27 February 2008

Ugggghhhhh....the 2008 Royals' pitching PECOTAs

Simply put, I don't really like the PECOTA system when it comes to pitchers. Last year's projections were absolutely brutal -- the lowest WHIP projection on the team was 1.37 from Joel Peralta and most of the pitchers were projected with ERAs in the 5s and WHIPs in the 1.5 range -- basically projecting the Royals as up there with the worst pitching staffs of all time. The Royals weren't good last year, I freely admit that, but they weren't absolutely horrible on the mound. And the biggest bonus this year is that I have 99.9 percent confidence the names Scott Elarton, Todd Wellemeyer and Odalis Perez will not have anything to do with the Royals pitching staff in 2008. This year has a whole other set of challenges, like who's gonna be the #4 and #5 starters, can Soria and Yabuta be the end-of-game tandem to rely on, can the middle relievers hold leads and put out fires, etc. Anyway, at first glance the projections are no kinder this year, and I assume it's not just because these are the Royals who most of the baseball world seems to enjoy snickering at. Meche, Bannister and Soria, for three, blew away their PECOTA weighted mean projections last season. But the projections are there and worth picking at, so let's go. I'll break it down into starters, relievers and the current farm guys. Again, these are the weighted mean projections from Baseball Prospectus and PECOTA guru Nate Silver -- an average projection that could be low or could be high.


Gil Meche -- projected 29 starts, 10-11 record, 4.47 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 131 Ks and a .302 BABIP (
batting average on balls put into play by batters -- takes defensive support into consideration) in 180 2/3 IP. One factor that may have hurt the Royals' projections is that nothing was done to improve the defense behind the pitchers this offseason. Callaspo is not a defensive upgrade over Grudz, Pena can only do so much and DeJesus isn't really a top-flight defensive guy. Jose Guillen isn't a good defensive outfielder and, even if Billy Butler does earn the 1B job, I doubt with his build and speed he's gonna be that rangy. The stated goal of bringing in Torii Hunter or Andruw Jones was a nice thought, but didn't happen, so is now moot. Anyway, Meche's projection cuts his innings from '07, bumps up his ERA and WHIP, but does give him more Ks. His BABIP is projected to be about the same, which with no defensive upgrades is understandable. My guess is he'll at least meet his 75th percentile projection of a 4.03 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and 11 wins. That's still worse than last year, but I'll take it, and it would be better than league average in ERA. The future projection is no rosier for Gil as PECOTA has him dropping off somewhat in year 5 of his current $55 mill deal with KC -- I say at least that's better than having it happen in year 3. His comps in the system are the '07 Vicente Padilla, which isn't good, at the top, although the '85 Jack Morris is in his top 10 and I wouldn't mind if he was a Jack Morris for the Royals.

Brian Bannister -- 22 starts, 6-9 record, 5.16 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 62 Ks and a .302 BABIP in 124 IP. A pretty sour prediction for a guy who had a 3.87 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 5 more starts and 40 more innings in 2007. Plus, the BABIP is way higher than in 2007. PECOTA is basically calling that a fluke with this line. It really seems to not like what Bannister brings to the table. As with Meche, I predict Bannister will at least meet his 75th percentile projection of a 4.4 ERA and 1.4 WHIP with 8 wins. That's not too much to ask -- many talk about how Bannister is a smart pitcher and that's one thing that shouldn't change. I just hope he holds up physically. His projections are dismal, and his comps are pretty bad, too, including such names in the top 10 as Chad Ogea and Brian Moehler, although the '82 Mike Scott is on there, and if Meche is Morris I'd like to see Bannister be a mid-80s Mike Scott. I doubt Bannister will rack up the Ks Scott did, however.

Zack Greinke -- 28 starts, 9-10 record, 4.48 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 128 Ks and a .303 BABIP in 164 1/3 IP. This actually may end up to be a fairly accurate prediction for Zack in '08. It's refreshing to see a somewhat favorable projection for a Royals guy. I'd take this line from Zach but I'd also take it if he pitches the whole season in the rotation and is anywhere near average. Getting a solid #3 guy there is enough at this point. The future projections have Zach staying fairly solid over the next seven years before dropping somewhat at age 28 in 2012. His top comp -- and I like this one, too -- is the 1969 Don Sutton with the '51 Robin Roberts also in the top 10. His #2 comp is the '60 Ralph Terry, and Terry ended up having a decent career. #3 is the '82 Frank Pastore and we don't want much similarity to career there for Zach. A future Don Sutton, tho, I'll take.

Jorge de la Rosa --
30 games (11 starts), 3-6, 5.53 ERA, 1.62 WHIP, 52 Ks, .320 BABIP in 75 1/3 IP. Here's where we get into dangerous waters with the unknown #4 or #5 guys. Those ERA and WHIP numbers would be about what he put up in 2007. To tell the truth, I can't see him being consistently good enough to do much better. PECOTA does see him being consistently mediocre over the next 7 years. I think those first couple months of last year gave the fans and organization false hope, and with the Royals we've seen that false hope turn into keeping guys around well past their expiration date. At this point I say deal him or dump him and let's move on. His top comp is the wife-swapping master '72 Mike Kekich, who had a good year that season then fell into oblivion the next season. I don't see de la Rosa matching Kekich's '72 numbers. If the Royals weren't swimming in OK bullpen lefties, I'd say put de la Rosa in middle relief if they're gonna hold on to him.

Kyle Davies -- 27 games (19 starts), 5-9 record, 5.87 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, 80 Ks and a .315 BABIP in 112 1/3 IP. Another projection that, sadly, would actually be an upgrade over a guy's 2007 stats. Davies' pitching wasn't pretty in KC last season. His top projection in PECOTA is for a 4.29 ERA and 1.46 WHIP, and they give that a 10 percent chance of happening. I'd like to hope he could maybe be the #4 or #5 guy, but I'm not counting on it. His numbers aren't projected to get any better any time soon, either. But he's 24 and still has time to maybe figure something out. More of some of that false hope, perhaps? Nobody too remarkable on his list of comps -- most promising is #5, the '93 up-and-coming Darryl Kile. I guess he's worth keeping around to some extent, but not for long if he's gonna put up those numbers from season to season.

Brett Tomko -- 33 games (11 starts), 4-6 record, 5.11 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 56 Ks and a .311 BABIP in 89 2/3 IP. Unfortunately, this line seems all too possible for Tomko coming over into the more hitter-friendly AL. I'd feel lucky if KC got Tomko's 75th percentile line of a 4.6 ERA and 1.43 WHIP, but I'm gonna count on his numbers being closer to the mean projection. PECOTA has 3 years left in Tomko's tank and his top comps are a declining Bobby Witt, the '01 Tim Wakefield (too bad Tomko's not a knuckler), and an end-of-the-line Don Robinson. I see another John Thomson here.

Brian Lawrence (NRI guy) -- 26 games (16 starts), 6-6 record, 4.66 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 54 Ks and a .301 BABIP in 94 1/3 IP. I think Lawrence is kind of a dark horse coming into camp as his shoulder injuries derailed his '06 and '07 seasons. I wouldn't mind these numbers at the end of the rotation, and hopefully Lawrence can return to his 2004 form somewhat. He's on the downside of his career and his top comp is the 1998 Armando Reynoso, which is nothing great but isn't awful either. Good #5 guy numbers, perhaps.

Luke Hochevar -- 34 games (18 starts), 6-9 record, 5.53 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 80 Ks and a .307 BABIP in 124 1/3 IP. Hochevar is the same basic age as Davies. If he can put up his 75th percentile numbers of a 4.37 ERA and 1.4 WHIP, I say put him in the rotation. Hopefully the reported improvements he's made over the offseason result in less gopher balls being served up. PECOTA has him slowly improving over the next few years, but Hoch seems like the type that maybe can show leaps of improvement if he can work out the kinks. He already strikes guys out and has a decent K/BB ratio. He's just gotta keep guys from getting supersolid contact somehow. His top comp is a developing '99 Kris Benson with the '07 Justin Verlander a distant 9th on his list. After last season's troubles in AAA, Hochevar has something to prove in 2008.

Mike Maroth (NRI) -- 27 games (7 starts), 3-4 record, 5.08 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 31 Ks and a .308 BABIP in 59 1/3 IP. I think Maroth is another dark horse rotation candidate. His numbers were horrible last year, there's no other way to put it. If he can meet his 75th percentile projection of 4.38 ERA and 1.43 WHIP, I'd say that's good enough for an end-of-the-rotation slot. If he and Lawrence can both be average, that allows KC to perhaps let Hochevar start the year in the pen and work his way into the rotation over the course of the season. But that could also be pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking and probably is. It may be too much to hope for anything from Maroth, but we'll see how he does this spring.

Hideo Nomo also got a hideo-us projection from PECOTA I won't go into. Everybody seems to be in universal agreement that Hideo is done.


Joakim Soria -- 65 games, 4-6 record, 35 saves, 3.16 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 79 Ks and a .285 BABIP in 72 2/3 IP. PECOTA likes itself some Soria. The mean projection is a slight dip from his 2007 numbers but would still be very nice. He also projects out well over the next 7 years. Hopefully he stays healthy. His comps are a mixed bag -- top comp is the '00 Scott Williamson, whose promising career has been majorly hampered by injury, and, on the flip side, the '77 Bruce Sutter. Soria is probably Dayton Moore's best pickup to date and I think he'll continue to prove that in 2008.

Yasuhiko Yabuta -- 43 games, 2-3 record, 3 saves, 4.79 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 31 Ks and a .299 BABIP in 50 IP. I think Royals fans are hoping for a little more than that from the first Japanese Royals player since Mac Suzuki. Most would probably like him to come a little closer to the 75th percentile projection of a 3.96 ERA and 1.39 WHIP. He is 35, so PECOTA only has him having 3 years left in the tank. Comps are mostly all end-of-the-line guys. I have no idea what to expect out of Yabuta, but I'm leaning toward something between the mean projection and that 75th percentile projection. Maybe a 4.2 ERA and 1.4 WHIP???

Joel Peralta -- 48 games, 3-3 record, 4 saves, 3.88 ERA, 1.3 WHIP, 43 Ks and a .287 BABIP in 59 1/3 IP. Looks like PECOTA foresees another solid season out of Jo-el after he's put up back-to-back seasons of decent numbers. PECOTA has him on this trend for another two seasons before he hits the skids to some extent in 2011. Peralta has given me no reason to think he can't put out the projected mean line this season or close to it.

Jimmy Gobble -- 56 games, 2-2 record, 4 saves, 3.57 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 49 Ks and a .289 BABIP in 53 1/3 IP. That would be an upgrade in WHIP, at least, from 2007 and would mark another bearable season out of the pen for Jimmy. He seemed to find his niche to some extent in 2007 out of the bullpen, so hopefully that continues. PECOTA keeps this trend running through the next seven seasons with a slight decline. He's your basic stock lefty reliever guy.

John Bale -- 40 games, 2-2 record, 4 saves, 3.87 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 41 Ks and a .310 BABIP in 45 2/3 IP. Supposedly the Royals are mulling maybe using Bale in the rotation, but I don't see that working any better than Tomko, Maroth or Lawrence would. His first year in Royal blue was held back by injury and he didn't look too great when he finally did hit the mound in KC. PECOTA foresees a bounce back this season and then gradual decline thereafter for the next 4 seasons. He joins Gobble as another lefty in the pen along with Ron Mahay and possible Jorge de la Rosa. I'd think something's gotta give there.

Ron Mahay -- 43 games, 2-2 record, 3 saves, 4.52 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 35 Ks and a .306 BABIP in 43 1/3 IP. PECOTA doesn't see Mahay duplicating his nice bullpen efforts in Texas and Atlanta from 2007. Basically it's saying his effectiveness stops now before he peters out within the next couple seasons. I'd like to think Mahay can do better, but he is 37 and at some point, the effectiveness goes. With Bale and Gobble already here, I'm not even sure why Moore signed him.

Ryan Braun -- 40 games (2 starts?), 2-3, 2 saves, 5.19 ERA, 1.6 WHIP, 36 Ks and a .315 BABIP in 49 2/3 IP. Braun looked to possibly be the closer of the future while in Omaha but hasn't done well on the big stage. Soria's emergence has made Braun's identity a little cloudier. He'll have to pitch better than this projection if he wants to stick, but he's found MLB hitters to be a completely different animal to try and take down.

Neal Musser -- 39 games, 1-2, 2 saves, 4.97 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 23 Ks and a .300 BABIP in 33 2/3 IP. He had some trouble in KC last season but I think he could exceed these numbers, although probably not by much.

Leo Nunez -- 32 games (9 starts), 3-5, 1 save, 5.06 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 52 Ks and a .300 BABIP in 73 IP. Nunez was one of the nicer surprises of 2007 and has room for improvement as he's only 24. I can easily see him exceeding these numbers and being a dark horse set up guy out of the pen, perhaps. PECOTA sees him hovering around average for his career.

Chin-Hui Tsao -- 41 games, 2-3, 1 save, 4.99 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 39 Ks and a .284 BABIP in 57 IP. I'm rooting for Tsao to make the bullpen out of ST. He's had some injury problems but pitched OK in a limited stint with LA last year. I think he could outshine Bale, Mahay and possibly Yabuta when all is said and done, but we'll see what happens.

Brandon Duckworth (NRI) -- 25 games (6 starts), 2-4, 1 save, 5.4 ERA, 1.6 WHIP, 32 Ks and a .316 BABIP in 53 2/3 IP. If he makes the team, and that's a huge IF, I don't have much confidence that Duckworth is gonna do even this well in KC.

Minors guys (these will be shorter)

Daniel Cortes -- PECOTA has him near 6 in ERA and at a 1.74 WHIP this season if he pitched in MLB, and I agree he's not quite ready. For some reason, tho, it doesn't have him getting much better as the years go by. I do like his #4 and #6 comps -- the '67 versions of Catfish Hunter and Jim Palmer, with '01 Jon Garland sandwiched between. I'm excited to see how he turns out after his great '07. He'll start this year in NW Arkansas, I'd assume, with a shot at a September call???

Rowdy Hardy -- the emergent pitching favorite in the minors for KC in 2007; PECOTA isn't so enthused. It projects a 6-point ERA and 1.7 WHIP with it not getting much better and him being out of baseball in five years. So much for that hope for another Jamie Moyer. His PECOTA page is a bummer for any Rowdy fan.

Julio Pimentel -- another one PECOTA sees going nowhere anytime soon. I think he's got potential but has his work cut out for him at NW Arkansas, if he starts there.

Carlos Rosa -- Ditto, although I think it's kinda pointless at this point to be projecting the mid-level minor league pitchers. They haven't even pitched at major-league level yet and we're already predicting horrible numbers? I like to see that #10 on Rosa's comps is the 2003 Brandon Webb. It'd be nice if Rosa panned out as well as Webb has thus far. Rosa will likely start at Omaha or NW Arkansas with a chance, maybe, at a late callup, I figure.

Blake Wood -- the '74 Goose Gossage is among his top 10 comps. He took a big step forward from the looks of things in 2007 and if he can stay healthy, who knows. He should be in AA this season to start.

Matt Wright -- For somebody that appears on the cusp of major-league service, PECOTA doesn't like his potential. He is 26, I guess, which is kinda old for a prospect. He might be one on the Omaha-KC shuttle bus this season.

Roman Colon also got the PECOTA treatment but I really don't see him contributing in KC, so I'll just leave it to say it wasn't pretty.

All in all I guess I'd say I'm not as horrified as I was with last year's KC pitching PECOTAs, but I'm yet to be convinced of their effectiveness. Looks like the top 3 of the rotation could be OK and the bullpen should find a way to be solid. It's the #4 and #5 guys that will make-or-break a potential .500 season in KC, which we as Royals fans all pretty much knew. The next month should be interesting. I'm hoping Dayton Moore might have a couple deals left to pull out of his hat.

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