Earlier today I took a look at the playoff odds for the first time this season. The Pirates were projected just outside of the second Wild Card spot, mostly due to the fact that their poor pre-season projections are still making up a bulk of the projections, despite their early season success. The Pirates are off to a 5-2 start, which really doesn’t mean much this early in the season. The pre-season projections should be making up a bulk of the projections right now, because they’re based on a much larger sample size than the results from this 5-2 run.
I said before the season that there were areas where the Pirates could exceed their projections, with a big area being the pitching staff. I wanted to point out a few of those spots again tonight, as a follow-up to the playoff odds article. I’m including the stats here, but stats at this point are meaningless. A guy can have a horrible average one day, then jump to .300 with one big game. I’ve included analysis and the chances of the player continuing his numbers, which puts the early season results in perspective.
There are three spots in the rotation where the Pirates can get much better production than they’re projected to receive this year. Two of those starters are off to a good start, while one is struggling. Aside from that, we’ve also seen Travis Ishikawa get off to a surprisingly great start in his first week in the first base platoon. Here is a look at those four players, and their odds of giving the Pirates a big, unexpected boost.
Current Stats: .294/.350/.588, 20 PA
ZiPS Projections: .238/.305/.363, 268 PA
Analysis: Ishikawa is off to a great start, carrying over his hot bat from Spring Training. The production so far makes him the top hitter on the team, although that won’t last. The question is whether he can become a good enough hitter to justify his being in the lineup. ZiPS had him projected at a .668 OPS at the start of the season. He has a career .725 OPS, and a career .741 OPS against right-handed hitters. My opinion on him is still that his upside is 2013 Garrett Jones on offense, with better defense at first base. And I don’t think the defense is enough to make that offense worthwhile. But I’d be happy to end up wrong.
Odds of Continuing Current Numbers: Very Low
Current Stats: 1.17 ERA in 7.2 IP, 7.0 K/9, 1.2 BB/9
ZiPS Projections: 4.50 ERA in 158 IP, 7.2 K/9, 3.9 BB/9
Analysis: Volquez threw two innings in relief, followed by a great start on Sunday. Is he the next successful reclamation project for Ray Searage? It’s way too early to tell. I’d say the odds are low that Volquez will become this year’s version of Francisco Liriano. I do think he can pitch well enough to be a productive pitcher, putting up at least league-average numbers over 180 innings this year. The key for Volquez will be his fastball command. He’s got great secondary pitches, and when his fastball command is on, he sets those pitches up well. When his command is off, there’s not a thing that a plus curveball or changeup can do to help him.
Odds of Continuing Current Numbers: Depends on your view of Ray Searage
Current Stats: 3.75 ERA in 12.0 IP, 8.3 K/9, 1.5 BB/9
ZiPS Projections: 4.01 ERA in 117 IP, 5.9 K/9, 3.2 BB/9
Analysis: (Note: I put Morton on this list before his game against the Cubs, or more specifically, against Starlin Castro. I think he could do better than his projections, so I’m keeping him here, despite the poor outing.) Before the season, when the projection systems released their season predictions, I mentioned that Morton had a great chance of exceeding his projections. The reason for this is because most projections are based on career stats. Morton’s career stats are largely irrelevant, since he had his mechanics overhauled in 2011. He was injured in 2012, and last year he returned from Tommy John surgery to look like a solid number three starter with the new mechanics. In most cases, the career stats would trump the recent history. In Morton’s case, his recent numbers show his true talent level.
Odds of Continuing Current Numbers: High
Current Stats: 4.50 ERA in 6.0 IP, 7.5 K/9, 1.5 BB/9
ZiPS Projections: 3.72 ERA in 115 IP, 6.4 K/9, 2.4 BB/9
Analysis: Unlike the first three, this is a case where you’ve got a guy who played below his projections during the first week of the season (although it was only one start). Rodriguez is in the same situation as Morton. His projections are based off his career numbers, but his injury last year means that you can throw those career numbers out the window. In his first start of the year, his velocity was down, which is a bigger concern than his stat line. Rodriguez is healthy, but there’s the concern that he’s not going to be as good as the pre-injury Wandy.
Odds of Continuing Current Numbers: Medium
Links and Notes
**Over the weekend I’ve been working on adding new writers to the site. I’m still in that process, but we’ll have some new writers starting this week, mostly at the minor league level. Adding new writers is made possible by purchases onthe products page of the site. That’s where you can buy our 2014 Prospect Guide, with information on every player in the minor league system. We also now have a Pirates Prospects logo t-shirt available. It’s my goal to keep all of the website content free, while also adding as much content as possible. The more funds received through these products, the more coverage we can add going forward.