FanPost

How Much Better Will This Year's Rotation Be?

J. Meric

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.

How much?

(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)

Name GS IP WAR
Scott Diamond 27 173 2.6
Francisco Liriano 17 92.2 1
Carl Pavano 11 63 0.6
Cole DeVries 16 85.2 0.5
Brian Duensing 11 52 0.3
Esmerling Vasquez 6 31.2 0.1
P.J. Walters 12 61.2 -0.1
Samuel Deduno 15 79 -0.1
Liam Hendriks 16 85.1 -0.2
Anthony Swarzak 5 23.1 -0.2
Jason Marquis 7 34 -0.7
Nick Blackburn 19 98.2 -0.8
Total 162 877.2 3

When the Zips projections came out, I rushed to see them, eager to see a number substantially higher than 3.1. Technically, I did.

2013 ZiPS

Name GS IP WAR
Scott Diamond 30 175 2.2
Liam Hendriks 29 160 0.8
Vance Worley 26 148.3 2
Cole DeVries 26 140 0.6
Trevor May 26 136.3 0.5
B.J. Hermsen 25 144.3 0.4
Kevin Correia 23 135 0.1
Mike Pelfrey 18 106.3 0.9
Pedro Hernandez 18 101.3 -0.3
Ryan Pressly 17 100 -1.3
Kyle Gibson 16 81.3 0.4
Brian Duensing 15 117.3 0.6
Anthony Swarzak 12 106.7 -0.2
Total 281 1651.8 6.7

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

Name GS IP WAR
Scott Diamond 24 140 1.8
Liam Hendriks 29 160 0.8
Vance Worley 26 148.3 2
Cole DeVries 26 140 0.6
Kevin Correia 23 135 0.1
Mike Pelfrey 18 106.3 0.9
Kyle Gibson 16 81.3 0.4
Total 162 910.9 6.6

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

Name GS IP WAR
Scott Diamond 26 155 1.9
Vance Worley 24 137 1.4
Kevin Correia 22 131 0.9
Cole DeVries 22 115 0.4
Liam Hendriks 21 120 1.1
Mike Pelfrey 20 117 0.7
Kyle Gibson 14 84 0.6
Brian Duensing 9 59 0.4
Anthony Swarzak 2 30 0
Caleb Thielbar 1 33 -0.3
Totals 161 981 7.1

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.)

CAIRO

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.

Last First IP WAR
Diamond Scott 140 1.4
Worley Vance 185 1.9
Correia Kevin 150 0.7
DeVries Cole 145 -2.0
Hendriks Liam 150 2.0
Pelfrey Mike 140 1.1
Duensing Brian 135 -0.5
Swarzak Anthony 60 -0.8
Totals 1105 3.9

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

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:

2012 Rotation ZiPS Steamer CAIRO Oliver
Name W ERA FIP W ERA FIP W ERA FIP W ERA FIP W ERA FIP
Scott Diamond 12 3.54 3.94 10 4.63 4.1 9 4.43 4.09 5 4.37 4.08 12 3.7 3.62
Vance Worley 8 4.49 3.99 8 4.44 4.31 11 4.35 4.10 11 3.6 3.37
Kevin Correia 7 5.4 5.04 7 4.86 4.56 6 4.35 4.27 10 3.77 4.09
Cole DeVries 5 3.99 4.81 7 5.4 4.8 6 4.92 4.93 6 5.20 4.85 7 3.91 3.97
Liam Hendriks 1 5.59 5.57 8 5.18 4.73 7 4.56 4.36 7 4.11 3.88 11 3.37 3.48
Mike Pelfrey 5 4.83 4.47 6 4.95 4.69 6 4.03 3.92 7 3.99 3.77
Kyle Gibson 4 5.2 4.78 5 4.63 4.52 5 4.28 3.77
Brian Duensing 2 6.92 4.81 7 4.68 4.17 3 4.09 4.01 8 4.33 3.96 8 3.42 3.37
Anthony Swarzak 0 8.1 6.31 5 5.31 4.78 2 4.3 4.42 2 5.11 4.76 6 4.13 4.19
Caleb Thielbar 1 5.04 5.19 3 4.45 4.2
Totals 39 61 54 52 80
Francisco Liriano 3 5.3 4.3
Carl Pavano 2 6 4.4
Esmerling Vasquez 0 5.7 4.9
P.J. Walters 2 5.7 5.5
Samuel Deduno 6 4.4 5.5
Jason Marquis 2 8.5 7.3
Nick Blackburn 4 7.4 6.1

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)

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