My writings about baseball, with a strong statistical & machine learning slant.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Rays' pitchers' IP projections

After breaking down the Yankees' pitchers' IP projections, I thought I'd look at another team, one the I do not know as well as I know the Bombers.

I do know that the Rays' staff is a young staff, with the Rays having a supposed glut of quality starting pitchers. After the 2008 season, they traded away Edwin Jackson, and last year they traded Scott Kazmir in mid-season. Both moves were made in part to make room for promising starters that they wanted to promote from the minors.

Here is a list of my projections, along with PECOTA and CHONE, for the Rays' top twelve pitchers, according to the official depth chart on the Rays website. Unlike the Yankees, the Rays project to have six guys primarily as starters, and six guys primarily as relievers:

  • Starters: James Shields, Matt Garza, Jeff Neimann, David Price, Wade Davis and Andy Sonnanstine
  • Relievers: JP Howell, Rafael Soriano, Lance Cormier, Dan Wheeler, Grant Balfour and Randy Choate
Also unlike the Yankees, the Rays don't have four experienced starting pitchers. James Shields has four years of full-time starter experience, and gets projected at 190+ IP by all three projection systems. Matt Garza has two full seasons of MLB starter experience, both good but not amazing. He projects at 160 IP by my system, and somewhat higher by PECOTA and CHONE. The other four Rays' starters don't have much of an MLB track record, or at least not a record of consistent MLB success.

Jeff Neimann and David Price both have one full season of MLB starter experience, with decent but not amazing results. Andy Sonnanstine has 2.5 years of starter experience, but none of it was very good. Wade Davis was solid in a 36 inning debut last year.

I have all of these four pitchers projected to throw between 81.0 (Sonnanstine) and 142.3 (Neimann) innings this year. PECOTA has them all between 160 and 180 innings each. CHONE has them all between 155 and 171 innings (except for Price at 123 innings).

In this case, I must say that my estimates look low, when take together. I project the Rays' starting six to throw only 800 innings in 2010. A team typically has about 1000 innings thrown by starters (the Devil rays had 974 IP by starters in 2009). So my projections are about 200 IP short for starting innings. This suggests that the Rays are likely to use another starter (not in the 12 listed here) during the 2010 season, or multiple such starters. While that may happen, it's likely that the pitchers listed above will indeed pitch more than the 800 innings that I project for them.

Conversely, PECOTA projects the top six Rays' starters for 1082 IP, while CHONE projects them for 985 IP. The PECOTA figure is clearly high, while the CHONE figure looks about right. Then again, there is probably a chance that at least some starts will end up going to a Ray outside of the top six starters listed above, so the CHONE projection might be a little high, as well.

I think it's interesting to note that my system projects Wade Davis at a higher IP than Andy Sonnanstine. The later is more experienced, and threw a lot more innings last year than Davis. However, Sonnanstine's performance has not been great in 2009, nor has it been great in years prior. Davis was effective in 36 innings last year as a starter. My system projects him to throw 99.9 innings in 2010, which happens to be the highest projected increase from 2009 to 2010 among the MLB pitchers that I project.

Although my system does not use minor league stats, major league depth charts, scout projections or any other information besides MLB stats, it projects Davis as the #5 starter, and Sonnanstine as the #6. I thought that was interesting.

In summary, I think my system gives reasonable projections for the Rays' pitchers' IP, even if I would like to nudge them a bit higher collectively. CHONE also has reasonable projections (on average), although they assume that the Rays will not use any starters outside the six that they have on the MLB roster. PECOTA, as with the Yankees, significantly over-estimates the pitchers' playing time.

I'm curious to see how the season will unfold, and which of the set of predictions will come closest to what actually happens with the Rays' staff this year. The Rays have a young staff that many people think should be better in 2010 than it was in 2009. If so, my projections will probably end up being too low. The Rays are an exciting team, and I'd like to see them do well, so let's hope my models are wrong on this one.

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