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AZ SnakePit "Community" Projections, Part Three: Rotation

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I am using the word "Community" is quotes, given that it now consists of me collating the various projection systems, with only myself and Azreous stepping up to provide numbers of our own. It's disappointing: was talking with him about it, and we're not sure why people are so uninterested this year, after these articles provoked some interesting discussions previously. Maybe someone can explain why they're not offering up any projections?

We move on to the rotation, which has seen huge change since last season - Haren is the only man who made more than 13 starts in 2009 to return. Doug Davis, Jon Garland, Max Scherzer and Yusmeiro Petit, who combined for exactly two-thirds of our games last season, are all gone, and so need to be replaced. We do have two new arrivals in Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy, and a host of contenders for the back end of the rotation - who is the #6 starter may rise in importance, depending on how long Webb is out.

After the jump, we'll get on with looking at the numbers coming out of the crystal ball, Tarot cards, animal intestines, or whatever other method of augury you may prefer.

1. Dan Haren
2009 229.1 14-10 3.14 1.00
Bill James 221.0 16-9 3.38 1.17
CHONE 196.0 12-9 3.67 1.17
Marcel 196.0 13-9 3.35 1.12
ZIPS 227.2 17-7 3.04 1.08
THT 220.0 3.29 1.11

Haren gets the Opening Day start, and will be expected to be the ace of the team until whenever Webb returns to shoulder some of the load. He was brilliant at the start of 2009, but faded down the stretch, and while I hope that will be addresses in some way this season (was it fatigue?), I can't say I'm counting on it. No reason for him to be anything other than an absolute workhorse: of course, that's what we said about Webb at this point last year, and we know how that worked out. Should benefit from better run support - seven of last year's losses were with zero or one run scored by the offense.
AZ SnakePit: 210 IP, 16-8, 3.20 ERA, 1.09 WHIP
2. Brandon Webb
2009 4.0 0-0 13.50 2.50
Bill James 180.0 13-7 3.40 1.24
CHONE 128.0 8-7 3.94 1.36
Marcel 85.0 7-3 3.49 1.25
ZIPS 164.2 12-7 3.50 1.27
THT 160.0 3.29 1.20

This is the wild-card. Webb could pitch almost any number of innings, from zero to two hundred, and his effectiveness could range from replacement-level to Cy Young. Obviously, we know what we are hoping for, but trying to put that aside, and with no major road-bumps on his road to recovery, I'd be looking for around 25 starts. It'll be a few weeks in before he comes back, and the team will likely try to manage the schedule to give him off days where possible. Of course, there's also the possibility, depending on how he pitches and team fortunes, that he may not end the season in Arizona...
AZ SnakePit: 150 IP, 9-7, 3.50 ERA, 1.26 WHIP
3. Edwin Jackson
2009 214.0 13-9 3.62 1.26
Bill James 218.0 10-14 4.75 1.50
CHONE 178.0 10-10 4.40 1.42
Marcel 185.0 11-10 4.33 1.39
ZIPS 203.2 14-10 4.07 1.36
THT 200.0 4.86 1.49

Surprised to see that none of the projection systems believe Jackson will even come close to matching 2009, despite a move out of the American League (and, in particular, the AL East). Fangraphs reckoned his success was due to increased use of his slider - Jackson is basically a fastball/slider guy, but his percentage use of the latter went up from 20% to 27%, with hitters swinging at an impressive 37% of those sliders that were out of the strike-zone. The number particularly increased early in the count. Will that be sustainable without arm issues? For now, I don't see any special reason why not.
AZ SnakePit: 200 IP, 12-9, 3.93 ERA, 1.35 WHIP
4. Ian Kennedy
2009 1.0 0-0 0.00 2.00
Bill James
CHONE 94.0 5-5 4.40 1.41
Marcel 58.0 3-4 4.81 1.48
ZIPS 81.0 3-5 5.00 1.48
THT 140.0 3.98 1.36

Obviously, now his rotation spot is all but locked, the IP will certainly go up. There are certainly some warning signs from Kennedy, such as his fly-ball tendencies, which will not play well in Chase, and may explain why he has been working on a sinking fastball. He has also walked 37 batters in just 59.2 major-league innings, and needs to get back to his walk-rate in the minors (2.8 per nine IP) to have any chance of success. That said, he'll be 25 for all of this season, so still has the potential to develop and improve. If so, he could be a credible mid-rotation starter, If not, then we could be looking at the second coming of Yusmeiro Petit
AZ SnakePit: 160 IP, 8-9, 4.50 ERA, 1.43 WHIP
5. Billy Buckner
2009 77.1 4-6 6.40 1.59
Bill James 94.0 4-6 4.98 1.49
CHONE 166.0 9-10 4.61 1.47
Marcel 86.0 5-5 4.92 1.45
ZIPS 169.1 9-13 5.05 1.52
THT 125.0 4.88 1.50

I think Buckner has the potential to be a breakout pitcher this year. I'm not saying he will, but he seemed a different guy after coming back from Triple-A at the end of last season, and the reports this spring I've heard have not been bad. We're not talking an ace, but I do think he'll be significantly better than the average #5 starter, and the projection systems tend to agree. Last year's figures for Buckner were bloated by an obscene BABIP (.347) and his HR rate was 16.7%, compared to the average of 11-12%. Those should tend to regress to a more normal level, and I'd be happy with an ERA below five.
AZ SnakePit: 165 IP, 9-10, 4.95 ERA, 1.48 WHIP

One final note: adding up those projections for the front five, you get a combined record of 54-43. Eleven games over .500 may seem excessive, but this doesn't include starts from the #6+ guys, which will likely narrow the gap due to their losing record. We've also seen a bigger gap than that of late. In 2008, the starters for the 82-win Diamondbacks were thirteen games over .500 (65-52). Mind you, they also had a collective ERA under four: I think we'd all be deliriously happy if that were to happen this season.

The Sixth Starter

IHateSouthBend already covered the sixth starter candidates in his excellent article last week, so I won't bother rehashing his analysis. However, for completeness, I'll throw up a quick table listing the four candidates he covered (Bryan Augenstein, Rodrigo Lopez, Kevin Mulvey and Cesar Valdez), and what the projection systems have to say about them in 2010 - just the basic ERA and WHIP numbers. [Update: Now that we've signed Kris Benson to a minor-league deal, I've added him to the chart as well]

Augenstein Benson Lopez Mulvey Valdez
2009 7.94, 1.71 8.46, 2.02
5.70, 1.77 8.14, 1.68 N/A
Bill James 4.60, 1.43
CHONE 4.80, 1.48 5.71, 1.43
5.00, 1.48 5.23, 1.53 5.54, 1.56
Marcel 4.60, 1.40 5.40, 1.40 4.70, 1.46 4.75, 1.40
ZIPS 4.97, 1.40 6.12, 1.60
5.00, 1.42 5.24, 1.57 5.64, 1.55
THT 4.03, 1.29
4.83, 1.52