The main reason for the Pirates’ early season success in the 2011 season was because of their starting pitching, then their huge dropoff in the second half was due to how badly they pitched. In his 2012 handbook, Bill James goes through his projections for the Pirates’ rotation.
On paper, the rotation looks significantly worse than last year, but remember that it is just based on his projections. I think that a common ground will be found somewhere between the stats from last season and the projections that James came up with, but I’m not an expert (insert Andy Sutton joke here). He has 6 potential starters for the Pirates, and we will go in order from worst to best.
After a season where he pitched 171 and 2/3 innings with an ERA of 3.83 and a FIP of 3.77, Charlie Morton is supposed to be worse, and it’s not even close. He will suffer from “ace out of nowhere” disease, where he has a shitty season one year, great season the next, and a shitty season the year after that. James is predicting him to have an ERA of 4.50 through 176 innings. His strikeout totals will be the second highest on the team with 122 K’s, behind only James McDonald. His FIP, though, will be just over 4, at 4.01.
He pitched 171 innings last season and had an ERA/FIP of 4.21/4.68. However, James has McDonald rebounding with an ERA of 4.02 and an FIP of 4.01 through 170 innings Not that bad of an estimate for IP, after all it is 1 inning less than he pitched last year. He will have the highest K total on the team, with 157 K’s.
He will supposedly do better than his 2011 season where he pitched a horrendous 4.79 ERA in 154 innings before being placed on the DL with an “injury,” like Paul Maholm was. James projects him to throw 149 innings with a 4.29 ERA, but striking out 101 batters and allowing 18 dingers.
Karstens will continue to look like he’s a fucking zombie, but his ERA will climb like the mountain-climber on The Price is Right (alternatively read as: The Price is Wrong, bitch). He tossed a 3.38 ERA in 2011, but he will supposedly throw a 4.13 ERA in 135 innings spread over 23 starts. James has him pitch 2 games in relief, either due to poor performance at the end of the season or the Pirates having him pitch a few games out of the bullpen due to his injury.
Brad Lincoln is expected to make 14 starts in 2012, throwing 86 innings. In those 86 innings, Lincoln will allow 39 earned runs for an ERA of 4.08. Why 14 starts? Probably filling in for tired starters every now and then, or maybe one of our worst pitchers will mysteriously go down with a convenient injury near the end of the season, despite being seen playing golf the same day he is put on the DL.
The newest addition to the Pirates’ pitching staff has the brightest outlook from Bill James. He is project to throw 135 innings in 2012, the highest since his career-best season in 2007, and have an ERA of 3.56. He will strike out a shit load of batters, having a K/9 of 8.87. The reason for this projected success? His strand rate will be insanely high at 76%.
If the Pirates want to have any marginal success in 2012, their pitching staff will have to improve drastically. The reason for their early season success in 2011 was due to their rotation playing well above their heads, and their terrible performance at the end of the season was due to having no decent pitcher on the team that could go 5+ innings. Unless the Pirates’ staff plays all year this year like they did up until June of last year, then they have a decent chance at breaking .500, but there is no way I see that happening.
Ten-Four, over and out