Projection -- the rotation

Since Dan dealt w/ the Bill James hitter projections yesterday, I thought I’d throw the pitcher projections out there today. These are found in the 2009 Bill James Handbook published by acta sports. As you probably expect, they’re not quite as rosy as most of those for the hitters.

Starters Starts ERA BB/9 K/9 HR/9
Carpenter 8 3.34 2.2 7.2 0.8
Lohse 30 4.41 2.6 5.5 1.0
Looper 30 4.03 2.5 5.0 1.0
Pineiro 22 4.63 2.7 5.5 1.2
Wainwright 25 3.80 2.7 6.6 0.8
Wellemeyer 31 4.15 4.1 6.8 1.1

Just for reference, here are this year’s numbers.

Starters Starts ERA BB/9 K/9 HR/9
Carpenter 3 1.76 2.4 4.1 0.0
Lohse 33 3.78 2.2 5.4 0.8
Looper 33 4.16 2.0 4.9 1.1
Pineiro 25 5.15 2.1 4.9 1.3
Wainwright 20 3.20 2.3 6.2 0.8
Wellemeyer 32 3.71 2.9 6.3 1.2

Many oddities here, IMHO. Let’s start at the top. Carp’s only healthy enough to make 8 starts but pitches like a Cy Young winner when he is healthy. Does that strike anyone else as odd? A K:BB ratio that’s greater than 3:1? I just don’t see it happening to a guy healthy enough to only take the ball 8 times. There’ll be rust. There’ll be control issues and probably velocity issues as well as he pitches his way into shape. 3-4 starts in the minors aren’t going to get him there.

The projections expect Lohse and Looper to be roughly the same pitcher next year w/ most of their peripherals. Curiously, the projections have Lohse giving up many more hits than Looper next year – thus the considerably higher ERA. In any case, they have him as a league-average, or slightly below league-average pitcher. I guess the larger surprise is that Looper is seen so favorably. Would he have been the better sign? Fewer years, less money. No…he’s older and not even as good as Lohse is. It’s still worth it to offer him arbitration – either he’ll accept and fill our 5th starter role for this year or he’ll decline and we’ll receive a supplemental 2nd round pick.

It’s got Wainwright about where he was this year. Walks are up a little, Ks are up a little also. Same for Pineiro – by about the same amount yet Pineiro’s ERA falls by half a point and Wainwright’s rises by half a point. I suppose mathematically that’s conceivable.

Wellemeyer’s walk rate jumps by more than 1 walk per 9 and yet his ERA rises by less than half a point? If Wellemeyer’s walk rate increases by that much, I’d suspect that he’s going to have a very bad year. Wellemeyer’s success last year was predicated on the fact that Wellemeyer’s walk rate was about 1.5 walks per 9 LESS than his career average. His strike rate last season was 63.5%. Prior to last season, his career strike rate was 59.9%. Prior to last season, Wellemeyer was a bad pitcher. I suspect that his increased strike rate is the result of a learned skill and is, therefore, repeatable. He’s also in his final year before free agency, so signs point to him at least being able to repeat his success next year.

I also think that Looper’s relative success last year gives us a bearing on what to expect from Wellemeyer. Like Looper, Wellemeyer had spent, basically, his entire career in the pen. Like Looper’s ’07, Wellemeyer went through a rough patch in the middle of the season. Wellemeyer’s began in early June – he made just 3 starts in June as he was rested w/ elbow concerns and a tired arm. Between June 13 and July 19, he made 6 starts w/ a 7.55 ERA. He gave up 6 homers and 42 hits in 31 innings. He struck out only 15 in this period. Nevertheless, he still only walked 9 in those 31 innings. In other words, the guy w/ a history of control problems throughout his career, was even able to throw strikes during his worst stretch of the season.

Looper went through a similar stretch in his first season as a starter. Looper’s stretch was longer and more pronounced, however, as he simply doesn’t have the ability to miss bats the way Wellemeyer does. Between May 18 and August 1 of 2007, Looper made 12 starts and spent some time on the DL w/ a tired arm. He gave up 10 homers and 85 hits in 64.1 IP while striking out just 20. He walked 22 during this stretch. His ERA during this 2 ½ month stretch – 7.55. Wow!

The point is that Looper was considerably better last year. He was, like Wellemeyer this year, in his contract year and may earn himself 1 more long-term contract for pretty good money. For his sake, I hope he does, though I wouldn’t mind him returning on a 1 year deal after accepting arbitration. I expect Wellemeyer to be at least as good next year as he was this year, as I think his arm will be stronger and more durable. As long as he can throw strikes, which I guess is Bill James’s point, he’s going to be OK.

Nonetheless, when I see projections like those above for our pitchers, I wouldn’t mind seeing us find a way to add a young starter to the mix.

Tonight’s game 3 of the World Series. I’ll have a game thread up around 7:00. I promise this one will be up on time.

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