Crystal Balls and the 2013 Jays Rotation

Good luck guessing what Morrow can do in 2014. - Eric P. Mull-US PRESSWIRE

Coming into 2013 the Blue Jays looked like they had a solid rotation. Then baseball started being played.

It would be an understatement to say that the 2013 season has not been what Blue Jays fans had expected going in. Furthermore, and perhaps most interestingly, it has not been what expert prognosticators thought it would be either. There are a myriad of reasons why the Blue Jays have not lived up to expectations, most of them relating to pitching. From Josh Johnson's mysterious inability to pitch to Brandon Morrow's injury struggles to R.A Dickey's difficulty avoiding the long ball it has been a tough season for Blue Jays starters. The Opening Day rotation of Dickey-Morrow-Buehrle-Johnson-Happ looked like a very promising one but this group has spearheaded a rotation that ranks 29th in the league in ERA, 28th in FIP, 25th in K/BB and 29th in HR/9. What was expected to be a solid group at the very least has been a complete and utter mess.

As far as failing to live up to their billing it's pretty obvious as to who the culprits are, (Spoiler Alert: It's everyone except Buehrle), but I thought I would look into who defied expectation the most in this rotation. Under normal circumstances I would have to say "in a bad way" but there really aren't any big positive surprises here. I decided to dig up projections for the 2013 rotation to see which Blue Jays have been farthest from their expected performance. To see who had fallen the short of expectations by the greatest margin I ranked the five pitchers by their 2013 FIP compared to a projected FIP averaged from the 5 projection systems that Fangraphs uses on each of the pitchers' player pages (RotoChamp, Steamer, Oliver, Bill James and ZIP). Along the way we'll also see which projection systems did the best job of predicting this nightmare. Going from least disappointing to most disappointing we start with Mark Buehrle:

Mark Buehrle (FIP 0.18 below average projection)

Projection System

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

ERA

FIP

Bill James

4.65

1.80

1.01

3.78

4.10

Oliver

4.87

1.83

0.91

3.57

3.92

RotoChamp

5.18

1.89

1.05

3.82

4.07

Steamer

5.01

2.21

1.12

4.83

4.40

ZIPS

4.87

1.82

1.23

4.39

4.43

Average of 5 projection systems:

4.91

1.91

1.06

4.08

4.18

Actual 2013 Stats:

6.18

2.26

1.01

3.92

4.00

None of these projection systems predicted Buehrle's uptick in strikeouts, which probably explains why they were on the conservative side in general. That being said, when you average together their projections for Buehrle they were pretty accurate in the scheme of things. Projection hat tip goes to RotoChamp, while Steamer gets a stern shake of the head for the unsubstantiated pessimism.

J.A. Happ (FIP 0.25 above average projection)

Projection System

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

ERA

FIP

Bill James

8.05

4.02

1.12

4.30

4.25

Oliver

8.26

4.10

0.77

3.92

3.74

RotoChamp

8.36

3.92

1.16

4.24

4.19

Steamer

7.89

3.92

1.14

4.36

4.36

ZIPS

7.51

3.99

1.38

5.16

4.84

Average of 5 projection systems:

8.17

3.99

1.11

4.39

4.27

Actual 2013 Stats:

7.25

4.69

0.99

5.54

4.52

Happ's season has been a relatively small sample given his injury troubles but he has produced approximately what one would expect in terms of fielding independent pitching. He does have a bloated ERA though, and rising walks with shrinking strikeouts is not a good look. Happ may be signed through 2014 but I don't think he's a sure thing to make the rotation if a couple of the Stroman/Nolin/Drabek/Hutchison quartet can step up. ZIPS did the best job here of capturing Happ's inability to maintain his strikeout rate from 2012 and predicting an ugly ERA and in doing so earns the projection hat tip. Oliver was far too optimistic, especially where home runs allowed were concerned.

R.A. Dickey (FIP 0.89 above average projection)

Projection System

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

ERA

FIP

Bill James

6.05

2.23

0.84

3.58

3.76

Oliver

6.81

2.19

0.80

3.19

3.53

RotoChamp

7.79

2.21

0.86

2.75

3.39

Steamer

6.80

2.51

0.92

4.15

3.86

ZIPS

6.86

2.18

1.16

3.89

4.09

Average of 5 projection systems:

6.86

2.26

0 .92

3.51

3.73

Actual 2013 Stats:

7.03

3.02

1.37

4.30

4.62

R.A. Dickey is very difficult pitcher to project, but it's fair to say no one say this year's struggles coming. His gopheritis seems heavily related to the Rogers Centre, a place where it was predicted he might pitch especially well. ZIPS was closer to Dickey's FIP but Steamer was closer to his ERA and is the only system to pick up a possible rise in walks giving them the hat tip. RotoChamp's projections fare the worst due to a level of optimism that sadly seems laughable now and was a best case scenario at the time.

Josh Johnson (FIP 1.29 above average projection)

Projection System

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

ERA

FIP

Bill James

7.62

2.85

0.51

3.21

3.08

Oliver

7.94

2.67

0.48

3.03

2.94

RotoChamp

8.02

2.93

0.57

3.34

3.11

Steamer

7.50

3.03

0.91

4.18

3.84

ZIPS

7.48

2.72

0.85

3.68

3.63

Average of 5 projection systems:

7.71

2.84

0.66

3.49

3.32

Actual 2013 Stats:

9.18

3.32

1.66

6.20

4.61

Of course if I had decided to measure by ERA rather than FIP Johnson would be by far the most disappointing pitcher due to his larger than life 6.20 mark. No system projected home runs to be a problem for the big right hander and even though they underestimated his strikeout total by a fair margin they were all far too optimistic.

Brandon Morrow (FIP 1.82 above average projection)

Projection System

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

ERA

FIP

Bill James

9.19

3.18

0.91

3.47

3.48

Oliver

9.42

3.39

0.68

3.44

3.17

RotoChamp

8.95

3.31

0.92

3.55

3.59

Steamer

8.55

3.35

1.02

3.99

3.92

ZIPS

9.18

3.45

0.99

3.97

3.78

Average of 5 projection systems:

9.06

3.34

0.90

3.68

3.59

Actual 2013 Stats:

6.96

2.98

1.99

5.63

5.41

It's easy to forget the extent of Morrow's struggles when he did pitch in 2013. Whether you want to chalk his poor pitching up to injury or not, the numbers are concerning. Even if Morrow can get healthy his velocity and strikeout ability seem to be on the downturn and he is unlikely to be the top of the rotation presence he once appeared on track to be going forward. Morrow turns 30 next year so patiently waiting for more just won't do. Steamer was the only system that predicted any serious decline for Morrow while Oliver was far too optimistic, especially in terms of predicting his strikeout rate.

Trying to predict the future is a very difficult business, possibly the most difficult business around. This season Blue Jays pitchers, when healthy, have defied projection. Some of the samples here may be small but alternatively it's not as if Morrow, Johnson or Happ seemed likely to reach the lofty heights projected for them even if they hadn't missed a game.

The purpose of this post is not to criticize projection systems as they have proven to be very useful in the past. If anything looking at the way the 2013 season has played out for the Blue Jays rotation shows how this season is the perfect demonstration of Murphy's Law. The projections listed above represent reasonable expectations for this quintet made by well informed and objective sources. If those projections had been accurate, or even close to accurate, this might have been quite the season for the Blue Jays. In fact, there was a pretty good reason to believe that it would be, if one remembers correctly. 2013 seems like a doomed experiment now but there were logical and well founded reasons to believe that it would work. Many, many smart people inside and outside the Blue Jays organization believed that it would. Unfortunately, it hasn't played out that way. That's just how it goes sometimes. It feels unjust when it happens to your favorite team, one that hasn't tasted the postseason in decades, but the baseball gods work in mysterious ways. If you could run the entire season through a computer simulation and know the result with absolute certainty baseball would cease to be interesting. Unfortunately, the unpredictability that makes this sport compelling bit the Blue Jays pretty hard in the rear end this year. At some point in the future the Blue Jays will have a season where they end up a far better team than they had any reason to expect they would be. Here's hoping that season in 2014. The Blue Jays probably need it to be.

Latest News

In This Article

Teams
Players
X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Bluebird Banter

You must be a member of Bluebird Banter to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Bluebird Banter. You should read them.

Join Bluebird Banter

You must be a member of Bluebird Banter to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Bluebird Banter. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker