Do the Angels need another starter? …

tylerOK look, before you freak out by the headline, just keep in mind the Angels probably will get another starting pitcher. If they can’t get Masahiro Tanaka, or they can’t fit Matt Garza into the budget, they’ll likely turn to the likes of Bronson Arroyo, Chris CapuanoPaul Maholm, etc. And chances are they’ll land someone.

But that’s not the point of this exercise.

The question, if given more character space, is something like: Is the Angels’ current five-man rotation already good enough, even without a shiny new free agent?

Impossible to determine, you say. And you’re pretty much right. But thanks to the assortment of reliable projections that exist in this sabermetric age, we can at least come up with some semblance of where they stand among their American League counterparts. For that, I turned to Oliver, which is available subscrition-free via FanGraphs.com (and tends to be a lot more favorable than Steamer). I projected the five-man rotations for each team, and added up the cumulative ERA, FIP, WAR and innings total. For the Angels, I have Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs (pictured).

Before we take a look at where the Angels (project to) stand, some notes …

  • A lot of teams — most, actually — have a fifth spot open. In deciding who to pick as the fifth starer, I chose the guy projected to have the highest WAR.
  • The best teams have quality depth beyond the five starters, and the Angels still lack in that department. That isn’t really reflected in this.
  • Things can change drastically for any team that signs Tanaka, or Garza, or Ubaldo Jimenez, or Ervin Santana.
  • Derek Holland isn’t listed with the Rangers because the projections came out before it was learned that he’d be out until midseason due to knee surgery.
  • THEY’RE PROJECTIONS; NOT FACTS. (Obvious, but worth reminding.)

OK, now, here’s a look at each team individually, in alphabetical order. The first cumulative number is ERA, the second is FIP, the third is WAR and the fourth is IP …

Angels (Weaver/Wilson/Richards/Santiago/Skaggs): 18.27|19.62|9.0|826
Astros (Feldman/Cosart/Oberholtzer/Peacock/McHugh): 21.78|22.3|5.0|736
Athletics (Parker/Kazmir/Gray/Griffin/Straily): 18.27|19.91|9.0|782
Blue Jays (Dickey/Marrow/Buehrle/Happ/Hutchison): 20.85|21.44|8.1|757
Indians (Masterson/Kluber/McAllister/Salazar/Carrasco): 19.41|18.99|9.1|755
Mariners (Hernandez/Iwakuma/Walker/Ramirez/Paxton): 18.05|19.06|11.4|802
Orioles (Gonzalez/Tillman/Chin/Norris/Bundy): 20.03|21.62|7.9|764
Rangers (Darvish/Harrison/Ogando/Perez/Tepesch): 19.3|20.41|10.5|727
Rays (Price/Cobb/Moore/Hellickson/Archer): 17.85|19.12|11.0|848
Red Sox (Lester/Buchholz/Lackey/Peavy/Dempster): 19.38|20.16|12.7|860
Royals (Shields/Vargas/Guthrie/Duffy/Davis): 20.97|21.36|8.6|827
Tigers (Verlander/Scherzer/Sanchez/Porcello/Smyly): 17.01|16.5|19.2|904
Twins (Nolasco/Correia/Hughes/Pelfrey/Worley): 21.23|20.99|7.8|783
White Sox (Sale/Quintana/Danks/Johnson/Rienzo): 19.37|21|8.8|743
Yankees (Sabathia/Kuroda/Nova/Phelps/Pineda): 19.6|20.5|9.9|783

Now, the fun stuff (as if you weren’t having fun already). Here’s where the quintets rank. We’ll start with cumulative ERA (obviously, the lower the number, the better) …

DET
TBR
SEA
LAA/OAK
TEX
CHW
BOS
CLE
NYY
BAL
TOR
KCR
MIN
HOU

Now, FIP (like ERA, the lower the better) …

DET
CLE
SEA
TBR
LAA
OAK
BOS
TEX
NYY
MIN
CHW
KCR
TOR
BAL
HOU

Now, WAR …

DET
BOS
SEA
TBR
TEX
NYY
CLE
LAA/OAK
CHW
KCR
TOR
BAL
MIN
HOU

Lastly, IP …

DET
BOS
TBR
KCR
LAA
SEA
NYY/MIN
OAK
BAL
TOR
CLE
CHW
HOU
TEX

To summarize, the Angels’ current group projects to rank tied for fourth in ERA, fifth in FIP and innings, and tied for eighth in WAR. For comparison’s sake … in 2013, the starters ranked 11th in ERA, sixth in FIP, 11th in WAR and ninth in innings. So, they’re already much better, right? Well, no. Or, perhaps. Who really knows. But Jerry Dipoto has said several times since the Winter Meetings that he’d be perfectly fine with going into Spring Training with this current group, and that may not be just a negotiating ploy.

Some other takeaways from these numbers …

  • Despite losing Doug Fister, the Tigers will probably still be very, very good.
  • Despite adding Scott Feldman, the Astros will probably be really, really bad.
  • If you’re a big believer in FIP, then the Indians are a lot better than given credit for, even without Ubaldo.
  • The Rangers have a lot of talent, but also a lot of health uncertainties, as reflected in their projected innings total.
  • If the Mariners get Tanaka, they can be pretty scary.

Alden

13 Comments

Bundy will absolutely not be the Orioles 5th starter. He got tommy john and only began throwing in December

I think you make a lot of good points. But Skaggs and Santiago are questions marks and IF the Angels got into the Postseason they would need a fourth starter with some experience and right now only Weaver and Wilson have experience. But you like you said they could hold their own if the young guys take a step in the right direction, maybe they won’t get there in 2014 but maybe 2015.

I think Scott Baker might be a steal. Had good numbers in Minnesota, is a full season remove from Tommy John, and pitched some at the end of last year. He’ll be healthy, likely perform similar to Garza, and cheap.

I like this idea a lot. Realistically, the Angels should be signing every “project” arm possible hoping for a cheap rebound netting great value. One more “legit” arm would be ideal though. But sign all the “Minor League contract with Spring Training Invite” people as possible too.

Great article Alden, and it confirms my suspicions. Nice stat grinding. If we can get Tanaka fine, that’s the way to go. If we can’t get him, just go with the pat hand. Especially, considering that the Angel’s are a very special case in that they must lock Trout very soon, or lose any chance for a long term lock.
I agree with your premise that Skaggs is probably the number 5 guy, especially if he can work out his delivery problems, (this is a great chance for Butcher to get back in the fan’s good graces if he can pick up the Skaggs potential, and get him out of his funk), but that not being the case, and staying with your stats and theory, I certainly hope they will give the underrated Shoemaker, (trying to cope with the shoebox at SL, ) and the revamped All American from the University Of South Carolina, 23 year old Michael Roth, a really long, hard, look this Spring.
Really enjoyed your article and your surprising numbers, nice job.

Just another name that I would like to add to your Stand Pat theory, Alden.
That name is 33 year old Jarrett Grube.
Jarrett, last winter, underwent a Spartan like reconditioning program, and it really showed up in his ’13 work. He added an amazing 7mph to his fastball, which now clocks in at the 93-95 range, and added a much sharper break to his excellent slider.

The results of the hard work showed. He was just excellent with the Travs and when JD gave him a promotion, he did not disappoint. Pitching in the notorious shoebox, at SL, he posted the best ERA, of all the regular starters, (4.47) and went 7-5.) An amazing feat for the pitcher’s he**hole that the Salt Lake shoebox is.

He continued this great work in the Dominican winter leagues this winter.
Going 2-2 with a lights out, 0.98 ERA, a K/BB of 22/6 and a GO/AO of 0.93

Your premise and your numbers do not lie. Signing Tanaka would be great. Anything else, (especially with our luck, our mantra, and our history), is sheer folly. Instead of beating the dead horse, just get another one from one of your own stalls.
Let the Magnificent Seven, shoot it out among themselves this Spring. Santiago, Sappington, Skaggs, Grube, Roth, Shoemaker, and Blanton.

The two gunfighters who remain standing, have the number four and the number five jobs.

They deserve that much. And it comes out better, anyway.

Oops, Gotta add one more name to that list. This is sometimes a crazy game, a long, long, season and the unexpected usually happens. Add Mr. Mark Mulder, to that list of names.

I like the way you and the others here are thinking. While Tanaka would more than likely satisfy the need for a legitimate #3 (or better) SP, it’s very doubtful we’ll find anyone else proven capable for any kind of value — and that does matter, at least until we KNOW Trout’s been locked up. I also like the idea of grabbing up a bunch of reclamation projects and see which ones stick. One other item to note: if we overpay for anyone, let it please be a pitcher with ground ball tendencies. We already have too many flyballers and are in need of balance in the rotation. That will serve us better in away parks, especially in the playoffs. Here’s hoping…

Good point about all the flyball pitchers.

One major problem with this way of thinking is that you assume you will get full seasons and value out of your pitchers. What happens when there is the inevitable injury or two? Then you have Joe Blanton jumping into the rotation and giving up home runs and leads like they are on sale.

For this reason I believe the Angels need 1 more high-quality pitcher (Tanaka or Garza preferably). Tanaka will be pitching his age 25+ seasons for whatever team signs him, which is unheard of for an great pitcher. There are questions, sure, but this is the one time spending free agent money on a big contract makes sense (sorry Pujols and Hamilton).

Then, after that, the Angels need to stockpile some depth. Sign more reclamation guys and hope they work out when needed. Remember, Mulder may not even pitch in the minors if he doesn’t make the major league roster, so he may not be a reliable option for that reason as well as that he hasn’t pitched in years.

All these numbers are projections, and that’s not how baseball works. Find me one sportswriter, outside of New England, that projected the Red Sox to win the WS last year. Better yet, look up the number of articles written about the “logjam” of starting pitching the Dodgers were burdened with, and the necessity of trading a couple of them to appease the problem. The reality is, the Angels draw huge numbers of fans and sign the biggest of stars. And they are currently headed into the season with unproven starters, an “ace” with velocity questions, and a backup plan of a comeback story (Mulder) and a batting practice pitcher ( Blanton). While I like the new commitment to overstocking bullpen arms they’ve recently shown I believe they need to complete the offseason with another solid arm. Tanaka or Garza would be great, but expensive and would probably require a multi-year commitment. A short term option like Baker or Maholm, or maybe a 2 year Arroyo might serve them better. I can’t help but think that DiPoto got his pocket picked in the Bourjos deal and probably should have better considered the Cardinals needs and pushed to get Lance Lynn. He probably could have gotten Freese for Grichuk and Lynn for Bourjos.

Every single team uses some kind of projection system. Bill James, the sabermetrics genius who just so happens to be a consultant with the Red Sox, has his own projection system in fact. You may not think baseball “works” that way, but you would be incorrect.

Nowhere in this blog did Alden say the Angels SHOULDN’T go get another starting pitcher. Obviously they should, and likely will.

Isn’t it fun to speculate ?!

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