Starting Rotation Improvement

In last week’s article on the Phillies’ offense, the improvement of the starting rotation was brought up as an ancillary reason to be less upset about any potential decline in run scoring. Obviously, a full season of Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee is superior to that of Jamie Moyer and Kyle Kendrick. The latter duo accounted for 50 starts last year; Kendrick finished with a 4.73 ERA in 31 starts and two relief appearances while Moyer had a 4.84 ERA in 19 starts before landing on the disabled list.

Overall, Phillies starters in 2010 combined for a 3.55 ERA in 1055 and one-third innings. How much better does the 2011 rotation figure to be?

Among the six starters last year who made 12+ starts, they combined for a 3.60 ERA. J.A. Happ, Vance Worley, and Nelson Figueroa accounted for six starts total and were not included. PECOTA projects the Phillies’ five to post a 3.44 ERA in 1,027 innings. The 0.16 difference is a little over 18 runs, or about two wins. However, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Oswalt are all expected to have worse seasons this year, while Joe Blanton is expected to improve.

If we remove the three constants — Halladay, Hamels, and Blanton — we can compare the 2010 and 2011 rotations.

Last year, Oswalt, Kendrick, and Moyer combined for 62 starts, 375 innings, and a 4.10 ERA (171 earned runs total). Oswalt and Lee are projected to make 62 starts, throw 419 innings, and post a 3.23 ERA (151 runs total). The difference is about two wins.

Meanwhile, Halladay, Hamels, and Blanton combined for 94 starts last year, throwing 635 innings, and posting a 3.30 ERA (233 earned runs). They are projected to make 89 starts, throw 608 innings, and post a 3.58 ERA (242 runs). The difference is about 10 runs, or one win.

Overall, an additional half-season from Oswalt, the subtraction of a half-season from Moyer, and the complete erasure of Kendrick adds about two wins. Half of that is negated by the expected regression of Halladay and Hamels.

Personally, I think PECOTA is a bit too pessimistic, especially with regard to Hamels. I don’t see him making only 29 starts and throwing only 184 innings, especially when Oswalt is projected to make 30 starts and throw 200 innings. I also don’t see Halladay’s K/9 dropping from 7.9 to 6.9. Those projections won’t tip the scales at all by themselves, but I think it is something worth pointing out.

Bet on the Phillies’ rotation being closer to two wins better as opposed to one win. It may seem insignificant, but Phillies fans should know better than to overlook the importance of an extra win.

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31 comments

  1. Mark

    March 14, 2011 07:57 AM

    That one or two wins can be huge I will agree there ala Phillies 2007!

    It just feels good going into a season not having to worry about who the fifth starter is going to be and what happens if someone gets hurt. Having Kendrick as a long reliever / starter in waiting just gives me that much more confidence in the Phils starting pitching this year. Now if the hitters can live up to their potential, which I think they will, we will be in good shape!

  2. Dan

    March 14, 2011 09:35 AM

    Kendrick… DO NOT WANT.

    Give me Vance Worley as the 6t starter any day.

  3. Josh

    March 14, 2011 10:25 AM

    How many innings are our starters projected to throw this year? Not a huge impact, but Lee/Oswalt should pitch deeper into games and minimize bullpen impact compared to Kendrick/Moyer.

  4. Bill Baer

    March 14, 2011 10:31 AM

    The five are expected to toss 1,027 innings. Last year, the aforementioned six racked up 1,010 and two-thirds innings. As I mentioned, though, I expect Hamels to throw more than his projected 184 (he threw 208 and two-thirds last year).

  5. Bob Stienhagen

    March 14, 2011 10:49 AM

    The issue of how many runs worse the phillies offense will be compared to last year is a bit overblown. While the spring training signs of the Utley and Brown injuries have been ominous, and the Phillies team is aging, let’s not forget that injuries led to Wilson Valdez getting 333 ABs last year. He’s little better than replacement level.

    The Phils lost 172 games to injury to Rollins, Utley, Polanco, and Howard, and probably about the same to those same players playing while hobbled. While their advancing ages suggest that they are unlikely to return to peak performance (aka 2008/09) and reasonable bounce back across the board should be enough to balance out the loss of Werth.

    Howard/Utley/Rollins/Polanco:

    2008 WAR = 16.7
    2009 WAR = 15.9
    2010 WAR = 9.8

    Jayson Werth:

    2008 WAR = 4.2
    2009 WAR = 3.2
    2010 WAR = 5.2

    To replace 2010 offensive output from Werth, the Phils need 15 WAR out of:

    Utley/Rollins/Howard/Polanco/RF. I’d say good money could be put on 16+. Point is, the pitching projects to 1 to 2 wins, and the offense probably does too. Utley’s knee pain notwithstanding.

    Also, let’s believe that Utley’s injury is material when he starts to miss meaningful time. Player’s knees often get worse as they get older and they still produce.

  6. Aaron H

    March 14, 2011 10:53 AM

    Maybe I missed the math here, but a full season of Lee is worth less than a 2 WAR upgrade?

  7. Bill Baer

    March 14, 2011 11:01 AM

    Yeah. You can take a different approach to it.

    2010 stats: www.baseballprospectus.com/team_audit.php?team=phi

    2010 projections: www.baseballprospectus.com/fantasy/dc/index.php?tm=PHI

    2010 VORP

    Halladay: 75.6
    Hamels: 50.4
    Oswalt: 31.1
    Kendrick: 4.7
    Moyer: 2.3
    Blanton: 0.8

    TOTAL: 164.9 VORP, or about 16.5 WARP

    2011 Projections

    Halladay: 51.4
    Lee: 47.0
    Oswalt: 35.9
    Hamels: 31.1
    Blanton: 9.4

    TOTAL: 174.8, or about 17.5 WARP

    As mentioned, if PECOTA is wrong on Halladay and Hamels — and I do believe it is off a bit — then the difference is bigger.

  8. KH

    March 14, 2011 12:23 PM

    I don’t know how people can take Pecota all that seriously. I guess its accurate compared to other inaccurate systems that are out there but thats not saying much.

  9. Bill Baer

    March 14, 2011 12:35 PM

    PECOTA isn’t perfect, and it never will be. But it’s about as good as any other projection system out there and it’s certainly better than only human observation. The key is to take a skeptical stance towards everything, consult multiple sources, and use your best judgment.

  10. awh

    March 14, 2011 12:41 PM

    The way I view it is that Oswalt effectively replaced an injured Moyer. Thus, the 2010 upgrade was huge. Now, even if he regresses a bit, a full season of Oswalt – who’s worst season ever was a 3.54 ERA – is a big upgrade from Moyer.

    Lee replaces Kendrick. Any questions?

    Blanton, who is in his prime, had the worst full season of his career in 2010. What are the chances that he regresses further? IMO not much, and I can see him rebounding to league average, somewhere in the 4.00 – 4.25 ERA range. (Is that a stretch?)

    So, the big question is whether or not Hamels and Halladay can duplicate or better their 2010 seasons, or whether they’ll regress somewhat? It stands to reason that Halladay will/might.

    But Hamels is the real head scratcher. At the end of his 5 starts in April 2010 he had a 5.28 ERA.

    In his last 28 starts he had a 2.68 ERA, .230/.292/.371 against, 8.84 K/9, a 2.52 BB/9, with a .285 BAbip which indicates luck didn’t play a big part.

    Is it asking too much of him to do that for 5 more starts in 2011?

  11. Bob Steinhagen

    March 14, 2011 01:22 PM

    The two primary reasons Pecota projects are regression for Halladay and Hamels are:

    1. The high prevalence of pitching related injuries limits Pecota from projecting superior seasons. Though some pitchers will inevitability have them, picking from the mix of elites which one is not something that systems like Pecota are very good at.

    2. Both Halladay and Hamels had peak years last year – Halladay had his best WAR since 2003. Hamels had the best of his career. Most systems based on stat inputs for players with multiple seasons will take multiple year inputs, with heavier weighting going toward the most recent season, with adjustments for age.

    Personally, in Halladay’s case, I suspect that WAR doesn’t adequately account for league change, particularly for an elite pitcher going from the AL East to NL East. People will tell you that WAR accounts for factors like competition, league change and park effect, but I suspect that is only on the aggregate. The best and the worst players are likely affected more than the average.

    In Hamels case, my eyes and some peripheral stats (like swing and misses) tell me that he is ready to break into elite (i.e. Cy Young conversation elite) status. His second half last season was off the hook.

    But you won’t find a system that will project that. Yet.

  12. awh

    March 14, 2011 02:36 PM

    After Hamels’ start today one could believe he was due for a regression. :)

  13. Stubbed Thome

    March 14, 2011 02:45 PM

    I’m not sure why they would predict a Hamels regression. His BB/9 was at his highest since ’06 and his BABIP was .289, career .286. and his GB rate increased to a career high 45.4%

  14. Dan

    March 14, 2011 05:30 PM

    Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that no projecting system likes to take into account new pitches and command of them.

    Hamels is adding to his repertoire and has a better command of his new pitch(es). Plus he’s learning from Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, and previously had experience with Moyer and Pedro Martinez.

    You gotta like the kid’s chances with his natural talent supplemented by an all-star teaching faculty.

    I’m calling sub-3 ERA for Hamels this year (not that ERA means all that much) and finishing top 5 in Cy Young.

  15. hunterfan

    March 14, 2011 06:52 PM

    So…to take this to the next step…if we’re spending approx. $20 mil/year to upgrade to the tune of about 2 wins…that doesn’t sound like a very good use of money.

    Am I misinterpreting something?

  16. Richard

    March 14, 2011 07:55 PM

    those marginal wins for playoff-potential teams can get expensive…

  17. awh

    March 14, 2011 10:52 PM

    hunterfan, it’s not a very good use of money if it adds up to only 2 wins.

    Personally, I believe the 2 wins is a little low. The net effect on the bullpen of having this rotation may add another couple of wins to the ledger by reducing its’ workload and keeping the BP pitchers lined up in the roles to which they are best suited, and in which they are most comfortable.

    There also may be an unquantifiable effect of Halladay-Lee- Oswalt- Hamels- Blanton. In question form that is: How does having them on the mound for every start affect the team’s confidence, and how does having them on the mound for every start affect the OTHER team’s confidence? Imagine being the _____ and having to face Halladay/Lee/Oswalt, Lee/Oswalt/Hamels, etc. Heck, the “worst” (no insult to any of the pitchers) triumvirate they may face is Oswalt/Hamels/Blanton, because the second they pass Oswalt in the rotation, it’s back to Hamels/Blanton/Halladay.

    Can you imagine the psychological effect on a team that has just lost two consecutive games to Hamels and Blanton coming to the ballpark knowing they have to face Halladay that night?

    The pitchers they have on this team may actually have the effect of getting other teams to look ahead and lose focus.

    When the Phillies finally got healthy last season (at least when they were all on the field – not necessarily playing to their best as individuals) they went 28 – 12 [.700] to finish the season, with a rotation of Halladay, Hamels, Oswalt, Blanton and Kendrick. Now, Kendrick has been replaced by Lee. While I don’t see them playing .700 baseball the entire season [113 wins] – even if they had 5 Halladays in the rotation – I still see better pitching this year than last, especially replacing Kendrick with Lee and having a full season of Oswalt.

    We’ll see.

  18. Sloth

    March 15, 2011 07:16 AM

    The offense will be fine, bringing Lee back+ Oswalt for a full season+ Competition in RF will all add up to a huge year for the Phils in 2011. 100+ wins. WFCs v.2!!

    Also I think it is worth saying along with the psychological effect the rotation will have on other teams, what psychological effects will they have on their own rotation, bullpen and offense. Not to mention that all five of these guys are competitors and will be further motivated competing with each other and may even be able to teach each other some new pitches/tricks along the way. Let’s not forget Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels for as good as they were before 2010, each added or refined a pitch to/in their repertoire, hell who’s to say they won’t add yet another this year, the potential and ability is endless. The Giants scored 697 runs last year with arguably a worse rotation for a good portion of the year (Lincecum and Cain struggled at times and Bumgarner didn’t start the season in the big leagues) and they still won 92 games and won the WS. What are the Phillies capable of with Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Hamels, Blanton?

  19. Dan

    March 15, 2011 10:40 AM

    Sloth, I can’t remember where, but I did read somewhere that Halladay has added a new pitch. He didn’t say what it was, but he said he’s been working with Ruiz on a new pitch to keep hitters off balance.

  20. JB Allen

    March 15, 2011 11:04 AM

    Related to hunterfan’s question, how many more wins will the salary increase since 2008 likely account for since then? It seems to me like the salary jump over the last three years is very inefficient, but maybe the 2008 team’s results were more about luck and/or a very efficient ($/win) organization.

  21. JB Allen

    March 15, 2011 11:07 AM

    Sorry, that last post was unclear. What I’m asking is, if the 2008 team was projected to win, say 88 games, how many projected wins for the 2011 team would justify a $60 million salary bump?

  22. Shawn

    March 15, 2011 11:16 AM

    “those marginal wins for playoff-potential teams can get expensive…”

    Richard hit the nail on the head. It’s expensive to spend on WAR in the top 2-5 %. If we want the phillies to be a big league threat year in and year out, they will have to shell out elite dollars for the marginal WAR.

  23. Shawn

    March 15, 2011 11:18 AM

    Those marginal wins, from 08 (88 wins) to ’11 (94 wins), 60 million bump divided (CAGR’d) by the discount factor of inflation and MLB revenue growth rate, is probably what you should expect.

    Also, a perennial playoff ballclub is probably a lot more valuable then a ballclub that doesn’t draw sellouts every single game.

  24. Reuben

    March 15, 2011 01:30 PM

    I am still impressed with Moyers increased in innings last year, especially with that stretch where he was going really deep into games. He is the model of a consummate professional.

  25. Scott G

    March 16, 2011 12:10 PM

    This just popped into my head while I was reading an article about competition for bench spots since Utley could open the season on the 15-day DL. The article addresses Manuel’s desire to open the season with 11 rather than 12 starters since “all 5 pitchers can go deep in games”.

    Is anyone at all worried that Manuel might begin to leave the starters in longer than they might normally pitch? This could cause both immediate and long-term problems.

    If Manuel makes the decision to leave a starter in that is clearly out of gas, games could slip away. Also, if this becomes a habit, maybe pitchers are accumulating unnecessary innings right from Opening Day that could lead to being worn down later in the season/post season.

    Am I crazy, or could the trickle down effect of Utley’s injury pose an even deeper problem than just the obvious?

  26. ????

    March 17, 2011 10:04 AM

    I would do something different in the starting rotation.
    It´s a good DPS increase if you use your “on use spellpower” trinkets or the orc racial at the beginning so 2 deepfreezes and 2 FFO´s benefit from that 2500~ Bonus Spellpower.

    Starting Rotation should look like this :

    On youse Trinket / Orc Racial
    MI
    Freeze
    DF
    FFO
    IV
    Coldsnap
    DF
    FFO
    ….
    IV if it fells off

    Is there already some math about Haste vs Mastery if you are below 33% crit ?

  27. Taco

    March 17, 2011 11:20 AM

    if you didn’t roll a melee class you already gave up on min/maxing your DPS.

  28. Hannah E

    March 17, 2011 02:14 PM

    You don’t need to min/max as a ranged class. All you need to do as a boomkin is faceroll and then you have 16k.

  29. Kruk's Krew

    March 17, 2011 02:26 PM

    Scott G.

    I’m with ya on that concern. Always has been my issue with Cholly. Critical 6th and 7th innings this year – even moreso than usual. I’m especially concerned with Oswalt and Lee in this regard.

    As to ?????: I’ve comprehended more of some paragraphs in Finegan’s Wake than anything in your post. That’s my loss, Im sure.

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