Last week, I looked at who could lead the Yankees in the three main offensive categories. Just as with the team's offense, there is no individual pitcher on the Yankees' staff who will dominate their peers in performance. Rather, the team expects to receive above average contributions from at least four of the five projected starters (sorry Sabathia/Nova). As such, this week I take a look at which starters could lead the team in ERA, FIP, and strikeouts using their past performance and projections for 2016.
Steamer prediction: Michael Pineda, Masahiro Tanaka (tie)
My prediction: Masahiro Tanaka
Steamer projects Pineda and Tanaka both to pitch to a 3.36 ERA in 2016. Tanaka's 2014-2015 statistics indicate that is a realistic estimate of how he should continue to perform in 2016, whereas Pineda has yet to breakout during his tenure with the Yankees. He pitched well in 2014 (1.89 ERA in 76.1 innings), but injuries prevented him from starting more than 13 games that year. In 2015, he managed to stay on the field for 160.2 innings, but his ERA was significantly worse at 4.37.
Pineda's 2015 peripherals (which were better than Tanaka's) indicate that he might have been rather unlucky, but further analysis shows that he allowed far too much hard contact to simply chalk his struggles up to the whims of luck. Since Pineda is projected to tie Tanaka in ERA this season, I predict that Tanaka will have the lower ERA based upon his past performance.
I'm choosing to pretend that the only thing to discuss with both these pitchers in 2016 is their ERAs, and not the fact that their arms could fall off at any second, rendering this thought exercise rather meaningless.
Steamer prediction: Michael Pineda
My prediction: Nathan Eovaldi
Steamer projects Eovaldi to have a FIP of 4.05 in 2016 versus their predicted 3.51 FIP for Pineda. However, in each of the past three seasons Eovaldi has pitched to FIPs under 3.60. Eovaldi has always stumped analysts given a lack of results despite his electric fastball in the triple digits, but his main problem has always been hits. The calculation for FIP ignores hits, as pitchers do not entirely have control over preventing them.
I see the reasoning behind choosing either of these pitchers to best the team in FIP, but I have more faith in Eovaldi to pitch to a FIP consistent with his recent performance (which Pineda does not have much of). Furthermore, with the addition of his new splitter Eovaldi may be able to raise his strikeout rate, thus decreasing his FIP.
Steamer prediction: Masahiro Tanaka
My prediction: Michael Pineda
This is yet another toss-up category, as both Tanaka and Pineda have posted K/9s ranging from eight to nine in the past. Steamer predicts that Tanaka will best Pineda in this category in 2016 (8.27 vs. 8.08), but Pineda pitched to a better K/9 in 2015 compared to Tanaka (8.74 vs. 8.12). The strikeout potential exists for both of these pitchers, but it would be impossible to forget just what Pineda can do when he is on his A game, such as this past Mother's Day when he struck out 16 Orioles.
I watch that clip and cannot help but salivate over Pineda's strikeout ability when he has his best stuff working for him. Hopefully 2016 is the year he puts it all together and does this every game.
Because none of the pitchers on the 2016 Yankee staff blatantly stand out compared to their peers, it will be interesting to watch which members of the rotation ultimately lead the team in the main pitching categories. Perhaps Luis Severino continues his domination and becomes the greatest pitcher of all time, though Steamer is not as optimistic given his lack of past performance. I, however, would not be opposed to him becoming the true ace of the team this year.
Which starters do you see leading the team in pitching categories in 2016? Why?