Projecting the Mariners' top pitchers

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

We've seen how Mariners batters project for the 2014 season. Now, let's take a look at the progress the M's staff needs to make.

Last Sunday, we examined three projection systems and their prognostications for the Mariners' best offensive players in 2014. Today, we'll consider some of the M's top performers on the mound.

As may be expected, Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma top the lists here. The other top three finishers vary considerably among ZiPS, Steamer, and Oliver systems. Let's start with ZiPS. Here are the top five pitchers on the Mariners' 2014 staff:

Name IP K/9 BB/9 BABIP ERA FIP zWAR
Felix Hernandez 211.3 9.37 2.13 .297 3.07 2.94 4.2
Hisashi Iwakuma 195.0 8.03 1.85 .267 3.23 3.57 3.5
Taijuan Walker 137.0 8.01 3.81 .291 4.07 4.23 1.0
Danny Farquhar 70.7 10.57 3.31 .298 3.18 2.91 0.6
Charlie Furbush 60.3 11.34 3.73 .287 3.13 3.26 0.6

ZiPS, Steamer, and Oliver agree on two points: First, Felix and Iwakuma will remain the most productive pitchers Seattle has to offer; second, their performances will regress after an award-worthy season in 2013. Felix appears to take the biggest hit in WAR with Dan Szymborski's calculations, but it's worth mentioning that the variations between zWAR and fWAR may account for the discrepancy of 1.8 WAR. Elsewhere, Szymborski estimates that Felix will stay on pace in most categories, handling seven additional innings and getting docked slightly in strikeouts and walks per nine innings.

Iwakuma sees a bigger setback in 2014, improving only in playing time and strikeouts per nine innings. ZiPS is the only projection system that places two relievers in the top five, with both Danny Farquhar and Charlie Furbush regaining more control on the mound and fewer WAR. Farquhar's career-best 1.86 FIP in 2013 is expected to double, while Furbush should see a spike in his strikeout rate per nine innings.

Next up, Steamer projections:

Name IP K/9 BB/9 BABIP ERA FIP fWAR
Felix Hernandez 192.0 8.74 2.33 .297 3.28 3.97 4.7
Hisashi Iwakuma 182.0 7.22 2.34 .296 3.83 3.48 3.4
Taijuan Walker 144.0 8.30 4.42 .290 4.42 4.22 1.6
Erasmo Ramirez 144.0 6.67 3.03 .292 4.42 4.16 1.5
James Paxton 144.0 7.48 4.60 .295 4.64 4.20 1.3

Steamer evaluates every player on the basis of a full season of play. Of the three systems, it's the kindest towards young arms*, ranking 20-somethings Taijuan Walker, Erasmo Ramirez, and James Paxton in the highest slots behind Felix and 'Kuma. Ramirez makes out the best with a doubled fWAR and deflated ERA, FIP, and walk rate from his 2013 performance. Both Walker and Paxton have less than 25 innings under their belts, however, and their projections may not be as stable as the others'.

*Also worth knowing is that Steamer recently began adjusting their projections for league-wide shifts in strikeout and walk rates to better reflect the changes that might occur in individual performances.

As displayed below, Oliver projections are the most optimistic for Felix Hernandez, showing barely a dent in most of his 2013 numbers:

Name IP K/9 BB/9 BABIP ERA FIP fWAR
Felix Hernandez 223.0 8.79 2.14 .313 2.90 2.83 5.9
Hisashi Iwakuma 162.0 6.94 2.00 .274 3.06 3.85 2.1
Erasmo Ramirez 162.0 6.37 2.38 .299 3.77 3.93 2.0
James Paxton 131.0 7.78 4.20 .312 4.20 3.98 1.4
Danny Farquhar 76.0 9.39 3.09 .298 3.09 2.97 1.1

Oliver also follows Steamer's lead with several favorable projections for young players, but remains the only one of the three to leave Taijuan Walker off their top five. Walker is expected to tally 1.0 fWAR in 2014 in his first full MLB season, with inflated walk and home run rates and improved strikeout and stranded rates. Ramirez is neck-and-neck with Iwakuma for fWAR, able to sharpen all of his stats save for a strikeout rate of 7.09 in 2013. Oliver is a little higher on Danny Farquhar than Steamer, but assumes that he'll receive more opportunities on the field and a more significant depression to his 12.77 strikeout rate per nine innings.

Where do you think the Mariners' staff is headed in 2014? Besides Felix and Iwakuma, who will improve the most? The least?

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