With the arrival of Baseball Prospectus 2010 at my doorstep on Friday, I spent some time yesterday look at the Yankee hitters and how PECOTA projects them to perform this season. While these are rough estimates of the team’s performance, they’re indicative of the trends many experts expect to see emerge from the Bronx.
After highlighting the Yanks’ offense yesterday, I’m going to look at the pitchers today. For the starters, I’ll present W-L, IP, K, BB, ERA and SIERA projections. For more on SIERA, read through the five-part explanation at BP or Joe’s introduction from the 17th. Let’s dive in.
CC Sabathia — 15-10, 219 IP, 183 K, 55 BB, 3.66 ERA, 3.58 SIERA
As expected, the Baseball Prospectus experts highlight Sabathia’s workload. He’s a horse who “works deep into games.” He has “handled it before and seems a safe bet to do again.” He’s projected to start 32 games this year, and his win-total projections seem to be a handful on the low side. I’d expect nothing but a good season from CC this year.
A.J. Burnett — 11-11, 193 IP, 175 K, 81 BB, 4.57 ERA, 3.85 SIERA
PECOTA is always bearish on pitchers, and Burnett’s line here is no exception. If the Yanks’ second starter is pitching to a .500 record and a 4.57 ERA, the team might be in trouble. BP calls “the biggest triumph of his season” the fact that he stayed healthy and focuses on the disparities between what we call Good A.J. and Bad A.J. Depending upon how one characterizes it, Good A.J.’s ERA is more than five runs per game lower than Bad A.J.’s. He’ll probably soon be greatly overpaid.
Andy Pettitte — 10-11, 180 IP, 116 K, 64 BB, 4.70 ERA, 4.58 SIERA
BP’s final sentence on Andy Pettitte sums up my expectations for Andy’s 2010 campaign. “Pettitte seems a safe bet to give the Yankees another year of solid if unspectacular keep-’em-in-the-game pitching.” He’ll turn 38 this year, and his velocity has begun to dip as any 38 year old pitcher’s does. I always wonder if this is the year that age and a cranky elbow keep Pettitte down, but the Yanks have the depth to weather that happening.
Javier Vazquez — 14-11, 203 IP, 180 K, 54 BB, 3.85 ERA, 3.47 SIERA
I have him listed as the Yanks’ fourth starter, but if he duplicates his PECOTA projection, he would be in line to serve as the Yanks’ second starter this season. BP predicts an uptick in home runs allowed, but he’s a good bet for a lot of innings and a good number of strike outs. As BP says, at the price it cost the Yanks to land him, his return to the AL was a risk “very much worth taking.”
Joba Chamberlain — 9-10, 159 IP, 150 K, 67 BB, 4.45 ERA, 3.75 SIERA
When it comes to Joba Chamberlain, whoever wrote BP’s capsule reviews did not mince words. “What a mess,” they say. “It’s possible that no pitcher in the history of baseball has suffered through as many team-inflicted head games as Chamerlain has.” As I wrote on Friday, I find that to be a load of poppycock. It’s the media’s fault, although the Yanks shoulder some of the blame. BP expects Joba to wind up in bullpen with the arrival of Javier Vazquez, but someone has to hold down the fifth starter job. It’s Joba’s to lose.
Phil Hughes — 7-5, 103 IP, 90 K, 41 BB, 4.07 ERA, 3.90 SIERA
PECOTA has a problem with young pitchers who don’t have a long record of Major League pitching and have been wildly inconsistent. The system projects just 19 starts and 34 appearances for Hughes, but unless he gets injured or the Yanks pigeonhole him into the bullpen, he’ll far exceed 103 innings this year. The Yanks need Hughes to be more than a one-inning pitcher at this point in his career, and where he ends up out of Spring Training is anyone’s guess.
Mariano Rivera — 4-3, 57 IP, 54 K, 15 BB, 3.53 ERA, 3.19 SIERA
When it comes to Mariano Rivera and PECOTA, I just sit back and laugh. The Good Book has him pegged for 22 saves in 58 games. Rivera’s career low in saves is 28, and the BP Experts freely admit the problematic projection. In the past, they have termed Rivera to be “otherworldy,” and they note that he has “shut down everyone else, so why not Father Time?” At some point, he’ll decline or he’ll just retire. That point probably won’t be now.
Beyond those pitchers, it’s not really worth delving into the projections. BP likes Damaso Marte’s chances for a rebound year and David Robertson’s role as a potential set-up guy while PECOTA is cool on departed Yankees Phil Coke and Brian Bruney or Chien-Ming Wang’s chances of recovery. The bullpen remains a bit volatile for now, but that’s the way the Yankees like it. They have enough young arms to plug the gap.
I personally have never been too in love with the way PECOTA projects pitchers across the board. The system seems to consistently underproject the top starters, and I’m not just saying that because the Yanks’ pitching numbers aren’t as stellar as we would like to be. There’s a certain volatility in projecting pitchers because they can be so injury-prone and much of what they do depends upon the defense behind him. Still, this is food for thought on a Sunday afternoon in February.