Analyzing Projections, Part 2

Daniel takes a peek into projections for the Red Sox starting rotation.

Two weeks ago, I started out a new series taking a look at the projections for the Red Sox going into 2014 by taking a look at the most notable position players on the roster. Well, we’re doing more of the same this week, as it’s time to take a look at the starting rotation.

As with last time, the projections I’m using all come from Fangraphs: Steamer, Oliver, ZiPS, and the Fangraphs user-submitted projections. I’ve also included each player’s career stats, as a baseline of sorts. And again, my own projections are completely pulled from nowhere and shouldn’t be written in stone… probably.

Jon Lester

Photo by Kelly O'Connor of sittingstill.smugmug.com

Photo by Kelly O’Connor of sittingstill.smugmug.com

2013: 213.1 IP, 7.47 K/9, 2.83 BB/9, 0.80 HR/9, 3.75 ERA, 3.50 FIP, 4.3 WAR

Steamer: 192 IP, 7.33 K/9, 3.02 BB/9, 0.80 HR/9, 3.89 ERA, 3.68 FIP, 3.6 WAR

Oliver: 204 IP, 7.46 K/9, 2.87 BB/9, 0.97 HR/9, 3.93 ERA, 3.85 FIP, 3.4 WAR

ZiPS: 197.2 IP, 8.01 K/9, 2.91 BB/9, 0.91 HR/9, 3.73 ERA, 3.77 FIP, 3.8 WAR

Fans: 213 IP, 7.73 K/9, 2.79 BB/9, 0.89 HR/9, 3.60 ERA, 3.60 FIP, 4.2 WAR

Career: 1376.1 IP, 8.09 K/9, 3.25 BB/9, 0.84 HR/9, 3.76 ERA, 3.71 FIP, 29.3 WAR

Jon Lester’s 2013 was an intriguing one, in that he generated some “Has Lester lost it?” conversation following a rough first two months of the year. However, with the exception of a rocky June (28.1 IP, 7.62 ERA, 5.08 BB/9), he was perhaps even better than his final numbers would seem to suggest, and he was flat-out dominant in the postseason, with four wins and a 1.56 ERA.

That postseason run – combined with his second half numbers – will likely lead some to overvalue Lester heading into 2014, but in reality, I would expect him to stay more or less the same. He’s been surprisingly consistent over the past three seasons (even considering the disaster that was 2012) with WARs of 3.5, 3.2, and 4.3 and relatively stable per-nine numbers. All of our projection methods would seem to agree on this.

Lester is still, I think, the best pitcher in this rotation, but I’m not expecting him to stray from what has become the norm in 2014.

208 IP, 7.52 K/9, 2.90 BB/9, 0.93 HR/9, 3.75 ERA, 3.82 FIP, 3.9 WAR

Clay Buchholz

2013: 108.1 IP, 7.98 K/9, 2.99 BB/9, 0.33 HR/9, 1.74 ERA, 2.78 FIP, 3.2 WAR

Steamer: 134 IP, 7.19 K/9, 3.18 BB/9, 0.81 HR/9, 4.13 ERA, 3.80 FIP, 2.2 WAR

Oliver: 130 IP, 6.77 K/9, 3.11 BB/9, 0.90 HR/9, 3.52 ERA, 3.99 FIP, 1.9 WAR

ZiPS: 128.2 IP, 7.34 K/9, 3.22 BB/9, 0.84 HR/9, 3.64 ERA, 3.89 FIP, 2.6 WAR

Fans: 178 IP, 7.48 K/9, 2.93 BB/9, 0.96 HR/9, 3.33 ERA, 3.85 FIP, 2.9 WAR

Career: 744.2 IP, 6.85 K/9, 3.44 BB/9, 0.87 HR/9, 3.60 ERA, 4.07 FIP, 11.9 WAR

On the opposite end of the spectrum from Jon Lester, you have Clay Buchholz, who just might be the hardest man on the Red Sox roster to predict for 2014. Buchholz was nothing short of brilliant last year, with a 1.74 ERA, but injuries limited him to only 16 starts and his peripherals suggest it likely wasn’t quite sustainable. An interesting uptick in strikeouts looking led to his highest strikeout rate since 2008, and he kept the ball in the park at a supernaturally low rate. However, even though the sub-2.00 ERA was probably a mirage, he still posted a 2.78 FIP and would have easily finished near the top of Cy Young voting if he’d stayed healthy.

Health is truly the roadblock here. These projections – being based off previous seasons’ statistics – show low innings numbers by default, but if he produces at these kinds of levels for a full year, he’d easily be a 4+ WAR player.

Ever the optimist, I’m saying he does. Please refer to this column as a curse if/when he inevitable gets hurt.

185 IP, 7.35 K/9, 3.03 BB/9, 0.75 HR/9, 3.40 ERA, 3.65 FIP, 3.2 WAR

John Lackey

Photo by Kelly O'Connor of sittingstill.smugmug.com

Photo by Kelly O’Connor of sittingstill.smugmug.com

2013: 189.1 IP, 7.65 K/9, 1.90 BB/9, 1.24 HR/9, 3.52 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 3.2 WAR

Steamer: 189 IP, 7.12 K/9, 2.41 BB/9, 0.89 HR/9, 3.82 ERA, 3.69 FIP, 3.5 WAR

Oliver: 184 IP, 6.81 K/9, 2.25 BB/9, 1.23 HR/9, 4.26 ERA, 4.24 FIP, 2.3 WAR

ZiPS: 166 IP, 7.52 K/9, 2.22 BB/9, 1.19 HR/9, 4.07 ERA, 4.10 FIP, 2.5 WAR

Fans: 183 IP, 7.23 K/9, 2.21 BB/9, 1.13 HR/9, 3.93 ERA, 3.88 FIP, 3.0 WAR

Career: 2065.1 IP, 7.09 K/9, 2.65 BB/9, 0.94 HR/9, 4.05 ERA, 3.90 FIP, 37.7 WAR

The John Lackey “Best Shape of His Life” season stopped being a joke sometime this past summer, when we all started to realize it might be real. Lackey ended up putting together his best season since his career year in 2007 (although he finished with a lower WAR total than he had in 2010 – mostly an innings difference, but still). He gave up a few too many home runs, but made up for it with his career-best walk rate of 1.90 per nine. Plagued by criminally poor run support all season long, he only won 10 games, but picked up three more in his ridiculously good postseason run, where his 2.77 ERA was actually a bit unlucky when put next to his 1.93 FIP.

Watching Lackey redeem himself all of last season was incredible, but now comes the harder part: keeping it up. He’s now 35 years old, and expecting him to repeat what was nearly a career season might be a bit optimistic. Our projections certainly seem to agree, particularly Oliver and ZiPS, which both see Lackey flying back above the 4.00 mark in both ERA and FIP.

I don’t see things getting quite so bad for Awesome O’Clock, so we’ll stick with something close to Steamer’s line.

190 IP, 7.15 K/9, 2.24 BB/9, 1.13 HR/9, 3.79 ERA, 3.68 FIP, 3.3 WAR

Jake Peavy

2013: 144.2 IP, 7.53 K/9, 2.24 BB/9, 1.24 HR/9, 4.17 ERA, 3.96 FIP, 2.4 WAR

Steamer: 153 IP, 7.34 K/9, 2.31 BB/9, 1.13 HR/9, 3.84 ERA, 3.92 FIP, 2.6 WAR

Oliver: 164 IP, 7.41 K/9, 1.98 BB/9, 1.10 HR/9, 3.73 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 3.2 WAR

ZiPS: 149.1 IP, 7.60 K/9, 1.93 BB/9, 1.02 HR/9, 3.74 ERA, 3.67 FIP, 2.9 WAR

Fans: 169 IP, 7.51 K/9, 2.29 BB/9, 1.12 HR/9, 4.11 ERA, 3.83 FIP, 3.1 WAR

Career: 1945 IP, 8.65 K/9, 2.70 BB/9, 0.95 HR/9, 3.51 ERA, 3.54 FIP, 3.1 WAR

Peavy is the first player in this series so far whom the projections think will improve from the previous season, rather than regress. This is no doubt due to his second half in Boston after a rocky start with the White Sox. Victimized by a huge home run rate (1.58 HR/9) in Chicago, he managed to claw down his ERA and FIP with the Red Sox, but was somewhat of an enigma in the process. His strikeout rate dropped post-trade, and his walk rate jumped, while his BABIP became about 20 points more favorable, so while his ERA and FIP both improved after the trade, his xFIP actually became significantly worse (3.65 to 4.51).

I have a tough time guessing what Peavy will bring this year, but the projections all seem to think he’ll be a bit less… weird. Assuming he stays mostly healthy, I’ll take Steamer again here.

175 IP, 7.46 K/9, 2.04 BB/9, 1.15 HR/9, 3.84 ERA, 3.92 FIP, 3.4 WAR

Felix Doubront

Photo by Kelly O'Connor of sittingstill.smugmug.com

Photo by Kelly O’Connor of sittingstill.smugmug.com

2013: 162.1 IP, 7.71 K/9, 3.94 BB/9, 0.72 HR/9, 4.32 ERA, 3.78 FIP, 2.8 WAR

Steamer: 153 IP, 7.79 K/9, 3.79 BB/9, 0.82 HR/9, 4.13 ERA, 3.87 FIP, 2.6 WAR

Oliver: 146 IP, 8.10 K/9, 3.77 BB/9, 1.05 HR/9, 4.27 ERA, 4.13 FIP, 1.9 WAR

ZiPS: 137.1 IP, 8.39 K/9, 3.74 BB/9, 1.05 HR/9, 4.26 ERA, 4.15 FIP, 1.7 WAR

Fans: 135 IP, 9.00 K/9, 3.73 BB/9, 0.87 HR/9, 4.19 ERA, 3.68 FIP, 2.4 WAR

Career: 358.2 IP, 8.41 K/9, 4.01 BB/9, 1.03 HR/9 , 4.62 ERA, 4.12 FIP, 4.9 WAR

Lastly, we have Prince Felix, who has, himself, proven quite confusing over the past two seasons as well. We thought we had him pegged as a high-strikeout, high-walk, high-homer guy in 2012, only the strikeouts and the homers both dropped this past season. He fizzled out late both years, but the fizzle came a little later and was a little less harsh this season. Now, he’s sort of tough to peg.

I think we’ll see Felix jump back above eight strikeouts per nine this year, but whether or not he can make a dent in that lofty walk rate is anybody’s guess. He’s never been quite able to consistently hit the strike zone, and while my original fears of him going the way of Jonathan Sanchez might have been unfounded, those walks severely limit his ceiling.

For now, I’m going to take the conservative approach with Doubront; I think the strikeouts jump back up, the walks stay around the same, and he makes for a solid, if unspectacular, fifth starter.

170 IP, 8.25 K/9, 3.70 BB/9, 0.90 HR/9, 4.25 ERA, 4.20 FIP 2.6 WAR

Next time, for our last projections installment, we’ll be taking a look at the bullpen and the prospects closest to the major leagues.

Categories: Boston Red Sox Clay Buchholz Felix Doubront Jake Peavy John Lackey Jon Lester Jonathan Sanchez

I'm currently an undergraduate Multimedia Journalism major at Virginia Tech and, with over 630 followers, you could say I'm kind of a big deal on Twitter dot com. I'm Fire Brand's Monday columnist, the creator of the TrollBag (sorry about that) and also the guy who writes those polls every week. I tweet far too much, but you should follow me anyways.

One Response to “Analyzing Projections, Part 2” Subscribe

  1. keith February 25, 2014 at 3:56 PM #

    if my addition is correct you project these 5 to pitch 928 innings. even if that is the only thing you got right, it’ll get the sox to the postseason.