On Wednesday, I picked an over or under on six position player's performances in 2016. I claimed that Matt Carpenter, Stephen Piscotty, and Tommy Pham would outperform the public projections, while Yadier Molina, Matt Adams, and Jhonny Peralta would underperform. Today, I take a look at the Pitcher's side, taking the over/under on the projected stats for five different Cardinals pitchers expected to make the 25-man roster.
Kevin Siegrist, 3.43 FIP (under)
Taking the under here is a good thing of course, as the lower FIP the better. When healthy, Siegrist has been much better than what he's projected here, with a 2.91 FIP in 2015 and 2.29 FIP in 2013. In 2014 he had a 4.62 FIP, but he was also pitching while hurt for at least a portion of that time. He had just a 3.93 xFIP in 2015 indicating he may have gotten a bit lucky in terms of HR/FB, but relievers as a whole maintain a slightly lower HR/FB rate than starters (despite being on average not as good as starters), and as an extreme fly ball pitcher pitching in a pitcher's park, he's expected to beat his xFIP by a good margin. Thus far, in 144 career innings of work (not a good sample for this, but it's all we got) Siegrist's FIP has beat his xFIP by 0.62 points.
I wouldn't necessarily take the over on the WAR though, at a projected 0.7. That's because it's based on him throwing 65 innings, and between a somewhat recent injury history, and the extreme depth of the Cardinals' bullpen, that's an easy under. The depth chart projections also don't include Oh (I assume because while Zips has projected Oh, Steamer has not), so in general the innings pitched totals for the relievers are a little higher for everyone that what I would expect. If Siegrist throws 65 innings in 2016, either (a) the bullpen had several injuries and unexpectedly poor performances or (b) Matheny proves himself incapable of managing any bullpen, even a considerably deep one. Call it preseason optimism, but I think Matheny will handle this particular bullpen better than he has in the past.
Carlos Martinez, 3.29 FIP (Under), 3.3 WAR (Over)
Why do I think Martinez will outperform this projection? Because he already did last year, even if just barely. Martinez posted a 3.21 FIP and 3.4 WAR in 2015, and in my opinion I saw a pitcher who had improved from the start of the year to the end of the year, one who made less mistake pitches as the season went on. His HR/FB% went from 15.8% in the first half to 6.1% in the second half. No, half a season isn't a big enough sample to be completely confident in those numbers, but it's also a large gap, and it does match up with what I saw from Martinez as the season went on. He's got incredible stuff which makes him harder to square up, all he really needs is to avoid hangers and grooving pitches and I'd expect him to avoid dingers at a pretty successful rate.
While Carlos' K's went down a small bit from the first to second half, his walk rate saw a large decrease, from 3.61 BB/9 to 2.49. That's a 31% reduction, and if Carlos can maintain most of that then it really raises his floor. Carlos has gotten better each year he's been in the majors, and I for one expect that to continue in 2016.
Jaime Garcia, 114 IP (Under), 2.0 WAR (under)
Last year was a fun ride, getting to see Jaime on a mostly once every five day basis from late May onward, but it's hard to want to bet on that happening again in 2016. Before 2015 the last time Garcia threw over 114 IP was 2012, with 2013 and 2014 combining for less than 100 IP. Garcia is still young, but while his funky mechanics generate incredible stuff, they also seem to also result in injury fairly often. This is mitigated by the Cardinals' depth beyond the fifth spot in the rotation, but none of those guys are as good as a healthy Jaime. Garcia eclipsed 2 WAR last year with 2.8, and whether he gets there in 2016 depends entirely on health.
Jordan Walden, 55 IP (Under)
The Jaime Garcia of the bullpen, Walden last threw 55 innings or more in 2011. And with the jump step move he utilizes you can guess why. That jump step is the same reason he's so effective though. 55 innings isn't just a long shot because of his fragility the last four years, but also because of the current depth of the pen. Matheny should have a lot of options to choose from in the late innings, and a player with Walden's history and mechanics could be afforded the ability to never pitch two days in a row, if Matheny was willing to do it.
I won't take the under on the projected WAR as well though, which comes in at 0.5. In just 10 1/3 innings last year, Walden was worth 0.4 WAR, and while I don't expect him to perform at that small sample size rate going forward, it shows how dominate he can be when healthy.
Tyler Lyons, 3.54 FIP (Under)
Another situation where being under is a good thing for the player, Lyons holds a 4.03 FIP in his 150 career MLB innings, but he's been a little homer prone, with a 3.64 career xFIP. Things look better though when you see that over two-thirds of those innings came as a starter, where he was expected to throw 100 pitches and had to face hitters three times through the order. He also will be able to face left-handers at a much larger percentage of his batters faced. Despite being the better group of talent, in 2015 starting pitchers posted a 4.03 FIP compared to 3.83 for relievers. In 42 1/3 innings out of the pen thus far, Lyons has a 3.59 FIP, but a 3.07 xFIP. A lot of those were in long relief appearances, but as a late inning reliever he'll be afforded a higher percentage of LHH, where he'll work his best pitch, his curveball, a lot of the time, only to hitters that get to see him once. He also gets to dial up the velocity a bit more than in Long Relief appearances since he'll only be pitching an inning
So I predict both of the two lefties of the pen, Siegrist and Lyons, will do better than expected by the projection. I can't however, be as optimistic as the projections on the innings load that either Walden or Garcia is expected to fulfill this year. Lastly, I think this year Carlos not only beats the projections, but shows everyone that he's capable of even more than what he did in 2015. As I mentioned in the previous article, I'll probably look silly in more ways than one with these claims, but this is part of the fun of the offseason, which by the way, is nearly over. Two more days until we get the sweetness of baseball games that count again!