F-I-R-E-I-N-C-A-I-R-O

I’ve already taken a look at the 2013 ZiPS and Bill James projections for the Jays, but this week I kind of wanted to take a different approach to looking at some of the numbers forecast for this year’s club, and rather than go back through what we’ve already half-assedly looked at, it seemed a good opportunity to look at what some of the other number-spitting systems are telling us. Fortunately, there are several still out there, including CAIRO, available as an Excel file at Replacement Level Yankees Weblog, and quite nicely updated, formatted, and composed by individual team at RotoChamp. We can see the Jays’ team RotoChamp page here.

Now, be warned: some of these projections seem awfully light [read: mostly too scary to contemplate seriously]. So… don’t get too alarmed. Especially since, as I seem to mention every time I begin a post about projections, they’re all kind of a bit pointless anyway. Or, at the very least, hardly to be taken as the gospel. On the other hand, as you’ll see, it’s not easy to make the case that they’re terribly off target. And besides, what the hell else are we going to talk about? Let’s see what the robots are saying, concluding today with part two: the the rotation. (Sorry about the trad stats).

R.A. Dickey: 211 IP, 3.17 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 184 K, 52 BB

Why he’ll be better: The projection here seems to be splitting the difference between the very good Dickey we saw in 2011, and the excellent one from 2012. That’s perhaps problematic because of the way that Dickey has continued to refine his knuckleball– he got noticeably better in the second half of 2011, lowering his ERA from 3.61 to 2.87, his wOBA against from .316 to .289, his FIP from 4.19 to 3.26, and his xFIP from 4.04 to 3.85. And, since the projection is using it, his WHIP from 1.32 to 1.12. He maintained those sorts of levels for the duration of 2012 (albeit with some second half slippage), generated considerably more swinging strikes. Plus, he was just about as good on the road in 2012 as he was at home, and was better in 2011, so he’s no pitcher’s park creation. It’s a tall order, but especially in terms of strikeouts and innings pitched, he can exceed these numbers.

Why the projection is about right: The projection here is already rather generous, verging in spots more towards his 2012 numbers than his 2011. Changing leagues may help at first, as hitters who haven’t seen his current incarnation get used to him, but National League clubs scored 4.22 runs per game in 2012, posting a league-wide wOBA of .312, compared to 4.45 and .318 for the AL. The quality of competition is better, and moving to a far more hitter-friendly environment– and a division with a pair of classic, hitter-friendly joke stadiums– may slow him down in addition to the natural regression to the mean that should be expected. It’s certainly not a bad projection, but his Cy Young campaign will be very difficult to repeat.

 

Josh Johnson: 157 IP, 3.60 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 132 K, 48 BB

Why he’ll be better: Johnson pitched a full, healthy season in 2012, and has said that he really started to find his form by the end. Not all of the numbers bear that out– his FIP and xFIP actually went up from the first half of the season to the second– but some certainly do. His ERA dropped by half a run over the course of the year, his wOBA against dropped 30 points, and his WHIP went from 1.39 to 1.15 in the second half. It’s also hard to get a proper read on his 2012, on the whole, as he spent much of it tinkering with a curveball, which was new to his repertoire starting the season previous. Turning to it is almost certainly a consequence of the fact that his velocity hasn’t quite returned to where it once was, and in 2012 it allowed him to maintain– and actually increase a little bit– his strikeout rate over the course of the year. He used the pitch before he succumbed to injury in 2011, and though his velocity then wasn’t as great as before either, he pitched to a 1.64 ERA and 2.64 FIP over 60 innings. Given that he’s another year removed from his shoulder problems, and this much deeper into the development of his curve, if he stays on the field, a better season than this is certainly doable.

Why the projection is about right: The innings may not be what Jays fans are looking for, but the ERA and WHIP are both improvements on 2012 and the strikeout rate is only a little bit off from what he provided the Marlins. Even if he finds more success as he continues to come back from the shoulder issues that have derailed his last couple season, he also has to deal with switching into a better hitting league, not to mention pitching in a home park with a much more offence-friendly environment. Add in the fact that he’s turned to a curveball to compensate for his decreasing velocity and it certainly seems fair to not expect him to suddenly show up as the 5.5- to 6-win ace he was at his peak. The projection looks pretty fair, all things considered.

 

Brandon Morrow: 124 IP, 4.05 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 111 K, 50 BB

Why he’ll be better: Sure, Morrow only threw 124 innings in 2012, and has dealt with some kind of injury issue in each year since 2008, but it’s not like the oblique trouble that sidelined him in this season was related to any arm issue from the past. In fact, Morrow’s arm seemed healthy, and while the strikeout numbers weren’t as impressive as previous years, he pitched much more efficiently, inducing a career high ground ball rate, posting a career low walk rate, yet still being able to rear back and rely on pure stuff when it was needed. It’s easy to forget, especially those of us who look more to the peripherals, that Morrow’s ERA in 2011 was 4.72 and was 4.49 the year before, which maybe makes it understandable why the projection seems so far off last year’s 2.96 ERA. But the peripherals were always there, and in 2012 he pitched as though he’d finally figured it all out– certainly enough to expect better than this.

Why the projection is about right: As much as some numbers moved in the right direction for Morrow in 2012, his FIP was about the same as it was during his 4.72 ERA 2011 season, and his xFIP was a half run higher, as his HR/FB% was a touch low. His strand rate was abnormally high, as well, which all helps add up to the fact that, that despite the sparkling ERA, he was definitely not as valuable to the Jays as he was in 2010, when he walked an extra batter per nine innings, but struck out more than three more, and when FanGraphs’ WAR had him at 3.7 wins (in 146 innings), compared to 2.4 (in 124 innings) in 2012. Our eyes made us want to believe that he was turning into an ace, but some of the numbers just weren’t as kind, and a dip back to something like what’s being projected here isn’t out of the question– especially given the injury problems that seem to crop up every season.

 

Mark Buehrle: 200 IP, 4.09 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 111 K, 41 BB

Why he’ll be better: Buehrle may be getting older, and he may be switching back to the American League after single turn in the National League, and Toronto may be a much less pitcher-friendly place to play than in the cushy AL Central, but still, since an off year in 2006, his ERA has only cracked four once, and his WHIP has been equal-to or better than 1.30 in four of six seasons. His strikeout and walk rates have trended in the right way over the last two years, after a couple of down ones, and while some of that must boil down to facing pitchers in 2012, or the fact that he’s lost a half mile off his fastball velocity– it dipped to just 85 in 2012– at 34-years-old he’s still a long way from passing the point of no return for a soft-tossing lefty. And it’s not like he was working with a lot more velocity than that to begin with, so he could very conceivably hold those gains, even with a league switch.

Why the projection is about right: Buehrle’s groundball rate and HR/FB rate took a dip in 2012, contributing to a poor season overall, by his standards, which is a little alarming, given that he was expected to be better off in pitcher-friendly Marlins park. Bouncing back to something closer to his career norms in those departments will go a long way towards beating this projection, but switching back to the American League, to the AL East in particular, and having to more frequently face a club like the Red Sox, who are built to positively mash lefties, and to pitch in an unfriendly Rogers Centre environment doesn’t bode well. Nor does the fact that he’s rather steadily slipped from a consistent four-ish win guy from 2002 to 2008 (save high and low outliers in 2005 and ’06), to a three-ish win guy from 2009 to 2011, to just 2.1 fWAR in 2012. It won’t be easy to reverse that trend at his age, and it may translate into a year like the one projected– decent, but maybe not quite at the level Buehrle’s being paid for.

 

Ricky Romero: 193 IP, 4.58 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 137 K, 89 BB

Why he’ll be better: First off, if Romero is walking that number of hitters again, he certainly won’t be hitting that innings total. But it’s hard to believe it’s going to come to that again. Romero had surgery to ease pain in his throwing elbow that dogged him all season long, and that he may have pitched through to the detriment of his numbers. Even if we don’t believe the surgery will unlock the old Romero, we still have to think that the numbers he posted in 2012 are so way off what we’d seen before that they just can’t be taken seriously as a new normal. Peripherals have never exactly been Romero’s best friends, but could he really be worse next year than the season in which he produced career lows in ERA, FIP, xFIP, HR/FB, strand rate, groundball rate, walk rate, strikeout rate, line drive rate, swinging strike rate, first pitch strike rate, and more. Literally across the board, Romero was the worst he’s ever been, and there’s so much of that built into the projection that he only has to halfway bounce back to exceed what’s expected of him here.

Why the projection is about right: We act like Romero’s 2012 was one gigantic shitty monolith, but those of us who can bear trying to remember ought to realize that it wasn’t quite that. He tinkered with everything, and absolutely nothing worked– he posted his worst FIP and xFIP of the season in the month of September, for example. So, the idea that everything that was wrong is just going to magically disappear is a little fanciful. The elbow surgery gives some hope– perhaps it was elbow pain that was preventing him from throwing first-pitch strikes, which led to relying on his fastball too much, which led to his getting bashed all over the yard, but if it was, it doesn’t jump out at you in terms of any kind of different release point or major mechanical change. It’s no foregone conclusion that he isn’t simply lost.

 

Yeah… so I said this was the last piece like this I was going to do, but if it gets really boring around here in the next week or two, maybe I’ll look at some relievers and miscellaneous folks coming off the bench or in the minors.

Comments (92)

  1. You’re predicting the rotation will win 51 games?

    • First, pitcher wins are stupid. Second, no, I’m not. Read the post.

      • But CAIRO IS predicting that and despite being stupid for individual performance they’re really important when evaluating what CAIRO thinks of the team’s chances (since I don’t see a record) basically if these are our starter records they think the team will win around 80 games or have the most come from behind victories in the history of baseball.

        You have to admit it’s a little weird that they only predicted 51 wins from the rotation.

      • only stupid people say stupid things like pitcher wins are stupid. In fact, there is a very high degree of correlation between pitching ability and wins. It’s a fact and you can look it up if you don’t believe me.

        • Is there correlation? Obviously. In any given ballgame, the better the pitcher is the better chance his team has of winning the ballgame.

          But the real question is: are the other stats which correlate more closely to pitcher ability, and weed out factors beyond the pitchers’ control? Absolutely. Even something like ERA is a better measure than pitcher wins, although it has it’s own issues.

        • I did look it up and you’re wrong.

    • These aren’t Stoeten’s projections – read

    • Not his predictions, he’s just examining the CAIRO predictions.

  2. damn, the link to the cairo spreadsheet is already dead

  3. No more link dumps?

  4. I know pitching wins ‘don’t matter’ but does anyone else find it really really weird that they don’t think we’ll have a single 15 game winner this year? From a team success perspective that says a lot about how CAIRO thinks the Jays will perform in 2013. That alone makes me discount the rest of the projections.

    They have Dickey winning 9 (!) fewer games at fairly similar production levels, Morrow winning the fewest games since becoming a full time starter, Buehrle winning a career low number of games and Ricky’s record barely improving despite getting better at pretty much everything. Basically they’re saying we’re an 80 win team.

    I’ll believe it when I see it.

  5. So basically they’re saying if Drabek, Hutchison and Alvarez were still in the rotation we’d be no worse off…

  6. Yes, apparently I do.

    Deleted.

  7. CAIRO Projection – 101 Wins, 110 Losses
    RotoChamp Projection – 92 Wins, 74 Losses

    RotoChamp>CAIRO, since the won’t likely play 213 games next year.

    RotoChamp still fails, since they won’t play 166 regular season games either.

    If these types of analysis can’t even be bounded at 162 games, why bother. If I’m missing something obvious, please clue me in…

    • It’s pretty tough to come up with comprehensive projections that tie across all metrics. Always interesting to see them but they don’t have much use beyond fantasy baseball.

    • The aim isn’t to make those team numbers add up.

      • If the team numbers aren’t supposed to add up are the Home Run totals wrong too? What I mean is are they also prorated across a 213 game season? Steals as well?

      • I understand thats not the aim, but what’s the use of projecting that RA Dickey will win 12 games (for example) on a staff that is forecast to go 101-110. They’re also forecasting that the staff will pitch 1555 innings, when there are only 1458 innings in 162 nine inning games (the jays had 1443 innings last year).

        These details matter, and when these simply researched bounds aren’t respected, how can their valuations be taken seriously? There are only so many games/innings to be pitched, etc…

        • For one, don’t take these seriously. For two, you really can’t wrap your head around how it’s all about projecting individual performance and not about making all the team stuff add up?

          • I don’t take them seriously, but their really fun to read and talk about. I’m just pointing out that any prediction like this would mean more if they took an upper limit and worked downward (games/innings/whatever). If they don’t, they open themselves up to some unnecessary criticism, especially when they advertise that “you’ll dominate your fantasy league if you use our product”.

            Although I’ll concede that it may be nitpicking, its worth pointing out that RotoChamp at least made an effort to be closer to these limits…

            • CAIRO isn’t advertising that, I don’t think– isn’t that from the RotoChamp page?

              Also, they’re also not doing these by hand.

        • If you think about it, it’s not really possible to make them fit into the season as a total staff (wrote this below). The real question is how they calculated the team’s record. Since there are too many IP, they can’t really do a Pythagorean record without runs allowed can they?

      • This is both street smart and intlgeilent.

    • “CAIRO Projection – 101 Wins, 110 Losses”

      “RotoChamp>CAIRO, since the won’t likely play 213 games next year.”

      If you’re going to get picky with numbers like that, at least make sure that your numbers add up. Your first line of CAIRO Projection only adds up to 211, not 213.

  8. What are my projections for next year?

  9. You should delete ERA too because it doesn’t matter

    • And also delete K and BB since K%-BB% is more important. I want the projections to just be their names.

    • It matters.

      • Heres what i think matters….

        This is just a fun look at what could be, stop reading too much into it everyone. Its not written in stone, and who knows Ricky may end up with a low 3 ERA and 20wins. Its just for fun.

        Isn’t it?

  10. Derosa 2013 = vizquel 2012 minus the starts of course?

  11. I know these things are based upon past performance and logically try to predict the most likely future performance but fuck me, it doesn’t make much sense.

    Where are the win totals?
    Just kidding.

  12. Sure wish I could see some pitcher wins projections on this post…

    *ducks*

  13. No post on derosa?

  14. Having done some more research I think I get what they did with the win projections and agree with Stoeten that they are pointless, though I think he could have actually explained why you can’t backsolve the team’s record from the pitcher wins rather than just being a dick about it.

    The Jays are predicted to win 86 games & tie the Rays for the division title. All of the stats for the individual players are done independent of this & reflect some weighted average of their history adjusted for age, etc. This should mean (too lazy to check) that some things like IP might come out to a number greater than the number of IP available in the season. Similarly, the pitcher wins come out to a number lower than the number of games the Jays will win this season because they don’t reflect the fact that the pitchers will randomly win a few games where we explode to an 8-6 win. You really can’t predict that (probably why pitcher wins are poor evaluators) and makes me think they only included it so Tom Verducci’s head wouldn’t explode when he didn’t see a record in front of the stat line. Seems pretty pointless to include them at all if you ask me.

    • Excuse me for assuming people grasped this.

      • Well it’s not totally obvious that they would project each individual player on the team and predict the team’s record but not treat the sum of the players’ performance as the team’s performance. It makes sense given how they do it (averages) but if I’m being perfectly honest you could prorate those stats (even the pitcher wins) to a 86 win, 162 game season without very much difficulty. I guess I had just assumed they would do that. In fact, I’m not entirely sure why they didn’t.

  15. Well if the Jays play 350 games next year I think RA Dickey will win 65 of those.

  16. Hopefully Romero’s surgery to ease his pain will help him to go the distance this year.

  17. Okay pitcher wins are stupid but if those five starters pitch that many innings and only get 51 wins either AA gets fired by mid season or they will have relievers getting close to the same number of wins as the starters.

    • THAT IS NOT HOW THIS WORKS.

    • Absolutely…

      Wins projections are pointless, given that quality pitching won’t necessarily translate into wins, etc…I get it.

      My comments are come from a statistics place, rather than a baseball one. If CAIRO, or whoever, is going to all of this trouble, why not try for the Grand Slam and tie it all together and decrease win totals accordingly? The analysis seems solid, and I can’t disagree with a lot of it, although I’m slightly more bullish (proudly biased by hope and optimism).

      I’m just saying why project individual wins and innings if their not tied to the bounds of a full season. If they had done so, don’t you think these projections would mean more (although I understand they don’t mean anything anyways)? Or maybe I just wasted my lunch hour blogging about baseball…

      • Dickey 19-6
        Johnson 16-8
        Burhle 14-12
        Morrow 12-4
        Romero 15-9

        W 76 L 39

        Jays win World Series.

        the End.

  18. And I don’t think we should be paying much attention to baseball predictions coming out of Egypt.

  19. Reading the comment section of this post and seeing how hard is is/was for some people to grasp ‘projections’ is making me feel like I am reading a TSN comments section on a Leafs article.

    Did the short bus drop you all of together this morning?

  20. interesting how they somewhat completely disregard morrow’s 2012, and build the projection off 2011,2010. but for romero they completely disregard 2010, 2011 and build his projection off 2012.

    I’m not saying romero will be the same, but since becoming a major leaguer he’s never had that big of an issue with walks. his walk rate spiked 2.0/9 just last year alone.

    I’m not sure if he’ll be better or not, last year was painful, but the projections seem kind of selective and therefore biased

  21. Proof if it is needed that it’s impossible to tell the difference between 1980s Britain and Soviet Russia.

  22. These projections don’t adjust for playing time. if you want a team win total, you can look at this post.

    http://www.rlyw.net/index.php/RLYW/comments/nydn_dickey_to_jays_makes_girardis_job_tougher

  23. And forget about pitcher W/L records right now, those need to be re-worked once I have a better handle on how many runs teams project to score in 2013.

  24. about Brandon Morrow – i understand the K rate was down last year, but to my mind he was pitching better as he was racking up more innings per start, and that’s ultimately what we need from the guy. i love watching him whiff 20 batters in 5 1/3 innings,* but i’d rather watch him whiff three and go 7 – no? i think 2012 was a major improvement for him and we’re relying too much on K rate to evaluate.

    * i know this is technically impossible

  25. It’s 4:00PM and I’ve had three cans of cider and I have no idea what the fuck any of you are talking about other than some Egyptian guy has predicted 64 wins for Dickey next season.

    I, for one, am good with that.

  26. I find it really strange to use the term valuable in comparing Morrow’s 2010 to his 2012. Do we really think the difference between those years is 100% luck and any pitcher subbing in, presumably getting the same “luck” as Morrow did would post far worse numbers?

    This is why I kind of like bRef as a evaluator of the previous year, though not so much as a predictor.

  27. [...] Like Fire In CAIRO Part Two: Rotation Projections | Drunk Jays Fans … [...]

  28. Morrow had a 2.96 E.R.A last year, not over 4 like you put

    • If those E.R.A stats were your prediction’s for the upcoming season you will be way off, you insulted each starter. Every starter will be lower then you put. I will bet you anything

      • If those are someone’s else’s prediction’s, why bother waste an article on it? It make’s you look just as bad, you don’t have the guts to make your own predictions? Come on man, make it with a good article!

  29. Very good reads. Thoroughly enjoyed both articles. Side note when looking at WAR for Buehrle, I think it makes sense to look at RA9 wins as opposed to fWar since he’s a guy who consistently out pitches his peripherals like Dickey. For reference Buehrle was 3.6, 4.2, 3.3 the last 3 years.

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/war-for-knuckleballers/

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