An early look at the 2013 rotation

Assuming health, the Cubs rotation appears to be set with Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Scott Baker and Scott Feldman. I was curious what we could reasonably expect from this group next year and decided to use the CAIRO projections to calculate percentile forecasts. Before that, there's been some recent talk about how this rotation is better than last year's rotation.

My first thought was that, no, this is not better and it may not even be as good. My second thougt was that it might have more upside though that's not certain. So I decided to look and see which rotation is better.

I used last year's CAIRO projections and compared the rotation that I thought would give the Cubs their best rotation entering the season. I competely dismissed the idea of Jeff Samardzija starting until midway through spring training when it appeared a certainty he would be starting. I was wrong in thinking that was the dumbest idea I'd ever heard of. Anyway, I used the following 2012 rotation: Ryan Dempter, Matt Garza, Carlos Zambrano, Travis Wood and Chris Volstad. (UPDATE: obviously Volstad and Z can't be in the same rotation since they were traded for one another so switch out Z for Samardzija).

That rotation was projected to produce 8.5 WAR. If we remove the worst starter in that group, Volstad, and replace him with what was projected for Samardzija, it would lower it to 8.0. This year's rotation is projected by CAIRO to produce 6.8 WAR.

CAIRO projects the rehabbing Scott Baker to throw only 30 innings so if we're generous and adjust that to 180 innings, the group would then be worth 8.3 WAR, which is equal to last year's rotation entering the season.

Zambrano was later traded so if we swap him out with what we can now reasonably expect from Samardzija, that rotation would have been worth about 10 WAR, so it's still better thant his year's rotation.

The percentile forecasts for this year's rotation are below. The WAR uses FIP.

Garza G GS W L IP H R ER HR BB HBP SO RA ERA FIP WAR
80% 30 30 11 8 180 145 73 65 16 50 3 186 3.63 3.24 2.99 4.5
65% 27 27 9 9 165 139 71 64 17 50 4 163 3.88 3.48 3.34 3.3
Baseline 25 25 7 10 150 132 69 62 18 49 5 143 4.13 3.71 3.69 2.3
35% 20 20 4 9 120 111 58 53 16 42 5 109 4.37 3.95 4.04 1.3
20% 17 17 3 9 105 101 54 49 15 39 5 91 4.62 4.18 4.39 0.6

The baseline WAR is a bit different for this purpose because I calculated it myself.

Samardzija G GS W L IP H R ER HR BB HBP SO RA ERA FIP WAR
80% 57 20 11 6 162 125 66 60 13 59 3 180 3.67 3.31 2.93 4.2
65% 52 18 9 7 148 121 65 59 14 58 4 159 3.93 3.56 3.31 3.0
Baseline 48 16 7 8 135 115 63 57 14 56 5 139 4.19 3.82 3.69 2.0
35% 38 13 4 8 108 96 53 49 13 48 5 106 4.46 4.07 4.07 1.1
20% 33 11 3 8 94 88 50 45 13 45 5 89 4.72 4.32 4.44 0.5

 

Because Samardzija had been a reliever prior to last season, he's still projected for some relief appearances. As a starter only, those rates would be just a bit higher (WAR a bit lower), but it's not that important to be precise at this point.

Wood G GS W L IP H R ER HR BB HBP SO RA ERA FIP WAR
80% 35 34 13 8 199 176 89 82 19 64 5 177 4.05 3.73 3.49 3.5
65% 32 31 10 10 182 168 87 80 20 63 6 156 4.30 3.97 3.84 2.4
Baseline 29 28 8 10 166 159 84 77 20 61 7 136 4.55 4.21 4.18 1.4
35% 23 23 5 10 132 132 71 65 18 52 7 104 4.80 4.45 4.52 0.6
20% 20 20 4 9 116 120 65 60 17 48 7 87 5.05 4.69 4.86 0.1

 

The Cubs top two are relatively good, but afte that there's a considerable drop in expectations.

Scott Baker G GS W L IP H R ER HR BB HBP SO RA ERA FIP WAR
80% 7 7 3 1 36 35 15 14 2 8 0 32 3.84 3.53 2.65 1.1
65% 6 6 2 1 33 35 16 15 3 9 1 26 4.45 4.13 3.43 0.6
Baseline 6 6 2 2 30 35 17 16 4 10 1 22 5.07 4.73 4.21 0.3
35% 5 5 1 2 24 30 15 14 4 9 1 15 5.69 5.32 4.98 0.0
20% 4 4 0 2 21 28 15 14 4 9 2 12 6.30 5.92 5.76 -0.2

 

I wouldn't put a lot of faith into the percentiles for Baker since they're based on only a 30 inning baseline. What I mean by that is that I wouldn't go taking the 2.65 FIP and 1.1 WAR in 36 innings and prorating that to 200 innings. Don't even consider that.

Feldman G GS W L IP H R ER HR BB HBP SO RA ERA FIP WAR
80% 26 20 9 4 119 130 60 54 11 28 1 87 4.56 4.07 3.44 2.2
65% 24 18 7 5 110 125 60 54 12 28 2 75 4.90 4.40 3.86 1.4
Baseline 22 17 5 6 100 119 58 52 12 28 3 64 5.25 4.73 4.27 0.8
35% 17 13 3 6 80 100 49 45 11 25 3 48 5.59 5.05 4.69 0.2
20% 15 12 2 6 70 91 46 42 11 24 3 39 5.93 5.38 5.11 -0.1

 

Here's where using FIP for WAR becomes problematic. Feldman's FIP projection is half a run lower than his ERA. A RA-based WAR would probably have him at replacement level at best.

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