Ok, Steamer. I still cannot forgive you for projecting Michael Brantley to strike out in nearly ten percent of his at-bats, but based on your starting pitcher projections I now accept you as our inevitable robot overlords.
While still being conservative, as all projection systems are, Steamer has the Cleveland Indians "Big Three" of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar putting up strong numbers in 2016.
Trevor Bauer... well.
Steamer hears you saying that Corey Kluber’s 3.49 ERA means he "had a down year" and it does not care. The Klubot is projected to have his FIP rise by a hair, from 2.97 in 2015 to 3.03, but his ERA drops to 3.02. This would be the second-lowest ERA of his career behind his 2.44 Cy Young season in 2014.
Curiously enough, Steamer sees Kluber posting a 26.1% strikeout rate (lowest since 2013), and a 20.8% walk rate (highest since 2013/2014) while his ERA drops. The biggest explanation for Kluber’s lowered ERA, at least from these preliminary projections, is a lowered left-on-base percentage. If Kluber does indeed leave 75.2% of runners on base, as predicted, that would be a sizeable bump from his 71.4 LOB% in 2015.
Somewhere in the back of a cold server room there is a Carlos Carrasco jersey draped over a stack labeled "Steamer." No one knows how it got there, but no one is allowed to remove it.
Steamer absolutely loves Carrasco in its 2016 projections. The Cleveland Indians second ace had a career year in 2015, but Steamer does not see that as the end of Carrasco’s ascent. He is projected to not only be just as good as Kluber on the Indians, but one of the top pitchers in the American League.
A 3.05 ERA would be the best for Carrasco for a full season as a starter (remember, he was a reliever for 26 games in 2014), and his .295 FIP would be his second best, right behind 2015. Carrasco’s projected 5.1 fWAR would continue to show a skyward trend for the 28-year-old, beating out his 2015 4.8 fWAR and his 3.2 fWAR in 2014.
Among American League starting pitchers, Steamer projects Carrasco as having the second-best FIP behind Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale, and third best fWAR behind Sale and some guy by the name of Corey Kluber.
Hey, Danny Salazar had a pretty good year in 2015. Let’s do that again.
That’s essentially Steamer’s attitude toward The Dzar in its 2016 projections. Heading into his fourth year as a starting pitcher, Salazar is projected to have a career-best year in terms of fWAR (3.4), with the same ERA as he posted in 2015 (3.45). His projected 3.53 FIP is a sliver lower than the 3.62 he put up in 2015.
Yes, it is a very similar season that he had last season. And yes, it would be nice to see him suddenly take off into a Cy Young-caliber pitcher, but you cannot argue with two straight 3.0-plus fWAR seasons at 25 years old. I will take it.
A prolonged stint in the bullpen helped out Carlos Carrasco, so why not Trevor Bauer? At least that is what Indians fans should be hoping with these Steamer projections. The benefit will apparently not be immediate, as it was with Carrasco, but a 3.88 ERA would be a career best for Bauer, and a 4.08 FIP would be second only behind the 4.01 he put up in 2014.
Even pitching 45 games out of the bullpen and with the lowest innings total of his career, Bauer’s 1.1 fWAR would be right along his career average. Putting him in the bullpen after a few rough starts at the beginning of the season seems reasonable as well if it starts costing the Indians potentially meaningful games. This would be the third year in a row that Bauer proves he cannot be consistent as a starter, should these projections come true.
Unless you have "Cody Anderson 2016 Cy Young" tattooed somewhere on your person, these projections should not be a surprise. Mr. Anderson put up a spectacular 3.05 ERA in his 15 starts last season, yes, but he also did it with a 4.27 FIP while striking a little over four batters out per nine innings. That is not sustainable and Steamer knows this.
Anderson’s FIP does rise quite a bit up to 4.66, but his strikeout rate goes up to 14.2% (up from 12.1% in 2015) and his walk goes up to 7.0% (up from 6.6% in 2015). Steamer has him starting 24 games and throwing for 141 innings, which seems perfectly reasonable with T.J. House, Josh Tomlin and potentially more arms gunning for that fifth starter spot.
Little Cowboy is set for a big season. If Josh Tomlin does start 26 games for the Tribe in 2016, as Steamer projects, it would be the most starts for Tomlin since 2011. His 4.06 FIP would be the second best of his career, and his 3.83 ERA would be the second best.
The inflated ERA looks bad, but keep in mind Tomlin left a whopping 90.2% of runners on base in his 10 starts in 2015, and Steamer normalizes that back down to 74.2%. Which, for what it’s worth, would still be the second-highest LOB% of his career.
Not a bad option for a fourth or fifth starter.