitched.

4. Miles Mikolas wins 15+ games AGAIN this year.

Result: He pitched 184 innings winning 9 games with a 4.16 ERA and 144 strikeouts. Outlook, an average outing and definitely NOT 15 wins.

5. Mike Clevinger is a Top 10 Starting Pitcher.

Result: Depending on the format, he was likely NOT a top 10 pitcher but probably was a top 15 pitcher. Outlook, close.