ZiPS projects the starting rotation

Open Thread: February 22nd Camp Notes
2011 Season Preview: Russell Martin
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Dan Szymborski released the Yankees edition of his 2011 ZiPS projections this week, and Joe already used some of the data to explore a few potential bounce back performances from key players. Now it’s time to take a look at what the system says about the rotation, since that’s the part of the team with (by far) the most questions. Let’s break the guys down into three categories…

The Locks
CC Sabathia: 33 GS, 230.1 IP, 8.3 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 3.32 ERA, 3.24 FIP
A.J. Burnett: 30 GS, 182 IP, 7.7 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 4.50 ERA, 4.14 FIP
Phil Hughes: 26 GS, 147.2 IP, 8.0 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 4.08 ERA, 3.84 FIP

Is ZiPS taking into account the Larry Rothschild effect? It has all three guys increasing their strikeout rate by at least half-a-strikeout per nine, more in Burnett’s case. I’m definitely digging the peripherals from Hughes, though 26 starts and 147.2 IP tells you the system sees him getting hurt at some point. Earlier this winter we saw that there’s better than a one-in-three chance that he’ll hit the disabled list at some point in 2011, not terribly surprising after such a huge innings jump from 2009 to 2010 (80.1 IP). As for A.J., that would be his best year as a Yankee. Not in terms of ERA of course (though it would be a 0.76 run improvement over last year), but in terms of FIP. I’d be pretty happy with that season out of him, wouldn’t you?

The Back-End Candidates
Ivan Nova: 28 G, 26 GS, 149.2 IP, 5.3 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, 5.29 ERA, 4.94 FIP
Freddy Garcia: 15 G, 15 GS, 82 IP, 5.6 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 4.96 ERA, 4.60 FIP
Sergio Mitre: 25 G, 14 GS, 91.2 IP, 5.1 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 4.71 ERA, 4.34 FIP
Bartolo Colon: 8 G, 8 GS, 38.1 IP, 4.7 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 5.86 ERA, 5.29 FIP

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Here’s where things kinda get messy. Nova seems to have firm grasp on a rotation spot, but other than a small sample of crappy Colon, ZiPS has him performing the worst of the back-of-the-rotation candidates. With peripherals like that, he’d need a ton, and I mean a ton of ground balls to be even league average. Garcia is nothing more than serviceable, a decent fifth starter for half-a-season until someone better is brought in via trade. Mitre has the best projection of the best, and that really doesn’t surprise me, but we don’t know what the system has him doing as a starter and what it has him doing in relief. He’s younger than Garcia and Colon and more experienced that Nova, so with a little luck his ground ball heavy approach could yield solid results.

This foursome doesn’t inspire much confidence, but you didn’t ZiPS to tell you that. We’ve run through pretty much every pitching scenario this winter, and the more I think about it, the more I see the Yankees starting the year with Garcia and Colon in the rotation, Mitre as the long man in the bullpen, and Nova in Triple-A waiting for the first slip-up. Don’t ask me why, just a hunch.

The Kids
D.J. Mitchell: 26 G, 25 GS, 132 IP, 5.0 K/9, 4.9 BB/9, 5.86 ERA, 5.29 FIP
David Phelps: 23 G, 23 GS, 122.1 IP, 5.2 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 5.15 ERA, 4.67 FIP
Hector Noesi: 22 G, 20 GS, 106 IP, 6.1 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 5.26 ERA, 4.74 FIP

Phelps with the changeup. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

We can dream about Andrew Brackman or Adam Warren, but these three seem to be the next in line for a rotation spot. All three will start the season with Triple-A Scranton after finishing 2010 there, and Noesi has a leg up on the others because he’s already on the 40-man roster. All three are capable of a lot of innings, but they won’t necessarily be quality innings. Noesi has the best projected strikeout and walk rates of the bunch, but ZiPS also has him giving up the most homers (18) in the fewest innings of the trio.

Regardless, we’re really splitting hairs here. The projections aren’t fond of any of the guys, not terribly surprising for young pitchers. There’s always a chance one surprises, and the even better news is that the Yankees have more depth behind those guys in the form of Brackman and Warren. Back in the mid-aughts, when the rotation was really getting ugly, they never had these kinds of kids waiting in the wings. They’re going to help the big league team in some way this season, whether it be on the mound or in a trade.

Open Thread: February 22nd Camp Notes
2011 Season Preview: Russell Martin
  • Avi

    Where do I sign on Burnett’s numbers? I’d be pleasantly shocked if he pitches like that.

    • Carlosologist

      If anything, Burnett’s 2010 was an aberration. We can expect him to perform close to his 2007-2009 form. Rothschild has worked with him so I think we can expect a huge season from AJ.

      • Avi

        I disagree. His velocity was down considerably and isn’t likely to rebound as he gets older. Also based on his health record it’s amazing he hasn’t spent significant time on the DL as a Yank – another reason why expecting a better outcome from AJ this year is being overly optimistic to me.

        • stunna4885

          avi get a clue hes consisently throws 93-94 mph which is plenty hard enough and the guy has n’t been hurt in several years stop predicting phantom injuries

          • Avi

            Burnett’s average FB velocity was 92.3 MPH last year, down from 94.3 in ’08 and 94.2 in ’09. And If his current velocity is “plenty hard enough” why was he so awful last year? I realize it’s probably not the only factor but it was likely at least a substantial contributing one.

            • stunna4885

              his fastball was 93.1 last year guy. by the way its called locating your fastball not how hard.

              • stunna4885

                when u consistently fall behind in counts and batters know the fastball is coming even at 93 its easy to hit especially when u dont locate it. u can throw 100mph but if u dont locate your finished guy.

              • Avi

                It was actually 93.2 MPH. My bad.

                • stunna4885

                  yes with better mechanics and a better frame of mind he can absolutely still be effective in the league.

                  • stunna4885

                    people that are ignorant seem to forget that despite all the inconsistencies in his career hes still been a good pitcher. he never had a season approaching last years numbers so while troubling those numbers seem way out of whack for him. 3.99era career 8.2so per 9

            • Ted Nelson

              He got the same results on his FB in 2009 and 2010. It was his curveball–easily his most effective pitch on his career–that started getting walloped around.

        • Carlosologist

          His velocity in 2009 was 94.2. His 2010 velocity? 93.2. He dropped a grand total of 1 MPH on his fastball. His career fastball velocity is 94.5. He didn’t suffer a considerable drop in velocity. His main issues in 2010 were the drop in strikeouts, a low strand rate (68.8%), and a pretty high BABIP (.318; his career mark is .289).

          • stunna4885

            absolutely true. phil hughes 92.5 aj 93.1 cc 93.6 nova92.9 joba 94.5

            • MattG

              Tim Wakefield’s average velocity is 46 MPH, and he’s pitched for 100 years. It doesn’t work like that.

  • stunna4885

    cc sabathia 230ip 3.19era 3.46 fip aj burnett 200ip 4.20era 4.30fip phil hughes 194ip 3.90era 3.74fip ivan nova 175ip 4.40era 4.55fip freddy garcia 160ip 4.54era 4.68fip

  • YankeesJunkie

    I was surprised about how bullish it was for CC and AJ I would sign up for that right now. It also shows improvement for Hughes which I think is reasonable, hopefully he will be closer to 30-32 starts though than 26.

  • stunna4885

    cc is a beast, phil hughes will take the next step this year, aj will bounce back in a decent way and i believe both nova and freddy will exceed atleast the majority of fans expectations. the way i look at it is with the #1 offense and bullpen on paper in baseball if we can get that bouce back from aj we are 1 quality starter away from being the best team in the sport.

  • Ed

    I’m definitely digging the peripherals from Hughes, though 26 starts and 147.2 IP tells you the system sees him getting hurt at some point.

    I think it’s simpler than that. I think it’s just looking at his career history of 13, 8, 7, and 29 starts and seeing a guy that’s not likely to stick in the rotation all year. It’s a reasonable assumption if you’re just looking at stats and don’t know his prospect & development history.

  • stunna4885

    zips needs to shut down there lineup projections are awful.

  • stunna4885

    its unfortunate that chone projections are no more. they were the most realistic from year to year.

  • stunna4885

    its hilarious to me that beckett and aj have identical career numbers, plus beckett has been trending down for 2 years now because of injuries and ineffectiveness and yet hes gonna bounce back yet aj wont! give me a break.

    • MattG

      AJ and Beckett’s career numbers are as identical as me and Brad Pitt: not at all.

      • dan l

        The only major difference between Burnett and Beckett over their careers is run support. Beckett got it and Burnett didn’t. For their career AJ 6.4 innings per start compared to Josh’s 6.2. Both are at 59% quality starts for their career as well.

        • MattG

          And both eat cherry sugar bombs for breakfast.

          Beckett, career: 8.51 k/9, 2.77 bb/9, 1.01 HR/9 = 3.69 FIP
          Burnett, career: 8.23 k/9, 3.78 bb/9, 0.87 HR/9 = 3.93 FIP

          Granted, a lot of their careers are similar, but the numbers above would indicate Beckett has more to work with than Burnett, and therefore a better chance to reclaim past glory.

          • dan l

            Most of AJ’s terrribleness last year came in 8 horrific starts where he had an over 18 ERA. I personally like AJ’s chance to have a good season much better then I do Beckett.

            I don’t really care all that much about individual pitcher’s W/L records. I care more about the teams W/L record in games started.

            In 09 AJ contributed to 21 team wins…the Yankees averaged 5.5 runs in games he started. Last year the Yankees averaged 4.3 runs in games he started and the team won just 13 of his starts.

            AJ for his career has 4.5 run support per game started compared to MLB average of 4.8 run support. If I were Girardi I would make sure that AJ got the A lineup behind him every time out this season to insure that his quality starts turn into team wins.

            • Ted Nelson

              “If I were Girardi I would make sure that AJ got the A lineup behind him every time out this season to insure that his quality starts turn into team wins.”

              AJ had 14 quality starts last season and the Yankees went 11-3 in those games… His quality starts not turning into wins really doesn’t seem to be the problem.

          • Ted Nelson

            Their FIPs may not be identical, but pretty close. And their ERAs are almost identical, which given Beckett’s higher pension for the HR and slightly higher BABIP may not be just luck and defense. There is that whole contact thing.

            Beckett had a much better 2009 and is 3 years younger, which is why I think people expect him to bounce back. I also think the perception that Beckett is/was better has to do with his peak being longer and more sustained. He was above 5 WAR 3 straight seasons, while AJ’s been there twice 3 seasons apart. Don’t know if that makes him more likely to bounce back or not.

  • Tim Baumgardner

    Why do we even care what Zips thinks? Do they have a good track record at all of being even close to being accurate in these types of projections? Let the kids pitch!!! I was encouraged by the quotes today about Brackman, if he broke camp as the 5th starter I would be elated!! The same with Montero! Screw ZIPs!

  • NC Saint

    All off-season the rest of the world has been talking about 2 open rotation spots and you guys have been talking about Nova and one open spot. Never understood where the confidence came from, but what finally shook it?

    • mbonzo

      Nova was the most exciting starter last year. His numbers through a lineup twice were incredible. He’s got the upside that no one else has. Where Garcia, Mitre, and Colon could be good 5th starters, Nova has the upside to be a 3rd starter. Assuming Nova pitches well, he’s got potential that the other pitchers don’t.

      As for RAB, the only time I’ve seen that a slot was virtually a lock was in the RAB radio show where they said that Garcia is basically a lock for a spot and the other guys have to fight over the 5th spot. It was however assumed that Nova and Mitre would be starting before Garcia and Colon signed, so maybe you’re thinking of that.

      • Ted Nelson

        I think you are selling Garcia short. He had a good season last year. Nova’s next quality start will be the second of his career. Garcia had 18 last season (QS isn’t that meaningful for guys who pitch late into games regularly–4 ERs in 8 or 9 innings is better than 3 in 6–but for 6 inning pitchers like Hughes or Garcia or Nova it has more meaning… Hughes, for example, had only one game where he threw more than 6 innings and gave up more than 3 ERs and had only 15 QS in 2010). Just because he isn’t flashy doesn’t mean he has no upside.

  • Drew

    “Mitre has the best projection of the best”
    [25 G, 14 GS, 91.2 IP, 5.1 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 4.71 ERA, 4.34 FIP]

    haha jeez i dont want to see the worst

  • mbonzo

    Adam Warren, David Phelps, Andrew Brackman, Hector Noesi, Ivan Nova. Thats would be one sick AAA rotation. Theres still plenty of pitchers that would start there though. One of them will probably make the big league roster and its gonna be very cool to watch because if one is as successful as they’ve been at other levels they will probably be called up. They could quickly be used as some trade bait. I expect 2 more spots to open up by July for Betances and Banuelos.

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    The beauty of the game of baseball is its played on the field between the lines. Assuming the stat men hit the numbers correctly on CC, AJ and PH then we need only competitive results were the cast of fill- ins to be competitive and secure a playoff spot. After this has occurred anything can happen. See San Francisco.

    Playoff teams usually go through 7 or 8 starters to make the WS. Hopefully, our offense will permit a few more starters above this average.

  • Teresa

    I would be happy with that season from Burnett, but I don’t think I see that happening, especially after the way he pitched last season. Hopefully he can turn it around since Sabathia is really our only reliable starter. As for the back end of the rotation, I expect Nova to pitch better than projected and Im excited to see how he will do this season.

  • Another Bronx Dynasty

    Assuming that the # 4 & 5 starters are Nova & Garcia I think Nova can 12-13 wins & Garcia 15wins.

    • MattG

      What does w-i-n-s stand for? I am not familiar with that stat.

  • Slu

    Nova makes me the most nervous, to be honest. He just doesn’t miss enough bats.

  • Mitchell

    Know something? ZiPS predictions are about as relevant and accurate as palmistry and astrology. Yeah, it’s fun to goof around with various divinations and predictions – but the reality of a played game is all that matters. Sad to see RAB post this as if it’s meaningful. (sigh)

    • MattG

      Unless you are favoring some other sort of projections, this post is meaningless. You think the Yankees aren’t using projections when planning their off-season moves? Projecting the future is an indispensable methodology, which is impossible to replace by “playing the game.”

      • Mitchell

        Glad to see that we agree that the entire post about Zippy is meaningless – just column inches to placate the advertisers.

  • steve (different one)

    “crappy Colon”

    Is there any other kind?

    Am I secretly hoping Colon makes the team so we have another few weeks of unintentional poop jokes? Maybe…

    • Fair Weather Freddy

      Just imagine if Yanks had kept Brian Schlitter!

  • Bryan V

    Noesi isn’t the only one of those three that are on the 40-man. has Brackman listed as well.

    • Ted Nelson

      Brackman is not one of Mitchell, Phelps, and Noesi…

  • Super Nintendo Chalmers

    Is the reason the FIP is far lower than the ERA for just about everybody a) normal for ZIPS b) an indication that they believe the Yankees defense will be awful or c) none of the above?

  • Ted Nelson

    As usual, I’m (relatively) bullish on Garcia.

  • Doug

    What has me most concerned about Hughes’ numbers is only 5.7 innings/start. That’s less than the 6.0 from last season. Would hope to get more than that out of him.

    • Ted Nelson

      I don’t know how ZIPs works, but I assume it’s using more than one season of data to project. So Hughes’ previous work as a reliever might throw a wrench in the system. They’re just projections anyway, though, so I wouldn’t really get concerned about them.

  • tommy cassella

    i know a-rod is’nt to happy with the auquistion of colon,who he hit like he was a batting practice pitcher. their was a game a couple of years ago when a-rod hit three homers of colon and drove in ten runs.

  • MikeD

    The biggest problems with these projection systems is they are useless when it comes to young players.