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

Greg Logan



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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.”


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 Steamers 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:





*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 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 2 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 3rd starter and or even anything more than a slight improvement over Adalberto Mejia as the 4th starter.


Of course, the Twins will eventually need a 5th 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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I would happily sign any of the free agent starters, but all of them are overpriced and don't demand the contracts they are reportedly seeing. Five years at most for two of them. 2-3 years for the other two. Price can be debated. But I don't want to see ANY of them taking up roster space, really, past 2021.


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