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Strike Zone

Pitching Projections Review

by Matthew Pouliot
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

The last Strike Zone of 2015 is a review of this year’s preseason starting pitching projections. I’ll be diving into Draft Guide work from here, so there probably won’t be any additional columns until February.

 

Starting pitching projections review

 

Top 25

 

1. Clayton Kershaw - Dodgers

Projection: 20-6, 2.16 ERA, 0.959 WHIP, 13 HR, 240 K in 221 IP

2015 stats: 16-7, 2.13 ERA, 0.881 WHIP, 15 HR, 301 K in 232 2/3 IP

 

Barring an injury, Kershaw will open up in the top spot for the fourth straight year next season, matching Johan Santana’s run from 2006-09.

 

2. Felix Hernandez - Mariners

Projection: 17-8, 2.69 ERA, 1.077 WHIP, 14 HR, 219 K in 221 IP

2015 stats: 18-9, 3.53 ERA, 1.180 WHIP, 23 HR, 191 K in 201 2/3 IP

 

Worst home run rate since 2006, worst ERA since 2007, worst FIP since 2008, worst walk rate since 2009, worst strikeout rate since 2010. Most likely, Felix’s physical problems were a bigger issue than he ever let on.

 

3. Max Scherzer - Nationals

Projection: 17-9, 2.80 ERA, 1.096 WHIP, 17 HR, 245 K in 215 1/3 IP

2015 stats: 14-12, 2.79 ERA, 0.918 WHIP, 27 HR, 276 K in 228 2/3 IP

 

4. Stephen Strasburg - Nationals

Projection: 17-8, 2.69 ERA, 1.072 WHIP, 16 HR, 216 K in 204 1/3 IP

2015 stats: 11-7, 3.46 ERA, 1.107 WHIP, 14 HR, 155 K in 127 1/3 IP

 

5. Madison Bumgarner - Giants

Projection: 17-9, 2.73 ERA, 1.071 WHIP, 16 HR, 207 K in 214 2/3 IP

2015 stats: 18-9, 2.93 ERA, 1.008 WHIP, 21 HR, 234 K in 218 1/3 IP

 

6. David Price - Tigers/Blue Jays

Projection: 17-10, 3.07 ERA, 1.062 WHIP, 22 HR, 222 K in 226 IP

2015 stats: 18-5, 2.45 ERA, 1.076 WHIP, 17 HR, 225 K in 220 1/3 IP

 

7. Corey Kluber - Indians

Projection: 16-9, 2.94 ERA, 1.098 WHIP, 16 HR, 218 K in 211 1/3 IP

2015 stats: 9-16, 3.49 ERA, 1.054 WHIP, 22 HR, 245 K in 222 IP

 

Kluber had a 2.97 FIP. He still looks like a borderline top-10 guy for next year, especially with Cleveland’s defense shaping up to be much better than it was at the start of 2015.

 

8. Chris Sale - White Sox

Projection: 14-7, 2.63 ERA, 1.044 WHIP, 15 HR, 198 K in 174 1/3 IP

2015 stats: 13-11, 3.41 ERA, 1.088 WHIP, 23 HR, 274 K in 208 2/3 IP

 

Sale edged out Price for the AL’s best FIP at 2.73.

 

9. Johnny Cueto - Reds/Royals

Projection: 17-10, 2.95 ERA, 1.102 WHIP, 20 HR, 198 K in 213 1/3 IP

2015 stats: 11-13, 3.44 ERA, 1.132 WHIP, 21 HR, 176 K in 212 IP

 

I’d still bet pretty big on Cueto this winter, but how much help he’s gotten from some pretty strong defenses in Cincinnati through the years needs to be taken into account.

 

10. Cole Hamels - Phillies/Rangers

Projection: 15-10, 2.88 ERA, 1.099 WHIP, 18 HR, 207 K in 209 1/3 IP

2015 stats: 13-8, 3.65 ERA, 1.187 WHIP, 22 HR, 215 K in 212 1/3 IP

 

11. Adam Wainwright - Cardinals

Projection: 17-9, 2.92 ERA, 1.125 WHIP, 15 HR, 179 K in 216 IP

2015 stats: 2-1, 1.61 ERA, 1.036 WHIP, 0 HR, 20 K in 28 IP

 

12. Zack Greinke - Dodgers

Projection: 16-8, 2.92 ERA, 1.128 WHIP, 17 HR, 192 K in 200 1/3 IP

2015 stats: 19-3, 1.66 ERA, 0.844 WHIP, 14 HR, 200 K in 222 2/3 IP

 

Greinke will pull down the highest annual salary of the free agent starters after his miracle season. And miracle really is the best way to describe it. Since Greinke rejoined the rotation on a full-time basis in 2008, he had a BABIP over .300 six times in seven years. This year, he came in at .229.

 

13. Jordan Zimmermann - Nationals

Projection: 16-9, 3.05 ERA, 1.108 WHIP, 18 HR, 182 K in 206 2/3 IP

2015 stats: 13-10, 3.66 ERA, 1.205 WHIP, 24 HR, 164 K in 201 2/3 IP

 

Zimmermann scares me more as a free agent target than Cueto. His velocity dropped a bit this year, and he has just league-average strikeout and groundball rates in his career. He’s going to make a ton of money for a guy who might be a No. 3 starter going forward.

 

14. Sonny Gray - Athletics

Projection: 15-10, 3.01 ERA, 1.163 WHIP, 16 HR, 187 K in 212 1/3 IP

2015 stats: 14-7, 2.73 ERA, 1.082 WHIP, 17 HR, 169 K in 208 IP

 

15. Gerrit Cole - Pirates

Projection: 15-7, 2.91 ERA, 1.163 WHIP, 12 HR, 171 K in 182 1/3 IP

2015 stats: 19-8, 2.60 ERA, 1.091 WHIP, 11 HR, 202 K in 208 IP

 

16. Matt Harvey - Mets

Projection: 12-7, 2.95 ERA, 1.146 WHIP, 13 HR, 179 K in 171 IP

2015 stats: 13-8, 2.71 ERA, 1.019 WHIP, 18 HR, 188 K in 189 1/3 IP

 

17. Alex Cobb - Rays

Projection: 14-8, 3.00 ERA, 1.126 WHIP, 13 HR, 167 K in 183 IP

2015 stats: n/a

 

18. Julio Teheran - Braves

Projection: 13-12, 3.16 ERA, 1.142 WHIP, 21 HR, 184 K in 213 2/3 IP

2015 stats: 11-8, 4.04 ERA, 1.306 WHIP, 27 HR, 171 K in 200 2/3 IP

 

19. Michael Pineda - Yankees

Projection: 14-8, 3.23 ERA, 1.099 WHIP, 19 HR, 164 K in 178 1/3 IP

2015 stats: 12-10, 4.37 ERA, 1.226 WHIP, 21 HR, 156 K in 160 2/3 IP

 

Pineda had a 3.34 FIP and a 2.95 xFIP, suggesting that better things are in store if he can stay healthy.

 

20. Doug Fister - Nationals

Projection: 15-9, 3.15 ERA, 1.130 WHIP, 16 HR, 148 K in 200 IP

2015 stats: 5-7, 4.19 ERA, 1.398 WHIP, 14 HR, 63 K in 103 IP

 

Fister was a darn good pitcher throwing 89 mph, but not so much throwing 86 mph. Unless the velocity comes back, he’s a fringe fifth starter.

 

21. James Shields - Padres

Projection: 15-11, 3.41 ERA, 1.164 WHIP, 21 HR, 193 K in 219 IP

2015 stats: 13-7, 3.91 ERA, 1.334 WHIP, 33 HR, 216 K in 202 2/3 IP

 

22. Carlos Carrasco - Indians

Projection: 14-7, 3.21 ERA, 1.170 WHIP, 14 HR, 189 K in 190 2/3 IP

2015 stats: 14-12, 3.63 ERA, 1.073 WHIP, 18 HR, 216 K in 183 2/3 IP

 

Love the improved strikeout rate, love the improved defense. Carrasco will crack the top 15 next year.

 

23. Alex Wood - Braves/Dodgers

Projection: 12-10, 2.98 ERA, 1.156 WHIP, 14 HR, 172 K in 184 1/3 IP

2015 stats: 12-12, 3.84 ERA, 1.355 WHIP, 15 HR, 139 K in 189 2/3 IP

 

24. Jacob deGrom - Mets

Projection: 14-9, 3.31 ERA, 1.183 WHIP, 18 HR, 196 K in 198 2/3 IP

2015 stats: 14-8, 2.54 ERA, 0.979 WHIP, 16 HR, 205 K in 191 IP

 

I was pretty worried about the Mets defense going in and dinged their pitchers a bit as a result. As it turned out, though, it wasn’t really a factor. In fact, four of the five starters (Bartolo Colon excepted) had better ERAs than FIPs,

 

25. Garrett Richards - Angels

Projection: 14-7, 3.02 ERA, 1.189 WHIP, 11 HR, 170 K in 181 2/3 IP

2015 stats: 15-12, 3.65 ERA, 1.240 WHIP, 20 HR, 176 K in 207 1/3 IP

 

Other notables

 

27. Tyson Ross - Padres

Projection: 15-8, 3.06 ERA, 1.228 WHIP, 11 HR, 176 K in 191 1/3 IP

2015 stats: 10-12, 3.26 ERA, 1.306 WHIP, 9 HR, 212 K in 196 IP

 

Ross was the first pitcher in four years to finish with at least nine times as many walks (84) as homers allowed. If he can cut back on the BBs next year and the Padres take some steps to put a better defense on the field, he’d seem to have top-15 potential.

 

28. Michael Wacha - Cardinals

Projection: 13-8, 3.18 ERA, 1.144 WHIP, 15 HR, 171 K in 178 1/3 IP

2015 stats: 17-7, 3.38 ERA, 1.213 WHIP, 19 HR, 153 K in 181 1/3 IP

 

30. Gio Gonzalez - Nationals

Projection: 14-9, 3.21 ERA, 1.212 WHIP, 15 HR, 192 K in 196 1/3 IP

2015 stats: 11-8, 3.79 ERA, 1.423 WHIP, 8 HR, 169 K in 175 2/3 IP

 

Gonzalez could be a modest bargain on draft day next year; his strikeout rate remains plenty strong and he’s getting more grounders than ever. The ugly 1.42 WHIP was the product of a .341 BABIP.

 

31. Jon Lester - Cubs

Projection: 15-11, 3.48 ERA, 1.202 WHIP, 20 HR, 198 K in 214 2/3 IP

2015 stats: 11-12, 3.34 ERA, 1.122 WHIP, 16 HR, 207 K in 205 IP

 

33. Dallas Keuchel - Astros

Projection: 15-10, 3.38 ERA, 1.187 WHIP, 15 HR, 149 K in 210 2/3 IP

2015 stats: 20-8, 2.48 ERA, 1.017 WHIP, 17 HR, 216 K in 232 IP

 

34. Jake Arrieta - Cubs

Projection: 13-9, 3.36 ERA, 1.211 WHIP, 15 HR, 179 K in 190 IP

2015 stats: 22-6, 1.77 ERA, 0.865 WHIP, 10 HR, 236 K in 229 IP

 

I was quite a bit higher on Keuchel than most, but not so Arrieta, as I worried about the injury risk. I still do, though a little less now than I would have had he made three more starts in the NLCS and World Series.

 

35. Masahiro Tanaka - Yankees

Projection: 11-7, 3.33 ERA, 1.136 WHIP, 17 HR, 146 K in 159 1/3 IP

2015 stats: 12-7, 3.51 ERA, 0.994 WHIP, 25 HR, 139 K in 154 IP

 

Bet you didn’t know Tanaka was the only AL starter to post a sub-1.000 WHIP this year. He was also the youngest of the six MLB starters to do so (Greinke, Arrieta, Kershaw, Scherzer and deGrom being the others).

 

36. Justin Verlander - Tigers

Projection: 15-9, 3.53 ERA, 1.218 WHIP, 19 HR, 180 K in 198 2/3 IP

2015 stats: 5-8, 3.38 ERA, 1.088 WHIP, 13 HR, 113 K in 133 1/3 IP

 

Verlander ended up with a better WHIP than Sale, Cole or Chris Archer.

 

43. Jeff Samardzija - White Sox

Projection: 13-11, 3.59 ERA, 1.197 WHIP, 23 HR, 187 K in 208 IP

2015 stats: 11-13, 4.96 ERA, 1.294 WHIP, 29 HR, 163 K in 214 IP

 

Samardzija was on my preseason avoid list, as I just didn’t like the fit with the White Sox in U.S. Cellular. If he finds himself in a better situation, he can still be a worthy third or fourth starter in mixed leagues next year.

 

44. Chris Archer - Rays

Projection: 13-10, 3.45 ERA, 1.215 WHIP, 17 HR, 181 K in 198 1/3 IP

2015 stats: 12-13, 3.23 ERA, 1.137 WHIP, 19 HR, 252 K in 212 IP

 

Archer spent the first half of the season looking like a top-10 SP, but an inconsistent second half followed, perhaps because of the heavy workload. It’ll be tough to leave him out of the top 20 next year, but I’m rather wary. I think he’ll become more of a breakdown candidate if manager Kevin Cash continues to employ such a slow hook with him.

 

45. Yordano Ventura - Royals

Projection: 13-8, 3.12 ERA, 1.235 WHIP, 12 HR, 159 K in 170 IP

2015 stats: 13-8, 4.08 ERA, 1.298 WHIP, 14 HR, 156 K in 163 1/3 IP

 

47. Andrew Cashner - Padres

Projection: 12-6, 2.93 ERA, 1.158 WHIP, 9 HR, 116 K in 147 2/3 IP

2015 stats: 6-16, 4.34 ERA, 1.440 WHIP, 19 HR, 165 K in 184 2/3 IP

 

Healthy and bad is not the combination I was expecting here. Maybe he’ll bounce back if supplied with a major league defense next year.

 

48. John Lackey - Cardinals

Projection: 14-10, 3.60 ERA, 1.209 WHIP, 22 HR, 173 K in 202 2/3 IP

2015 stats: 13-10, 2.77 ERA, 1.211 WHIP, 21 HR, 175 K in 218 IP

 

50. Jose Quintana - White Sox

Projection: 13-10, 3.49 ERA, 1.213 WHIP, 20 HR, 170 K in 203 2/3 IP

2015 stats: 9-10, 3.36 ERA, 1.270 WHIP, 16 HR, 177 K in 206 1/3 IP

 

I should probably just stop projecting winning records for Quintana as long as he pitches for the White Sox.

 

54. Taijuan Walker - Mariners

Projection: 13-8, 3.50 ERA, 1.243 WHIP, 16 HR, 175 K in 182 2/3 IP

2015 stats: 11-8, 4.56 ERA, 1.196 WHIP, 25 HR, 157 K in 169 2/3 IP

 

Look at that nifty 1.196 WHIP. Walker’s walk rate (2.1 BB/9 IP) was a great surprise, even if the overall numbers weren’t. He’ll move up on next year’s list.

 

55. Scott Kazmir - Athletics/Astros

Projection: 12-8, 3.45 ERA, 1.202 WHIP, 16 HR, 152 K in 174 2/3 IP

2015 stats: 7-11, 3.10 ERA, 1.208 WHIP, 20 HR, 155 K in 183 IP

 

57. Francisco Liriano - Pirates

Projection: 12-7, 3.44 ERA, 1.295 WHIP, 13 HR, 184 K in 177 2/3 IP

2015 stats: 12-7, 3.38 ERA, 1.205 WHIP, 15 HR, 205 K in 186 2/3 IP

 

59. Mike Fiers - Brewers/Astros

Projection: 11-9, 3.75 ERA, 1.269 WHIP, 23 HR, 159 K in 175 1/3 IP

2015 stats: 7-10, 3.69 ERA, 1.253 WHIP, 24 HR, 180 K in 180 1/3 IP

 

67. Danny Salazar - Indians

Projection: 10-7, 3.61 ERA, 1.197 WHIP, 16 HR, 146 K in 142 IP

2015 stats: 14-10, 3.45 ERA, 1.130 WHIP, 23 HR, 195 K in 185 IP

 

My original projection had Salazar at 12-10 with 189 strikeouts in 184 innings, making him my No. 48 SP before the Indians’ misguided decision to send him down prior to Opening Day.

 

77. Carlos Martinez - Cardinals

Projection: 10-7, 3.38 ERA, 1.253 WHIP, 10 HR, 130 K in 143 2/3 IP

2015 stats: 14-7, 3.01 ERA, 1.286 WHIP, 13 HR, 184 K in 179 2/3 IP

 

78. Mike Leake - Reds/Giants

Projection: 12-11, 3.69 ERA, 1.224 WHIP, 21 HR, 139 K in 202 2/3 IP

2015 stats: 11-10, 3.70 ERA, 1.161 WHIP, 22 HR, 119 K in 192 IP

 

82. Wei-Yin Chen - Orioles

Projection: 12-9, 3.83 ERA, 1.224 WHIP, 24 HR, 142 K in 190 1/3 IP

2015 stats: 11-8, 3.34 ERA, 1.218 WHIP, 28 HR, 153 K in 191 1/3 IP

 

84. Trevor Bauer - Indians

Projection: 12-11, 3.85 ERA, 1.299 WHIP, 19 HR, 173 K in 187 IP

2015 stats: 11-12, 4.55 ERA, 1.313 WHIP, 23 HR, 170 K in 176 IP

 

89. Brett Anderson - Dodgers

Projection: 10-8, 3.64 ERA, 1.266 WHIP, 12 HR, 115 K in 155 2/3 IP

2015 stats: 10-9, 3.69 ERA, 1.331 WHIP, 18 HR, 116 K in 180 1/3 IP

 

91. Shelby Miller - Braves

Projection: 10-12, 3.79 ERA, 1.290 WHIP, 21 HR, 163 K in 187 2/3 IP

2015 stats: 6-17, 3.02 ERA, 1.247 WHIP, 13 HR, 171 K in 205 1/3 IP

 

96. Jimmy Nelson - Brewers

Projection: 10-9, 3.89 ERA, 1.284 WHIP, 18 HR, 151 K in 173 2/3 IP

2015 stats: 11-13, 4.11 ERA, 1.286 WHIP, 18 HR, 148 K in 177 1/3 IP

 

98. Carlos Rodon - White Sox

Projection: 8-6, 3.73 ERA, 1.297 WHIP, 13 HR, 134 K in 128 IP

2015 stats: 9-6, 3.75 ERA, 1.443 WHIP, 11 HR, 139 K in 139 1/3 IP

 

I had Rodon walking 3.8 batters per nine, and he came in at 4.6, which largely explains the poor WHIP. He’ll get better next year and so might the White Sox defense.

 

101. Bartolo Colon - Mets

Projection: 11-13, 4.15 ERA, 1.204 WHIP, 23 HR, 117 K in 184 1/3 IP

2015 stats: 14-13, 4.16 ERA, 1.238 WHIP, 25 HR, 136 K in 194 2/3 IP

 

107. Jaime Garcia - Cardinals

Projection: 7-5, 3.29 ERA, 1.200 WHIP, 8 HR, 83 K in 98 1/3 IP

2015 stats: 10-6, 2.43 ERA, 1.049 WHIP, 6 HR, 97 K in 129 2/3 IP

 

110. Anthony DeSclafini - Reds

Projection: 9-9, 3.94 ERA, 1.275 WHIP, 19 HR, 137 K in 157 2/3 IP

2015 stats: 9-13, 4.05 ERA, 1348 WHIP, 17 HR, 151 K in 184 2/3 IP

 

113. Yovani Gallardo - Rangers

Projection: 12-10, 3.97 ERA, 1.322 WHIP, 19 HR, 138 K in 188 1/3 IP

2015 stats: 13-11, 3.42 ERA, 1.416 WHIP, 15 HR, 121 K in 184 1/3 IP

 

116. Kyle Gibson - Twins

Projection: 11-11, 3.94 ERA, 1.318 WHIP, 17 HR, 134 K in 192 IP

2015 stats: 11-11, 3.84 ERA, 1.289 WHIP, 18 HR, 145 K in 194 2/3 IP

 

126. Patrick Corbin - Diamondbacks

Projection: 6-5, 3.68 ERA, 1.258 WHIP, 9 HR, 81 K in 93 IP

2015 stats: 6-5, 3.60 ERA, 1.271 WHIP, 9 HR, 78 K in 85 IP

 

Never again will I come so close on a Tommy John returnee, so let me just bask in this glow for a moment.

 

128. Jon Niese - Mets

Projection: 9-10, 4.02 ERA, 1.310 WHIP, 17 HR, 118 K in 165 2/3 IP

2015 stats: 9-10, 4.13 ERA, 1.398 WHIP, 20 HR, 113 K in 176 2/3 IP

 

130. Erasmo Ramirez - Rays

Projection: 8-10, 4.04 ERA, 1.295 WHIP, 18 HR, 126 K in 158 1/3 IP

2015 stats: 11-6, 3.75 ERA, 1.133 WHIP, 16 HR, 126 K in 163 1/3 IP

 

I projected Ramirez to go 11-8 with a 3.60 ERA in 167 2/3 innings in 2014 (and 9-6 with a 3.68 ERA the year before that). I’m still glad he fulfilled some of that promise, but with his fastball down a couple of ticks, I’m not quite sure about an encore.

 

137. Noah Syndergaard - Mets

Projection: 6-5, 3.78 ERA, 1.290 WHIP, 10 HR, 90 K in 95 1/3 IP

2015 stats: 9-7, 3.24 ERA, 1.047 WHIP, 19 HR, 166 K in 150 IP

 

I regret not going bolder on Syndergaard, but with Dillon Gee (remember him?) making $5.3 million, I didn’t think the Mets would be willing to move on quickly. As it turned out, Gee’s groin injury made things easy on them.

 

141. Jorge De La Rosa - Rockies

Projection: 11-9, 4.17 ERA, 1.348 WHIP, 18 HR, 134 K in 170 2/3 IP

2015 stats: 9-7, 4.17 ERA, 1.356 WHIP, 17 HR, 134 K in 149 IP

 

144. Tim Lincecum - Giants

Projection: 7-8, 4.03 ERA, 1.329 WHIP, 15 HR, 118 K in 131 2/3 IP

2015 stats: 7-4, 4.13 ERA, 1.480 WHIP, 7 HR, 69 K in 76 1/3 IP

 

151. Marco Estrada - Blue Jays

Projection: 7-9, 4.40 ERA, 1.214 WHIP, 22 HR, 111 K in 131 IP

2015 stats: 13-8, 3.13 ERA, 1.044 WHIP, 24 HR, 131 K in 181 IP

 

One of the many amazing things about Estrada’s fantastic season was the continued collapse of his strikeout rate. Some of that was due to the league switch, but he’s gone from 9.3 K/9 IP in 2012 to 8.3 in 2013 to 7.6 in 2014 (all with the Brewers) to 6.5 this year. His BABIPs have also plummeted during the span, dipping all of the way to .217 this year. That’s the lowest mark for an ERA title qualifier since 1988. The last pitcher to better Estrada’s BABIP and top his 181 innings was Catfish Hunter in 1972.

 

333. Edinson Volquez - Royals

Projection: 8-11, 4.55 ERA, 1.460 WHIP, 17 HR, 115 K in 164 1/3 IP

2015 stats: 13-9, 3.55 ERA, 1.308 WHIP, 16 HR, 155 K in 200 1/3 IP

 

I was way off here. It wasn’t all about the Kansas City defense, either. With his velocity up a tad, Volquez improved his strikeout rate despite the league switch, and he gave up two or three fewer homers than one would expect given his flyball rate.

Matthew Pouliot
Matthew Pouliot is the Executive Editor of RotoWorld.com and has been doing the site's baseball projections for the last 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @matthewpouliot.