Talking Projections: The Rotation

Do the Bill James projections predict Michael Pineda to have a better season than CC Sabathia?

Projection systems can be useful tools to evaluate and develop expectations for the upcoming season. With that said, I thought it would be interesting to start a discussion about what the various projections, such as Bill James, Marcel, and ZiPS, have to say about the projected Yankees rotation.

Before taking the jump, think about your expectations for the rotation this year. How well do you think CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes, and Freddy Garcia will pitch this season?

At the end of the season, I am going to take a look at each player's final numbers and compare them to their projections in an effort to see which projection system is the most accurate.

CC Sabathia

Projection Win/Loss ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 IP
Bill James 17-9 3.33 3.25 7.93 2.49 235
Marcel 16-7 3.39 3.26 7.93 2.58 202
ZiPS 17-8 3.55 3.39 7.80 2.60 218

All statistics from fangraphs.com

All of the projection systems really like CC Sabathia. They aren't expecting him to be as good as he was in 2011, which is understandable, as he posted a 7 WAR season, but he is still expected to provide elite production at the top of the rotation. What I found most interesting was that both Marcel and ZiPS are expecting Sabathia to miss some time this season. Marcel in particular is projecting Sabathia to throw 30 less innings than last season. I lean toward agreeing with the Bill James projections for Sabathia this season, with a slightly higher K/9 and slightly lower FIP.

Michael Pineda

Projection Win/Loss ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 IP
Bill James 11-8 3.07 3.14 9.41 2.71 176
Marcel 8-8 3.54 3.48 8.69 2.86 145
ZiPS 11-7 4.11 3.87 8.16 2.91 157.2

All statistics from fangraphs.com

Pineda's projections vary greatly. Bill James expects him to be fantastic, posting a 3.14 FIP with 176 innings pitched. Marcel is in the middle, but expects Pineda to miss time, throwing only 145 innings. ZiPS is down on Pineda, projecting an ERA above 4.00 while failing to reach 160 innings. I'll hope for the Bill James projections to come true, but I expect Marcel-like production with another 40-or-so innings added to the projected 145, assuming health.

Ivan Nova

Projection Win/Loss ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 IP
Bill James 10-10 4.28 4.06 6.10 3.30 183
Marcel 11-5 3.88 4.00 6.00 3.06 144
ZiPS 13-10 4.44 4.37 5.60 3.03 178.1

All statistics from fangraphs.com

Assuming Nova makes the rotation, I would expect him to throw at least 180 innings if he remains healthy throughout the season. Nova has tossed over 180 innings in back-to-back years, including his time in Triple-A, and I think it is fair to expect that again. Nova came back from Triple-A last season and pitched exceptionally well, so if you expect him to continue along that trend, then you believe he will outperform Bill James and ZiPS. Marcel seems to have taken note of Nova's second half performance, and sees those numbers translating to the 2012 season. If Nova can provide a 3.88 ERA with a 4.00 FIP and another season with over 180 innings, Yankee fans should be very happy.

Hiroki Kuroda

Projection Win/Loss ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 IP
Bill James 11-11 3.57 3.84 6.40 2.16 204
Marcel 11-13 3.60 3.64 7.00 2.35 180
ZiPS 12-9 4.33 4.29 6.40 2.31 156

All statistics from fangraphs.com

I'm not sure what to expect from Kuroda, and it seems like the projection systems don't know either. Bill James really likes Kuroda, expecting him to post a 3.57 ERA over 204 innings with good control and a decent amount of strikeouts. Marcel also really likes him, expecting essentially the same ERA with more strikeouts, but also more walks over less innings. ZiPS, however, doesn't think Kuroda will transition well to the AL East, projecting him to miss a lot of time and post a below average ERA/FIP.

Phil Hughes

Projection Win/Loss ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 IP
Bill James 6-5 3.71 3.77 8.03 3.09 102
Marcel 8-5 4.11 3.98 7.25 2.88 103
ZiPS 9-8 4.84 4.52 7.04 3.23 122.2

All statistics from fangraphs.com

Bill James is extremely high on Hughes, expecting a FIP in the neighborhood of his post-injury 2011 season with a much higher K/9. If Hughes can extend these numbers over 150-160 innings, we could be looking at a very valuable 2012 from Hughes. Marcel expects Hughes to be pretty average, while ZiPS expects Hughes to be a below average and unlucky pitcher in 2012, with a FIP more than three tenths of a run lower than his ERA. I have no idea what to expect from Hughes in 2012, but I can say that I hope ZiPS is wrong about him. I don't have too much of a problem believing in the Bill James FIP, but the 8 K/9 seems too high, especially as a starter.

Freddy Garcia

Projection Win/Loss ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 IP
Bill James 8-8 4.25 4.38 5.94 2.69 144
Marcel 10-8 4.32 4.31 5.84 2.74 148
ZiPS 9-8 4.85 4.69 5.27 2.81 128




All statistics from fangraphs.com

If Garcia makes the rotation, which I think is very unlikely, the projection systems seem to agree that we shouldn't expect anything better than league average from Garcia in 2012. At this point in his career, Garcia is a league average pitcher at best, and with a lengthy injury history, I think Bill James and Marcel are giving him too much credit in the innings pitched department. If Garcia does pitched a substantial amount of innings this season, I wouldn't expect anything better than an ERA/FIP in the range of 4.40 with a below average strikeout rate and a slightly better than average walk rate.

Stray Observations:

ZiPS really dislikes the Yankees rotation, projecting each starter after CC Sabathia to have an ERA above 4.10. I found this interesting, and I'd be surprised if it held true. It is certainly possible, but I think it serves as the pessimistic outlook on the 2012 rotation. Marcel seems to be right in the middle with most of the starters, excluding Ivan Nova, who they expect to continue his 2011 success. Bill James seems to take the optimistic route, especially concerning Michael Pineda, who is projected to have a lower ERA, lower FIP, and higher K/9 than staff ace CC Sabathia. James is also high on Kuroda and Hughes, two players that I have had difficulty with developing expectations for.

Anyway, there you have it, PSA. Debate and discuss. Which projection system do you think will be the most accurate? Which pitcher is more likely to outperform his projections? Underperform?

[Remember, you can e-mail me at frankcampagnola@yahoo.com with any questions, potential article topics, feedback, or whatever else baseball or Pinstripe Alley related.]

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