After covering the position players a few weeks back, we’re back today with some crazy pitcher predictions. Let’s get right to it . . . after this standard disclaimer:

Predictions are for the player’s full season, regardless of whether or not they are traded, but only count major-league performance (unless otherwise noted).

The Starters

James Shields

You can look at Shields’ 2015 season in two ways.

  1. He stunk. He allowed a league-leading 33 home runs in pitcher-friendly Petco, and he posted a below average ERA once accounting for ballparks. He also pitched “just” 202 1/3 innings, his lowest total since his rookie campaign, while also notching a career-worst 3.6 walks per 9.
  2. He was sneaky good. Shields’ 25.1 percent strikeout rate was the highest mark of his career, up nearly six percentage points from 2014—even though his velocity was down 1.5 miles per hour. His HR/FB was an unsustainably high 17.6 percent, and it’s bound to regress significantly going forward.

Huh, strange year. The glass half full outlook says Shields can keep his strikeout rate up while cutting down his walk rate and home run issues. That version of Shields would put him back on the fringes of the Cy Young race, but he’s 34 now—we won’t go quite that far.

The Prediction: 3.37 ERA, 22 percent strikeout rate, 24 home runs allowed

Tyson Ross

Ross feels like the type of pitcher ready to breakout as a true staff ace at any moment, and he’s come tantalizingly close already. He has his warts—trouble holding runners, higher than desired walk rates, injury risk due to heavy slider usage—but he also excels at just about everything you want from a pitcher. His 25.8 strikeout rate in 2015 marked a new career high, and that figure has been on the rise every year for Ross. His groundball rate has trended in the same direction, and last year it also reached a new peak at 61.5 percent. With sustained health and improved control, there’s no reason why Ross can’t take another jump forward in 2016.

The Prediction: 18 days on the DL (blister)

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