Monday, March 19, 2012
Looking Ahead to 2012 - CC Sabathia
I haven’t gone through the rest of the bench but I’m going to wait until we have an idea of who will be on it on Opening Day. So it’s time to move on to the pitching projections. We’ll start with the ace of the staff, CC Sabathia.
Sabathia had his best season as a Yankee in 2011. He put up an ERA+ of 147 which was better than his 137 and 136 marks in 2009 and 2010 respectively. Despite that, his season felt a bit disappointing because of how it finished. The turning point appears to have been his July 26 start against Seattle. Sabathia was dominating the Mariners through six innings. He had retired all 18 batters he faced and struck out 11 of them. There was a short rain delay, and CC returned to the mound to strike out Ichiro!
Unfortunately, Brendan Ryan then singled to break up the perfecto. CC struck out the next two hitters to finish off the seventh but he walked the first three hitters to start the eighth. He managed to get out of it with allowing just one run and some kid named Rivera closed it out.
So why do I think that game was some kind of turning point?
bf: batters faced
fip: Fielding independent pitching
xfip: Expected fip (uses league average hr/fb rate instead of actual hr)
fb% Percentage of batted balls that were fly balls
gb% Percentage of batted balls that were ground balls
ld% Percentage of batted balls that were line drives
bb/bf: walks per batters faced
k/bf: strikeouts per batters faced
babip: batting average on balls in play
I don’t like to attribute all babip fluctuations to luck, but the truth is Sabathia’s peripherals were arguably better over the last two months of the season. It just didn’t translate to his results.
In ALDS Game 1 vs. Detroit CC looked overpowering, better than Justin Verlander, but then the rains came again and he was out after two innings. He took the hill again for Game 3 but wasn’t good, and he made a final appearance in relief in Game 5 and gave up the run that ended up being the difference in the series.
CC had an opt-out in his contract after the season and there was some legitimate concern that he’d opt out, but the Yankees were able to keep him in the fold by adding a year to his contract at a salary that bumped him back up to being the highest-paid pitcher in baseball. Given the overall body of work over his first three seasons I don’t think many Yankee fans are upset about having him around for another year.
Sabathia’s the clear #1 starter on the Yankees, and probably their most valuable player right now. Here are his projections for 2012.
RA: Runs allowed per nine innings
FIP: Fielding-independent pitching
RAR: Runs above replacement level (using RA adjusted for park)
WAR: Wins above replacement level (RAR divided by 10)
I’ve included his 2011 and the league average as frames of reference. League average is based on role (starters vs. relievers), and is not adjusted for park so unlike with hitters mentally adjust that down a bit.
For pitchers, I’m using the following projections.
CAIRO, my own projection system.
Clay Davenport, formerly of Baseball Prospectus’s projections
An unofficial version of Tangotiger’s Marcel, which were run using code provided by Jeff Sackmann.
Oliver, from the Hardball Times Forecasts.
PECOTA from Baseball Prospectus.
ZiPS, courtesy of Dan Szymborski at Baseball Think Factory.
A new addition for the pitchers is Steamer. The hitter projections weren’t ready when I started this so I didn’t include them, but according to this article Steamer was the only thing that prevented CAIRO from being the best pitching projection system last year. Steamer is similar to Marcel, but incorporates velocity data as well and it seemed to help it leap to the top of the 2011 projections.
There appears to be two distinct sets of projections here.
CAIRO/Marcel/PECOTA: 3.54 RA, 3.23 ERA, 3.21 FIP
Davenport/Oliver/Steamer/ZiPS: 3.87 RA, 3.63 ERA, 3.38 FIP
I think the first group is closer to the truth.
CAIRO Percentile Forecasts
Sign me up for that 80% forecast.
The Yankees rotation is probably the deepest it’s been in years. That being said, there’s CC and there’s everyone else. I am pretty sure the group of Hiroki Kuroda, Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and Andy Pettitte will project similarly to each other, with Freddy Garcia a bit behind them. But none of them can replace Sabathia. CC lost some weight this offseason to help reduce the strain on his knees. Of course he did that last year too but seemed to gain it all back by year-end.
Let’s hope he can stay healthy and give the Yankees another great year.
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