Every spring I collect several projections sources and average them together to do a meta-projection. Last year I pulled projections from Baseball Prospectus, ZiPS, Steamer, ESPN, and Baseball Reference. In full transparency, I’m writing this article about Seth Lugo on the morning of 12/30 and I probably won’t have any time to edit it before it posts at 8:00 am during the New Year. As of yesterday, there were rumors flying that the Astros are looking at Seth Lugo in trade talks with the Mets. Right now when I hear that the Astros are looking at a pitcher, I want to hold onto to that pitcher because I trust their eyes more than most.
When I wrote the 2018 stats projection article for Lugo last year, the season just started and Lugo was already in the pen. At that point it was unclear if he was going to stay in the pen. Most of us at that point knew Lugo as the rookie arm that led the Mets to the 2016 Wild Card game and the ace starting pitcher for team Puerto Rico in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
Lugo had a tremendously successful year last year. However, I believe most projection programs were still trying to crunch his numbers as a player coming off an injury trying to fight his way into a crowded rotation that had a lot of injuries. That led to 3 projections having him at 90-95 innings, 1 at 71, 1 at 109 and then ZiPS was all in on Lugo the starter having him log 199.7 innings. The computers spat out this average line:
2018 Average Projection: 110.1 IP, 4.52 ERA, 4.52 FIP, 1.34 WHIP, 7.35 K/9
2018 Actual: 101.1 IP, 2.66 ERA, 3.17 FIP, 1.076 WHIP, 9.1 K/9
Lugo did make 5 starts last year bumping his innings total to 101.1. He had a 3.91 ERA in 23.0 innings as a starter and 2.30 as a reliever. His WHIP as a starter was 1.304 (as a reliever it was 1.009)
Lugo outperformed his projections in every way. The only projection that was close to correct was Lugo’s WHIP as a starter, which I think is how most projections saw him anyway.
Additional detail, when he started and relieved, he was not typical. His starts were shorter than normal, probably leading to his a lower ERA. His relief appearances often went over an inning, leading to a higher inning total.
The man with a ridiculous RPM curveball did great last year and I’m curious to see how projection programs handle him for 2019.