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Community Projections vs. Reality, Round Three: The Rotation

Over the last couple of days, we've looked at how the Camden Chat community's aggregate projections for the infield and the outfield stacked up against reality. Today, it's time to close out our little projection retrospective by looking at what we picked for the starting rotation. These picks were made from posts ranging from January 27 through to March 3. A lot happened after March 3. We did not even do predictions for Zach Britton, because there we did not expect to see him until June or so.

Here were our projections for the rotation. Remember, these are the mean numbers of submissions from all participating Camden Chatters.

Jake Arrieta 27 159 4.24 17 63 113 1.36
Brad Bergesen 28 172 4.16 19 45 94 1.33
Justin Duchscherer 14 83 3.42 8 25 64 1.35
Jeremy Guthrie 32 205 3.83 25 55 124 1.26
Brian Matusz 32 192 3.60 17 60 163 1.24
Chris Tillman 19 109 4.35 16 45 73 1.40

That was then, when we were arguing over things like whether signing Vlad would be enough to get 82 wins, and if getting 82 wins mattered. This is what it looked like after a 69-93 season:

Jake Arrieta 22 119.1 5.05 21 59 93 1.46
Brad Bergesen 12 62.1 5.78 9 20 35 1.57
Justin Duchscherer - - - - - - -
Jeremy Guthrie 32 203.2 4.37 26 64 126 1.35
Brian Matusz 12 49.2 10.69 18 24 38 2.11
Chris Tillman 13 62 5.52 5 25 46 1.65

If you want to know why the Orioles stunk in 2011, the rotation may be the biggest reason why. The O's as a staff had a 5.39 starter ERA, the worst in MLB by more than half a run than the second-worst; first place in the AL was the Rays with 3.53. O's starters threw only 881 innings, the least in MLB with more than 40 innings fewer than the second-worst; first place in the AL was again the Rays with 1,058 IP by starters.

The numbers I posted include only appearances as a starter. We predicted 920 innings from these six pitchers combined. In reality, they threw a total of 497 innings. Seven other Orioles started games for whom we did no predictions: Britton (28 GS), Alfredo Simon (16 GS), Tommy Hunter (11 GS), Chris Jakubauskas (6 GS), Jo-Jo Reyes (5 GS), Mitch Atkins (3 GS), and Rick VandenHurk (2 GS).

Let's break down the disaster player by player.

Jake Arrieta

Predicted 27 159 4.24 17 63 113 1.36
Reality 22 119.1 5.05 21 59 93 1.46
Prediction - Reality 5 39.2 -0.81 -4 4 20 -0.10

We predicted a mostly healthy season from Jake, with modest gains compared to his rookie season in 2010. What we got was a pitcher who should have had bone chips in his elbow removed last offseason, but he did not do this, so he had command problems and pitched hurt and mostly stunk and still had to get the surgery to remove the bone chips. He was shut down early.

Jake gave up four more bombs than we predicted despite nearly 40 fewer innings, and walked only four less than our prediction despite the same. We predicted a 3.57 BB/9 from Jake - which is still not great - and he walked 4.45 per 9. He exceeded our K/9 guess, though: we guessed a 6.4 K/9 and he actually had a 7.01 K/9. Can Jake come back from the bone chip removal and resume his development? Can the Orioles ever develop him? These are key questions for Jake for next year.

Brad Bergesen

Predicted 28 172 4.16 19 45 94 1.33
Reality 12 62.1 5.78 9 20 35 1.57
Predicted - Reality 16 109.2 -1.62 10 25 59 -0.24

What we guessed and hoped for was the sophomore slump for which we might have imagined 3E1N was on a trajectory before that Billy Butler line drive. What we got was a pitcher who couldn't throw well as a starter and couldn't throw well in relief. We also got the only O's starter to throw a complete game shutout all season: Bergy blanked the Rays for 9 innings on May 14 in the Trop.

Bergesen qualified as a super-two player, meaning he will be in line for an arbitration raise next season. Will that cause the Orioles to non-tender him? If he returns, can he be a serviceable pitcher again?

Justin Duchscherer

Though he never played in a game for the O's, I maintain that this was not a bad signing for the O's. At $700,000, a flier on an oft-injured player could have paid dividends far beyond its cost, if only he weren't injured. This is the kind of chance the Orioles need to take. Lest we forget, the Yankees took similar chances on Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon, and those actually worked. I hate the Yankees.

Jeremy Guthrie

Predicted 32 205 3.83 25 55 124 1.26
Reality 32 203.2 4.37 26 64 126 1.35
Predicted - Reality 0 1.1 -0.54 -1 -9 -2 -0.09

What can we say about Guthrie? He deserves better than to be stuck on this crappy team, but Andy MacPhail would only trade him for major-league ready pitching, and if you had a major-league ready pitcher why would you need Guts? He made all of his starts, he made a couple of panic relief appearances, he gave up a lot of bombs. He also was charged with 17 losses because the O's hitters and fielders hate him, although with a .284 BABIP, he didn't have the worst luck as far as that goes.

The 4.37 ERA for Guts as a starter was the best on the Orioles. Only two other players (Britton and Simon) even had a sub-5.00 ERA as a starter. That's three out of twelve starters, with none of the twelve going below 4.00 in ERA.

Guthrie is entering his final year of arbitration before he's a free agent. If he has a decent 2012, he'll probably be a trade candidate. He will be 33 next season, but he's thrown 200 innings for three straight years and he has less mileage on his arm than other 33 year old pitchers. He probably has value for a few more years to some team, but maybe not a crappy team like the O's.

Brian Matusz

The numbers will just depress you if I do a side-by-side comparison. Matusz was a complete disaster. You know this. I know this. Do you know how bad? He allowed more home runs (18) than we predicted (17) despite throwing about 142 fewer innings than we predicted. His ERA went up after every start except for one, when he gave up 6 ER in 6.2 IP to drop his ERA from 8.77 to 8.63.

Brian was terrible. Did he never fully recover from his intercostal strain? Did he come back partially injured and lose his confidence? Was he unprepared to begin spring training? Was he sour over the departure of Rick Kranitz from last season? Can he put this unmitigated failure behind him and start fresh next season?

Chris Tillman

Predicted 19 109 4.35 16 45 73 1.40
Reality 13 62 5.52 5 25 46 1.65
Predicted - Reality 6 47 -1.17 9 20 27 -0.25

As Stacey noted in the projection post, a 4.35 ERA was a bold prediction considering Tillman's career MLB ERA was 5.61. Well, he did lower it - to 5.58. Tillman actually did improve his strikeout rate and lower his walk rate and home run rate, but why would anybody take a walk off Tillman when they could take a hack at an 88mph meatball right over the plate?

By the way, Tillman even did worse than his #1 hater, O'sFan21, predicted. O'sFan had 17 starts and a 5.25 ERA from Tillman. He couldn't even make that many starts since he was banished to the minors for being terrible. Chris has no injury he can blame. He was just bad. But he is also only 23, and as blink 182 reminded us, nobody likes you when you're 23. Can he finally take a step forward next year?

As Orioles fans, we can only hope that the new GM, whoever he is, can figure out what to do about this rotation mess. With only a league average pitching staff (4.04 ERA is 7th place in AL), the O's would have given up 143 fewer runs and only had a run differential of -9. If the Orioles are ever going to have a hope of contending,we need pitching that can actually deliver on its promise. Oh well. Maybe next year... but probably not then either.