So I saw this exchange on Twitter on Friday...
Then about the same time, Craw of Camden Depot had left a comment on my "What is Curt Schilling had remained an Oriole?" post directing me to Jeff Zimmerman's post on FanGraphs about a formula he had devised for extimating wins based on ERA and run support. I put the formula into an Excel spreadsheet and decided to find out who was right. Could Kevin Millwood win 15 games for the Yankees this season?
Projected Winning % = 0.112(Run Support)-0.105(ERA)+0.446
with an R-squared = 0.827
Projected Wins = 0.7 * Games Started * Projected Winning %
I took Millwood's ERA from last season, gave him the same number of starts and gave him the Yankee run support (5.3 r/g) from last season. That netted 10.9 wins which we can round up to 11. However, Millwood pitched better than his ERA would indicate last season when you examine his FIP and xFIP numbers.
His xFIP was 4.66 and since his Marcel projections put him at 4.68 this season, that seemed like a reasonable assumption to make. Plugging in a 4.66 ERA over 31 starts with the 5.3 runs per game of support gives him 12 wins (11.9).
But what if the Yankees score more? Two seasons ago, the Yanks scored 5.6 runs per game. Using that number with the 4.66 ERA, that gives him 13 wins.
Now, while all this shows that Millwood would fall short, if I plug CC Sabathia's numbers into the calculations, he should have only won 17 games. He actually won 21. That Yankee offense could bring a couple extra wins. That would be 15 wins for Millwood, if everything broke just right.
Millwood's ERA by month for 2010:
ERA April 3.38 May 4.29 June 8.82 July 10.66 August 3.54 September 3.82
It's one thing to go through a rough patch for a last place team like the Orioles. One has to wonder if Millwood would get the chance to make 31 starts for the Yankees if he hit a similar rough patch. Since he's starting the season in AAA, that makes the odds of getting 30 or more starts even less likely.
So, if Millwood is able to pitch as well as he did last season AND it actually shows up in his ERA AND the Yankee offense performs a little bit better than it did last year AND he gets 31 or more starts AND he gets a little luck...he could win 15 for the Yankees this season. But it seems pretty unlikely.
However, I do think he will surprise a bit and provide quality innings for New York this season. And double digit wins are a definite possibility.