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No Such Thing as Too Much Pitching, Right?

The Twins were already in pursuit of pitching this offseason, but the news that Ervin Santana will miss 10-12 weeks really emphasizes the team’s need to add to its staff. The number of pitchers in the rotation at any given time is obviously five, but how many starting pitchers can a team expect to rely on over the course of a season?
Image courtesy of Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Last season, the Twins used an insane number of starting pitchers. Injuries in addition to some performance issues and odd roster shuffling (the Jaime Garcia game) all made for the perfect storm, and the 2017 Twins started 16 different pitchers. Ugh.

That’s an abnormally high number, but over the past five seasons the Twins have averaged 11.8 different starting pitchers, 9.8 of whom made at least three starts.

Some teams are a little more fortunate. Cleveland, for example, has only averaged 8.8 different starting pitchers per season over the past five years, 7.8 of whom made at least three starts. Not everyone’s so lucky. There were 315 pitchers who started at least one game in 2017, an average of 10.5 per team.

Why so many? Well, the workhorse has become a dying breed. There were only 46 pitchers in all of baseball who made at least 30 starts. If you go back just to even 2012 and look at some of these same numbers, the differences are dramatic. There were 286 pitchers to start a game that year, 9.5 per team, and 65 hurlers made 30 or more starts.

Shifting gears to the Twins, let’s take a look at who’s currently in the org, keeping in mind that the team will more than likely need to depend on 10 or 11 of these guys. This isn’t a power ranking of starting pitching options per se, I’ve broken them up into categories instead.

Locks
Ervin Santana
Jose Berrios
Kyle Gibson
Adalberto Mejia

No, Ervin won’t be ready for Opening Day, but the good news is that it sounds like he’ll be back with the Twins sometime in May. So I’m still going to include him as a lock.

Extra Depth
Aaron Slegers
Dietrich Enns
Felix Jorge
Myles Jaye

Slegers is really close to being a lock to make at least a few starts. His status will have a great deal to do with who/how many free agent starters are signed. All four of these guys made their major league debuts last season, Jaye as a member of the Tigers. The Twins signed him to a minor league deal in late November.

New Role/In Recovery
Tyler Duffey
Trevor May
Phil Hughes
Michael Pineda

Duffey is going to get the chance to stretch out in spring training, but if the injury bug hits the bullpen it would be no surprise to see him shifted back there. You could say the same thing about May, Hughes and Pineda, who are all in various stages of recovering from injuries. The plan for now is to prepare May to come back as a starter, but he of all people should know that plans can change.

Rookies
Stephen Gonsalves
Fernando Romero
Zack Littell

Gonsalves has made a handful of starts at Triple-A, and is a good bet to debut sometime in the second half. But Romero (23 starts in Double-A) and Littell (14 starts in Double-A) are less experienced in the high minors.

OK, so that gives us 15 pitchers currently inside the Twins organization who could realistically start at some point in 2018. That sounds like a lot, right? Sure, but there are a whole lot of question marks surrounding several of those players.

Some of these names are not guys you’d trust right now to be successful at the major league level. It’d be fun to watch a couple of those rookies come up, but those guys could be in for rough adjustment due to the (idiotic) differences in the major and minor league baseballs. Remember how bad Berrios was in 2016?

There’s also the fact that there will certainly be more injuries, and probably ones that keep guys out more than 10-12 weeks. What are the odds that one of these guys suffers a torn UCL or major shoulder injury?

Knowing what we know today, how many more starting pitchers should the Twins add?

I'd say at least two who can be counted on to be in the rotation and one more on a minor league deal. How does Yu Darvish, Jaime Garcia and Drew Hutchison sound?

Is that too much to ask? How about Alex Cobb, Jason Vargas and A.J. Griffin?

Fine, I'll settle for Andrew Cashner, Ubaldo Jimenez and Jesse Chavez. OK, you're right, that's taking it a little too far. What do you think? Who would you like to see the Twins target? Would you rather see them be aggressive or leave room for some of the young guns to emerge?

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60 Comments

 

I still would try to do it on the cheaper side - sign Cobb, and give Tillman a 1-year prove it contract - like 1-6 or 1-7, with perhaps a club option for like 10 the following year. Then I would look to trade for Archer or as has been suggested on here Teheran.

 

This would give the team a rotation as follows:

 

Archer/Teheran

Santana

Berrios

Cobb

Gibson

 

with proven backup options ready to fill gaps/injuries:

​Tillman

Mejia

 

along with injury recovery options:

 

Pineda

May

Hughes

Duffey

 

and finally the rookie crop:

 

Slagers

Enns

Gonsalves

Romero

Jorge 

et al

 

I'm assuming a trade for Teheran or Archer would cost at least Gordon and perhaps one of those rookie SPs. Considering how our rotation would shake out for the next few years (with contracts expiring) - I'd do it in a heartbeat. 

NO!!! Please aim high.

 

Thanks for clarifying. It seems you're a bit confused by some of these analytics. I will try and simplify the last 15 years of SABR thought into a few sentences. If you already know this I apologize and you can ignore me.:)

 

As you said FIP only uses a few variables; K's, BB's and HR's primarily, which makes it an easy analytic to use. As such it can be used to estimate how a pitcher performed without taking into account things like the defense behind him, the ballpark he plays in, etc.. that the pitcher has no control over. So for 2017 Darvish struckout 209 batters and walked 58 (which FIP LOVES) but also gave up 27 HR's (Which FIP hates). That makes for an above average FIP and this is how it was originally meant to be used.

 

However, FIP can also be used as a projection system in two separate ways. First, the 2016 FIP correlates more highly to a players 2017 ERA than a players 2016 ERA to their 2017 ERA. So often a players 2017 FIP is used as a short hand for how a pitcher's ERA might perform the next season. Second, given a projected number of K's, BB's and HR's it can predict a 2018 FIP for players. This is where Steamer comes in. Steamer (and others like ZIPS) uses past trends in year to year fluctuations in a stat, say strikeouts, to predict what a players future number of strikeouts will be.

 

I understand what you're saying, but I don't see numbers that support it yet.Averaged over the only years that I was able to use them, both ERA and FIP averaged being off by roughly .5. I realize that's not a sample, but I'd love to see some actual comparisons overall. How close is projecting ERA and how close is FIP?The people that use FIP say that it's better, but there should be a basis somewhere to establish it.It wouldn't be hard to do if someone merged a couple of databases, and if it averages .5 off, it's not that much of a help, in fact it's kind of a hindrance because people don't bother to look at individual stats to see what's actually going on.

 

Please don't take this in any way to demean your valuations of players. It's that I see a lot of people that say one pitcher is crappy, and another is great based solely on WAR, when they really don't know if it's valid for an individual player. WAR definitions generally even use a disclaimer that says players within 1 (or something around there) of each other are about the same.

 

Thanks for the assistance.  

 

 

I understand what you're saying, but I don't see numbers that support it yet.Averaged over the only years that I was able to use them, both ERA and FIP averaged being off by roughly .5. I realize that's not a sample, but I'd love to see some actual comparisons overall. How close is projecting ERA and how close is FIP?The people that use FIP say that it's better, but there should be a basis somewhere to establish it.It wouldn't be hard to do if someone merged a couple of databases, and if it averages .5 off, it's not that much of a help, in fact it's kind of a hindrance because people don't bother to look at individual stats to see what's actually going on.

 

Please don't take this in any way to demean your valuations of players. It's that I see a lot of people that say one pitcher is crappy, and another is great based solely on WAR, when they really don't know if it's valid for an individual player. WAR definitions generally even use a disclaimer that says players within 1 (or something around there) of each other are about the same.

 

Thanks for the assistance.

 

There have been many year to year correlation studies done. Let me be upfront, none of our current analytics do a very good job of predicting future performance. That said they are still the best we currently have. Here is a matrix showing correlations from a few years ago. The best predictors of future ERA are FIP, xFIP, SIERA, tERA. They are more accurate predictors of 2018 ERA's than a players 2017 ERA. 

 

On a related note, has anyone seen the Steamer/ZIP correlation numbers?

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ashburyjohn
Feb 08 2018 07:36 AM

The more complex a stat, generally the less useful if becomes.

To whom? If you mean us arm-chair GMs trying to pretend to keep up with the pros, perhaps. Not to the ones who designed the stat, though.

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To whom? If you mean us arm-chair GMs trying to pretend to keep up with the pros, perhaps. Not to the ones who designed the stat, though.

Ha ha.Yeah, mainly us. I'm sure the designers like them. If I was them I'd like them too.

 

There have been many year to year correlation studies done. Let me be upfront, none of our current analytics do a very good job of predicting future performance. That said they are still the best we currently have. Here is a matrix showing correlations from a few years ago. The best predictors of future ERA are FIP, xFIP, SIERA, tERA. They are more accurate predictors of 2018 ERA's than a players 2017 ERA. 

 

On a related note, has anyone seen the Steamer/ZIP correlation numbers?

 

Thanks for the link!  

Photo
ashburyjohn
Feb 08 2018 11:35 AM

Is there a glossary for this chart? I can't remember all of the abbreviations.

 

Is there a glossary for this chart? I can't remember all of the abbreviations.

 

Here is a link to Fangraphs' pitching glossary page. You should be able to find most of them there including links for more indepth explanations if needed.

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ashburyjohn
Feb 08 2018 05:38 PM

Here is a link to Fangraphs' pitching glossary page. You should be able to find most of them there including links for more indepth explanations if needed.

Fangraphs... Glossary... that was too tough a Google search for me to come up with today. Thanks for humoring me. :)

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Lee-The-Twins-Fan
Feb 09 2018 10:08 AM

 

Is there no longer any thought being given to trading for Chris Archer? Seems the ideal time to plug him in for Santana and then have an even stronger rota when Ervin comes back. The cost will be high, but do any of the Twins pitching prospects project to be better than Archer when they eventually get to the majors? 

I just don't think TB wants to trade away Archer, unless they get blown away with an offer. And the Twins shouldn't do that.

 

    • Oxtung likes this

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