Now in its 31st year, the Baseball Forecaster from the highly-respected team at BaseballHQ is now available. It is the bible to the upcoming season for thousands of fans, whether fantasy players or just baseball watchers interested in the numbers behind the game.
What could be better to help pass the hours until baseball is played again in the spring than analysis, discussion and debate over performances in 2016 and what the players may accomplish in 2017?
Front office personnel across the game of baseball also are regular users of the Forecaster. It wasn’t a coincidence that HQ founder Ron Shandler and his analysts were hired as consultants by the Cardinals back in 2004. As he was getting started, then-VP Jeff Luhnow wanted to pick the brains of some of baseball’s best analytic minds.
This year’s 261-page Forecaster, edited by my friends Ray Murphy and Brent Hershey, includes a wealth of historical as well as predictive information for major leaguers and minor leaguers, along with sections on gaming (fantasy) and sabermetric tools.
As I do each year, my focus here is to extract a small subset of BaseballHQ’s work to assemble what could be called an overly-simplistic glimpse of what we might expect from the 2017 Cardinals.
The premise is very basic. That is, to look at the delta between key player stats from year to year. Also, last year’s predictions are included as other relevant comparison points.
First, some disclaimers. This data was generated to analyze individual players, not a team. Nowhere in the Forecaster does BaseballHQ aggregate stats for even partial team views as is done here. Therefore, some of the comments made below could become invalid, especially as roles shake out later on.
The Forecaster does not include the entire Cardinals 40-man roster, which would be required for a thorough analysis of the team. Finally, these projections were completed prior to the completion of this off-season’s free agent signings and trades.
All disclaimers aside, for individual players, these projections are well-founded, based on years of experience in analysis of individual skill sets, rates of growth and decline, resistance and recovery from injury, opportunity and other factors.
You still need to buy the Forecaster to get the full story, as these stats only scratch the surface of the in-depth analysis provided for every player. It is $26.95 well spent, and for that price you also get a downloadable version. Buy the Forecaster here.
2017 Projections vs. 2016 Actuals and 2016 Projections – St. Louis Cardinals Pitching
|* incl MiLB|
|* incl MiLB|
* Major league equivalent Triple-A stats are included, so 2016 numbers for these players are not true actuals.
Before I delve down into the individual players, I have a few general observations/remarks. Though the individual players’ win totals are not intended to be summed up as a forecast for the team, but I do it anyway to satisfy my own curiosity.
In 2015, the totaling of the Cardinals projected pitcher wins came to 96; the team won 100. The staff leader was pegged to win 16; he ended up with 17. Last year, they added up to 86, with the most from one pitcher being 15. In real life, the team hit that total on the button, with Carlos Martinez leading the way at 16 wins.
The fact these numbers consistently hold up so well when being pulled together provides additional credibility for HQ’s underlying processes. That is, until this year perhaps. The projected total of 96 for 2017 seems far too optimistic.
Four plus three starters
Unlike last year, when the identity of all five starters was clear, the 2017 Forecaster offers a surprise right up front.
Starters with double-digit wins are expected to be Martinez (15), Adam Wainwright (12), Mike Leake and rookie Alex Reyes (10 each).
The fun begins after that, with another first-year player, Luke Weaver, expected to throw more innings and garner more wins than either Lance Lynn or Michael Wacha.
As you might expect, continued concern about Wacha’s shoulder leads to prudent caution. Calling Lynn a “buy low” candidate surprised me, though, as the write-up was quite positive about him. I think the estimate for Lynn of just 109 innings, which drove his stats, is way low, especially given his early 2016 work coming back from Tommy John surgery.
Despite noting in detail that Leake’s numbers suggest bad luck in 2016 and calling him a potential bargain in 2017 with an ERA almost three-quarters of a run better than 2016, the Forecaster has him picking up just one additional win year over year and continuing with a losing record overall. Again, the words are stronger than the actual projection.
In Martinez’ capsule, there was an interesting reference to him reportedly tipping his changeup. I had not heard that before, but if true and corrected, offers additional upside for a player still on the upturn overall.
Kevin Siegrist and Brett Cecil are the Cardinals’ givens at this point. The Forecaster has good numbers for both, with the newcomer expected to outpitch the returnee in ERA, WHIP and strikeout rate.
Interestingly, Tyler Lyons is forecast to have an identical ERA to Siegrist, with fewer baserunners and fewer strikeouts.
Not surprisingly, Seung-hwan Oh is expected to be the most effective reliever in the 2017 bullpen with Jonathan Broxton the worst. The latter is down for a 4.11 ERA this coming season, which would actually be an improvement over his 4.30 mark last season.
Matt Bowman is expected to regress some as a “low-upside” option, but with he and Miguel Socolovich both expected to fare better than Broxton, one has to wonder how long the veteran will remain ahead of them – if the projections are even close to accurate.
Trevor Rosenthal is forecasted to right his ship somewhat compared to his disastrous 2016, but overall, land in the midst of the others in terms of ERA. Wisely, the Forecaster does not have Rosenthal down for starters’ innings, as that seems a long-shot bet to me.
Rosenthal and Siegrist are down for seven saves each, leaving Oh with just 36. That mix seems way off unless Oh misses some time.
For the second consecutive year, both of the Cardinals representatives among MLB’s top 75 impact prospects for 2017 are pitchers. Alex Reyes repeats with Luke Weaver replacing Marco Gonzales. Reyes is number three overall, with Weaver at #30.
Unlike last year, when I did not expect either to be impact players, Reyes clearly should be in 2017. The Forecaster calls Weaver “an excellent sleeper pick”, but as I wrote above, his MLB opportunity seems to be at the expense of Lance Lynn. I am not as sure about that. With Wacha still around, I am not sure that Weaver will be the initial “number six” starter, though he should get a chance at some point.
Wisely, neither Harrison Bader nor Carson Kelly were included in the impact prospect list. Their time should come in 2018, in my assessment.
There is not much to see here. As one might guess, HQ is predicting fewer innings pitched by Jaime Garcia, but a return to an ERA under 4.00.
Other former Cardinals Tim Cooney, Seth Maness and Jordan Walden did not merit inclusion in the 2017 Forecaster.
As noted above, the numbers for any one individual 2017 Cardinals pitcher may not excite, but the sheer breadth of contributors suggest that if someone stumbles (other than Martinez and Oh, perhaps), someone should be ready to pick up the slack.
While the 2016 Cardinals pitching attack may be balanced, unless the hitting picks up the slack, last year’s 86 win total seems more likely than 96, with my real guess somewhere in between.
For graciously sharing their data as they do each year at this time, thank you again to the fine folks and friends at BaseballHQ.com. Subscribers should check back for the second installment covering the Cardinals hitters to be posted soon.
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