Colorado Rockies 2014 ZiPS Projections: questions about the rotation


Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Each year Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) puts together projections for each and every player on each and every team (provided on FanGraphs). Known as ZiPS Projections, they account for advanced metrics and predict, among other things, how many wins above replacement (zWAR) each player will be good for.

Instead of continuing to try and explain it myself, here is a piece of the disclaimer provided by Carson Cistulli of FanGraphs about how ZiPS works:

"ZiPS projections are computer-based projections of performance. Performances have not been allocated to predicted playing time in the majors — many of the players listed above are unlikely to play in the majors at all in 2014. ZiPS is projecting equivalent production — a .240 ZiPS projection may end up being .280 in AAA or .300 in AA, for example. Whether or not a player will play is one of many non-statistical factors one has to take into account when predicting the future."

The explanation continues, click here for the full projections and explanation.

The point of this post is not to summarize the projections; to read them all for yourself, click that link provided above. The point here is to take the projections and pose some questions about the Rockies’ rotation. (click here for the questions about the lineup)

1. Jorge De La Rosa will throw how many innings?

Sure, I understand that De La Rosa has had some injury troubles in his past. It was particularly discouraging when his Tommy John rehab forced him to effectively miss the entire 2011 and 2012 season. But in 2013, he pitched through some thumb discomfort to start 30 games and pitch 167 innings.

I am comfortable saying that he will pitch more than that in 2014. And if he only pitches 93 innings (1.3 zWAR), as ZiPS projects? In that case the Rockies would be, in a word, screwed.

2. Will Brett Anderson be a bust?

When the Rockies traded for Brett Anderson, a huge move by their standards as they sent top prospect Drew Pomeranz to Oakland, they were gambling on his health. There seems to be no question about his stuff if he stays on the field. It’s all about whether or not he stays healthy.

Well, ZiPS only has him throwing 64.3 innings in 2014.

If that happens at the same time that Pomeranz pitches moderately well for the A’s (out of the bullpen or otherwise), it will make this trade tough for the front office to justify.

3. Will Jordan Lyles make us change our minds about the Dexter Fowler trade?

Let’s go back in time, for a moment, to the trade when the Rockies sent Chris Iannetta to the Angels for Tyler Chatwood. Rational or not, I did not like that trade. I wished that the team had kept Iannetta.

Whether you agreed with that perspective or not, we all felt great aboutthe deal once Chatwood started pitching well last season. Starting pitching is the currency of Major League Baseball, and when you end up with a competent starter in a trade you almost always win. Lyles doesn’t even have to be great to change the perception of the Fowler trade.

Let’s be clear: according to ZiPS, Lyles will not be good; he’ll just pitch a bunch, with a 5.18 ERA (118 ERA-) in 165 innings (and only 1.0 zWAR). Here’s the thing, though: if he eats up that many innings, he doesn’t need to improve much on those projected numbers to be a useful pitcher in the back of the rotation. If he manages that, well, we might feel a whole lot differently about the pile of hot garbage that was the Dexter Fowler trade.

4. Did I black out and miss the Rockies signing Jon Garland again?

This is an absolutely real line of the 2014 ZiPS projections for the Rockies:

Listen, I’m not trying to be snarky because these are computer projections, and this type of project is well above my pay grade (and to be fair, Aaron Cook and Josh Roenicke are also listed). But still, if Garland makes 10 starts for the Rockies in 2014, you can count me out.

I’ll become a Rays fan or something.