2014 projections: Starting pitchers

In the coming days, I will take a look at projected stats for all of the players in big league camp this spring, beginning with the starting pitchers.

There are a handful of projection systems out there that attempt to use statistical methods to forecast how players will perform in the future. The major systems out there include Davenport by Clay Davenport, Oliver by Brian Cartwright of Hardball Times; PECOTA by Baseball Prospectus; Steamer by Jared Cross, Dash Davison and Peter Rosenbloom, and ZiPS by Dan Szymborski of ESPN. Projections almost never predict performance with perfect precision, but give at least a general and objective prediction of what to expect out of a player going forward.

Additionally, Fangraphs hosts a crowdsourcing platform where every day fans like you and me can predict players’ performances. The Fans projections are only available for a select few players — namely those players who Fangraphs readers find interesting enough to project. They also tend to be somewhat biased as fans tend to be more optimistic forecasters than heartless computers. For these reasons, I didn’t include the Fans projections in the averages listed in the far right-hand column of the graphic below.

The following chart displays projected ERA’s for all of the starting pitchers in camp with the Yankees.


Possibly the most interesting set of projections for any player on the 2014 Yankees belong to Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka’s never thrown a pitch at the major league level, so projecting his future performance is a bit of the crap shoot. There’s plenty of disagreement on Tanka’s 2014 performance, but the non-Fans projection systems unanimously project him to be the best pitcher on the team. The projections run the gamut from a very good starter  (3.71 ERA per Steamer) to one of the top two or three pitchers in baseball (Oliver’s sparkling 2.59 ERA). I tried my hand at projecting Tanaka a few months back and came up with something like a 3.00 ERA, which falls on the rosy side of the spectrum.

Most of the disagreement on Tanaka’s projected ERA stems from his HR/9. Oliver predicts he’ll post a 0.66 HR/9 while the others believe he’ll yield closer to 1 HR per 9 innings. The only player to come from Japan with home run totals as low as Tanaka’s has been Yu Darvish, who’s posted a 0.9 HR/9 in the states. Still, Darvish and Tanaka are very different pitchers — and pitchers more similar to Tanaka have seen a less pronounced spike in HR rates after making the leap.

All of the projection systems peg C.C. Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda for ERA’s between 3.50 and 4.00. This would be a far cry from vintage Sabathia, but would still be a full run improvement from his 2013 ERA. These projection systems, for better or for worse, do not take into account Sabathia’s new physique. The consensus projection for Kuroda is that he’ll post the worst ERA of his career in 2014, which isn’t totally surprising. At age 39, you have to figure a drop-off is coming soon. Still, an ERA below four is nothing to sneeze at.

Of those in the running for the fifth starter spot — Michael Pineda, David Phelps, Vidal Nuno, and Adam Warren — Pineda projects for the lowest ERA by a wide margin. Of course, talent isn’t the issue for Pineda. We saw what he’s capable of in 2011 — it’s just not clear if he’ll ever be healthy enough to be that player again. Warren is not listed in the table since he’s almost exclusively projected as a reliever, but based on his relief projection (4.35 ERA), he’d probably fall somewhere in Nuno territory as a starter.

Little-known non-roster invitee Bruce Billings projects to be better than Phelps, Nuno, and Warren. As a 28-year-old with uninspiring minor league numbers, it’s a little hard to see why Billings projects as well as he does. Any rate, I’d take Phelps’ big league track record over Billings any day, but guys like Billings are good to have around as depth.

Projections for minor league players should always be taken with a huge grain of salt. Even so, the projections for Manny Banuelos and Jose Ramirez leave a lot to be desired, especially since both could wind up in the Yankees’ bullpen before the year’s out. Both have great stuff, which would probably play up a bit bullpen, but these forecasts suggest they’ve got a ways to go before their ready to step into a big league rotation.

In all likelihood, Jose Campos, Nik Turley, Shane Greene, and Bryan Mitchell won’t throw anything more than garbage innings for the Bombers this year. Campos is the only real prospect in this group, but he’s yet to pitch above low-A ball. Campos’ 2014 projections aren’t terrible, but he’s still years away from pitching the Bronx.

Next up: Relievers

About Chris

Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, and is an occasional user of the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell
This entry was posted in Analysis, Rotation, Spring Training and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.