Last week, we explored the performance of the Diamondbacks’ position players this season compared to their preseason projections. Never one to leave you hanging, it’s time that we apply the same methodology to the pitching staff. The necessary caveats were in the previous post, but I’ll remind the reader that these projections are updated to reflect the performances that have taken place so far (through 5/13). To see the original, unaltered projections that were released before the season, click here. Please note that projections are only included for the team’s core pitchers, not those who have recently been called up or sent down as projections are volatile for players with little to no major league history. With that said, let’s dive right into a pitching staff that has struggled mightily for the bulk of the season.
Miley has made nine starts on the year, but they’ve been pretty unspectacular on the whole. Sure, he’s dazzled a time or two, but he’s also been rocked a few times. we can see that his strikeouts are up a little bit but that he’s been unlucky in the home run department so far. His low left on base rate (LOB%) has inflated is ERA a touch. Overall, ZiPS likes him to be slightly better than we’ve seen so far.
Projection vs. Reality: with 25% of the season in the books, Miley has been worse than expected although not by a huge margin. His rate stats are slightly off across the board, but there are no glaring issues other than his inflated home run rate, which is balanced by some luck in the BABIP department. Like we’ve always said, what you see with Wade is what you get.
Over his first eight starts, Brandon McCarthy has seen the highs and the lows of life as a starting pitcher. He’s added velocity but gotten rocked at times despite it. Perhaps most troubling is that he has lost the feel for his pitches mid-start on multiple occasions and the wheels have fallen off. Then in other starts, like we witnessed yesterday, he was nearly unstoppable. Perhaps the best explanation is that baseball is hard.
In regards to his stats, the velocity has helped his strikeout rate reach a new high, which is a fantastic sign. His walks are right around where they were expected, but like Miley, he’s been more homer prone than projected. McCarthy’s pitched far better than his ERA would suggest, indicated by his respectable FIP. Should Brandon stay relatively healthy, ZiPS suggests that he should improve some over what we’ve seen through the first quarter of the season.
Projections vs. Reality: the projections couldn’t have seen the velocity uptick coming. They also couldn’t have expected the exaggerated home run rate. This would all suggest that McCarthy has been a little worse than expected and/or unlucky. We should expect better, more consistent results going forward. Yesterday was a reminder of that.
With Arroyo, you’d expect the projections to be pretty close as he has an extremely large track record to draw from. As it turns out, he’s much on track across the board. Granted, Arroyo’s walked a couple more than usual, but his home run rate has been low so far. Otherwise, this is exactly what you’d expect, which is boring but occasionally effective.
Projection vs. Reality: the projections have pegged Arroyo accurately, which should have been expected. There aren’t any qualms to make and he’s as steady as they come, which is why Kevin Towers signed him (#veteranpresence).
Starting with Josh Collmenter, we see a number or projections that are difficult to quantify as several pitchers have changed roles from what was expected before the season. Josh is obviously a fixture in the rotation now, and due to his extra exposure to opposing hitters, his strikeout are down. The walks are in fine shape and he’s been close to expected with his allowance of home runs. If there’s a red flag anywhere, it’s that his BABIP is unrealistically low, so we should expect him to get hit a little more frequently going forward. Unlike McCarthy, Collmenter has not pitched as well as his ERA would suggest, so expecting some regression would be wise.
Projections vs. Reality: considering that he was projected as a reliever, we have to make some adjustments to Collmenter’s expectations. His BABIP is the one area we should be concerned as the writing is on the wall that he might have trouble in the very near future.
Trevor Cahill‘s situation is the exact opposite to the one outlined above. ZiPS projected him as a starter and now he’s a reliever, so some allowances have to be made. The large uptick in strikeouts are part of this adjustment as he’s been far more effective out of the bullpen. The walks are still killing him, but they’re more palatable in one inning stints. Like many of his pitching brothers, he’s had a tougher time keeping the ball in the yard than we would have thought and his ERA is a mess. Cahill’s FIP suggests that he hasn’t been as bad as might think, but it doesn’t exactly tell us that he’s been good either.
Projections vs. Reality: like with Collmenter above, it’s tough to compare the projections to the results given the huge change in opportunities. The wildly dramatic struggles weren’t expected, however; that much we can be sure of.
Similarly to Cahill, Delgado was projected as a starter primarily. His velocity has trended up since being placed in the bullpen and he has the strikeouts to show for it. Struggles in the command department have plagued him, however, and a poor left on base rate has hurt his ERA. Worst of all, his luck has been awful as a horrendous .359 BABIP would suggest, so we should realize that Delgado isn’t as bad as he’s pitched. Still, ZiPS has little faith in him as they projected his FIP for 4.74, which I actually take quite an objection to.
Projections vs. Reality: Randall Delgado‘s projections weren’t great to start with and aside from the walks, he’s been better than ZiPS expected. I think the system had a tough time projecting him as he had been in and out of the rotation in 2013 with some up and down results. Realistically, Delgado is a fifth starter or middle reliever/swingman, which we knew coming into the season.
Aside from yesterday’s debacle, Brad Ziegler has been all the Diamondbacks could have asked for. Although he was projected to have solid stats across the board, he’s been even better. This makes his offseason extension look even nicer as he’s shown no signs of slowing down. His strikeouts are up and he’s yet to allow a homer. An unsustainably low BABIP will change over the course of the year, as will his absurd left on base rate, but Ziegler is still the team’s best reliever when it’s all said and done.
Projections vs. Reality: ZiPS projected Ziegler to be very valuable and he’s been just that. Given his track record of consistent, ground ball driven results, he was a safe bet for another successful season.
It’s been a tough go in the desert for Addison Reed. The question is, should we have seen it coming? Based on his straight fastball and fly ball outcomes of the past, some of his results appear to have been predictable. ZiPS agrees, but no one would have predicted the home run struggles that we’ve witnessed thus far. They’ve been nearly twice as bad as the projections thought, which was already a comparatively high number. This has obviously inflated both his ERA and FIP, but ZiPS sees those numbers dropping significantly over the rest of the season.
Projections vs. Reality: while we knew that another fly ball closer in Arizona was going to be a tricky proposition, no one could have seen these home run totals bite Reed to this degree. Aside from this disappointing aspect to Reed’s game, the rest of his projections were solid. Essentially, he’s been as expected in every department aside from the dingers.
Oliver Perez has been surprisingly good for the Diamondbacks despite a couple of ugly early outings that we’d all like to forget. Since then, he’s settled in nicely. He’s striking batters out at the projected level and actually limiting the walks and homers more than anticipated. Unfortunately, his bullpen brethren haven’t picked him up as his left on base rate is an atrocious 59.1%, resulting in a 4.20 ERA. His FIP, which measures the things he can control, is much better at just 2.90.
Projections vs. Reality: Perez has performed as projected for the most part. He’s been unlucky in terms of other relievers allowing his runners to score, but otherwise things are in line.
Injured veteran JJ Putz might come off the DL as the team’s closer considering how poorly Addison Reed has pitched. Through his first 13 games, Putz has been his typical self when it comes to strikeouts. He’s also kept the ball in the yard this year, which is a welcomed sign. He’s walking more batters than projected, although keep in mind that his sample is smaller than the other pitchers’. Like Perez, JJ’s left on base rate has marred his ERA while his FIP suggests he’s been quite good.
Projections vs. Reality: ZiPS pegged JJ very well with the exception of his higher than anticipated walk rate and his good fortune in limiting home runs. All of this should come with a grain of salt, however, as he’s only pitched ten innings this year.
Looking at the pitching staff as a whole, ZiPS would suggest that they should be in for better days in the future. Only Josh Collmenter and Brad Ziegler have been overachievers thus far, which leaves us with two possible conclusions:
A. The pitching staff will improve as a group over the course of the year, or
B. The pitching staff is far worse than we ever could have imagined
With my background in analytics, I’m hedging my bets slightly towards conclusion A, that they’ll improve as a whole. The improvement won’t be dramatic, but it’ll be comparatively better than what we’ve seen so far. Regression and samples sizes suggest as much, and there’s still a lot of baseball to play. This isn’t a playoff team, but they aren’t the worst team in baseball either. There’s a lot of room between those two extremes, however, and just how far the Diamondbacks move up the power rankings depends largely on how they pitch.
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