Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Preseason Projections Part 3 - Starting Pitching

Every year the good folks at Fangraphs.com do preseason rankings for team's position players and pitching staffs.

And this year as expected the Giants scored well at Catcher (ranked #1) but not so hot on the other positions.  So naturally I wait with much anticipation waiting on their rankings for starting pitching staffs, thinking that the World Series Champion starting rotation would rank well into the top 10 if not the top 5.

Here is what I was greeted with

#16 Giants

Matt Cain 218.0 7.7 2.4 0.9 .291 74.9 % 3.32 3.52 3.5
Madison Bumgarner 206.0 8.3 2.2 0.8 .304 74.0 % 3.27 3.16 4.3
Tim Lincecum 162.0 9.0 3.7 0.8 .308 73.4 % 3.65 3.49 2.6
Barry Zito 157.0 5.9 3.6 1.1 .295 70.3 % 4.51 4.54 0.6
Ryan Vogelsong 152.0 7.2 3.3 0.9 .300 72.0 % 3.86 3.88 1.8
Chris Heston 30.0 6.0 3.2 0.8 .308 68.9 % 4.36 4.09 0.3
Boof Bonser 24.0 5.7 3.9 0.9 .309 69.3 % 4.67 4.46 0.1
Eric Surkamp 10.0 7.4 3.8 0.8 .312 71.5 % 4.09 3.91 0.1
Total 959.0 7.6 3.0 0.9 .300 72.8 % 3.72 3.70 13.2

#16-30 Starting Pitching Rankings

To be fair, Dave Cameron at Fangraphs did say that #13-17 are essentially equal, but what he's really saying is that the Giants' starting rotation this year is right smack dab in the middle and average as average can be.

To that I obviously would say PHOOEY, turn up my nose, stomp away and slam a couple doors.  But these numbers really aren't much different than what we've come to expect from our guys.  I probably could make an argument that Matt Cain will end up with a lower ERA and higher WAR (wins above replacement) this year based on his track record.  I'd also add that Vogelsong has outperformed his ZIPS projection every year he's been a Giant.

But here's the takeaway I got from this ranking: The Giants no longer appear to have a dominant starting rotation.

I know this is the part of the post where I get pelted by tomatoes, but hear me out.  I added 'appear' because when you look at this rotation, aside from Cain and Vogelsong you don't really have anyone else who you are confident can completely dominate a game.  Bumgarner has shown flashes of that brilliance and obviously Timmy has done it in the past, but currently the go to guys are Cain and Vogelsong.  I do not mean to say this rotation no longer has the ability to be dominant, but that from the outside looking in, the Dodgers, Reds, Tigers, Cardinals, Nationals etc.  all seem to have more depth in their rotations. 

I think most times when people try to talk up this rotation, it starts with Vogelsong being as good as he is and acting as the 5th starter for the Giants, but we all know Bochy splits up the righties and lefties, and he's not ready to give up on Timmy just yet, so he's hung on to the 3rd spot in the rotation.

Zito had a great bounce back year last year, but if you look at his numbers from 2012 to 2011 they were more or less identical with the obvious difference in the amount of wins he received.  The stats projections show basically the same thing he's done the past 2 years, so his performance next year, like last year will depend on his run support.

For more silver lining, check out the numbers Lincecum put up last year.

Now after you've thrown up, think about this one obvious fact: he can't get much worse.

This is actually a source of great optimism for me, as it would be criminal for Timmy to repeat the terrible performance he had last year, and I don't expect that he will be quite that bad.  That being said, if Timmy can even be a mediocre presence in the middle of a rotation that took us to the NL West Crown and ultimately the World Series, the Giants will be in great shape.  His strikeout numbers (K/9 - 9.2) stayed mostly consistent from previous years, but his walks (4.4 per 9 innings) ERA (5.18) and WHIP (1.468) were all career highs.  Any improvement from those dismal numbers would be welcome.

Another point made by the Fangraphs article is that after the starting five, there is very little depth in the minors at starting pitcher for the Giants.  I am honestly not worried at all about this, and it's mostly because we've seen what Chris Heston can do.

Heston does not dazzle with a mid 90s fastball, but what he does do is coax groundballs like nobody's business.  His upper 80s fastball has a sinking motion that gives Brandon Crawford something to do and he mixes in his curve, slider and changeup with excellent command.  If the Giants need a spot starter or injury replacement this year, expect Heston to come up and make a big impression.

And that's it, this above average rotation has been given an average ranking by the stat gods of Fangraphs and we couldn't be more excited to watch them go to work.

Laws of the Day

1. Tigers
2. Nationals
3. Rangers
4. Phillies
5. Yankees
6. Dodgers
7. Diamondbacks
8. White Sox
9. Cubs
10. Athletics
11. Red Sox
12. Cardinals
13. Reds
14. Blue Jays
15. Rays


  1. I love how so many teams placed above the Giants were defeated by Giants' pitching last season. Hmm...food for thought?

  2. Oh the Giants will have their say soon friend...