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Projecting the Pitchers

on 12/30/2006


The Brewers' starting rotation suffered greatly from injuries last year and it doesn't take a genius to figure out that the 2007 rotation should fare much better simply by staying healthy. The top five starters in 2006 (Ben Sheets, Chris Capuano, Doug Davis, Dave Bush, and Tomo Ohka) compiled a respectable 4.37 ERA over 835 IP, but injuries to Sheets and Ohka led to 127.2 woeful innings by replacement starters (7.12 ERA). The final result was a not-so-stellar 11th place finish in the NL with a 4.73 ERA in 962.2 IP. The short starts by the replacements wore down the bullpen, which finished dead last in the NL with a 5.03 ERA in 463 IP. Owner Mark Attanasio publicly declared that a recurrence of the pitching shortage would be unacceptable, and to his credit he played a significant role in luring durable free agent Jeff Suppan.

Without assuming perfect health from this year's top five starters (Sheets, Capuano, Suppan, Bush, and Claudio Vargas), what can we reasonably expect from the 2007 pitching staff?

If we use the 2007 ZiPS projections for the top five starters, we end up with 911 IP, a little more than 50 IP short of last year's 962.2 IP by starters. So I picked a rather arbitrary number of innings, 965 IP, and assigned the remaining 54 IP to a 50/50 combination of Carlos Villanueva's and Yovani Gallardo's projections. 54 replacement innings would be significantly fewer than last year's 127.2 IP, but it seems like a reasonable amount. Using those numbers, ZiPS would project the following from our starting pitchers:


A 4.05 ERA would have led all NL rotations in 2006 and would definitely be near the top in 2007. While there is obviously a lot of uncertainty, it's clear that a moderately healthy rotation in 2007 would provide a dramatic improvement over last year's starters.

The bullpen, however, is still a huge question mark. Even if we use last year's dismal numbers


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