Plain and simple, your team cannot succeed without a solid and dependable starting rotation. The Athletics in 2012 leaned (no pun intended) heavily on their rotation, and its depth to win the AL West. They are also very fortunate to have a young core of talent on the hill that can help them repeat that success of 2012, and sustain it for years to come.
In 2013, the threat of regression from some of those young starting pitchers could seek to derail the Athletics plans to once again play in October. The likes of Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin, and Dan Straily are the prime candidates to suffer some symptoms of the sophomore jinx. Parker also finds himself a potential threat to suffer from the dreaded “Verducci effect” that says pitchers are at risk of injury if their workload increases by a certain margin from one year to the next. Whether you even subscribe to the notion of the “Verducci effect” is another discussion entirely. Pitchers like Brett Anderson and Bartolo Colon have question marks for reasons of their own.
So the ZiPs projections for the starting pitchers are interesting to say the least, some make total sense, others seem a bit off the wall. But regardless of their reasonability, here they are.
Brett Anderson: 15 starts, 83.1 innings, 4.00 ERA, 57 K, 3.84 FIP
Jarrod Parker: 33 starts, 195.2 innings, 3.77 ERA, 153 K, 3.53 FIP
Tommy Milone: 29 starts, 173.1 innings, 3.95 ERA, 130 K, 3.49 FIP
Bartolo Colon: 20 starts, 127 innings, 4.11 ERA, 75 K, 3.95 FIP
A.J. Griffin: 31 starts, 171.1 innings, 4.20 ERA, 121 K, 4.28 FIP
Dan Straily: 31 starts, 170 innings, 4.18 ERA, 153 K, 4.47 FIP
So what jumps out immediately is the fact that ZiPs projects Brett Anderson to make just 15 starts in 2013. I’ve been critical of his apparent fragility, not just because of the major elbow surgery he underwent, but little injuries like the oblique strain he suffered after returning last year. His conditioning has improved though over the last couple seasons so I would expect the little injuries to die down. Look for him to be able to log somewhere in the range of 20-25 starts and 150 innings or so. His performance in those innings should be much more effective than they expect as well, when he’s right there aren’t too many left handers with the talent he has. Conservatively an ERA and FIP around 3.50 seems much more realistic.
Jarrod Parker is an emerging ace for the Athletics, and these projections don’t seem to support that. Perhaps his propensity to walk hitters is hindering his development in his second season. Walks will probably always be a problem for Parker to some degree, but he has the talent to overcome them as well. They don’t see him suffering at the hands of Verducci though, which I agree with, but I expect Parker to continue to improve and post ERA and FIP numbers south of 3.50 in 2013.
Tommy Milone quietly had a very effective 2012, and ZiPs likes his chances of repeating that performance in 2013. He will never wow you with his stats, but will always serve as an effective stabilizing force in the middle of a successful rotation. The projections for him seem about on point.
Bartolo Colon is the veteran presence in this rotation, and he’ll be expected to provide solid innings for the A’s like he did in 2012, without the PED use this time. It remains to be seen whether his fastball will have the same pop it did before, but his ability to pound the strike zone will do wonders for his continued success. I think these projections are a worst case scenario for Colon, he can still get it done, look for an ERA in the 3.75 range give or take.
A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily are the two most closely related in this group. They’ll be competing for the 5th spot in the rotation once Colon finishes his suspension. By these projections, they’ll gain more innings by the absence of Anderson and Colon. While I don’t expect them to miss as much time as ZiPs does, I’m sure they won’t each be making 30+ starts and registering 200 innings. So while these projections can account for innings logged in the minors, I would expect Griffin and Straily to come close to the 170 inning watermark, maybe 140-150 innings each instead of 170. Griffin will take his lumps and have his effective outings though, so his projections look about right over a full season. Straily will need to keep from walking the tight rope though as he’s bound to fall off eventually. His strikeouts will be there no matter what, his stuff will aid those totals. But his ERA and FIP may end up being higher than these projections as he continues to adjust to the American League.
The 2013 rotation still looks pretty solid as a whole. The A’s will undoubtedly rely on them to carry the load towards another division title, but the additions to the offense will help guard against the possiblity that the rotation won’t be as effective as it was before. The overall balance of this roster will make sure this team sinks or swims as a whole, not because of just one part.