I'm a one trick pony these days but it's the slowest part of the offseason...so another WAR post as we try to peer into the murky future...
My initial WAR projections projected the Orioles to possess a Win Talent of 83. Others, whose opinion I respect, thought that my projections were too optimistic given the pitching staff Baltimore would field. (Keep in mind, I was quite pessimistic last season compared to most...)
I then decided to scale back my projections a bit. I decided to use CHONE projections which tend to be less optimistic than Bill James in general and revisit the pitching projections with a more critical eye.
I did CHONE projections straight down the line except for playing time. I adjusted Adam Jones' playing time down (450 PA) because he has yet to play a full season and I wanted to be reasonable about the possibility of injury. Before changing my pitching and with only two minor tweaks to the batters, this still left my Win Talent at 81.6.
The tweaks: Nick Markakis is NOT a sub-.850 OPS player. Sorry, I don't buy it. So I nudged his numbers up to an .850 OPS. Also, I do not believe Matt Wieters is a sub-.800 OPS hitter in 2010. I adjusted his offensive numbers up to an equivalent of .825 OPS. (BTW, ZiPS predicted an .827 OPS for Wieters before the 2009 season, comparing him to Johnny Bench. This season, ZiPS has him at at .773 OPS. What changed? 385 PAs in the majors? I think we have to take projections on rookies and young players in general with a grain of salt...)
Here is the lineup with rough batting lines:
PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
Wieters 550 .289 .350 .475 .825
Moeller 145 .240 .300 .330 .630
Wigginton 550 .269 .323 .446 .769
Atkins 145 .257 .326 .410 .736
Roberts 645 .275 .355 .430 .785
Andino 50 .244 .299 .365 .664
Izturis 600 .261 .306 .342 .648
Andino 95 .244 .299 .365 .664
Atkins 500 .257 .326 .410 .736
Wigginton 50 .269 .323 .446 .769
Bell 145 .231 .299 .362 .661
Reimold 500 .275 .355 .477 .832
Pie 150 .267 .327 .421 .748
Scott 45 .256 .335 .469 .804
Jones 450 .283 .338 .472 .810
Pie 245 .267 .327 .421 .748
Markakis 695 .304 .369 .481 .850
Reimold 245 .275 .355 .477 .832
Scott 400 .256 .335 .469 .804
Wigginton 50 .269 .323 .446 .769
I went back over my pitching with a fine toothed comb looking for holes. Here's what I came up with for the rotation, all ERA's are in terms of FIP.
I have Jeremy Guthrie penciled in for 190 innings, fewer than he had last season. Guthrie has pitched more innings each season in the majors, even when he has struggled. (He pitched 200 innings in '09.) I can't imagine he will be as bad as he was last year, nor quite as good as his first two seasons. I bumped his FIP up to 4.80 but left everything else alone.
My Kevin Millwood projection makes sense. I only have him down for 165 innings figuring he will break down a bit during the season. 4.80 FIP was what he had last season and is the highest he has had for a full season. It's reasonable to think that projection is sound.
Matusz doesn't seem to be the kind to get hurt...just not that kind of pitcher. Still, I only have him down for 170 innings...guess I could bump that to 165 and bump his 4.00 FIP up a quarter run, well above fan projections, Bill James and his performance last year. The guy is "pitcher" in the truest sense of the word...I see him improving, not backsliding.
Chris Tillman struck me as the likeliest candidate for injury and/or struggles. Not sure exactly why I feel that why but he looks like he overthrows at times and he will be just 22 next season. I knocked down his innings and bumped up the FIP.
Brad Bergesen is a poor man's Rick Porcello. He may not be as good as last year but I don't think he's going to go the Josh Towers route either. He's a groundball machine and he walks virtually nobody. I bumped the FIP up a bit but I think he pitches his fair share of innings at the back of the rotation.
That's a pretty solid rotation, a bunch of guys who, barring injury, have the opportunity to stay in the rotation all season despite any struggles they may have. All will pitch 140+ innings with guys like Jake Arrieta, Troy Patton, Jason Berken and David Hernandez ready to take the mound in case of injury. No one should get rushed up from Norfolk or Bowie this season.
The addition of Mike Gonzalez makes the core of the Oriole bullpen much better. We could debate the merits of Baltimore paying a premium for a "closer" this offseason but adding Gonzalez to Jim Johnson, Koji Uehara and Kam Mickolio makes a formidable core. Add Cla Meredith, Mark Hendrickson, David Hernandez and Matt Albers and you have a solid, if not great relief corp. And I think that the O's have some intriguing arms in Norfolk this season like Jim Miller, Alberto Castillo, Armando Gabino and Wilfrido Perez.
Projections for primary rotation and relief:
Guthrie 190 4.80
Millwood 165 4.80
Tillman 140 5.50
Matusz 165 4.25
Bergesen 170 4.40
Gonzalez 65 3.50
Johnson 70 4.20
Uehara 50 3.85
Mickolio 50 4.50
Hendrickson 70 4.75
Meredith 45 4.22
Hernandez 60 5.25
Now, take a look back at all those projections. What's your impression? Optimistic? Unrealistic? Pie in the sky?
I think not. I think they're fairly pessimistic if anything. And I still get...80 wins.
Obviously, injury is always a concern. The Orioles are not very deep and a rash of serious injuries lands Baltimore back in the basement chasing 100 losses again. But if the young core holds and improves even modestly, this team will at least flirt with .500 this season.
Of course, we'll adjust this as the Orioles get closer to Opening Day and the roster comes into focus.
My updated 2010 WAR Spreadsheet is here.