Every year, some computer comes along and tells us how our players are going to perform based off of some super-complicated algorithm. As we prepare for the 2017 versions to be released, let’s check to see just how accurate these projections were for the Cardinals starters this season.
2016 Steamer Projection: 11-10 3.47 ERA 169 K
Actual 2016 Statistics: 16-9 3.04 ERA 174 K
Thank goodness for Carlos Martinez, as he was the only of our starters to outperform his projected ERA. The projection systems always seem to be pretty conservative for younger players, not always projecting a huge step forward for them. Well, that’s exactly what Martinez did in 2016. He took a huge step forward en route to becoming the team’s bonafide ace.
Interestingly enough, the projections were pretty spot-on when it comes to the peripheral stats. They pegged his BB/9 and HR/9, but where the discrepancy comes is in the BABIP. Steamer expected Martinez to make a small improvement from his 2015 mark of .318 to 2016, but he ended up blowing the .304 projection out of the water. Martinez’s status as an can be traced back to his .286 BABIP, a number indicative of a good amount of luck, but not impossible to be replicated in the future.
2016 Steamer Projection: 11-10 3.53 ERA 153 K
Actual 2016 Statistics: 13-9 4.62 ERA 161 K
A lost season for a pitcher who had come to be known as one of the most consistent pitchers in the game, 2016 was not kind to Adam Wainwright. His ERA of 4.62 was the highest of any full season of his remarkable career, and he actually gave up five more home runs than he ever has before. Luckily for the Cardinals, it looks like Wainwright may have been the victim of some bad luck. His HR/FB rate was 11.8, another career high, and batters recorded a .330 BABIP against him.
This explains some of the drop off that Wainwright suffered in 2016, and along with it some of the inaccuracy of the projection. However, taking a look under the hood shows that the velocity of each of his pitches is continuing to drop. His cutter, which was up around 88 MPH in 2013, is down to 85.4 MPH on average, and his average fastball velocity is just barely hovering around 90 MPH these days. There are some signs pointing towards Wainwright having a bounce back year in 2017, but he’s going to have to contend with diminished velocity if he’s going to succeed.
2016 Steamer Projection: 11-10 3.69 ERA 156 K
Actual 2016 Statistics: 7-7 5.09 ERA 114 K
With a full season of being a major league starter under his belt, Cardinals fans were licking their chops at the prospect pairing Wacha at the top of the rotation with Carlos Martinez for years to come. Martinez took care of his side of that deal, while Wacha took a huge step back in an injury-plagued 2016 season.
It’s always impossible to predict an injury for a pitcher, but it’s even more challenging to know if affects his performance before or after a stint on the disabled list. Interestingly enough, Wacha’s FIP of 3.91 was almost identical to his 3.87 mark from 2015, suggesting that his poor results were not injury related, but rather a product of his inflated .334 BABIP (man, there seems to be a trend here among struggling Cardinals starters).
2016 Steamer Projection: 11-12 3.99 ERA 130 K
Actual 2016 Statistics: 9-12 4.69 ERA 125 K
What was curious about Mike Leake’s projection was the idea that his ERA would somehow increase from a tidy 3.70 in the bandbox that Great American Ballpark is to 3.99 in spacious Busch Stadium. Little did we know, 3.99 was underselling it just a bit. Leake’s first season in St. Louis was not the kind of production the front office was expecting after signing him to a 5-year, $80 million contract before the season.
Again, though, Leake apparently deserved better. His 3.83 FIP was an improvement from 2015, and looking at his BABIP (one of our favorite stats here at CardsBlog), his BABIP spiked from .260 in 2015 to .318. At this point, it’s easy to see the kind of effect our poor defense has on these pitchers. But, it’s not like we’re the only team trotting out a below-average defense, right?
According to many of the advanced metrics using to measure a team’s fielding prowess, the Oakland Athletics were the worst defensive team in baseball this year. Despite this, their team BABIP allowed was .299 compared to the Cardinals’ .304. Trying to remain as unbiased as possible, this all screams to me just how unlucky our guys got this year.
2016 Steamer Projection: 7-6 3.40 ERA 93 K
Actual 2016 Statistics: 10-13 4.67 ERA 150 K
He’s not here anymore, but that doesn’t mean we can’t look at why he wasn’t able to record a 3.40 ERA (because that would have been pretty nice!). It’s fair to say nobody expected him to replicate his 2.43 ERA from 2015, but his performance adds to the laundry list of disappointments from the 2016 season.
Garcia was hurt by the long ball, like, a lot, in 2016. He gave up 26 big flies, and his 20.2 HR/FB rate was the highest in the majors. Every start, it seemed like he just couldn’t avoid making a big mistake over the plate in a crucial spot. That being said, he’s not our problem anymore, so if he wants to give up 50 homers next season for Atlanta, we’ll be happy to let him to just that.
Photo by Billy Hurst – USA Today Sports