Leading the way for Detroit is .... Max Scherzer. Apparently the algorithm must assign Max to a team, so he defaults to the Tigers for now. I hope this is a really smart computer. ZiPS sees him maintaining his dominance with 231 strikeouts in 200 innings, an ERA of 3.19, and an ERA- of 80. Projection systems like to move extreme players toward average performances, so his 5.3 WAR is exceptional.
ERA- is a pitcher's ERA adjusted for a pitchers' home park, and divided by the league average ERA. 100 is average, and below 100 is above average.
David Price is expected to be the workhorse with 210 innings, and is second in WAR at 4.3. ZiPS suggests that if Price is to replace Scherzer, he will fall a bit short.
Justin Verlander is predicted to bounce back after his worst season since 2006. An innings total of 202 indicates health, a strikeout rate of 21.2% a recovery of his stuff, and an ERA- of 94 being a solid number two starter. ZiPS compares Verlander to Tim Belcher, which leads one to question all the results.
Anibal Sanchez's 3.43 ERA forecast is the lowest assuming Scherzer does not return, and an ERA- of 86. But he is expected to miss a quarter of his starts, leading to a WAR of 3.5.
ZiPS is less optimistic about Shane Greene, not believing that his breakout freshman performance is sustainable. His strikeout rate decreases to 18.4%, while maintaining an acceptable walk rate of 8.5%. It sees too many hits with a BABIP of .313, leading to a below-average 4.48 ERA. I would like to see him blow that number away and cause a tweaking of the ZiPS formula for 2016.
Alfredo Simon is nearly the equal of Shane Greene in the ZiPS world with an ERA- of 115 compared to Greene's 112, and a WAR of 1.4 versus 1.3. With a strikeout rate of 14% apparently ZiPS thinks Simon will be lucky with batted balls and induce batters to hit ‘em where they are, not where they ain't.
Among the relievers there are some bright spots. Joakim Soria is projected to have an ERA- of 86, identical to Anibal Sanchez. Joe Nathan's ERA- prediction is 94, identical to Justin Verlander. I could stomach Verlander pitching the eighth and Sanchez the ninth, but I suppose it must be the other way.
Al Al and Blaine Hardy are the only other relievers expected to be above average, though Gorzelanny is not included. Bruce Rondon's projection is nearly identical to Joba Chamberlain's, so that swap could work. Alex Wilson is not far behind. Joel Hanrahan sports a walk rate of 13.2%, too high for an important relief role. And Phil Coke shows up on the chart as he waits for a new home, right above potential replacement Ian Krol. They project as similar below-average lefties.
ZiPS really does not like Buck Farmer, Josh Zeid, Angel Nesbitt, Melvin Mercedes, Kyle Ryan, Edgar De La Rosa, and Kyle Lobstein. All have an ERA above 5.00. It thinks Lobstein looks like Nate Robertson, and not vintage 2006.
Whom do you think can provide a surprise boost to the pitching staff in 2015?