Adrian Houser has established himself as a solid contributor in the Brewers rotation over the past two seasons. Is he primed for a breakout in 2021?
Tommy John surgery hampered Adrian Houser’s rise, and outside of a couple of appearances, he finally came up to the Brewers in 2019.
In 2019, Houser appeared in 35 games, making 18 total starts. In those 111.1 innings, he struck out 117 batters, walked 37, was worth 1.6 fWAR, and pitched to a 3.72 ERA, 3.88 FIP, and 3.60 xFIP, his ERA- was 84, and FIP – was 87. His SIERA, which is a predictive statistic for ERA, was 3.91.
Opponents hit .240 against Houser, and he managed to keep the ball on the ground, and avoided barrels. He only allowed 4.6% to hit barrels in 2019. In addition to that, he had a ground ball percentage of 53.4%, and his EV of 86.7 MPH placed him in the 93rd percentile.
Houser’s ability to avoid barrels, and induce weaker contact, was also reflected in his Hard hit%, which was 35.3%, and placed him in the 61st percentile.
How was Adrian Houser’s 2020?
Houser only threw 56 innings in 2020. He had an ERA of 5.30, FIP of 4.82, and xFIP of 4.10. He struck out 44, while he walked 21. His SIERA was 4.45, which is nearly a point better than his ERA.
Opponents hit .285 against Houser. He still managed to avoid barrels, with a Barrel% of 5.6%, which placed him in the 66th percentile. Just as he did in 2019, he kept the ball on the ground and had a ground ball% of 58.5%.
His Hard Hit% did decline to 32.8%, and his exit velocity declined slightly to 86.3 MPH, which put him 75th and 85th percentiles respectively. Despite that, Houser’s expected stats all declined, as he saw considerable increases in xERA, xBA, xwOBA, and a decrease in K%.
What can we expect in 2021?
Different projection systems foresee similar seasons for Houser. ZIPS, a system developed by Dan Szymborski, projects Houser to have an ERA of 4.37 in 123.7 innings, striking out 118. Houser is again projected to keep a similar BB% of 8.1%. Houser is projected to pitch to a FIP of 4.38, which would be slightly better than this season. At the end of the day, ZIPS projects him to be worth 1.7 fWAR
Steamer Projections is another modeling system. Steamer projects Houser will pitch 140 innings, striking out 7.37 K/9, with a FIP of 4.60, and ERA of 4.60. Steamer also projects an 8.8% walk percentage, and an fWAR of 1.5.
Depth Charts is a combination of ZiPS and Steamer projections, factoring playing time by the FanGraphs’ staff. Depth Charts has Houser throwing 150 innings, striking out 7.37 K/9. As with Steamer, they project a 4.60 ERA for him.
The projections believe that Houser will again be a serviceable rotation piece for the Brewers. There is nothing wrong with that at all. However, there is reason to believe he could over perform
Houser may not have elite spin on his pitches the way that Corbin Burnes does, but in 2019 he was able to avoid hard contact. He still was able to do that in 2020, but to a lesser extent.
Houser is entering his age-28 season, and seems like someone who 2020 was not good for. Assuming there are no large starting pitcher acquisitions, he seems to be a lock in the rotation. If he can tap into his 2019 self, continue to avoid barrels, while inducing weaker contact, the Brewers could have a three-headed monster atop their rotation.
With an offseason to regroup possibly in the pitching lab down in Arizona, he could come back with a strong 2021.