Breaking Down the NL Central Division – Part 6

This is the sixth segment of an eight-part series handicapping the NL Central based on a position by position analysis of teams using a variety of projection systems.
Part 1 ( C-1B) | Part 2 (IF) | Part 3 (OF) | Part 4 (BN) | Part 5 (SP)
We’re on to the pitchers now after an exhaustive look at the offenses of the NL Central. I’m including the projections for innings pitched and ERA as I try to determine a hierarchy for the Central’s relievers. I’m using ZiPS as my projection base, but I have CHONE and Marcels around here as well if you find fault in a particular player’s numbers. Feel free to call me out in the comments; I’ll do my best to explain my reasoning.

The bullpens and closers (considered separately):

 

STL HOU CIN MIL PIT CHC

MR

Franklin Nieve Saarloos Villanueva Chacon Miller

MR

Hancock White Cormier Aquino Kolb Wood

MR

Flores Miller Shackel. Turnbow Sharpless Cotts

MR

Johnson Borkowski Stanton Shouse Marte Ohman

SU

Kinney Qualls Majewski Capellan Grabow Howry

SU

Springer Wheeler Bray Wise Capps Eyre

CL

Izzy Lidge Coffey Cordero Torres Dempster

I’ll give you the ZiPS projections for each team’s bullpen first, and follow up with a discussion of strengths and weaknesses. After that, I’ll examine the closers.
St. Louis

  • Franklin: 156 IP, 4.90 ERA
  • Hancock: 70 IP, 3.99 ERA
  • Flores: 47 IP, 4.40 ERA
  • Johnson: 60 IP, 5.25 ERA
  • Kinney: 92 IP, 4.01 ERA
  • Springer: 54 IP, 4.17 ERA

Houston

  • Nieve: 130 IP, 4.78 ERA
  • White: 74 IP, 5.11 ERA
  • Miller: 48 IP, 3.75 ERA
  • Borkowski: 140 IP, 4.18 ERA
  • Qualls: 81 IP, 4.11 ERA
  • Wheeler: 65 IP, 3.46 ERA

Cincinnati

  • Saarloos: 130 IP, 4.98 ERA
  • Cormier: 57 IP, 4.89 ERA
  • Shackelford: 58 IP, 4.81 ERA
  • Stanton: 68 IP, 3.71 ERA
  • Majewski: 77 IP, 4.21 ERA
  • Bray: 47 IP, 4.79 ERA

Milwaukee

  • Villaneuva: 157 IP, 4.59 ERA
  • Aquino: 56 IP, 4.98 ERA
  • Turnbow: 65 IP, 5.12 ERA
  • Shouse: 47 IP, 4.40 ERA
  • Capellan: 93 IP, 4.16 ERA
  • Wise: 59 IP, 3.51 ERA

Pittsburgh

  • Chacon: 108 IP, 5.50 ERA
  • Kolb: 54 IP, 4.67 ERA
  • Sharpless: 57 IP, 4.11 ERA
  • Marte: 59 IP, 3.97 ERA
  • Grabow: 66 IP, 4.23 ERA
  • Capps: 86 IP, 3.87 ERA

Chicago

  • Miller: 87 IP, 4.97 ERA
  • Wood: 101 IP, 4.10 ERA
  • Cotts: 59 IP, 4.88 ERA
  • Ohman: 58 IP, 4.34 ERA
  • Howry: 71 IP, 3.42 ERA
  • Eyre: 62 IP, 4.21 ERA

I’m going to rank the bullpens by team ERA; I think that should give us a fair assessment of each relief corps.
Houston and Chicago are at the top of the heap, each throwing a 4.32 ERA. Houston gets the edge for two reasons: First, the member projected to be the weakest (Rick White) is also the most likely to lose his job, and second, they put up their ERA for 100 more innings. Dan Wheeler and Trever Miller are a solid lefty/right combination. I like how Chicago’s pen can be extended (with potential starters in Wade Miller and Kerry Wood) without losing flexibility in short-game match-ups thanks to Bob Howry and Scott Eyre.
The Pirates and Brewers are third and fourth, respectively, but they’re only separated by a hair (team ERAs of 4.48 and 4.47). I give the edge to the Bucs because Shawn Chacon–the weakest link–is suffering from an arthritic knee and might not make the 25-man roster. If he’s cut, then Shane Youman might win a long-relief job, and the southpaw’s ZiPS projections are significantly better than Chacon’s. Matt Capps is a strike-throwing machine, and Damaso Marte and John Grabow should be tough on lefties. Pittsburgh’s bullpen will benefit from Jim Tracy’s non-traditional use of closer Salomon Torres.
Milwaukee’s bullpen is consistent. Derrick Turnbow is not projected to return to his 2005 form, but Ned Yost should still get by on the strength of Matt Wise and Jose Capellan. Carlos Villaneuva should perform well as a swingman if he doesn’t win the fifth starter’s job.
St. Louis’ pen doesn’t look the same as it did at the start of 2006, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Tyler Johnson and Josh Kinney will attempt to build on their late-season successes in 2007. They’re not projected to be studs, but they’re young and show upside. Russ Springer was a nice addition to the back end, especially if Isringhausen isn’t operating at 100 percent.
Wayne Krivsky moved Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez in order to strengthen his bullpen; somehow, it’s still the worst in the Central. Mike Stanton and Todd Coffey might swap roles, but even that won’t change much. Gary Majewski and Bill Bray could be special in time; ZiPS says that time is not now.
HOU=10 | CHC=9 | PIT=8 | MIL=8 | STL=7 | CIN=6
Closer

  • Isringhausen: 61 IP, 3.54 ERA
  • Lidge: 77 IP, 3.51 ERA
  • Coffey: 69 IP, 4.04 ERA
  • Cordero: 73 IP, 3.33 ERA
  • Torres: 89 IP, 3.44 ERA
  • Dempster: 77 IP, 4.09 ERA

Francisco Cordero threw well in Milwaukee after the Carlos Lee trade, and he’ll be the strongest closer in the division. Brad Lidge and Jason Isringhausen both are question marks and could lose their jobs; Salomon Torres will be a workhorse in the late innings for the Bucs, and ZiPS says he’ll be one of the Central’s better hammers. Todd Coffey might not be the Reds’ closer, but even if you put Mike Stanton’s 3.71 ERA here, Cincinnati would still be fifth. Ryan Dempster is bad.
MIL=10 | PIT=9 | HOU=8 | STL=8 | CIN=6 | CHC=6
Over the weekend, you’ll hear some outside analysis of the project and the final conclusion that we’ve all been waiting for: Who is going to win the NL Central in 2007?

Author: Randy Linville

Randy is currently living and thriving in suburban Dayton, OH with his wife and two kids. He was raised in Cincinnati, OH and attended Anderson High School. He went to Miami University (Ohio) and received a degree in Paper Science Engineering from MU. He is a devout Christian and a pop culture buff. He coaches his son’s baseball and basketball teams and his daughters softball and basketball teams. Randy has been a Pirates fan since the late 1970s and has fond memories of the 1979 World Series team. He began blogging for Most Valuable Network in 5/2004 after stumbling across a help-wanted sign for a Pirates blogger. He wrote for Pittsburgh Lumber Co. until the site merged with Pirates Prospects in 2/2011.

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  • http://none The Real Neal

    I’ll take the under on Wood, Eyre and Howry on ERA’s as well as the under on Wood’s innings.

  • Edmund

    oo boy, the astros fansaren’t going to like that asessment of Brad Lidge. I think the rankings a pretty fair, though ERA can be a rather suspect metric of bullpen performance….

  • http://bucstradewinds.net/ Dave

    For those scoring at home:
    Chc 130
    Mil 127
    Stl 124
    Hou 120
    Pit 118
    Cin 105

  • http://mvn.com/mlb-pirates Cory Humes

    I’ll agree that I would’ve liked to use other numbers–WHIP, K/9, K/BB, etc.–but those numbers aren’t listed on ZiPS, and I’ve been a little too busy to tinker with the spreadsheet myself. I, too, thought they looked fair, so I didn’t go any deeper than I need to.
    That having been said, if anyone would like a specific stat, let me know and I’ll try to dig it up for you.