Jarred Cosart (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)
Jarred Cosart is talented. He has a bright future ahead of him with the Houston Astros. That much cannot be disputed. But how will he perform in 2014 and does his future lie in the starting rotation or in the bullpen?
For even asking that question, you might think I am crazy. Yes, I did see Cosart’s debut in Tampa Bay where he pitched into the ninth inning. You cannot argue with Cosart’s performance last season.
The right-hander made 10 starts for the Astros and finished the season with a 1.95 ERA. So why is there even a question?
But after watching him last season, I did have some doubts about Cosart’s ability to repeat his debut. Now you can’t argue with the results, and I’m not going to fault him for his 1-1 record as we all know about the Astros’ bullpen and their lack of offense, but after a deeper look, there is some cause for concern.
Of course you have to account for an adjustment period to the major leagues, but in his 10 starts, Cosart only averaged six innings each. This was caused by more than the Astros looking out for his pitch counts. The rookie had control problems as he walked 33 batters in his 60 innings while only striking out 35 batters. Cosart also gave up 46 hits which ultimately led to a 1.35 WHIP.
And that makes it harder to fathom how Cosart’s ERA was only 1.95. This is why I think a regression is in order for Cosart and can be expected.
Brad Johnson does a very good job going into greater depth on this, but the bottom line is that there was some luck involved in Cosart’s rookie season. I’m not sure we can expect much less than a 4.00 ERA from him in 2014. In fact, if you take a look at the Steamer projection on Fangraphs, Cosart’s expected 2014 ERA comes in at 5.16.
Without going too statistically in depth, Cosart’s strand rate of 85.9% last season was extremely lucky, and I would expect it to come down dramatically to the major league average of around 75% this season. Cosart also had a BABIP against of .246. When those numbers normalize, Cosart’s performance will be negatively impacted.
Ultimately, I would not be surprised to see Cosart end up either in the bullpen or in AAA at some point next season. Granted I might be overreacting a little here, but regression is in order without a doubt. Now this doesn’t mean that Cosart isn’t a talented pitcher, because he is, but I think he and his 95 mile per hour fastball might be better suited for the back end of the bullpen. If Cosart does remain in the rotation going forward, I can see him slotting in as a very good third or fourth starter in the future.
We don’t have another Jordan Lyles here, but I’m not sure we see another 1.95 ERA either.