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Free Agent Starters By The Numbers Part II: WAR and Projections

It’s been another painfully quiet week for the free agent market, with Yu Darvish at the center of another series of rumors. Last week I wrote about how the top free agent options stack up by various rate stats, and it was clear by those metrics that Darvish stands well above the rest of the free agent pack – and well ahead of any of the pitchers currently slotted into the Twins rotation. But just how much might one of the “Big Four” impact the Twins’ projections for 2018? That is where we’ll turn our attention for Part II of “By The Numbers.”
Image courtesy of Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
To start, let’s look at where the Twins currently stand by the one major projection system that’s been fully public so far. On FanGraphs you’ll find an early look at their projected standings for 2018 based on the Steamer projection system. FanGraphs writers have cautioned that their projected standings will be updated sometime in March to incorporate ZiPS, so expect these estimates to change, but Steamer currently projects the Twins to finish at 80-82, or 12 games behind Cleveland in the AL Central and 9 games behind the Yankees and Angels, who are projected about even for both wild cards.

Even if an AL Central teeming with 90-loss teams gifts the Twins a few extra wins in the Wild Card race, Steamer seems to think the Twins have a ways yet to go to catch up with the Yankees and Angels after their aggressive offseasons. So how did the free agents stack up with the Twins’ candidates in 2017, and what do the major projections systems expect from them in 2018?

Let’s take a look:
Attached Image: FASP1.png
Attached Image: FASP2.png
*As mentioned above, FanGraphs hasn’t yet released their formal “Depth Chart” projections, which aggregate ZiPS and Steamer and prorate for the FanGraphs staff’s playing time projections, so I’ve calculated the Depth Chart projections manually based on FanGraphs’ methodology and the ZiPS projections that have been released so far. Jake Arrieta’s ZiPS projections have not been released, so his Depth Chart projection is based only on Steamer.

Unsurprisingly, Steamer and ZiPS both project Yu Darvish to lead the pack in 2018, but what is a bit surprising is by how much the projections see him outperforming the rest of the field. If you look at the aggregated rankings, he is projected to outperform Jake Arrieta and Jose Berrios (ranked 2 and 3 above) by more than a win and to outperform every other free agent starters by at least two wins. Maybe more surprising is that the aggregated projections do not project Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb as clear improvements over Kyle Gibson as the third starter and or even anything more than a slight improvement over Adalberto Mejia as the fourth starter.

Of course, the Twins will eventually need a fifth starter, and signing Jaime Garcia or even Chris Tillman could likely help avoid a replacement-level solution (see: Phil Hughes) every fifth day until top pitching prospects Stephen Gonsalves and Fernando Romero prove they’re ready for the show.

Do these projections change your opinions of any of the free agent starters? Who would you have the Twins sign?

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26 Comments

Still want Darvish.Sortof agree on the rest.Cobb may have more upside, but not worth the extra money. 

These types of stats may be one of the driving factors as to why the Free Agent market is depressed a little.Looking at that it puts Jaime Garcia as pretty much the same pitcher as Lance Lynn.These same stats also say that Phil Hughes is the same starter as Chris Tillman.

 

So here is where I question the validity of these stats.Does anyone think that if the Twins rolled Phil Hughes out there every 5th day that he'd end up with the same numbers as compared to Chris Tillman if another comparable team rolled him out every 5th day??I don't think Hughes could even make it through a season but that is just my opinion.

    • 70charger, DocBauer, sploorp and 1 other like this
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Lee-The-Twins-Fan
Feb 04 2018 02:23 PM

Darvish or bust.

    • birdwatcher, Twins33, nicksaviking and 4 others like this

 

Darvish or bust.

Yeah, that pretty much looks like a short version of what they're saying. 

One impact SP. 

Surprised on what little confidence they have on Lynn bouncing back and pleased by the confidence they seem to have in Berrios.

    • nicksaviking, sploorp and caninatl04 like this

 

These types of stats may be one of the driving factors as to why the Free Agent market is depressed a little.Looking at that it puts Jaime Garcia as pretty much the same pitcher as Lance Lynn.These same stats also say that Phil Hughes is the same starter as Chris Tillman.

 

So here is where I question the validity of these stats.Does anyone think that if the Twins rolled Phil Hughes out there every 5th day that he'd end up with the same numbers as compared to Chris Tillman if another comparable team rolled him out every 5th day??I don't think Hughes could even make it through a season but that is just my opinion.

 

Definitely get where you're coming from with the Hughes vs Tillman thing, but worth noting that Chris Tillman was literally the worst pitcher in baseball by BRef's WAR model last year, and damn close by both Fangraphs and BP's models.

 

Hughes certainly isn't reliable health-wise, but even for how awful he was better than Tillman. If you can get even 50 innings out of him at the start of the year and then hand off to Gonsalves or Romero, wouldn't we rather do that than pay Tillman?

    • diehardtwinsfan, Twins33, Danchat and 3 others like this
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terrydactyls1947
Feb 04 2018 03:25 PM
Am I understanding this coorectly that bringing in Darvish would get the Twins about two extra wins over Gibson? And pay him $150M to do that. If that is correct, then so no to Darvish.

 

Am I understanding this coorectly that bringing in Darvish would get the Twins about two extra wins over Gibson? And pay him $150M to do that. If that is correct, then so no to Darvish.

 

Sort of. Santana, Berrios and Gibson are in the rotation regardless, so I think you have to look at it more as replacing Hughes/Slegers's replacement-level projection than replacing Gibson's 2-win projection. 

 

Teams value an incremental win at around $8M, which would mean Darvish should command a little over $32M for his 2018 projection. The question is how close will this market get him to that and how many years of it will the winner of his services have to agree to.

    • sploorp and caninatl04 like this

 

Definitely get where you're coming from with the Hughes vs Tillman thing, but worth noting that Chris Tillman was literally the worst pitcher in baseball by BRef's WAR model last year, and damn close by both Fangraphs and BP's models.

 

Hughes certainly isn't reliable health-wise, but even for how awful he was better than Tillman. If you can get even 50 innings out of him at the start of the year and then hand off to Gonsalves or Romero, wouldn't we rather do that than pay Tillman?

Darren Wolfson was saying Tillman might make $5M on a major league deal, and I have no idea why he'd earn close to that much with the horrendous 2017 he turned in. I'd welcome him in on a minor league deal but nothing more. 

    • sploorp and IaFan1 like this

Am I understanding this coorectly that bringing in Darvish would get the Twins about two extra wins over Gibson? And pay him $150M to do that. If that is correct, then so no to Darvish.


Why no? That's what free agents are, expensive adds to winning. The alternative is the owner pocketing the money.
    • Twins33 and sploorp like this
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terrydactyls1947
Feb 04 2018 11:24 PM

Why no? That's what free agents are, expensive adds to winning. The alternative is the owner pocketing the money.


Two extra wins probably doesn't put the Twins in the playoffs so why spend money for nothing? It makes no sense to me.
    • caninatl04 likes this

Its not 2 extra wins though, a replacement player is worth 0, and some of the crappy guys the twins have rolled out there are in the negatives, so its more like 4 extra wins.Yeah, look at the standings last year and see how many teams would have made the playoffs if they had 4 extra wins.But yeah its expensive, but its better than rolling Hughes out there.Get Darvish and everone else rolls down the rotation and Hughes or whoever is at the bottom is bumped out. 

I would be interested to see what the inning estimates were used for these WAR projections. That can be tricky to guess, especially the Depth Chart estimates which explicitly attempt to balance playing time for each roster.

 

Am I understanding this coorectly that bringing in Darvish would get the Twins about two extra wins over Gibson? And pay him $150M to do that. If that is correct, then so no to Darvish.

That's not really what this means. A team would not be paying Darvish $150 mil or whatever "just" for 4 WAR in 2018 (although 4 WAR is nothing to sneeze at, the 20th best SP in baseball).They would be paying that for an X% chance at 4 WAR in 2018, a Y% chance at 6 WAR, a Z% chance at 2 WAR, etc.The 4 WAR is just the median if you distill all of those probabilities down to one number.

 

Maybe another way to look at it, roughly, with Darvish at 4 and Gibson at 2 is that Darvish is twice as likely to be a "plus" pitcher in 2018, and Gibson is twice as likely to be replacement level.

 

Two extra wins probably doesn't put the Twins in the playoffs so why spend money for nothing? It makes no sense to me.

First of all, Gibson was 0.2 WAR in 2017.If he performs up to this projection, he adds 2 wins over our 2017 record, just by himself.

 

Add Darvish and his 4 WAR on top of that (replacing Santiago/Colon?), and that's another 4 wins. 6 total.

 

Why are you assuming we'd lose Gibson if we added Darvish?Hughes and Mejia are still listed in our top 5 SP at the MLB.com depth chart.And even if they did, for some unknown reason, cut Gibson for Darvish, the correct comparison would be Gibson's 2017 vs Darvish's 2018, which would still net 4 wins for the Twins. (It could only be a net 2 if you assume that Gibson will hit his 2 WAR projection and you still cut him, which doesn't make any sense.)

    • sploorp and Vanimal46 like this
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FormerMinnasotan
Feb 05 2018 11:31 AM
If we can’t sign Darvish, Arrieta, Cobb, or Lynn I don’t want the Twins to go out and sign either Tillman, Garcia, or Wade Miley. If they cannot sign any of the top 4 free agent pitchers I’d rather roll out Mejia, Hughes, Slegers, Jorge, (eventually) May, and Gonsalves to compete for the #4 and 5 spots in the rotation. Only problem with that is the only 2 spots on the rotation that will be solidified for the year as Berrios and Santana are the only 2 locks. Gibson could be, but he could also fail like most of last year, but if you sign a low rung free agent like Tillman or Garcia they may pitch so poorly they won’t last past May anyways. So if that’s the case I’d rather roll with our own pitchers we already have rather than dump pitchers we picked up in free agency.
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Deduno Abides
Feb 05 2018 12:11 PM
2019 rotation: Berrios Pineda, Gonsalves, Romero + Santana/Gibson/May/Mejia/someone else looks stronger than what we’ve seen for a long time.

2018: John Lackey on a one-year deal could be a good purchase. If the team is doing well at the trade deadline, some chips could be pushed onto the table in exchange for an upgrade.

 

2019 rotation: Berrios Pineda, Gonsalves, Romero + Santana/Gibson/May/Mejia/someone else looks stronger than what we’ve seen for a long time.

2018: John Lackey on a one-year deal could be a good purchase. If the team is doing well at the trade deadline, some chips could be pushed onto the table in exchange for an upgrade.

 

I hadn't really thought about Lackey but he projects reasonably well if you're just trying to fill a 5th starter slot with something above replacement level.

 

2017 WAR: 0.5 (Fangraphs), 1.2 (BR), 0.7 (BP)

2018 proj fWAR : 1.4 (Steamer), 1.6 (ZiPS)

 

Not bad if you're out on the "Big Four" and just trying to upgrade on Hughes/Slegers on a one-year deal. Certainly better than Tillman.

    • caninatl04 likes this
I am not a modern day stat guy, though I DO somewhat understand them and their value. But WAR to me is always quite debatable. I am looking for my best chance to win on a daily basis. There is no way I can see any of the top FA pitchers providing only 2 more wins for someone like Hughes struggling in the rotation.

Obviously, a very poor season or sudden resurgence from Hughes can change this. But said scenario would be almost impossible to predict.

Still comes down to Darvish making a difference. And if not him, do any of the others stand out enough for a 3-4year deal vs a fuller and wait for May and the kids.
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twinssporto
Feb 05 2018 06:51 PM

 

Why no? That's what free agents are, expensive adds to winning. The alternative is the owner pocketing the money.

Maybe a better way to say this would be:  Where else could we make a better return on our investment?

Maybe a better way to say this would be: Where else could we make a better return on our investment?


Assuming winning matters at all. If it doesn't, then of course they should pocket the money.
    • twinssporto likes this

 

Assuming winning matters at all. If it doesn't, then of course they should pocket the money.

This is slightly off topic to this post, but Mike's post reminded me of the "winning matters" concept that has always puzzled me. Just how much does winning matter? Or more specifically, how much extra money will a team earn if it makes it to the playoffs, or all the way to winning the World Series? Is there a "ballpark" figure for winning a title? Of course there is the prestige and historic value of winning a pennant, but how much extra revenue does making the playoffs mean for the club? And how much extra money do the individual players themselves get?

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ashburyjohn
Feb 06 2018 08:46 AM

This is slightly off topic to this post, but Mike's post reminded me of the "winning matters" concept that has always puzzled me. Just how much does winning matter? Or more specifically, how much extra money will a team earn if it makes it to the playoffs, or all the way to winning the World Series? Is there a "ballpark" figure for winning a title? Of course there is the prestige and historic value of winning a pennant, but how much extra revenue does making the playoffs mean for the club? And how much extra money do the individual players themselves get?

This source says the Astros players' share of post-season money is $30.4M (divided up as they see fit, of course). It goes on to state that they derive from 60% of this and 60% of that, so I infer that the team gets something like a 40% share of the total, or about 2/3 of the players' share - i.e. about $20M. The article is full of good nuggets.

 

I'm embarrassed to say that my other source, once again, is the Out Of The Park baseball game, and it seems to concur, giving the WS winner about $20M. Losing the one-game Wild Card seems to net a team about $1M, so it lines up at the low end too. OOTP is a bit eccentric about how closely it follows any given MLB rule; using it as a research source is perhaps a bit like using an Ernest Hemingway novel for a question about proper fishing technique - the basics might be close but there could be artistic license. :)

    • Oldgoat_MN likes this
Not to mention the long term profitability that being viewed as a champion gives a team.
There is a reason why the Yankees bring in vastly more revenue than the Mets. They have a championship pedigree. Everywhere in the world you see Yankees garb, you won't find many people outside of Queens wearing Mets gear.
I'd say a championship (or even just playoffs) are also big for marketing and visibility, giving a team more leverage in local media contracts too.
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Kelly Vance
Feb 06 2018 10:46 AM

 

Two extra wins probably doesn't put the Twins in the playoffs so why spend money for nothing? It makes no sense to me.

Look, the two wins is just a projection, meaning a guess. I suspect Yu brings us closer to 7 -8 wins above last year. Think of comparing his W-L to our current squad..and potential 4-5 starters. That is what we'd be gaining, a #1 slotting in ahead of Erv and way better than our 4-5 starters


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