Projecting the Tribe’s win total
The Indians won 68 games last season, falling far short of what many predicted for a team expected to be on the cusp of contention when the 2012 tour began. With a young roster, and an 80-win showing in the previous campaign, the Tribe looked like a club on the rise.
Now, Cleveland’s ride back to the bottom of this decade-long roller coaster has everyone wondering what is in store for 2013. With its agressive offseason — reeling in the likes of Nick Swisher, Mark Reynolds, Brett Myers and Trevor Bauer — will the Indians be significantly improved in the coming year?
As I did a few days ago, I grabbed my notepad and my trusty TI-86 calculator and went to work on trying to find a way to project some realistic numbers for this club. In my previous post, I tackled the group of “regulars” expected to be in the lineup. Today, I sorted through a majority of the Tribe’s potential pitching staff.
With both sets of projections in hand, I believe I have a realistic win range for fans to expect this season.
Before I get to that, let me explain how I went about projecting the pitchers.
Similar to how I handled the offense, I looked at each pitcher’s past three seasons (or career, if they lacked three seasons in the big leagues) and averaged against their most recent season.
- For starting pitchers, I projected over 180 innings if they lacked a number in that range for their three-year, career or 2012 numbers. I projected for Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Brett Myers, Carlos Carrasco and Zach McAllister.
- For Myers, I used his past three full seasons as a starting pitcher, because he worked as a reliever last season and had an injury-shortened season a few years ago.
- I did not project for Trevor Bauer or Corey Kluber given the lack of experience on their respective big league resumes.
- For the main relievers (Chris Perez, Vinnie Pestano, Joe Smith, Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw), I worked off a projection of 60 innings. I used a 40-inning projection for Cody Allen and Frank Herrmann, because that seems more likely to be near their work load if the other five arms log 60-plus.
- I did not project for David Huff, because we don’t know yet if he will be starting or relieving. I also did not project for Scott Barnes or Nick Hagadone due to their extremely small sample sizes in the big leagues.
One thing I did not do was use the three-year/2012 averaging method to project a win-loss total. Wins and losses are too dependent on the offense on any given day. What I did instead was I took each starter’s projected ERA and then looked at pitchers in the same over the past decade. Example: With a projected ERA of 4.60 for Masterson, I averaged the win-loss total of each starter with 170-plus innings and an ERA between 4.55-4.65 from the past 10 seasons.
I did not project a win-loss total for relievers.
Now that all of that is out of the way, I’ll get to the results, including Bill James’ 2013 projections (which you can find on fangraphs.com).
Bastian: 12-10, 4.60 ERA, 203.2 IP, 210 H, 156 K, 82 BB
James: 10-12, 4.01 ERA, 204 IP, 206 H, 160 K, 79 BB
Bastian: 12-12, 4.78 ERA, 186.1 IP, 185 H, 161 K, 92 BB
James: 9-10, 3.97 ERA, 170 IP, 158 H, 151 K, 82 BB
Bastian: 12-11, 4.27 ERA, 213 IP, 219 H, 164 K, 60 BB
James: did not project Myers as a starter
Bastian: 12-11, 4.35 ERA, 18o IP, 196 H, 157 K, 49 BB
James: 8-11, 4.50 ERA, 170 IP, 190 H, 134 K, 50 BB
Bastian: 12-11, 4.75 ERA, 18o IP, 196 H, 125 K, 60 BB
James: did not project
Bastian: 3.24 ERA, 58.1 IP, 47 H, 56 K, 20 BB, 36 saves
James: 2.79 ERA, 58 IP, 44 H, 59 K, 20 BB, 41 saves
Bastian: 2.63 ERA, 65 IP, 48 H, 75 K, 24 BB
James: 2.72 ERA, 76 IP, 60 H, 89 K, 27 BB
Bastian: 2.86 ERA, 63 IP, 49 H, 48 K, 24 BB
James: 2.91 ERA, 68 IP, 58 H, 55 K, 25 BB
Bastian: 3.25 ERA, 63.2 IP, 54 H, 49 K, 26 BB
James: 4.21 ERA, 62 IP, 62 H, 47 K, 25 BB
Bastian: 3.47 ERA, 59.2 IP, 61 H, 43 K, 23 BB
James: 4.06 ERA, 62 IP, 63 H, 47 K, 23 BB
Bastian: 3.38 ERA, 40 IP, 35 H, 27 K, 9 BB
James: 4.15 ERA, 39 IP, 43 H, 28 K, 11 BB
Bastian: 3.83 ERA, 40 IP, 40 H, 37 K, 21 BB
James: did not project
With these projections in hand, combined with the offensive numbers I compiled on Friday, I tried to come up with a reasonable expectation for a 2013 win total for the Indians. I looked at the combined rotation numbers, took the projected runs scored for the offense, and then compared the results to the past 50 years. Let me walk you through it.
While it is rare to have five pitchers each compile 180-plus innings (Cleveland has only had four-plus accomplish the feat in the same season twice in the past 23 years), the projected ERA that I came up with for Masterson, Jimenez, Myers, McAllister and Carrasco was 4.54. For argument’s sake, let’s say that is where Cleveland’s rotation ERA ends up for the season.
Over the past 50 years, excluding strike-shortened seasons, there have been 12 teams to end a season with a rotation ERA between 4.50-4.60 in a single season. According to my offense projections, this Tribe team hs the potential to score roughly 756 runs in 2013. Of the 12 teams I filtered out, only five have scored 680-plus runs, and only four had 700-plus runs from the offense.
2006 Reds (80-82 overall), 749 runs scored
2005 Yankees (95-67 overall), 886 runs scored
2003 Cardinals (85-77 overall), 876 runs scored
2000 Marlins (79-82 overall), 731 runs scored
1970 Expos (73-89 overall), 687 runs scored
The average record of those five teams is roughly 82-80. The average record of the four clubs that scored more than 700 runs is roughly 85-77.
If history is any indication, and if you deem my projections to be realistic, well then the 2013 Indians appear to be a good bet to win between 82-85 games. That won’t reach the playoffs, but it would be an improvement of at least 14 victories in one year.
If Cleveland wants to make the postseason, it is going to have to do better than that. Masterson and Jimenez will need to be better than my admittedly pessimistic projections. Maybe Bauer can rise to the big leagues, live up to the hype and drop the rotation’s ERA down a couple notches to put the Tribe in a better position.
Detroit claimed the American League Central crown with only 88 wins last season, so a team like Cleveland — a team capable of winning 82-plus games — should be able to stay within range of contending. Over the past decade, however, it has taken an average of 93 victories to win the Central. Last season was a down year.
The question for Tribe fans is: what would your reaction be to an 82-85 win team?