2019 Projection Series: Michael Wacha

Over the last 5 years, the average starter has this line in 30 starts:

Over Wacha’s career, he has averaged this line in 30 starts:

30 GS, 171 IP, 5.71 IP/GS 3.77 ERA, 3.68 FIP, 1.285 WHIP, 2.66 K:BB 8.6 H/9, 8.0 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 0.9 HR/9

The problem is that, assuming 32 starts per year available to him, he’s missed 42 starts in 5 years. That means he’s missed 26.25% of all potential starts given to him. He just can’t stay healthy - and it’s the shoulder, which is more scary than if it were just 32 of those starts missing an entire season for Tommy John on the elbow.

I would have to fudge the data a bit to get my projection system to give Michael Wacha 32 starts - or even 30 starts - to see what those projections would be. I am okay with doing that - with giving a player the playing time I think he will have this year. I am just not okay with making any sort of guarantee (not the right word...illusion?) that Wacha will start 30+ times this year.

In any case, the numbers the system spits out this year are not nearly as rosy as those career numbers. I personally think my projections for Wacha are going to be a bit off - in the negative direction. I personally feel he’ll have a better year than this.

Michael Wacha projection 2019:

24 GS, 133 IP, 5.542 IP/GS 4.13 ERA, 3.83 FIP, 1.353 WHIP, 2.48 K:BB 8.932 H/9, 8.053 K/9, 3.248 BB/9, 0.947 HR/9

I feel like his ERA will be aided by an improved defense this upcoming season. DeJong and Wong should get more time up the middle together and Goldschmidt should bring the anchor down on the infield quite a bit. Bader will get more time in center field, which will be a bigger help to Wacha as a fly ball pitcher.

(AN ASIDE: This is probably another post entirely, but I would love to see Michael Wacha and Alex Reyes piggyback every 5 days and go 18 batters apiece every 5th day during the course of the season. That would give them approximately 4-5 innings 37 times over the course of the season, giving each of them somewhere between 150 and 185 innings and giving them both consistency in when they pitch AND getting them out of the game before throwing too many pitches.)

What can be pointed out to show that things CAN be better than that?!?

Wacha only made 15 starts last year. He had a quality start in 7 of them. However, he gave up 2 or less runs in 11 of them and 2 or less earned runs in 12 of them. That’s 80% of them!

What else could go right? Well, Wacha threw his change up 22.5% of the time in 2018 and got a 33.5% swing and miss rate on it resulting in a strikeout 29.5% of the time. That’s pretty awesome. Here’s one to a hapless Phillie.

How/If things go wrong:

Well, as I said earlier, he’s missed over 25% of the starts he had been offered, basically - AND he’s never missed an entire season to Tommy John and is a major league pitcher. It could be a null and void season for Wacha - which is worst potential outcome. Also, he was shut down early on June 20th (after the game) for the season. In his last 3 games, he went just 13 1/3 innings with an ERA of nearly 7.5 and an OPS against over 1.000!