Fantasy Throwdown: Shelby Miller vs. Julio Teheran: Which Young Starter Is A Better Bet For 2014?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The Cardinals’ Shelby Miller and the Braves’ Julio Teheran had surprisingly similar numbers in 2013:

  • Miller – 3.06 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 8.78 K/9, 2.96 BB/9
  • Teheran – 3.20 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 8.24 K/9, 2.18 BB/9

Throw in that they pitch for two of the best teams in the NL and the difference between them seems razor thin. So which youngster offers the better pick for 2014? Let’s take a look:

Earned Run Average
Interestingly enough, both pitchers benefited from elevated strand rates in 2013:

  • Miller – 80.1%
  • Teheran – 80.9%

They also both posted line drive rates over 20%, so there’s no difference there. The biggest thing? Miller had a stark split (1.75 home/4.57 road) as compared to Teheran who was consistent regardless of where he pitched (3.04/3.38).

Miller’s numbers away from home are extremely concerning, especially since they came courtesy of believable metrics (.317 BABIP, 74.1% strand rate). That’s not to say that Teheran’s luck won’t change as well, but his strikeout rate discrepancy (9.58/6.75) seems a lot more flukey.

Advantage – Appears to be Teheran

Strikeouts
We will cover this before WHIP, because the fewer balls put in play against a pitcher the better off he is. There is no questioning the strikeout stuff of Miller, who owned a minor league career K/9 of 11.1 and simply could’ve tired in the second half (and there also have been repors recently that he dealt with shoulder soreness late in the year):

  • First Half – 9.63
  • Second Half – 7.47

In fact, the late season injury is important to note because the only month he did not post a K/9 above 9.00 was September (4.60).

As for Teheran, he owned just an 8.1 K/9 in the minors and was at 7.1 at Triple-A. Yes he’s young and developing, but it’s easy to imagine a regression in this department. He owned a 7.49 K/9 in the first half and that may be a bit closer to the truth.

Advantage – Miller

WHIP
We know both players could see regressions to their BABIP, so the question is more about the control. Miller has always shown an ability to find the strike zone (3.2 BB/9 in the minors), as did Teheran (2.7 BB/9). So, while both pitchers could regress from their 2013 number, it would appear Teheran should maintain an advantage.

How do the strikeouts factor in? Assuming both pitchers have a similar regression in BABIP, it will have a lesser impact on Miller due to fewer balls being put in play. That should likely offset the difference in control.

Advantage – Draw

Wins
Both teams should provide opportunities for W, so this should just be considered a draw.

Conclusion:
Once again the pitchers would appear to be somewhat similar heading into 2014. While Miller’s home/road split is alarming, and could give Teheran the theoretical edge in ERA, Miller has a clear advantage in strikeouts.

So who should we rather own? For me I would go Miller, because of the strikeouts and the fact that Teheran’s “advantage” in ERA is minimal at best. Both pitchers figure to regress and could easily come in north of 3.75 in 2014.

The difference is the strikeouts, and that’s key. That said, both can actually be considered potential busts for the coming year.

Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference

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2 comments

  1. bigwang says:

    Teheran’s swinging strike rate was actually 1% higher than Miller’s, and he also got more batters to chase. I think Teheran has a chance to maintain his gain in strikeouts. The slider which he started featuring last season (went from not throwing it at all to 17.7% usage) has really dominated.

    Both guys had xFIP of around 3.7 last year and I think if guys don’t reach for them thinking they will repeat the ERA then they should be fine investments, especially given the upside of young pitchers improving.

    In yahoo leagues both guys are drafted on average between picks 100 and 110 and I think that sounds about right. If anything teheran may have a better shot at beating his peripherals again because of the braves superior defense, especially with the amazing Simmons at shortstop.

    • Mike says:

      The braves do have a better defense across the entire field (in and out), but the addition of bourjos by the cards should be able to reduce that gap.

      I cannot see though how much longer miller can dominate with just 2 pitches… he needs a quality 3rd pitch to keep the hitters honest.

      Overall i would pick teheran over miller if i had to choose between them, but the likelihood is someone will reach or bid higher than i do on draft day for both…

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