We've all been there: _________ (any non-Diamond starter) gives up 4 runs in the first few innings and you, past the point of yelling, mumble some profanity, turn off your TV/radio/laptop, pace around the house slowly and start thinking of a new hobby to occupy you until April 2014, perhaps 2015.
But gosh darn it, things will be better this year! New coaches, new names in the rotation, new nicknames to coin, new Correia jokes to make (despite the fact that the poor guy has yet to throw a single official pitch for us and actually signed his name on a legal document saying that he desired to pitch for us, an act so unpopular even Hipster Kevin Slowey went elsewhere), and the odds are on our side. Statistically speaking, it's almost guaranteed that our rotation's going to be better.
(Since people on this site appreciate this kind of thing, basically I'm about to sum up what Fangraphs said about our 2012 rotation and compare it to a few projections. If you've already done your due diligence, you're not going to get much out of this post apart from voting in the poll.)
***If you are easily depressed, skip this section***
I started out this post with a safe assumption that there is just no way our rotation will be worse this year. In case you were in a coma for 2012 (recommended), let Fangraph's cringeworthy stats on our starters sum up what you missed:
Wins: 39 (30th)
Losses: 75 (27th)
IP: 880 (29th) -- that only serves to further the admiration I have for last year's bullpen
K/9: 5.53 (30th)
BB/9: 2.9 (13th) -- that's criminally low for us!
HR/9: 1.44 (29th)
ERA: 5.40 (29th)
FIP: 5.02 (29th)
xFIP: 4.59 (30th)
WAR: 3.1 (30th) -- the Tigers' rotation led the MLB at 20.5
No matter the metric, the only team we can compare ourselves to in 2012 is the Rockies, who last I checked are campaigning furiously to invoke house rules as a part of their home-field advantage and play Blernsball instead.
***Easily depressed folks feel free to resume here***
So the Twins scraped together 3 WAR from starters.
2012 WAR (Fangraphs)
When the Zips projections came out, I rushed to see them, eager to see a number substantially higher than 3.1. Technically, I did.
What frightened me most about this is that ZiPS has 281 games started for this crew, yet amassing 6.7 WAR would scarcely be enough to replace one of our center fielders. Yikes.
The next step was to get down to 162 starts and hope that there's still a noticeable improvement. My methodology was lackluster. Basically I chose the 6 starters who are guaranteed innings and picked DeVries to round out the field -- his spring's going well although I reckon there's a case to be made for Deduno -- and nerfed Diamond's starts to 24 to account for him not being ready on time/needing to reach 162 starts. The results are very similar to above.
2013 ZiPS, pared down
Upon remembering that the AR of WAR stands for "Above Replacement-Level", I shrugged my shoulders and wondered why I thought ditching replacement-level pitchers would change things much. So 3.6 wins more it is.
Also noteworthy is the projection that somewhere between 30 and 40 innings will not have to be soaked up by our bullpen, which would only help keep them fresh.
And here's Steamer
I tried to remain true to their choices for starters, partially out of convenience, so here I just omitted Trevor May, Pedro Hernandez, and B.J. Hermsen to get 161 (close enough) starts. So a 4-win gain here. Nice. Also, a much more substantial boost to the IP column, which would theoretically keep our bullpen more effective, although there's a case to be made that we should get to our bullpen as soon as possible if we are serious about winning. (If you're curious, the bullpen racked up 2.5 WAR in 559.2 innings--good for 224 innings/WAR--as compared to the 293.1 innings/WAR our starters accrued.)
These projections may be more in line with the pessimists. Same story with culling starts - just tried to be as faithful to the projections' choices of starters beyond our guaranteed six.
While the initial 3.9 tally scares me, the 1105 innings is high and if DeVries (or whoever) stinks it up as bad as these projections, I can only imagine we'd stop starting that pitcher. There's enough wiggle room innings-wise here to remove that two-win deficit and nudge it up toward the 5.9-win mark. Not to mention they don't have any data for Gibson, in whom most Twins fan have plenty of faith.
Marcels, Bill James, PECOTA, CHONE,
Not available, not free, not free, now very private. Bummer.
Oliver is known as one of the better projections for younger players, so imagine my dismay when I discovered there was no WAR data available. As much as I didn't feel like doing a cross of starter W/ERA/FIP, it looks like I'm going to, anyway:
Now this is interesting. A couple of things I gleaned
*If your name is not Scott Diamond and you pitched for the Twins last year, you should have a better year.
*Even the worst projections expect our starters to accrue 13 more Ws, although if for CAIRO we get rid of DeVries again we're down to 7 more Ws. I interpret this as both evidence that Wins are a cummy metric of performance as much as a glimmer of hope for us optimists.
*Look how optimistic Oliver is! Its claim to be a good predictor of young talent has me positively giddy. If this is the case, we are in FOR A TREAT! If that's also the case, we can also expect a 3.77 ERA from Correia and 80 wins from our starters. And unicorns. Even if I pare this down to 162 starts, I think it's safe to say that anything resembling this kind of output would delight any Twins fan.
Conclusion: Even the worst projections do project some improvement in the rotation, however each one also leaves me less-than-thrilled about watching our men pitch this year. Except Oliver, which I'd definitely file under "too good to be true". Still, even a handful of wins is nothing to sneeze at - just not enough to justify hopes of a vastly-improved season.
I've put my threshold for enjoying watching the Twins play this year at about 75 wins, and I'm a little worried I'm going to regret purchasing MLB.TV by May. Anyone want to catch a Nats game with me? (DC resident here)