For an explanation of this series, please read the introductory post. The data is a hybrid projection of the ZIPS and Steamer systems with playing time determined through depth charts created by our team of authors. The rankings are based on aggregate projected WAR for each team at a given position.
Last week, we tackled the positional players, grading out each team’s options at each spot that is occupied by a fielder. You can see all those posts here, and yes, they’ve now been updated to reflect the correct park adjusted numbers. So, today, we move on to the pitching side of things. Because we’re dealing with 7-10 starters and an equal number of relievers for each club, we’re breaking these posts into two parts, less they become our own version of War and Peace.
After doing the bottom tier this morning — while noting again that the dividing line is essentially a false one, since there’s basically no separation between teams from #13 to #17 — we’re on to the strong pitching staffs, including a couple at the top that are exceptionally strong. There are also a few surprises in the top half, but overall, I think the projections look pretty good. There are inevitably going to be innings allocations or performance forecasts than one can quibble with, but overall, I think this system has done a pretty good job.
On to the list.
|Justin Verlander||229.0||8.8||2.4||0.9||.298||75.1 %||3.24||3.19||5.8|
|Max Scherzer||176.0||9.3||2.8||1.0||.313||74.0 %||3.67||3.47||3.8|
|Doug Fister||186.0||6.3||1.9||0.8||.307||70.1 %||3.86||3.61||3.7|
|Anibal Sanchez||180.0||7.0||2.5||1.0||.309||70.9 %||4.10||3.87||3.1|
|Rick Porcello||132.0||5.4||2.3||0.8||.317||67.9 %||4.39||3.92||2.2|
|Drew Smyly||49.0||8.2||3.2||1.0||.306||73.0 %||3.93||3.81||0.9|
|Casey Crosby||40.0||6.4||5.9||1.1||.310||68.7 %||5.58||5.38||0.0|
When you start with the best pitcher in baseball, you have a pretty nice advantage over everyone else, but this Tigers rotation would be in the top 10 even if you took Verlander out of the picture. This is a strong group across the board, with both excellence and depth, to the point where they might end up trading a relatively cheap, young, average starting pitcher just because they don’t have room for everyone. It might not be quite as good as the rotation the Phillies put together a few years ago, but it’s close.
I’d also suggest that the data above makes a pretty decent case for why the Tigers should just hang on to Rick Porcello. The big drop-off between Smyly and Crosby could become a legitimate problem if they move Porcello and then someone goes down. The Tigers have six capable starters, but most big league teams ending up needing six capable starters to get through a season. If they got to a point where they had to depend on Crosby as their first fill-in and then various minor leaguers behind him, things could go downhill in a hurry. It might not be fair to Drew Smyly to start him back in Triple-A, but unless the Tigers get a really great offer for Porcello, they’re probably best served just maintaining their depth. No one ever missed the playoffs because they had too many good pitchers, but a decent amount have missed because their emergency fill-ins were pretty terrible.
|Stephen Strasburg||191.0||10.7||2.5||0.7||.309||77.9 %||2.69||2.61||5.7|
|Gio Gonzalez||202.0||9.1||3.5||0.7||.300||74.9 %||3.22||3.24||4.3|
|Jordan Zimmermann||175.0||7.1||2.1||0.9||.300||73.3 %||3.54||3.60||3.0|
|Dan Haren||165.0||7.3||1.7||1.0||.303||72.5 %||3.66||3.53||2.9|
|Ross Detwiler||129.0||6.0||3.1||0.8||.303||70.4 %||4.13||4.02||1.5|
|Chris Young||26.0||6.2||3.1||1.4||.295||71.6 %||4.65||4.81||0.1|
|Ross Ohlendorf||16.0||6.3||3.4||1.2||.300||70.5 %||4.66||4.72||0.1|
|Yunesky Maya||17.0||4.6||2.8||1.3||.305||67.4 %||5.13||4.98||0.0|
The Nationals are basically the Tigers without the safety net. Their front five are also excellent, led by perhaps the game’s best starter on a per-inning basis, but they don’t have Detroit’s depth behind him. In fact, if any Nationals starter went down in week one, it’s not abundantly clear what the plan would be. Chris Young is in camp with the team, but might be able to secure a Major League job with another club, in which case Washington has agreed to let him go. The #6 starter candidates after Young are uninspiring, and really, Young isn’t that exciting himself.
But, that’s a lot of attention on the imperfection of a still-great rotation. Strasburg, Gio, Zimmerman, and Haren provide an elite front four, and if Strasburg blows through the 200 inning marker, he could very well take the title of the game’s preeminent ace away from Verlander. This rotation was built for October, and if the Nationals get into the playoffs with the big four all healthy and unrestricted, then they’re going to be very difficult to beat.
|Yu Darvish||215.0||10.0||3.6||0.8||.307||74.6 %||3.35||3.23||5.9|
|Matt Harrison||184.0||5.8||2.8||1.0||.298||70.9 %||4.14||4.08||3.2|
|Derek Holland||171.0||7.4||3.0||1.2||.300||71.7 %||4.23||4.17||2.8|
|Alexi Ogando||105.0||7.8||2.8||1.1||.292||74.1 %||3.75||3.92||2.0|
|Nick Tepesch||81.0||5.7||3.5||1.1||.305||69.2 %||4.78||4.70||0.9|
|Colby Lewis||103.0||7.6||2.2||1.3||.296||73.3 %||3.99||4.09||1.8|
|Martin Perez||32.0||5.2||4.3||1.1||.311||68.5 %||5.20||5.04||0.2|
|Robbie Ross||16.0||6.7||3.2||0.7||.299||73.0 %||3.64||3.79||0.3|
|Justin Grimm||8.0||5.6||3.4||1.3||.311||68.6 %||5.09||4.90||0.1|
All winter, we kept wondering why the Rangers wouldn’t just pony up the 24th pick and sign Kyle Lohse. They’re at the right spot on the win curve, that pick isn’t super valuable, and the back end of their rotation is in shambles. Right?
Err, maybe not. I’ll admit to not knowing much about Nick Tepesch before spring training began, but the Steamer/ZIPS combo projection is pretty optimistic about his chances to fill the #5 spot until Colby Lewis returns, and it doesn’t hate the young kids behind him either. When the Rangers looked at their rotation and decided that Lohse wasn’t necessary, they may very well have been correct.
That paragraph also buries the lede a bit, since we skipped right over a glowing projection for Yu Darvish. His +5.9 WAR projection is the highest of any pitcher in baseball — ahead of Verlander, ahead of Strasburg, ahead of Felix. The command issues aren’t expected to completely go away, but the combination of strikeouts and HR prevention make him an ace’s ace, and his forecast is the reason the Rangers do so well here, even with a mix-and-match approach to the #5 spot. The projection for Ogando is also very rosy, and questions about his spring velocity might cause you to dampen that slightly, but there’s no amount of adjustments that can get us away from the conclusion that the Rangers rotation is the strength of their team, not the weakness.
|Cole Hamels||202.0||8.7||2.2||0.9||.303||74.8 %||3.32||3.28||4.3|
|Cliff Lee||231.0||8.7||1.4||0.9||.308||75.2 %||3.11||2.94||5.9|
|Roy Halladay||167.0||7.6||1.7||0.8||.308||72.2 %||3.43||3.15||3.8|
|Kyle Kendrick||122.0||5.8||2.7||1.1||.298||70.0 %||4.34||4.33||1.0|
|John Lannan||135.0||5.2||3.6||0.8||.309||69.5 %||4.55||4.39||1.1|
|Aaron Cook||42.0||3.9||3.0||0.9||.307||67.5 %||4.84||4.52||0.3|
|Tyler Cloyd||24.0||6.2||2.6||1.2||.304||70.6 %||4.45||4.42||0.2|
It’s still tough to do much better than Hamels-Lee-Halladay at the front of the rotation, even though Doc hasn’t looked like himself in spring training. We’ve reduced his innings count to account for some of the health uncertainties around him, but the forecasts still think he’s going to be a frontline starter when he takes the mound. If they’re right and he stays healthy, the Phillies are contenders.
If he’s not healthy, though, the down-spiral begins. Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan aren’t horrendous, but if the team has to start giving innings to Aaron Cook and Tyler Cloyd at the expense of Roy Halladay, that’s going to cause a real problem. The drop-off between the front three and everyone else is expansive, and given Halladay’s health, the Phillies probably should have been more aggressive in upgrading their rotation depth.
|CC Sabathia||213.0||8.2||2.3||0.8||.310||72.7 %||3.53||3.31||5.2|
|Hiroki Kuroda||187.0||6.6||2.2||1.1||.304||70.9 %||4.10||3.96||3.1|
|Andy Pettitte||169.0||7.4||2.7||0.9||.307||71.3 %||3.95||3.70||3.3|
|Ivan Nova||151.0||6.9||3.1||1.1||.311||69.6 %||4.47||4.17||2.1|
|Phil Hughes||107.0||7.4||2.6||1.4||.301||71.9 %||4.42||4.38||1.3|
|David Phelps||40.0||7.4||3.1||1.1||.310||71.6 %||4.30||4.15||0.6|
|Chien-Ming Wang||46.0||4.8||2.7||1.1||.312||68.4 %||4.82||4.59||0.4|
|Michael Pineda||19.0||8.2||3.1||1.1||.304||72.9 %||4.11||4.01||0.3|
Predictors of Yankee doom and gloom – this is why they’re still contenders. Yes, the offense has all kinds of problems, and they’re not going to score nearly as many runs as they regularly do, but this is still an elite pitching staff. Sabathia, Kuroda, and Pettitte might not be young, but they’re still excellent, and assuming that any team with that front three is going to struggle is a reach at best. Toss in decent performances from Nova, Hughes, and Phelps, and maybe the eventual return of Michael Pineda, and the Yankees rotation is strong at the top, deep at the back, and offers the chance to turn a pitcher into a hitter if need be.
For the future, maybe there’s real concern, especially if Pettitte joins Rivera in retiring (again) after season’s end. These guys are getting older, and age will eventually catch up to them, but there’s no reason to expect 2013 to be the year where they prove too old to keep opponents from scoring.
|Clayton Kershaw||211.0||9.5||2.7||0.7||.295||77.0 %||2.85||2.94||4.9|
|Zack Greinke||186.0||8.7||2.3||0.7||.304||74.4 %||3.11||2.97||4.3|
|Josh Beckett||178.0||7.9||2.8||1.0||.297||73.3 %||3.72||3.76||2.3|
|Hyun-Jin Ryu||146.0||8.2||3.1||1.2||.297||73.8 %||3.87||4.02||1.4|
|Chad Billingsley||135.0||7.5||3.2||0.7||.306||71.4 %||3.75||3.58||2.0|
|Chris Capuano||40.0||7.3||2.6||1.1||.300||72.4 %||3.95||3.92||0.4|
|Ted Lilly||47.0||7.0||2.7||1.3||.287||73.1 %||4.10||4.39||0.2|
|Aaron Harang||44.0||6.4||3.5||1.0||.300||71.3 %||4.32||4.33||0.3|
This depth chart was impossible, because there are just so many unknowns. Is Greinke’s elbow soreness nothing, in which case his projected innings total too low? Is Billingsley’s elbow actually going to hold up without surgery? Are the expensive veterans going to sit around and wait for their turn while pitching in relief? I don’t have the answers, and I’m not sure the Dodgers do either. This could go so many ways.
On the one hand, the Dodgers have enviable depth. On the other hand, they’re more likely to need it than just about anyone else. And they can’t option their depth to Triple-A, so maybe they don’t have as much depth as it looks. I’m just going to stop writing now, once I point out that Kershaw and Greinke is a pretty amazing 1-2 punch, because after that, I have no idea who is going to do what.
|Ian Kennedy||205.0||7.8||2.5||1.1||.302||74.1 %||3.76||3.88||3.4|
|Trevor Cahill||206.0||6.9||3.2||0.8||.303||71.4 %||3.84||3.79||3.6|
|Wade Miley||179.0||6.6||2.7||0.9||.307||70.6 %||4.05||3.81||3.1|
|Brandon McCarthy||137.0||6.6||1.9||0.9||.308||70.8 %||3.86||3.62||2.7|
|Patrick Corbin||65.0||7.3||2.8||1.0||.311||71.0 %||4.06||3.86||1.1|
|Tyler Skaggs||69.0||7.6||3.6||1.2||.309||71.6 %||4.49||4.41||0.7|
|Daniel Hudson||50.0||7.2||2.4||1.1||.309||71.5 %||4.05||3.81||0.9|
|Randall Delgado||33.0||7.5||4.1||1.0||.311||70.2 %||4.57||4.32||0.4|
For the last few months, I’ve been somewhat defending the D’Backs off-season, in that while I don’t love all the moves individually, I still think the roster as constructed looks like a pretty good team. And it has nothing to do with how many good clubhouse white guys they acquired this winter. It has everything to do with this pitching staff, which might not have a true ace at the top end but also doesn’t have any obvious weaknesses, and might be the deepest staff in baseball once you factor in their ability to keep all of these guys in the organization past Opening Day.
With Kennedy, Cahill, Miley, and McCarthy, they have four above average starters, and enough weapons behind them to mix and match the #5 spot and fill in for McCarthy when he takes his annual trip to the DL. If Daniel Hudson returns to anything close to his pre-surgery form when he eventually returns, they’re going to have some tough decisions on who gets the ball every five days. This kind of rotation might not be optimal for October baseball, but for getting to the playoffs, having eight useful starters in the organization is a pretty good plan.
#8 White Sox
|Chris Sale||207.0||9.0||2.9||0.9||.302||74.2 %||3.47||3.43||4.9|
|Jake Peavy||186.0||7.6||2.2||1.2||.300||72.4 %||3.96||3.90||3.4|
|Gavin Floyd||160.0||7.2||2.8||1.0||.306||70.6 %||4.15||4.00||2.8|
|Jose Quintana||131.0||5.8||3.3||1.0||.304||70.3 %||4.51||4.38||1.7|
|Dylan Axelrod||97.0||6.4||3.4||1.1||.309||70.5 %||4.56||4.48||1.2|
|John Danks||92.0||6.5||3.0||1.1||.303||69.8 %||4.47||4.24||1.3|
|Hector Santiago||40.0||9.4||5.0||1.2||.299||75.4 %||4.22||4.59||0.4|
|Simon Castro||18.0||5.1||3.3||1.4||.305||67.5 %||5.36||5.17||0.1|
If Chris Sale lives up to this projection, the White Sox could be sneaky playoff contenders again, even with all the question marks behind him. While Don Cooper and the training staff have a long history of keeping pitchers healthy, there are a number of question marks in the rotation, with John Danks’ ability to contribute chief among those.
Luckily for the White Sox, these forecasts don’t think that there’s really much of a drop-off in going from Danks to Dylan Axelrod, giving them very similar forecasts across the board. Unfortunately, with Danks on the shelf to start the season, the White Sox are a bit thin behind Axelrod, and another injury could create some real problems. Thus, Cooper and Herm Schneider will need to keep working their voodoo to keep the current five healthy as long as possible, at least until Danks is able to contribute again. Sale gives them a real weapon up front, but if they’re going to keep pace with the rest of the AL contenders, they need their rotation to be strong all the way through.
|Jeff Samardzija||182.0||8.9||3.4||0.9||.304||73.2 %||3.75||3.64||3.3|
|Edwin Jackson||182.0||7.6||2.9||0.9||.307||72.1 %||3.84||3.65||3.2|
|Matt Garza||151.0||8.2||2.8||1.0||.302||73.6 %||3.66||3.62||2.7|
|Scott Feldman||122.0||6.6||2.6||0.9||.309||70.0 %||4.08||3.79||2.0|
|Scott Baker||87.0||7.9||2.4||1.1||.306||73.6 %||3.81||3.77||1.4|
|Travis Wood||81.0||7.1||3.1||1.3||.301||72.1 %||4.37||4.46||0.7|
|Carlos Villanueva||73.0||8.1||3.3||1.1||.298||74.0 %||3.88||3.99||1.0|
|Casey Coleman||16.0||6.5||3.8||1.1||.304||70.7 %||4.60||4.54||0.1|
And here we get our first big surprise. Yes, the Chicago Cubs, top ten rotation in baseball. At least, according to this system. Samardzija/Jackson/Garza give the team three guys who can miss bats at the front of the rotation, at least when Garza eventually gets healthy anyway, and the front office did a nice job assembling a collection of underrated guys to fill out the last few spots in the rotation over the winter. If they kept all these guys together for the whole season, the Cubs might be surprisingly decent, at least on the mound.
But, that’s where one flaw of this system likely comes out. We’re just projecting out depth charts based on current rosters, not accounting for likely transactions throughout the season. And, let’s be honest, no one expects Matt Garza to finish the year with the Cubs. And if Scott Baker or Scott Feldman are pitching well in July, you’d have to imagine that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer would be taking calls on those two as well. This Cubs team is still building for the future, and with three starters on the last year of their deals, this rotation probably doesn’t stick together all season. So, expect the Cubs actual performance to be worse than this, especially in the second half of the season.
But, it’s still worth noting that the group they’ve currently assembled is actually pretty interesting.
|Jarrod Parker||197.0||7.0||3.3||0.7||.305||70.9 %||3.95||3.75||3.3|
|Tommy Milone||178.0||6.7||1.8||1.0||.311||71.1 %||3.90||3.62||3.2|
|A.J. Griffin||183.0||6.5||2.5||1.1||.296||70.9 %||4.12||4.14||2.2|
|Brett Anderson||143.0||6.4||2.4||0.7||.307||69.9 %||3.83||3.65||2.5|
|Bartolo Colon||149.0||5.6||1.8||1.0||.300||70.5 %||4.02||3.89||2.2|
|Dan Straily||42.0||7.9||3.8||1.1||.299||73.7 %||4.11||4.36||0.4|
|Andrew Werner||46.0||6.2||3.1||1.1||.318||66.9 %||4.99||4.42||0.4|
I’m a known Brett Anderson fanboy, so I’ll take the over on this forecast, which could propel the A’s forward a couple of spots. Also, I’ll note that the BABIP forecast for Tommy Milone is a little strange, given that he’s a fly ball guy in a pitcher’s park with a good outfield defense, and he got a decent amount of infield flies last year. But, at the same time, he was all of those things last year and posted a .310 BABIP, so maybe the forecasts are right.
In some ways, the A’s and Cubs have similar staffs, in that they don’t have a knockout ace up front but they have some interesting guys at the back. These types of staffs are usually underrated, but given what Oakland did last year, they might not be as underrated anymore. If they’re going to keep up with the Rangers and Angels in the AL West, they probably need Anderson and/or Parker to step up and turn into a frontline guy. It’s definitely possible with either one.
#11 Red Sox
|Jon Lester||183.0||8.0||3.3||0.8||.309||71.7 %||3.86||3.65||3.9|
|Ryan Dempster||177.0||7.3||3.2||1.1||.308||71.3 %||4.25||4.06||2.9|
|Clay Buchholz||150.0||6.3||3.3||0.9||.299||70.4 %||4.20||4.16||2.3|
|John Lackey||146.0||5.7||3.1||1.1||.311||68.0 %||4.83||4.53||1.7|
|Felix Doubront||122.0||8.3||3.9||1.0||.313||71.6 %||4.22||3.96||2.1|
|Franklin Morales||40.0||8.7||4.3||1.1||.301||74.3 %||4.04||4.26||0.6|
|Allen Webster||40.0||6.7||4.5||0.8||.309||69.6 %||4.60||4.46||0.5|
Surprise #2, and maybe an even bigger surprise than the Cubs. Yes, the Red Sox, who finished 27th in starter’s ERA and 26th in starters FIP last year, are knocking on the door of the top 10. Why?
Well, for one, the system expects Jon Lester to be much better in 2013 than he was in 2012, but it’s not just Lester — these forecasts look at last year’s Red Sox home run problem and assume that it isn’t going to continue this year. 14.4% of the Sox outfield flies allowed by starting pitchers went for homers last year, putting them in the same category as Toronto (14.8%) and Colorado (15.3%). As you know, HR/FB rate isn’t particularly predictive, even for a team in Fenway Park — here are their HR/FB rates from 2008-2011: 9.2%, 10.3%, 8.0%, 10.0%. There’s some seriously positive regression coming to Boston’s pitching staff in 2013, at least in terms of home runs allowed.
Steamer and ZIPS look at this rotation and see one with a bunch of decent arms. The addition of Ryan Dempster is a big plus, and even the hated John Lackey is expected to be a roughly average starting pitcher when he’s on the mound, plus a collection of interesting young arms sharing the extra starts as well. It’s easy to overreact one bad year, and the Red Sox staff was bad last year, but the markers suggest that they’re in for a big improvement this season.
|Adam Wainwright||212.0||8.0||2.4||0.7||.311||72.8 %||3.37||3.14||4.6|
|Jake Westbrook||179.0||5.4||3.0||0.7||.308||69.4 %||4.24||3.98||2.0|
|Jaime Garcia||156.0||7.2||2.5||0.7||.315||71.4 %||3.67||3.32||3.0|
|Lance Lynn||130.0||8.3||3.4||0.8||.312||71.7 %||3.90||3.63||2.0|
|Shelby Miller||123.0||8.6||4.3||0.8||.312||72.3 %||3.97||3.84||1.6|
|Joe Kelly||40.0||6.1||3.5||0.7||.308||70.6 %||4.10||3.98||0.5|
|Kevin Siegrist||40.0||6.1||4.9||1.0||.303||68.5 %||5.13||5.02||0.0|
Occasionally, people ask me when Adam Wainwright is going to get back to being an ace. My answer: he already has. He posted a 7.32 ERA last April, which spoiled his overall season line, but his peripherals were excellent from the start, and he was one of the NL’s best pitchers by any metric you want to use after May 1st. Health might always be a lingering question with Wainwright, but when he’s on the mound, he’s a top tier starting pitcher.
After Wainwright, it gets a little shaky. Westbrook is an okay innings eater, but the Cardinals could really use a full season of good health from Jamie Garcia or a big step forward from Shelby Miller to strengthen the middle of the rotation. I like Lance Lynn, but he probably shouldn’t be the #2 starter in October if the Cardinals can get back to the playoffs.
|Johnny Cueto||205.0||6.9||2.5||0.9||.300||73.0 %||3.64||3.72||3.4|
|Mat Latos||204.0||8.4||2.7||1.0||.298||74.1 %||3.63||3.59||3.7|
|Homer Bailey||199.0||7.2||2.4||1.0||.305||71.6 %||3.98||3.86||3.0|
|Bronson Arroyo||204.0||5.4||2.0||1.4||.294||70.2 %||4.56||4.64||1.3|
|Mike Leake||122.0||6.2||2.2||1.1||.304||70.4 %||4.20||4.06||1.5|
|Tony Cingrani||24.0||9.3||3.9||1.1||.303||74.2 %||3.94||3.93||0.3|
|Daniel Corcino||16.0||7.3||4.4||1.2||.301||71.6 %||4.67||4.80||0.1|
Bronson Arroyo made a huge difference for the Reds last year, bouncing back to post a very solid season for Cincinnati, but these forecasts aren’t expecting a repeat, and his drop-off is the main reason why the Reds staff isn’t expected to be in the top tier again. Yes, Aroldis Chapman would have made them better, but he would bumped Mike Leake from the rotation, not Arroyo, so the difference isn’t as stark as you might think. And, of course, not having Chapman in the bullpen would have made that unit worse, so the net effect of shifting Chapman back to closer is actually not so large.
The real question might be how long Arroyo’s leash is, if these forecasts prove accurate, because the system loves Tony Cingrani, and if he can do anything close to those numbers, he’d be a significant improvement on Arroyo if given the chance. With Cueto, Latos, and Bailey at the front, the Reds have a strong front three, but improving their #4 spot should be a priority.
#14 Blue Jays
|R.A. Dickey||190.0||6.9||2.4||1.0||.304||71.7 %||3.98||3.92||3.1|
|Josh Johnson||152.0||7.5||2.9||0.9||.306||72.0 %||3.87||3.69||2.9|
|Mark Buehrle||208.0||4.9||2.0||1.2||.303||69.1 %||4.53||4.37||2.3|
|Brandon Morrow||141.0||8.9||3.4||1.0||.309||72.8 %||3.92||3.79||2.5|
|Ricky Romero||137.0||6.8||4.0||0.9||.304||70.0 %||4.46||4.29||1.6|
|J.A. Happ||81.0||7.7||3.9||1.2||.307||70.9 %||4.72||4.51||0.8|
|Chad Jenkins||42.0||4.4||2.9||1.4||.317||66.1 %||5.64||5.19||0.1|
Let’s point out the obvious right away – you should take the under on R.A. Dickey’s BABIP projection, and I’d expect him to easily beat that ERA forecast, even with the shift to the AL East. So, if you want to adjust the Blue Jays up a bit for the low-end forecast on Dickey here, I won’t object. I’d even join you in doing so.
However, we should acknowledge that the Jays rotation still has some real questions. Josh Johnson’s health, Brandon Morrow’s total revamp of his pitching style, and Ricky Romero’s performance are all unsettled issues, giving the Blue Jays staff a pretty big variance in outcomes for the upcoming season, even beyond the “can Dickey do it again?” issue. With J.A. Happ, they have a pretty interesting #6 starter, but he’s apparently not that interested in being a #6 starter, so they’ll have to sort that out as well. After him, it’s downhill in a hurry. So, yes, there’s clear upside with the reigning NL Cy Young winner and a couple of power arms, plus Mark Buehrle to eat innings, but there are scenarios where this all goes south in a hurry.
|David Price||219.0||8.8||2.8||0.8||.299||75.1 %||3.18||3.22||4.8|
|Jeremy Hellickson||181.0||6.5||3.2||1.1||.290||72.7 %||4.11||4.37||1.4|
|Matt Moore||182.0||9.2||3.9||1.0||.299||75.1 %||3.68||3.81||2.7|
|Alex Cobb||171.0||6.8||3.2||0.8||.306||71.1 %||3.94||3.87||2.4|
|Jeff Niemann||88.0||6.8||2.8||1.0||.301||71.5 %||4.13||4.08||1.0|
|Roberto Hernandez||72.0||5.4||2.6||1.0||.296||70.1 %||4.25||4.35||0.6|
|Chris Archer||40.0||7.6||5.2||0.9||.299||71.2 %||4.58||4.61||0.2|
|Jake Odorizzi||19.0||6.6||3.8||1.2||.296||70.9 %||4.65||4.65||0.1|
When going through the data, I was shocked to see the Rays this low. I had mentally penciled them in for top 10, maybe even top 5, depending on many innings the young kids ended up getting. But, here they sit, #15 overall, lumped in with the Reds, Blue Jays, Giants, and Braves. What’s the deal?
Well, for one thing, these forecasts aren’t big fans of the kids, so giving extra innings to Archer and Odorizzi instead of Roberto Hernandez and Jeff Niemann wouldn’t actually help anything. Secondly, those guys are replacing James Shields, who was excellent last year, so perhaps I should have priced in a bigger discount for that loss. And finally, a lot of what we see as the Rays run prevention value is getting accounted for in non-pitching areas.
Their defense, for instance, is forecast to be among the league’s best once again, and their park favors pitchers to a pretty strong degree, so the park adjustments are also taking some of the credit for the team’s ability to keep opponents from scoring. The first part is why you’ll note that the Rays have a forecast ERA below their forecast FIP, while the second part explains some of why the WAR numbers might look a bit low despite solid raw stats for most of these guys.
And, again, keep in mind that ordinal rank isn’t actually a big deal in may of these cases. The gap between the Rays at #15 and the Cubs at #9 is +1.3 WAR, which is not quite a rounding error over 1,000 innings but isn’t far off from it. With gaps this small, don’t read too much into the actual placement on the list, and with the Rays specifically, remember that a decent portion of their run prevention is defense, not pitching.
Print This Post