Pittsburgh Pirates: Three Free Agents To Pursue Based on Winning Percentage Added

The Pirates should target these three free agents based on the stat winning percentage added.
Aug 27, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Chicago Cubs third baseman Jeimer Candelario (9) hits
Aug 27, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Chicago Cubs third baseman Jeimer Candelario (9) hits / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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LHP Wade Miley - WPA: +1.98

Veteran Wade Miley is coming off a strong season. While he only pitched 120.1 innings, Miley was a dominant starting pitcher. The southpaw is having somewhat of a second-half career renaissance and even though he’s going into his age-37 season in 2024, he’s definitely a pitcher the Pirates should have on their radar.

Miley pitched to a 3.14 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. His 16.1% strikeout rate is the second lowest K% of his career, though his 7.8% walk rate is about what you’d expect from him. Miley’s 1.2 HR/9 rate is slightly worse than what he had in the five seasons at 0.91, but still right around the league average rate.

The veteran is best known for his ability to keep the ball on the ground and induce soft contact. He was in the 83rd percentile of exit velocity, and the 93rd percentile of hard hit rate. His 46.3% ground ball rate was the 26th highest rate among pitchers who threw at least 120 frames last season. However, Miley fed off the Brewers’ strong defense with a .234 batting average on balls in play.

Because of that, underlying estimations weren’t all that kind to Miley’s performance. He had a 4.69 FIP, 4.85 xFIP, 5.04 SIERA, and 117 DRA- compared to a 72 ERA-. Miley has been a consistent over-performer, however. His ERA from 2018-2022 was 3.50, but he owned a 4.33 xFIP, and 4.67 SIERA. That doesn’t mean completely ignore the numbers he posted last year, as they were some of the worst of his career, but it’s far from the first time he ever over performed.

But Miley had a whopping +1.98 WPA. Here is a brief list of players who had a lower WPA than Wade Miley did in 2023: Shohei Ohtani (pitching only), Spencer Strider, Zack Wheeler, Justin Verlander, Jordan Montgomery, Corbin Burnes, Luis Castillo, Pablo Lopez. His +1.98 WPA was the 18th best among pitchers with at least 120 innings last season. I think a lot of people forget just how dominant Miley was last season. He had a better ERA than both Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta last season. Since WPA is cumulative, that’s really, really good. He was able to post that high of a WPA in 2023 in less than 130 innings.

Sure, past ERA has less of a correlation to future ERA than stats designed to predict future ERA, but Miley has been a consistently above average pitcher now for over five seasons. I’m not saying the Pirates should sign him to a long term deal, but if he’s their no. 4 starter to open 2024, I’d be totally fine with that.