Twins starters on the DL in 2011

More warm, cozy projections to fill these bitter January days. 

In a riveting, as-yet-unfolding trilogy with at least 2 prequels (phantom menace, clone wars, new hope, empire, jedi--stay tuned), Jeff Zimmerman at Fangraphs is taking a crack at predicting whether or not a starting pitcher will go on the DL at least once in the coming year.  Looking at a population of relatively established starting pitchers, Zimmerman projects the chance of a DL stint as a function of three things:

·         The player’s age,

·         The number of starts the pitcher made during the previous 3 years, and

·         The number of years over the last 3 seasons in which the player had at least one DL stint.

In short, demonstrating you can churn out starts is good, being old and going on the DL a lot is bad. 

Turns out the average starter has about a 39% chance of hitting the DL at least once during the coming year—a pretty good chance!  Further, and perhaps also surprising, the average number of days lost for players who went on the DL at least once was 66 days.  (Obviously that number is skewed up somewhat by those who miss very large amounts of time.)  So, using some fancy mathematical trickery, you can figure that your average MLB starter will miss about 26 days due to DL stints (.39 * 66 = 26).

Here’s how it shakes out for the Twins.  The following information is: Rank out of 116 starters with the requisite 3-year track records (Duensing, e.g., doesn’t qualify), pitcher name, projected chance of going on the DL (age, starts in the last 3 years, years in which the player had at least one DL stint over last 3 years), and the projected number of days missed.

·         14.  Kevin Slowey—48% (26, 71, 3)—about 32 days

·         16.  Carl Pavano—47% (34, 72, 1)—about 31 days

·         54.  Scott Baker—39% (29, 90, 1)—about 26 days

·         56.  Francisco Liriano—39% (27, 69, 1)—about 26 days

·         90.  Nick Blackburn—33% (28, 92, 0)—about 22 days

(link to complete list)  So we should expect to lose 137 days of a 180-day baseball season to DL stints from these 5 starters, a tick more than the 130 we’d expect if we were strictly average, and very close to the amount that you’d expect a 6th starter to provide.  (Duensing’s DL likelihood would be on the low end I’d imagine, with no DL stints to my recollection and relative youth.)  Of course, the cookie can crumble all sorts of different ways, but it’s a pretty good illustration of the need, on average, for about six established starters over the course of a given season.  (And doesn't it just brighten your day to see that illustrated?).

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