Rest-of-season ZiPS projections for Marlins startersBy
Now with more than 85 games down, and the All-Star break over, it’s time to see how Marlins’ starting pitchers are expected to fare in the second half of the season, accoriding to the ZiPS projection system. ZiPS was created by Dan Szymborski of Baseball Think Factory and ESPN, and it’s one of the most accurate projection systems available. Last week the focus was on Marlins’ hitters, and now we’ll look at the starting pitchers.
Johnson has had an exceptional season, according to his peripherals, even if his ERA doesn’t reflect it. He holds a 3.07 FIP this year, but has a 4.28 ERA due to some bad luck on balls in play (.352 BABIP). ZiPS expects Johnson’s Defensive Independent metrics to stay about the same in the second half, projecting a 2.93 FIP, and also expects Johnson to have more outwardly measurable success (2.87 ERA).
The one significant change in Johnson this season is his K%. He’s not striking out hitters at the rate he used to–7.6 K/9 in 2012 vs. 8.2 career–although ZiPS does foresee an uptick in strikeouts to 8.1 K/9 the rest of the way. Strikeouts or not, it’s clear Johnson is still a top tier pitcher, and should continue to get batters out.
Buehrle has been solid so far this season, posting a 3.25 ERA at the All-Star break, to go along with an underlying FIP of 3.87. The former White Sox has benefited from a rather low BABIP (.279) and stranding a high rate of runners on base (77.6 LOB%). Both metrics are heavily influenced by luck, and should regress for Buehrle in the second half. For that reason, ZiPS projects Buehrle’s ERA to rise in the second half to 3.77. His FIP, on the other hand, is expected to stay essentially the same over the rest of the season (3.89 FIP).
While all of Buehrle’s peripherals are in line with his career marks, his 1.34 BB/9 is especially impressive. It’s the third lowest walk rate among starting pitchers, and he’s done it while also avoiding a decline in strikeouts. 2012 has produced another respectable season from Buehrle, and he should continue to have success in the second half.
Sanchez, like Johnson, has had his ERA not fully credit him for his season to date. He’s produced a FIP of 3.43, but an ERA currently over 4–the disparity a result of stranding only 67% of runners on base (LOB%). ZiPS projects his ERA to drop to 3.73 in the second half, and his FIP to remain static at about 3.4.
As for his peripherals, Sanchez is striking out almost exactly eight batters per 9 innings, a pace close to his career rate. He’s also showing much better control this season: his walk rate is 2.6, compared to a career BB/9 of 3.5. Sanchez will hopefully see better results the rest of the way, although he’s been pitching quite well all year.
With an ERA close to four and a half, Nolasco has not enjoyed a career year in 2012. His FIP is better, at 3.98, but Nolasco is an interesting case in that he perennially underperforms his FIP. Nolasco consistently looks better according to underlying metrics like FIP or SIERA because of his ineffectiveness with runners on base, and ZiPS appears to have taken notice.* The system projects a 4.34 ERA the rest of the way, while projecting a much lower FIP of 3.69.
Strikeouts and walks have been rather concerning so far for Nolasco, as he’s currently sporting a 5.5 K/9, well under his career average of 7.4. ZiPS expects him to pick it up in the second half, to about 6.9 K/9. Nolasco is also on pace to walk 2.5 batters per nine innings, something he hasn’t done since 2007. Fortunately, ZiPS projects him to improve to 2.1 BB/9 the rest of the way. Still, Nolasco hasn’t been great up to this point, and right now it’s hard to see him seeing drastically different results in the second half.
*Our friend Micheal Jong has explored the Ricky Nolasco mystery in-depth here
Zambrano has struggled for long stretches of the season so far, and his 4.20 ERA shows it. His FIP of 4.42 is no better, either. ZiPS projects much of the same for the ex-Cub in the second half, expecting a 4.37 ERA to go along with a 4.24 FIP. Zambrano has been below-average despite the fact that he has been quite lucky on opponent’s balls in play (.265 BABIP). The problem has mostly been in his control, or lack thereof.
He currenlty holds a BB/9 of 4.74, fourth worst among qualified starters. ZiPS expects a slightly lower BB/9 of 4.50 the rest of the way, still significantly higher than his career average. As for strikeouts, ZiPS projects his K/9 of 6.7 to jump as well, to 7.4 in the second half, and close to Zambrano’s career mark. He hasn’t been spectacular, but Zambrano is at least eating innings for the team, and performing better than many 5th starters.
Data from Fangraphs