Twitter Community Projections Part 1: Rotation

This is our first installment of our Twitter Community Projections, where we check out how the numbers line up for the 2019 rotation.

For those unfamiliar with the task, I made a public Google form that required IP, ERA, HR, H, BB, and K for pitchers. I used those numbers (& career averages for HBP) to estimate the Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) for each entry.

From there, I ran the data through my WAR calculator, which spits out 3 separate scores. The first two are “quick WAR,” as described by Tom Tango. There’s a quick WAR for IP & ERA, and for IP & FIP. The third score is my own creation, Game Score WAR. I average the three scores, and multiply them by a park factor (which for the Giants, in any one season, is 0.93, according to Fangraphs). So, yeah, I tried to pull out all the stops in getting these figures as accurate as possible.

Here are the results!

Madison Bumgarner

198 IP | 3.12 ERA | 3.48 FIP | 196 K | 51 BB | 3.7 WAR

There’s never been so much uncertainty surrounding Bumgarner entering a season. Will he be healthy all season? Can he reverse his strikeout and velocity trends? Maybe most important, will he still be a Giant on August 1? These projections would seem to indicate a yes answer to those questions. I received numerous entries for Bum, with a high WAR projection of 4.8 and a low of 2.8. Really, if the Giants expect to be at all competitive this year, it’s going to take a season like this from the ace lefty.

Derek Holland

150 IP | 3.92 ERA | 3.81 FIP | 140 K | 46 BB | 2.1 WAR

In a matter of one year, Holland went from a non-roster invite to someone we were relieved to see re-sign with the organization. Now the Giants are counting on him to be an anchor in their rotation, and while his projected ERA is 1/3 of a run higher than it was in 2018 (but much closer to where his 2018 FIP indicates it should be), the overall 2-win body of work still falls in line with what he contributed last year.

Dereck Rodriguez

138 IP | 3.82 ERA | 3.78 FIP | 115 K | 43 BB | 1.9 WAR

Rodriguez is such an interesting case study. The mainstream projection models don’t like him at all, thanks in large part to a 3.74 FIP & a 4.56 expected FIP last season. He relies on elite contact rate & exit velocity, which most analytics folks will tell you he can’t sustain. Quite a few Giants fans, on the other hand, believe a full season’s worth of starts could put him in Cy Young consideration. The question I ask is, why does he have to be boom or bust? Isn’t there a middle ground? Ironically enough, his ERA in our community projections falls right in line with his 2018 FIP, just as Holland’s did. And wouldn’t you know it, he’s still a league average player despite the regression.

Drew Pomeranz

130 IP | 3.95 ERA | 4.20 FIP | 123 K | 51 BB | 1.5 WAR

Pomeranz’ 2018 season wasn’t all that different from Jeff Samardzija’s. The southpaw was hampered by injuries & a loss of velocity, & the on-field results were among the worst from any starter in baseball. His new contract is loaded with incentives, in hopes that he can recover some of the production that made him an above average pitcher in 2016 & 2017. These projections don’t have him getting all the way back to that point, but they’re certainly an improvement over Steamer’s 89 IP & 0.5 WAR. If he’s healthy, the Giants could have a real bargain here.

Jeff Samardzija

127 IP | 4.34 ERA | 3.93 FIP | 112 K | 39 BB | 1.4 WAR

The difference between Samardzija & Pomeranz is probably the severity of their injuries. In Shark’s case, shoulder injuries can derail a career faster than bad elbows. If Shark has his velocity this spring, he’s obviously a much better pitcher than his 2018 numbers show. If the shoulder gives him fits again, the numbers above are likely very optimistic. Only time will tell.

Andrew Suarez

128 IP | 4.09 ERA | 4.37 FIP | 113 K | 43 BB | 1.3 WAR

Suarez posted 1 WAR in 160 IP last season, so the projections here indicate improved production from a smaller body of work. Zaidi said his goal was to push both Suarez & D-Rod down the depth chart, and it would appear that’s happened. But all it will take is an injury to one of the veterans above him – which is totally plausible – and Suarez could be looking at a 30 start season.

Chris Stratton

119 IP | 4.19 ERA | 4.55 FIP | 99 K | 53 BB | 0.8 WAR

Stratton is out of options, so there’s some pressure on him to perform this spring. Considering the new analytics crew in-house and Stratton’s well known spin rates, I’m interested to see what changes he might make, if any. The Giants probably don’t want to lose him to waivers, so there’s a decent chance he opens the year in the 5th starter or long reliever role. These projections reflect some combination of rotation & bullpen innings.

Final thoughts

According to Fangraphs, the Giants rotation was worth around 7 WAR last season, with Holland’s 1.9 leading the pack. If Zaidi’s goal was to add depth to this group, it certainly appears like he’s done that. It’s hard to predict injuries & potential trades (both of which seem likely this season), but I think these projections (12.7 WAR) have a decent chance of coming to fruition. Will every one of these guys improve upon last year, as we’ve indicated? Probably not. But I also think the notion of each of them nosediving is an overly pessimistic view at this point. Reality is likely somewhere in between.

In summary, the rotation numbers look pretty reasonable from here, and enough to make this team at least interesting in the pitching department this summer. Good work team!

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