Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Projectin' Thangs - Pitchers

Before I dump the "relevant" data, I need to convey one important message: I love Ricky Romero. The more I read and learn about him, the more stock I put in stories of his otherworldly make up. From his radio hit the day Jose Bautista signed to his cinematic Nike commercial, I find so much to like about Ricky Romero. Dude rules. Also, a great pitcher!

That silky smooth segue brings me back to the long-forgotten projection summary posts I started weeks ago. With the hitter comps out of the way, the focus switches to pitchers. Projecting pitchers is hard because pitching is crazy. Guys regress, they improve, they lose the ability to locate certain pitches or it all comes together.

A recent Fangraphs community study shows mechanical projections aren't as good pitchers as they are hitters, but we won't let that stop us from having fun, now will it? There are only five pitchers selected below, not because of my inherent biases but because of available information. It isn't ME that hates Jessie Litsch, it's the computers.

Ricky Romero
Bill James213207.443.851.930.850.2601.420.3104.074.31
All Fans (43)212187.603.402.240.760.2521.330.3043.763.74
Brandon Morrow
Bill James162159.614.782.010.830.2351.400.3063.833.78
All Fans (46)176179.873.942.510.870.2401.330.3163.613.97
Brett Cecil
Bill James177187.
All Fans (32)186206.682.712.460.970.2671.330.3074.014.13
Kyle Drabek
Bill James3437.153.711.930.790.2441.320.2893.963.71
All Fans (24)150177.022.942.391.020.2591.310.3004.094.23
Marc Rzepczynski
Bill James110109.
All Fans (11)129158.513.912.181.050.2461.360.3014.164.25

If, by chance, these five men make the lion's share of starts for the Jays in 2011 and the worst of the lot finishes with a FIP just north of 4.00, I will throw a party. Nothing too extravagant but some nice sandwiches, some decent bottles of wine, a tasteful quartet, decent venue. You are all be invited. By the way, the place will be crawling with strippers. Oodles of them.

Because that event, however unlikely, would be cause for celebration. A depraved bacchanalia the likes of which this city will never forget. Because teams that pitch like that usually get cool t-shirts designed in their honor. Oh and they win the crap out of playoffs series.

I'm very interested to hear what other people think of these bullish projections. Do you put a lot of stock into them? They can't predict Jose Bautista-style breakouts but nobody can. In the case of Brandon Morrow, the projections suggest something we all know/believe: a great season lurks in those peripherals. Though I'm on the record saying things might get worse before they get better, I remain excited to see how this pitching staff shakes out.

Getty Images photo courtesy of Daylife, projections courtesy of Fangraphs.


  1. First off, love the idea of 3 lefties in the rotation. Second, these are quite nice projections, but the optimist in me thinks they can do even better.

    1) Romero - 7.5ish K/9 sounds about right, but I'm really hoping he can cut down his walk rate.
    2) Morrow - I'm certain his BB/9 will not be 4.5. Hoping for 3.5ish.
    3) Cecil - Honestly don't know what to think of him. I would guess these projections are pretty good.
    4) Drabek - He's going to surprise people with his K/9. His stuff is brilliant, just needs to start putting people away.
    5) Rzep - Gotta love the K/9. I think the BB/9 is accurate though.

    There seems to be a disconnect between the projected FIPs and WHIPs. The WHIPs seem too high.

  2. Let's be clear about the standard for the party courtesy of yourself- these five account for 130 starts, all 5 having FIPs under 4.25. Sound fair?

    I await the bacchanalia come October

  3. Wow. Can't wait for the season to begin - thanks!

  4. I feel like Drabek's projection is a bit optimistic. Of course all the projection systems know more than me, and I just want to get drunk with strippers in your backyard, so I'm hardly about to become a hater.

    Also, I just noticed RotoChamp's FIP predicitons for Cecil and Rzep. Stands out a fair amount from the others. Yikes.

  5. I started reading about the party and thought in my head, "Wait, what about strippers?" Then lo and behold the next sentence, oodles of them!

    Do all 5 have to have an FIP below 4.25? Or do they need to average below 4.25 between the 5 of them?

  6. I hate sabremetric projections. For most part they just fall into averages and not take into account other items.

    eg. Romero developing a cutter. I think he's going to have a monster season!

  7. I don't think it is fair to hate them for being what they are. Read this for a better understanding of what they're trying to accomplish.


  8. Hold your horses, now...these are hugely optimistic projections. Our average projection is for no one to regress, Morrow to emerge and Drabek to turn in an above average big league season as a 23-year-old rookie? Consider how pitchers tend to develop - sporadically. Flashback ten years and I'll throw three names at you which you may or may not recall.

    At age 23, Kelvim Escobar was logging an ERA in the high fives in his first season as a starter. (He finally got his ERA below 4 after defecting to California - age 28.)

    At age 23, Chris Carpenter had a servicable rookie season (106 ERA+). Two years later he logged an ERA+ of 81 in 175 legitimately awful innings. He then improved in time to almost lose his career to arm troubles. He was 29 and a St Louis Cardinal by the time he finally got his ERA under 4 in 2004 at age 29.

    And, finally, Doc - the best of the bunch, right? Wonder what he was doing at age 23? Oh yeah - This: http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/TOR/2000.shtml

  9. I'm also really starting to warm up to Ricky Romero. He's the consummate competitor, always says the right things in interviews and always has his game face on.

  10. The projections are what they are. They aren't mine, they are created by various complex mathematical models based on a litany of criteria.

    Does it mean they're perfect or foolproof? Not in the least. But, when you look back, most of the systems do a pretty good job with hitters.

    You provided three examples from the past dozen years in which guess went way off the rails, but what about all the times they numbers were close? Not worth dismissing, I feel.

  11. I'm just saying that young pitchers are very unpredictable. First, chances are that at least one of the six has a semi-serious injury, and at least one will have psychological/mechanical troubles and struggle. Each projection makes sense within itself...though I expect significantly more growing pains from Drabek.

  12. Note, perhaps the significance of who ISN'T in camp vying for a starting job. No Dana Eveland and a WHIP of 2.0, no Brian Tallet and the 1.000 OPS vs. righties. No David Purcey with hs 1.25-1 K/BB ratio. No Brad Mills and the 2 pitch arsenal. If you include Litsch and Stewart, you've got 7 guys who will take the ball every fifth day, and, most of the time, give you a major league start of 6 or 7 innings, and not implode on the mound. That's really hard to get lined up and have every guy under 30 years old.

    Just ask the richest team in baseball how its working out at the moment.

  13. Man, I can't wait for that FIP party.


Send forth the witticisms from on high