Pitchers and Pythags


This is the second part of a two-part series in which we look at the upcoming 2012 season for the Athletics. The hitters can be found here. NOTE: Cespedes is NOT included in either of these articles. I have not found any real projections that I am confident in using for him. As it is, I do not think the addition of him this year will add all that much for the team, which I will get into later.


The off-season got going relatively early for the Athletics this year. December 9th the A’s traded Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Jarrod Parker, Colin Cowgill, and Ryan Cook. Little did fans know that it was the start of a very slippery slope. Not long after Gio Gonzalez, Andrew Bailey, and back-of-the-rotation starters Josh Outman and Guillermo Moscoso were all traded away. With Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson both recovering from surgeries that left their return, at the time, unknown, the once decent starting rotation the A’s always had was suddenly gone. The names that now looked to fill those rotation spots were ones that little, to no MLB experience. Peacock, Milone, Parker, Cole, who were these guys? Then Bartolo Colon signed with the A’s and names like Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt has some ties as well. It was looking like the young guns were getting some veteran help. As it stands now, there should be an even amount of young talent and veteran presence in the starting rotation. But what is it going to look like?

Right now I think the rotation is as follows:

I know it is odd to think of Anderson as a #4 starter, but coming off an injury year and not knowing his timetable for return and his obvious innings limit, I think it would be prudent to stick him down in the rotation. I have Milone as the #5 starter and the only one of the young arms because I think his value to the Athletics is not going to get any higher. I have been on record saying that I feel back-of-the-rotation arms are undervalued. If he turns out to be what he is supposed to, I think the A’s can lock him up long-term easier than the other arms.


Unfortunately unlike lineup simulators of hitters, there is no “starting rotation simulators.” So now we are left to do a little algebra. The equation we are going to use, and ultimately manipulate, is Bill James’ Pythagorean Therom. The equation, which is used to get a winning percentage, takes runs scored and runs allowed to determine the ratio. It looks as such;

Runs Scoredª
Runs Scoredª + Runs Allowedª

ª = 1.83 // Runs Scored = 675

Remember the 675 was determined from the lineup simulator using the aggregated hitting projections.

With a little re-working and using variances as to the winning percentage, we can project the runs allowed by the Athletics pitching staff. Now, how to determine the win variance. For all that has been written about the A’s offseason (which is, amazingly, a ton) there have been different opionions as to how the Athletics will do this season. I have seen projections in which they will win 80 games, to ones where they will have trouble winning 60+ games. So with that in mind I ran this for 65-70, 76, and 56 wins. I feel we get a good look at the team by choosing those numbers. 65 to 70 isn’t the “scrapping the bottom of the barrel” kind of numbers that some would suggest would happen. I feel a 6 – 10 game regression from the previous season after trading away a large majority of your starting rotation is not all that unreasonable. 76 wins is just under the 80-win projection mentioned earlier, which I think is the most ambitious of them all. And the 56-win season, well, that would be the worst of the worst. A season that makes the Astros look like world-beaters, which even with everything being the worst possible it could be, I do not see happening. So, after all that, what do the Runs Allowed look like?

WinsRuns Allowed

As a point of reference, the Athletics haven’t allowed more than 800 runs since 2000, when they allowed 813. On average, since the 2000 season, they have allowed 763 runs/year. If they were to hold to that, it would leave them in the 70 win range. But again, these are just projections, a lot can change.

Where does this rank among teams that have lost the most games? Since the 2000 season the average number of wins to secure the worst record is 58 wins while allowing an average of  880 runs. The worst being the 2002 Tigers only winning 43 games while allowing 928 runs. The best-of-the-worst was the 2007 Rays. They won 66 games, but allowed 944 runs.

So for all of the grumblings that this could be the worst team ever, it’s really nowhere close to it. Will it be a long season? Absolutely. The worst ever? Hardly.

Why Did I Not Include Cespedes?

While the addition of Cespedes is certainly an exciting one, it is not going to change this season all that drastically. There are some projections for him out there, but I just did not feel comfortable including them. This is going to be a very difficult year for Yoenis. The level of talent is going to be very different than what he was used to seeing in Cuba. And with a long layoff from competitive baseball, it is going to take a while for him to get ready. Do not be surprised if this is his worst year in the majors.

As it stands, Cespedes is would be a 3 Win Above Replacement (WAR) player in the Majors. If you need help envisioning what a 3 WAR player is, look up the stats for Jeff Franceour last season (2011). Yoenis is going to be slightly better than that.

So with all of that, his offensive addition to the team is going to be minimal this year. Could he make the team a 72 or 73 win teams instead of a 69 win team? Absolutely, but nothing more than that. It is for the reason that I felt comfortable no including him.

David Spencer can be found on Twitter at @oakfaninva. If you like listening to four random guy talk about the Athletics for an hour each week, check out the podcast he hosts called Tarp Talk. Follow @FS_SwinginAs for more Athletics updates.