Projecting Felix In 2006

Dave · August 24, 2005 at 11:15 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

I’ve done a significant number of posts breaking down Felix Hernandez’s statistical performance through his first four starts. What I haven’t done, however, is project what I expect from King Felix going forward. Until now. I’ve been working on a pitcher-projection-system behind the scenes, and I’m finally to the point where I trust the data enough to publish it.

Now, keep in mind, pitchers are weird beasts. No projection system in the world would have forecasted Jamie Moyer’s late career development. Statistical projections are a tool that can be useful, but when combined with pitchers, we need to know that they are still a blunt tool, and especially with a kid who won’t turn 20 until next April, absolutely anything is within the realm of possibility. However, we can use past performance to give us a reasonable window of what to expect. That’s what I believe this projection for Felix provides; an array of reasonable performances for the King in 2006, any of which could occur.

As for the nuts and bolts of the system, I’m going to lean towards brevity. It’s nothing radically different than what others have done before me, I’m sure. Ron Shandler’s projections are based on most of the same assumptions, and I’m actually expecting his postseason projection for Felix to be similar to this one. So why create my own? Well, two basic reasons: I’m impatient and don’t like waiting for someone else to tell me what I want to know, and I don’t have to pay myself for this information. I’m not claiming this system is better than what Shandler or Prospectus or whoever else puts out there. I’m simply claiming as far as accuracy, it’s pretty darn close, and the fact that its available now for no cost makes it a winner in my book.

So, anyways, here’s the basic gist of the system. In any given plate appearance, there are five potential scenarios, one of which will occur each time: a walk/hit by pitch, a strikeout, a ground ball, a fly ball, and a line drive. Of these five outcomes, we know that a pitcher has significant control over the first four, and though the research is still new, it appears that pitchers can exert some control over the amount of line drives they allow as well, though it is less than their control over the other four scenarios. As most people who have read the blog for quite a while know, we believe the current evidence shows that, with some exceptions, most pitchers do not have a repeatable skill that allows them to control the outcome once a player makes contact with the ball. In other words, a pitcher can induce the opponent into hitting a groundball, but he can’t consistently compel the batter to hit a groundout.

So, what I decided to do was create a system that converts each batter faced into a percentage of likely outcomes, much like the last chart I used to break down Felix. We know Felix has significant control over his walk, strikeout, and groundball/flyball rates, so those are what we’re projecting, and the rest of the data populates itself when we put in the league average results based on hit types. Keep in mind, however, these numbers are context neutral, not dependant on the park he plays in or the teammates around him. Pitching in front of the M’s defense and in Safeco should only serve to make his raw numbers even more impressive.

Anyways, that’s a basic overview. For most people, what you really care about are the results, right? Well then, here you go.

Median Projection: The Middle Of the Road Safe Pick

213 innings pitched
128 singles allowed
38 doubles allowed
2 triples allowed
16 home runs allowed
54 walks
207 strikeouts
GB/FB rate: 2.20
Opponents BA: .244
Opponents OBP: .290
Opponents SLG: .324
Component ERA: 2.86
Fielding Independent ERA: 2.99

2005 Performance Comparison: A.J. Burnett

Optimists Projection: The Best We Should Plan For

244 innings pitched (and yes, I realize the team will never let him near that number)
143 singles allowed
42 doubles allowed
2 triples allowed
14 home runs allowed
40 walks
270 strikeouts
GB/FB rate: 3.00
Opponents BA: .237
Opponents OBP: .268
Opponents SLG: .303
Component ERA: 2.38
Fielding Independent ERA: 2.21 (!)

2005 Performance Comparison: No one was this good in 2005. Not even Clemens.

Pessimists Projection: What To Expect If He Struggles

178 innings pitched
116 singles allowed
35 doubles allowed
2 triples allowed
11 home runs allowed
80 walks
160 strikeouts
GB/FB Rate: 1.67
Opponents BA: .257
Opponents OBP: .331
Opponents SLG: .328
Component ERA: 3.39
Fielding Independent ERA: 3.56

2005 Performance Comparison: Carlos Zambrano

Based on Felix’s professional career to date, the pessimistic projection for him next year would make him something like the 5th or 6th best starting pitcher in the American League. The optimistic projection grades him out as better than what Clemens is doing in Houston this year (which, to me, is hard to believe), and would be one of the most remarkable pitching seasons we’ve seen in the history of the game.

I feel the best about the median projection, and that’s along the lines of what I’m expecting next year. And, realistically, if he puts up his median projection next year, he’s going to finish in the top 3 in Cy Young voting. People talk about the need to acquire a #1 starter in the offseason. I disagree. We have one.


105 Responses to “Projecting Felix In 2006”

  1. eponymous coward on August 26th, 2005 11:25 am

    (Without Snelling, I don’t see how our minor leagues help in the coming years, other than providing banjo-hitting MIs. Maybe we should just shut the doors and go to an all FA model?)

    I don’t think Jones, Lopez and Tui will be banjo hitters. What they will be is right-handed. Clement’s about it for LHB who might thump in the majors, and our lineup has Ibañez as the only LHB middle of the order hitter…and most people don’t consider .285/22/90 a solid middle of the order hitter.

  2. Pete Livengood on August 26th, 2005 12:18 pm

    It is a thin FA market for pitchers — when the best there is out there are guys like Matt Morris, AJ Burnett, Jeff Weaver, Kevin Millwood, and Jarrod Washburn, you really aren’t looking at potential #1’s (with the possible exception of Burnett) so much as #2-3’s or worse. One other guy I think should be mentioned is Jason Schmidt. The Giants have an option on him ($10.5M next year, with a buyout of $3.5M), but have been reported to be considering declining that, and/or open to a trade. Schmidt is from Vancouver, WA and nearly signed with the M’s last time around, and would probably be open to an extension if the M’s wanted to lock him up beyond 2006. Reportedly, the Giants wanted two MLB-ready starters and a pitching prospect for Schmidt at the deadline — pretty steep. I think they would come down from that, but if they would consider a trade of Meche or Piniero plus Franklin, and maybe somebody like Nageotte, I would favor that for Schmidt. It’s probably not enough, unless they are seriously thinking of declining his option….

  3. Rusty on August 26th, 2005 12:26 pm

    Schmidt is from Vancouver, WA and nearly signed with the M’s last time around

    Think about this “what if” scenario… the M’s almost signed Schmidt but instead lost out on him to the Giants. Then they turned around and used that money to trade for Jeff Cirillo. Do the math on the VORP, WARP, etc., and it’s easy to see why the M’s missed the playoffs in 2002 and 2003.

  4. bookbook on August 26th, 2005 1:54 pm

    What level prospects are Jones/Lopez/Tui? B? If all three work out, and Reed develops, and Clements comes faster than catchers tend to, we start to see the potential for a better than league average offense.

    Seems a long longshot scenario here in the dog days of the second season of our discontent.

  5. Trenchtown on August 26th, 2005 1:56 pm

    If this team signs Jarrod Washburn to any job other then peanut vendor, it will be the making of 100 loss seasons in 06 and 07