FanPost

How Much Better Will the Twins' 2014 Rotation Be?

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, I wrote a reluctantly-optimistic article about trying to project how much better the Twins’ rotation would be. In the end, our team lost 96 games again with a rotation that really wasn’t any better. Since I’m stuck inside on a snow day, I figured it would be fun to revisit this, reflect, and solicit your input on this year’s projections.

Counting Stats

So we lost 96 games the last two years running. Here are some cringeworthy stats to recapitulate.

2012

2013

Wins

39 (30th)

39 (28th)

Losses

75 (27th)

74 (30th)

IP

880 (29th)

871 (30th)

K/9

5.53 (30th)

4.93 (30th)*

BB/9

2.9 (13th)

2.82 (15th)

HR/9

1.44 (29th)

1.14 (26th)

ERA

5.40 (29th)

5.26 (30th)**

FIP

5.02 (29th)

4.64 (30th)

xFIP

4.59 (30th)

4.56 (30th)

WAR

3.1 (30th)

4.6 (29th)***

So yeah, we were just barely-measurably less putrid last year. It felt like it watching most games.

* Worst in MLB by 1.1 K/9

** 0.45 Runs/9 more than the next closest, Toronto

*** Detroit led the MLB again, this time with 25.3 WAR, a full 4.8 WAR above their 20.5 WAR mark in 2012

WAR data

There are currently two main WAR metrics, fWAR and rWAR. Here’s a brief article on the difference, but just know that rWAR is expected to be lower. Of all places, Wikipedia has a nice writeup on the accuracy of WAR (under Analysis). For purposes maintaining a single stream of thought, I’m going to stick with Fangraphs’ WAR and let people fight it out *snicker* out in another forum.

2012

GS

IP

fWAR

rWAR

2013

GS

IP

fWAR

rWAR

Scott Diamond

27

173

2.6

2.4

Kevin Correia

31

185.1

1.3

1.6

Nick Blackburn

19

98.2

-0.8

-2.1

Mike Pelfrey

29

152.2

2.1

-0.3

Francisco Liriano

17

92.2

1

-0.4

Scott Diamond

24

131

-0.2

-1

Cole DeVries

16

85.2

0.5

0.4

Samuel Deduno

18

108

1.1

1.5

Liam Hendriks

16

85.1

-0.2

-1.1

Pedro Hernandez

12

51.1

-0.3

-0.9

Samuel Deduno

15

79

-0.1

0.7

Andrew Albers

10

60

0.9

0.2

P.J. Walters

12

61.2

-0.1

-0.5

Kyle Gibson

10

51

0

-0.8

Carl Pavano

11

63

0.6

-0.8

Vance Worley

10

48.2

-0.2

-1.2

Brian Duensing*

11

52

0.3

-1.2

P.J. Walters

8

39.1

0

0

Jason Marquis

7

34

-0.7

-1.1

Liam Hendriks

8

36.2

-0.2

-0.9

Esmerling Vasquez

6

31.2

0.1

-0.2

Cole DeVries

2

7

0

-0.5

Anthony Swarzak

5

23.1

-0.2

-0.4

Total

162

871

4.5

-2.3

Total

162

877.2

3

-4.3

*Not all of his innings were as a starter, but I was too lazy to separate


Quick Takeaways

  • Both Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey exceeded projections in all available formats, albeit not by much.
  • No projection thought much of Deduno, who sort of showed us.
  • CAIRO, the least optimistic of the projections, was the closest to actuality, which I’ll show later.
  • And finally, nobody could have predicted the rotation circus that was 2013 any better than 2012 and which AAAA filler would be given too many starts. Fangraphs pegged us at 4.6 WAR as a rotation—you’ll see 4.5 in the table due to truncated rounding—at any rate, the only positive I could find out of that statistic is how well TwinkieTown voters predicted this mediocrity.


Bullpen vignette

Last year, Fangraphs had the Twins’ bullpen at 5th-best in MLB at 5.5 WAR, a full 3 wins better than 2012. Granted, they also had to pitch a buttload of innings, but only nine more than last year. Go bullpen! I’d still say we should try to sell high and trade one or two of our bullpen arms but that’s not germane. I'm also anticipating more starters going deeper into games, which could be a win-win for us.


Methodology

Say what you will about our 2014 rotation, at least we know we’ll have four durable starters in it, namely:

Ricky Nolasco

Phil Hughes

Mike Pelfrey

Kevin Correia

Barring injuries to and wildly poor play from these four, I only need to guess at ~20% of the starts next year. While I’m not against certain starters being supplanted by internal talent, I’m going to pencil in these four gentlemen and create a high-low range from the remaining pool of viable starters. Twins Daily recently wrote a piece about who the fifth starter will be, but for now I will use available data for Scott Diamond, Samuel Deduno, Kyle Gibson, Trevor May, Alex Meyer, or Vance Worley. I recognize the Swarzak will get some starts, but the projections have him in as a reliever.


ZiPS

2013 ZiPs GS IP WAR Actual
Scott Diamond 30 175 2.2 -0.2
Liam Hendriks 29 160 0.8 -0.2
Vance Worley 26 148.3 2 -0.2
Cole DeVries 26 140 0.6 0
Trevor May 26 136.3 0.5 n/a
B.J. Hermsen 25 144.3 0.4 n/a
Kevin Correia 23 135 0.1 1.3
Mike Pelfrey 18 106.3 0.9 2.1
Pedro Hernandez 18 101.3 -0.3 -0.3
Ryan Pressly 17 100 -1.3 n/a
Kyle Gibson 16 81.3 0.4 0
Brian Duensing 15 117.3 0.6 n/a
Anthony Swarzak 12 106.7 -0.2 n/a
Total 281 1651.8 6.7 2.5

Get used to reading this, but ZiPs, like me, was overly optimistic. Even so, Correia and Pelfrey beat out expectations. How about this year's projections?

2014 ZiPs GS IP WAR
Ricky Nolasco 30 177.7 2.7
Phil Hughes 26 141.7 1.6
Mike Pelfrey 21 118.7 1.1
Kevin Correia 25 145.7 0.4
Subtotal 102 583.8 5.8
Samuel Deduno 21 110 0
Kyle Gibson 20 97.3 0.2
Scott Diamond 29 167 0.6
Trevor May 26 140.3 0.5
Vance Worley 22 127 1.1
Low total 169 931.4 6.5
High total 153 877.8 7.5

What's interesting about this model is that it expects regression from Nolasco (3.0 last year), Correia, Pelfrey--Hughes was worth 1.3 WAR in 2013--yet still projects a modest uptick in total WAR for the starters. Last year we were hedging our bets against "there's no way we could be as bad as last year" and now we're betting against "we hope that regression won't be too bad and in fact some pitchers could maintain or improve their performance", which is a far less depressing notion. Even so, 7.5 WAR would have put us between the Angels and Orioles for 24th in MLB, which is cruddy, but a marked improvement. Heck, 6.5 WAR would bump us up to 27th between the Blue Jays and Giants(!).


Steamer

2013 Steamer GS IP WAR Actual
Scott Diamond 26 155 1.9 -0.2
Vance Worley 24 137 1.4 -0.2
Kevin Correia 22 131 0.9 1.3
Cole DeVries 22 115 0.4 0
Liam Hendriks 21 120 1.1 -0.2
Mike Pelfrey 20 117 0.7 2.1
Kyle Gibson 14 84 0.6 0
Brian Duensing 9 59 0.4 n/a
Anthony Swarzak 2 30 0 n/a
Caleb Thielbar 1 33 -0.3 n/a
Totals 161 981 7.1 2.8

What's interesting to note here is just how far south of expectations our starters were. When a thoroughly-average starter and another with an ERA north of 5 are again our only bright spots, you have to wonder just what we were watching last year.

2014 Steamer GS IP WAR
Ricky Nolasco 30 192 2.4
Phil Hughes 28 163 1.6
Mike Pelfrey 29 163 1.6
Kevin Correia 31 192 1.6
Subtotal 118 710 7.2
Vance Worley 17 96 0.8
Samuel Deduno 13 77 0.7
Kyle Gibson 8 48 0.5
Trevor May 3 19 0.1
Scott Diamond 2 30 0.1
Total 161 980 9.4

You'll notice Steamer has given us 161 starts neatly, so that's nice. It also recognizes that we have emerging minor league talent (May et. al.). Once again, it bases the bulk of our improvement on proven veterans. 9.4 wins would have put us in "crummy NL rotation" company at 21st, between the Cubs and Marlins.


CAIRO

Last year, CAIRO was the downer of projections, markedly lower than any other metric. Just how close was this stupid acronym-of-a-name projection, anyway?

2013 CAIRO IP WAR Actual
Diamond Scott 140 1.4 -0.2
Worley Vance 185 1.9 -0.2
Correia Kevin 150 0.7 1.3
DeVries Cole 145 -2 0
Hendriks Liam 150 2 -0.2
Pelfrey Mike 140 1.1 2.1
Duensing Brian 135 -0.5 n/a
Swarzak Anthony 60 -0.8 n/a
Totals 1105 3.9 2.8

Oh. The closest of them all. Figures. Let's see how their outlook is for 2014.

2014 CAIRO GS IP WAR
Nolasco Ricky 31 190 0.3
Hughes Phil 27 152 0.8
Pelfrey Mike 30 169 -0.5
Correia Kevin 29 171 0.2
Subtotal 117 682 0.8
Deduno Samuel 20 127 1.1
Diamond Scott 28 179 0.1
Gibson Kyle 20 143 -0.2
Meyer Alex 13 102 -0.7
Worley Vance 20 124 -0.1
Low total 151 927 0
High total 165 988 2

Damn. Does not look good. I think we all know our signings of Nolasco, Hughes, and Pelfrey are all looking toward some measure of upside and I think this does a good job of articulating what will happen if our "what if" scenarios are not met.


Fans

I missed this projection system last year, but here's a system where fans project for the next year based on the last. It's a neat idea and incorporates the kind of educated speculation that sports blogs are made of. Here's their take (since this is based on fan projections, fringe players aren't included):

Name GS IP WAR
Ricky Nolasco 33 198 3.5
Phil Hughes 30 173 2.4
Mike Pelfrey 27 156 2.1
Kevin Correia 31 183 1.3
Total 121 710 9.3


And once again, the rose-colored myopia of fans is encouraging. I'm not sure how people expect Nolasco to improve more on his already-improved 2013 while switching to the AL, but I think the universal consensus with Hughes is that he will improve outside of the Yankee spotlight and launchpad of a stadium, Pelfrey would have had a decent season if we throw out a handful of games, and Correia will be just good enough where complaining about him wouldn't be very Minnesotan. At any rate, we see a similar improvement to Steamer, which is below-average, but encouraging.


Conclusions

I think we're all at least comforted by the fact that we won't have to go into every game next year worrying if the pitcher's going to punt the game in the third inning. At the same time, for all the money we've sunk into the rotation, we really won't be seeing much of an improvement.

So finally, we can spend less time grousing about our piss-poor rotation and more about our kitten-weak lineup. Like why Lazy Joe Mauerer the Skim Lover can't hack it at 1B despite the fact that his .383 WOBA would have put him 6th in the Majors last year. Or, you know, find something to do until Sano, Buxton and Meyer get called up.

Enough of me, what say you?

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