Blue Jays: Pitchers Projected Ceilings and Floors

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 28: Hyun-Jin Ryu #99 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the San Francisco Giants in the bottom of the first inning at Oracle Park on September 28, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 28: Hyun-Jin Ryu #99 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the San Francisco Giants in the bottom of the first inning at Oracle Park on September 28, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

With PECOTA projections out, let us look at Blue Jays pitchers ceilings and floors based on current projections.

It is that great time of year where every team and their fans are thinking “this is our year” because, as we all know, ‘hope springs eternal’. Every fan base still has that optimism before that long arduous journey of a 162 game baseball season. One of my favourite things to do during this time of the year is look at projections, especially the high-end of those projections just to fuel my optimism. It is fun to be optimistic.

Last week I went through the 2020 PECOTA projections for the Blue Jays hitters. This week we will go through and see what PECOTA is projecting for Blue Jays Pitchers for this upcoming season.

If you read last week’s post as to what PECOTA is, feel free to skip this section. But for those that haven’t, I will explain what PECOTA is. PECOTA stands for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm. It is one of the original computer-modelled projections out there, created by Nate Silver, back in 2003. For most of PECOTA’s history, it spit out a range of outcomes for each player from the 10th to the 90th percentile, but most usually just saw the 50th percentile outcome(the most likely outcome for each player). The system runs thousands of simulations of the season, and the 50th percentile would be the median outcome. New this year, PECOTA has added 1st and 99th percentile outcomes, i.e. the floor and ceilings of each player.

This week, I would like to go through the Blue Jays pitchers floors, ceilings, and most likely outcomes per PECOTA. I said this last week but it is important to note that these are ranges of outcomes from the 1st percentile to the 99th percentile, meaning these numbers should capture all possible outcomes, but there is a slim possibility that they are wrong. I also have stripped away some of the pitchers who were projected to have less than 12 innings pitched because their impact would be minimal anyways.

1st Percentile (THE FLOOR)

Here is the 1st percentile table.

Wow, 2020 would not be a fun season if several pitchers performed at that absolute floors’. The team would have a 7.59 ERA with over five walks per nine innings. Obviously, if the team was that bad, the front office would most likely move other pitchers into the mix and move some aging pitchers out. Baseball Prospectus has its own ERA estimator statistic in the chart called DRA (Deserved Run Allowed). It is another pitcher statistic that tries to strip away the luck in batted balls in play similar to FIP, xFIP, or SIERA.

For example, in the chart Hyun-Jin Ryu has an 5.34 ERA and a 4.95 DRA, Ryu would have allowed more runs than the other team actually deserved. Therefore, he was slightly unlucky. DRA- is another form of the same statistic but normalized to league average. Ryu in this chart is projected to have a 102 DRA-, meaning he would be 2% worse than league average.

Some things of note from the 1st percentile…

Ken Giles‘ floor would still be an so-so reliever.  His floor would still be a reliever with a 79 DRA- (21% better than league average), 12.4 stike outs per 9.0 innings, 0.8 WARP and a 3.93 FIP. This would probably lose him the “closer” title, but he probably would still be a Blue Jays reliever. The likeliness of this happening is very slim, but it is nice to know that Giles floor is still above replacement level.

Hyun-Jin Ryu floor is a league average starter that would put up 146 innings (providing no injuries). His floor is still less than three walks per 9.0 innings. Obviously the Blue Jays did not sign him to be ‘league average’ and no one expects this to be the case.

PECOTA is projecting Shun Yamaguchi to be a starter. Since he does not have any track record in North America, and PECOTA relies on past performance, he will have a wide range of outcomes. According to PECOTA’s 1st percentile, he projects as a -1.5 WARP pitcher in 121 innings. If Yamaguchi is that bad, he will be moved to the bullpen. I would take this floor projection with a grain of salt as there isn’t enough of a track record to predict his future.

More from Jays Journal

99th Percentile (Ceiling)

Here is the 99th Percentile Table.

Now there is the optimism I am looking for. All but one pitcher has an above league average DRA-, and all provide positive value above replacement level. Six pitchers projecting at double-digit strike outs per nine innings. All but one pitcher is projected to have more than three walks per 9.0 innings. Eleven pitchers with a WHIP of 1.05 or less. Just like the 1st percentile, I do not expect these outcomes to ring true, but it is possible and it is fun to dream.

Things of note….

Nate Pearson could become the pitcher we all hope he will be as soon as this year. PECOTA is not projecting him to be with the team for a full season. I expect him to be up sometime mid-way through the season. His 99th percentile outcome is a starting pitcher with 1.42 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 10.7 SO9, 2.1 BB9, 61 DRA-, in 46 innings. I would not be shocked to see him exceed 46 innings with the Blue Jays this season.

Shun Yamaguchi would become the second best starting pitcher on the Blue Jays in the 99th percentile outcome. He would have 1.94 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 10.3 SO9, 2.2 BB9 in 121 innings. That would be amazing, but just like the 1st percentile, he does not have a long track record and his range of outcomes are much bigger than the should be. If the Blue Jays got this version of Yamaguchi, they would be absolutely laughing.

Ken Giles would be the close to, if not, the best reliever in baseball with his 99th percentile outcome in 2020. He would have a 1.22 ERA, 14.5 SO9, 2.4 BB9, 61 saves and a WHIP of 0.84. This would be the dream season for the Blue Jays’ reliever.

50th Percentile Outcome

Here is the table for the 50th Percentile.

Well let’s get back to reality. Here are the most likely outcomes for the Blue Jays pitchers. A team with only three pitchers getting double-digit strike outs per 9.0 innings. A team with an ERA in the mid-fours and a WHIP around 1.35. A team with seven pitchers with a better than league average DRA. The 6.3 total WARP is not all that encouraging but when compared to the -0.6 WARP that the top 18 pitchers for the Blue Jays put up in 2019, it is a step forward. Also 50th percentile projections are very conservative. They do not project break outs very well with younger players without a long track record. The pitchers could easily surpass these numbers.

Range of Outcomes

Here is a table with the Range of Outcomes sorted by WARP.

It is important to note that the longer a track record a player has, the more information PECOTA has on the player, therefore the range of outcomes becomes smaller. Also, the more a pitcher pitches, the wider range of WARP he could accrue.

Shun Yamaguchi has far and away the largest range of outcomes as PECOTA does not know what to think of him just yet. Next year could and should be a much smaller range.

Nate Pearson has a significant range of outcomes considering he is projected to pitch less than 50 innings. It is difficult to project what a prospect will do once he makes it to the show.


The Blue Jays pitchers are projected to be better than they were last year, but how could they not be? The Blue Jays have added veteran starting pitchers (Hyun-Jin Ryu, Tanner Roark, and Chase Anderson) and international free agent Shun Yamaguchi to the rotation, to go along with Matt Shoemaker, Nate Pearson, Ryan Borucki, Anthony Kay, and Trent Thornton. Of note, PECOTA is not very high on Borucki, also he may be injured to start the season anyway.

Next. Pearson back on track and moving up quick. dark

None the less, they have legitimate depth in their rotation for 2020. I project the rotation to be Ryu, Roark, Anderson, Shoemaker, and Thornton to start the season. PECOTA likes Yamaguchi as the fifth starter and it sounds like he will get a significant shot at being a starter. Nate Pearson could become a fixture in the rotation mid way through the season as well. I am very optimistic that this rotation can exceed the PECOTA 50th percentile projections.