What do we have here? For an explanation of this series, please read this introductory post. As noted in that introduction, 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. The author writing this post did not move your team down ten spots in order to make you angry. We don’t hate your team. I promise.
Because of the length of these write-ups, we’ve broken the starting pitchers and relief pitchers down into two posts apiece. The top half of the rotations are listed below, with the second half coming later this afternoon.
In this post, we deal with the left. You might notice that #15 is exactly even with #16. That’s an example of why the WAR is more important than the rank. Except for rank #1, where the leader is head and shoulders above the runner-up. The gap between first and second is bigger than the gap between second and tenth. So the #1 team probably has the best rotation in baseball, unless the projections end up wrong, which is possible if not probable. I’ll say this much: last year’s projected #1 rotation ended up as the actual #1 rotation. And this year it’s the same rotation!
One other note: our system admittedly doesn’t deal well with starter/reliever role shifts. In that it doesn’t deal with them at all, just plugging in the same projected numbers regardless. I’ll take care to note instances where that’s relevant and where the numbers might be misleading. An important instance is coming soon!
That all being said, let’s have some more be said, below. I’m comfortable with most of what’s to follow.
|Justin Verlander||213.0||8.9||2.5||0.9||.298||75.8 %||3.26||3.33||5.0|
|Max Scherzer||201.0||10.0||2.6||1.0||.303||75.9 %||3.32||3.25||4.6|
|Anibal Sanchez||195.0||8.7||2.5||0.9||.310||73.4 %||3.57||3.35||4.2|
|Rick Porcello||177.0||6.5||2.2||0.9||.316||68.9 %||4.16||3.68||2.9|
|Drew Smyly||130.0||8.2||2.9||1.1||.304||72.3 %||3.99||3.86||2.0|
|Robbie Ray||30.0||7.2||4.7||1.3||.305||70.0 %||5.18||5.17||0.0|
|Casey Crosby||19.0||7.0||6.2||1.1||.309||70.0 %||5.40||5.34||0.0|
|Kyle Lobstein||19.0||6.0||4.0||1.1||.312||68.3 %||5.12||4.84||0.1|
In this same exercise last March, we had the Tigers projected for baseball’s best starting rotation. The Tigers subsequently had baseball’s best starting rotation, exceeding our projections by more than 5 WAR. For as much as can be said about the Doug Fister trade, it’s not like the Tigers left themselves with a weakness; they simply didn’t get enough in return. They still have five solid big-league starters, and at least three of them are considerably better than solid. Verlander, Scherzer, Sanchez — spread among different teams, they could all conceivably be staff aces. Here they are, united, and supported by talent at No.’s 4 and 5.
If there’s a concern, it’s the same as last year. Last year, the Tigers’ sixth starter was Jose Alvarez. Thankfully, they only needed him six times. Now Alvarez is gone, and the sixth starter might be the main guy they got back for Fister, and most rotations end up needing a lot more than six depth starts. What the Tigers don’t have is depth beyond Porcello and Smyly. It’s a top-heavy situation, where the Tigers’ starting staff is deep, but the organizational pitching isn’t deep. A major injury would deal the Tigers a blow. But then, that’s hardly unique to them.
#2 Red Sox
|Jon Lester||207.0||7.7||2.9||0.9||.307||72.3 %||3.87||3.77||3.7|
|Clay Buchholz||139.0||7.3||3.2||0.9||.301||71.8 %||3.95||3.90||2.2|
|John Lackey||190.0||7.3||2.3||1.1||.306||71.6 %||4.06||3.96||3.0|
|Jake Peavy||154.0||7.4||2.0||1.2||.299||73.2 %||3.85||3.87||2.7|
|Felix Doubront||149.0||8.1||3.7||1.0||.308||71.2 %||4.25||4.05||2.2|
|Chris Capuano||66.0||7.0||2.4||1.2||.304||72.1 %||4.09||4.00||0.9|
|Brandon Workman||28.0||7.7||2.9||1.1||.308||72.0 %||4.17||4.06||0.4|
|Allen Webster||20.0||7.0||4.3||1.0||.306||70.2 %||4.64||4.63||0.2|
|Anthony Ranaudo||20.0||6.7||4.0||1.1||.305||69.8 %||4.75||4.65||0.2|
One of last year’s very best starting rotations returns everyone, minus a Ryan Dempster, who was largely ineffective over 29 starts. In his stead, there’s more Jake Peavy and a little Chris Capuano. That’s why a strong rotation is projected to remain a strong rotation, because basically the same guys are coming back and none of last year’s performances seemed particularly out of line.
It’s hard to get a gauge on the sex factor, here. Though people love Jon Lester and though this team plays in Boston, I don’t think anyone sees the Red Sox as having a true shutdown ace in the form of a Verlander. But while the front might not be dominant, the rotation also doesn’t really trail off too much, and then unlike with the Tigers, there is depth beyond the five. Capuano is a perfectly reasonable Dempster replacement. After him, there are arms in the bullpen and in the minors. The Red Sox ought to be able to weather some missed time. Which is convenient, because Clay Buchholz makes a habit of missing time, and Peavy’s hardly the most reliable pitcher in the world. Fans don’t fret about rotation depth until it’s needed. The Red Sox were proactive about it.
|Yu Darvish||199.0||11.2||3.4||0.9||.301||77.0 %||3.15||3.17||5.0|
|Martin Perez||167.0||6.1||3.4||1.1||.306||70.0 %||4.64||4.56||1.6|
|Tanner Scheppers||141.0||7.7||2.7||1.0||.303||74.0 %||3.69||3.88||2.5|
|Robbie Ross||75.0||7.9||2.8||0.8||.308||74.0 %||3.48||3.54||1.6|
|Joe Saunders||65.0||5.3||2.9||1.2||.308||68.8 %||4.85||4.63||0.5|
|Colby Lewis||28.0||7.1||2.5||1.6||.299||71.5 %||4.70||4.77||0.2|
|Matt Harrison||144.0||6.3||3.0||1.0||.304||70.7 %||4.27||4.15||1.9|
|Derek Holland||96.0||8.0||2.8||1.2||.305||73.1 %||4.00||3.94||1.6|
|Nick Tepesch||28.0||6.3||2.8||1.2||.309||68.5 %||4.72||4.47||0.3|
|Tommy Hanson||19.0||7.4||3.5||1.6||.307||70.4 %||5.15||5.03||0.1|
Right away, I need to point something out. I noted earlier that our system doesn’t deal well with relievers converting to the rotation. Here you see Tanner Scheppers projected for a full 2.5 WAR in 141 innings. That’s because the system just plugged Scheppers’ relief projection into the rotation, and, yeah, those numbers are more valuable from a starter. They’re also unlikely to come from Scheppers as a starter. Though his conversion will be an intriguing one, it’s doubtful it’s going to work out this awesomely. You can knock these numbers down by a win. Maybe more. I won’t be mad at you. Oh, and look! You can say almost the exact same thing for Robbie Ross. Interesting starter candidate! Probably not actually this good. Weird things going on in Texas.
But still. Here, we optimistically have the Rangers at 15.2 WAR. Two away are the Nationals, at 13.2 WAR. Even if you penalize the Rangers for the Scheppers and Ross optimism, they still come out with a good-looking group, despite all the issues. Matt Harrison isn’t right. Derek Holland isn’t right. Even Yu Darvish isn’t quite right, and the team’s been reduced to trying Joe Saunders in camp. No matter: the numbers think the Rangers ought to be okay.
In a big way, it’s because Darvish projects to be amazing. He’s my personal choice for the American League Cy Young. And then Harrison should pitch for most of the year, and Holland should be good when he returns, and Martin Perez just took a step forward. The Rangers, right now, appear to be fragile. They’re definitely not anywhere close to 100%. But they’re still okay, and they’re still in position to contend for the AL West title. The situation isn’t as desperate as some people have made it out to be.
|CC Sabathia||213.0||7.8||2.5||1.0||.309||71.4 %||3.97||3.71||3.7|
|Masahiro Tanaka||207.0||8.1||1.7||1.0||.308||70.6 %||3.77||3.43||4.4|
|Hiroki Kuroda||199.0||6.7||2.2||1.1||.299||72.6 %||3.87||3.94||2.9|
|Ivan Nova||168.0||7.0||2.9||0.9||.305||71.0 %||4.05||3.98||2.2|
|Michael Pineda||93.0||8.3||3.2||1.3||.300||71.9 %||4.36||4.33||1.0|
|David Phelps||55.0||7.8||3.5||1.2||.304||70.7 %||4.50||4.40||0.5|
|Vidal Nuno||38.0||6.5||2.6||1.5||.301||70.0 %||4.83||4.82||0.3|
|Adam Warren||19.0||6.9||3.4||1.2||.303||71.6 %||4.48||4.53||0.2|
Last year, it was the pitching that managed to keep the Yankees afloat. It is in part on the strength of this rotation that the 2014 Yankees have their sights set back on the playoffs. Of course, there’s all kinds of concern about CC Sabathia, and it’s warranted. His numbers took a step back, and his velocity took a step back, and now he’s getting into his mid-30s. But for one thing, he still managed a double-digit xFIP-. For another, he’s had an encouraging spring. And for a third, this rotation is about more than one guy.
It’s about, I don’t know, six or seven guys. The Yankees are obviously huge believers in Masahiro Tanaka, and if you think the projection above is a bit optimistic, well, the Hiroki Kuroda projection might be a bit pessimistic, given his seeming immunity to age. Ivan Nova was real good last year when he was healthy, and the major unknown here is Michael Pineda. We don’t know how much he has in the tank as he returns from major shoulder surgery. We don’t know how his slider will play with presumably reduced fastball velocity. But as a rookie, Pineda was worth 3.2 WAR, and now he’s back in the bigs. If he’s truly good to go, the Yankees should be in an excellent position. If he has issues, there’s fine depth in the persons of David Phelps and Vidal Nuno.
People want to keep believing in the Yankees’ decline. They might have too much money to decline. For now, they have too much talent.
|Stephen Strasburg||185.0||9.9||2.6||0.8||.301||75.3 %||3.04||2.98||3.8|
|Gio Gonzalez||202.0||8.8||3.3||0.8||.299||73.9 %||3.44||3.42||3.2|
|Jordan Zimmermann||187.0||6.9||1.8||0.9||.298||72.8 %||3.54||3.58||2.6|
|Doug Fister||149.0||6.9||1.8||0.7||.305||72.2 %||3.30||3.24||2.5|
|Tanner Roark||113.0||6.1||2.8||1.0||.302||70.5 %||4.19||4.15||0.8|
|Taylor Jordan||76.0||5.5||2.4||0.8||.304||68.8 %||4.20||4.03||0.5|
|Ross Ohlendorf||28.0||6.3||3.1||1.3||.301||71.3 %||4.58||4.71||0.1|
|Chris Young||28.0||5.2||3.1||1.8||.291||70.2 %||5.36||5.59||-0.3|
Look at Doug Fister’s innings count. It’s low because Fister, in camp, was batting some elbow issues. It seems that he’s okay, now, and he’s on track to make his first turn in early April. The last three years, he’s averaged almost 200 innings a season. What happens if we just give Fister the 28 innings slated here to go to Chris Young? Then the Nationals move up to 14.0 projected WAR, and that would make them closer to the Rangers, who, again, have that over-optimistic Scheppers and Ross projections.
So the Nationals are in good shape, even independent of the nightmare situation that’s overtaken the Braves. They added Fister to a quality top three that ought to be just about as good as it was, and Fister, as we’ve talked about, is among the league’s very most underrated starters. Beyond the four, there are options, and this doesn’t even include Ross Detwiler, who for now is bullpen-bound. We know that Detwiler can be fine as a starter. Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan belong in the same boat. This team is deep in quality starters and it’s deep in big-league starters, and that’s a big reason why the Nationals appear to have such a clear path to October. Yeah, the Braves’ bad luck has helped. But the Nationals were already a step ahead.
Aaaaand I’ve just now read that Young is a goner. Released! So you can give his innings to Fister after all. Or you can give them to Detwiler. Won’t really change the picture too much.
|Adam Wainwright||221.0||7.9||1.8||0.7||.309||72.9 %||3.20||2.96||4.4|
|Michael Wacha||174.0||8.0||2.7||0.9||.299||72.9 %||3.63||3.56||2.1|
|Lance Lynn||171.0||8.6||3.2||0.8||.308||72.6 %||3.64||3.48||2.3|
|Shelby Miller||155.0||8.8||3.1||1.0||.299||75.3 %||3.50||3.61||2.0|
|Joe Kelly||113.0||6.2||3.2||0.8||.306||71.2 %||4.03||3.97||0.8|
|Tyler Lyons||19.0||6.9||2.6||0.9||.304||71.4 %||3.94||3.88||0.1|
|John Gast||10.0||6.0||3.7||0.9||.305||68.8 %||4.62||4.43||0.0|
|Angel Castro||9.0||6.0||3.5||0.9||.304||69.6 %||4.44||4.33||0.0|
|Jaime Garcia||97.0||7.1||2.3||0.7||.313||71.1 %||3.72||3.35||1.3|
Adam Wainwright was great, and he’s back. Lance Lynn was fine, and he’s back. Shelby Miller was good, and he’s back. Joe Kelly was adequate, and he’s back. Michael Wacha was good, and he’s back, and he’s a fixture now. All the Cardinals are really missing is Jake Westbrook, and last season he had more walks than strikeouts. Even before you get to Jaime Garcia, this looks like a good-enough rotation to win the NL Central. And if Garcia’s actually able to make, I don’t know, 20-25 starts, all the better, because Garcia’s good even when he’s short of 100%.
There’s some concern that Wainwright is coming off more than 275 innings. That’s a lot of innings, and it will be something to watch. Lynn can’t really pitch to lefties, and Kelly, famously, pitched beyond his peripherals in 2013. But Garcia is a handy wild card. And I’m a believer that Miller can succeed with two pitches, and it’s been said that Wacha’s curveball is already a quality third pitch. Held to a standard of perfection, the Cardinals have question marks. Held to a more realistic standard, the Cardinals are in better starting-pitching position than most.
|Felix Hernandez||214.0||9.0||2.2||0.7||.310||73.6 %||3.16||2.89||5.5|
|James Paxton||149.0||7.5||4.2||1.0||.301||70.8 %||4.42||4.37||1.1|
|Erasmo Ramirez||138.0||6.7||2.9||1.2||.301||70.3 %||4.43||4.35||1.1|
|Roenis Elias||66.0||6.0||3.8||1.2||.299||69.5 %||4.83||4.82||0.2|
|Blake Beavan||66.0||4.4||2.1||1.5||.301||67.4 %||5.18||5.06||0.1|
|Hisashi Iwakuma||162.0||7.6||2.0||1.0||.293||73.6 %||3.49||3.53||3.0|
|Taijuan Walker||143.0||8.1||3.9||1.0||.301||71.7 %||4.21||4.18||1.6|
|Brandon Maurer||38.0||6.8||3.8||1.1||.309||69.4 %||4.73||4.53||0.2|
Let me note that, in the process of writing this post, news came out that Randy Wolf was a free agent again, forcing me to edit the table, which I guess you don’t care about. So he’s no longer a Mariner, and it looks like the fourth and fifth rotation slots will go to Blake Beavan and Roenis Elias. That’s a problem for the Mariners, but it would be a much bigger problem if Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker weren’t just a few weeks away from returning to work. Beavan and Elias are temporary, and losing Wolf does little to hurt the Mariners’ projection.
This goes to show how far you can get with one incredible ace. Felix carries the Mariners, and the next-closest pitcher is projected for just about half of the WAR. But this rotation isn’t entirely top-heavy. Iwakuma is legitimately good, even if he won’t repeat last year’s ERA. Walker projects to be fine as a rookie, and Erasmo Ramirez has a history of some success, and I make a pastime of comparing James Paxton to Erik Bedard. Maybe Paxton’s command will waver. Maybe Walker won’t come far enough along with a breaking ball. Maybe Ramirez will experience a recurrence of his elbow issues. This group’s fairly light on depth, following Scott Baker’s disappointment and release, but plenty of talent is there, and if the Mariners contend for the division title, it’ll probably be because the talent in the rotation translated to performance. And also, you know, good health.
|Clayton Kershaw||215.0||9.2||2.2||0.7||.289||78.2 %||2.58||2.79||4.7|
|Zack Greinke||201.0||8.0||2.2||0.8||.297||74.5 %||3.17||3.20||3.3|
|Hyun-Jin Ryu||205.0||7.7||2.6||1.0||.295||74.2 %||3.60||3.74||2.0|
|Dan Haren||153.0||7.5||1.7||1.1||.300||73.3 %||3.69||3.70||1.7|
|Paul Maholm||39.0||6.1||2.5||0.9||.301||70.7 %||4.00||4.04||0.2|
|Stephen Fife||30.0||5.9||3.7||1.0||.302||69.4 %||4.63||4.60||0.0|
|Matt Magill||20.0||8.3||5.3||1.0||.299||71.2 %||4.60||4.57||0.0|
|Zach Lee||10.0||6.7||3.0||1.3||.293||70.4 %||4.43||4.52||0.0|
|Josh Beckett||78.0||7.6||2.7||1.1||.296||72.5 %||3.87||3.90||0.5|
|Chad Billingsley||61.0||7.1||3.2||0.9||.303||71.2 %||4.05||3.94||0.4|
The Dodgers rank here in the upper third. That’s good, but they also might be the team most likely to beat its projection. Clayton Kershaw is projected to be as good as he was in 2010. The last three years, he’s been much much better. And then Hyun-Jin Ryu should probably be better than league average. He came in at 3.1 WAR a season ago, and after posting fine numbers in the first half, he dropped his second-half xFIP by 83 points. Ryu walked fewer batters down the stretch, and if that continues, then the Dodgers could have one of the great rotations in the league. In the leagues? I don’t know the proper expression. Baseball has two leagues, but is also one league.
I can’t imagine being too worried about Zack Greinke. Dan Haren can at least be all right, and the fifth starter isn’t actually Paul Maholm; it’s Josh Beckett, only Beckett will begin on the disabled list. Maholm is insurance, just like how Chad Billingsley should be insurance if and when he makes a good return from Tommy John surgery. I don’t think the Dodgers have as good a rotation as the Tigers do. I think the Dodgers have a really good rotation. I think the Dodgers have a really good team. I think the Dodgers have a really good shot at the playoffs!
|Jorge de la Rosa||198.0||6.3||3.3||1.0||.310||69.7 %||4.59||4.35||2.2|
|Juan Nicasio||174.0||7.0||3.1||1.1||.315||70.2 %||4.53||4.21||2.5|
|Brett Anderson||140.0||7.5||3.0||0.8||.323||69.4 %||4.17||3.63||2.6|
|Tyler Chatwood||112.0||6.0||3.6||0.8||.315||69.1 %||4.54||4.19||1.4|
|Franklin Morales||85.0||8.2||3.9||1.2||.308||73.0 %||4.39||4.49||1.0|
|Jordan Lyles||55.0||5.9||2.8||1.1||.319||67.0 %||4.90||4.38||0.6|
|Jon Gray||28.0||6.6||3.6||1.2||.309||68.6 %||4.78||4.67||0.2|
|Eddie Butler||20.0||6.1||3.9||1.1||.311||69.0 %||5.00||4.79||0.1|
|Christian Friedrich||10.0||6.7||3.3||1.3||.316||68.8 %||4.97||4.60||0.1|
|Jhoulys Chacin||136.0||6.2||3.2||1.0||.306||70.8 %||4.33||4.22||1.8|
This could come as a strange ranking to you. The Rockies don’t have a single rotation standout, and the team directly below them here has David Price. But last season, the Rockies ranked 11th in rotation WAR, less than 1 WAR out of sixth. That was in considerably fewer innings. Last season, the Rockies ranked sixth in rotation FIP-, one point out of second. Gone are Jon Garland and Jeff Francis. In is Brett Anderson. Anderson, when healthy, has been one of the more effective starting pitchers in baseball.
Which, yeah — if Anderson were reliable, he probably wouldn’t be on the Rockies, because the A’s wouldn’t have given him up. That’s a question mark. Jhoulys Chacin’s shoulder is a question mark, even though he’s projected to return to the rotation at the beginning of May. And I’ll note that Franklin Morales is getting a boost from having reliever numbers plugged in as starter numbers, and that’s artificial. No one will accuse the Rockies’ rotation of being great, and there’s limited depth despite a probable need for it. But you can envision this working out okay. Getting 150 innings from Anderson would be huge for a Rockies team that really does have a chance to make noise in September.
|David Price||210.0||8.3||2.1||0.8||.296||74.9 %||3.14||3.20||4.4|
|Alex Cobb||195.0||7.8||3.0||0.7||.299||73.2 %||3.40||3.43||3.1|
|Matt Moore||171.0||9.0||3.9||1.0||.292||75.5 %||3.57||3.84||2.3|
|Chris Archer||130.0||7.7||3.7||0.9||.296||72.7 %||3.96||4.11||1.1|
|Jake Odorizzi||65.0||6.8||3.8||1.2||.293||71.8 %||4.43||4.65||0.2|
|Nate Karns||38.0||8.4||4.1||1.1||.294||73.2 %||4.11||4.31||0.3|
|Enny Romero||28.0||7.1||6.0||1.0||.297||70.9 %||4.94||5.11||0.0|
|Erik Bedard||20.0||7.9||3.9||1.1||.297||72.8 %||4.18||4.28||0.2|
|Alex Colome||19.0||7.0||4.9||1.0||.295||71.3 %||4.57||4.78||0.0|
|Jeremy Hellickson||93.0||6.7||2.9||1.2||.288||72.8 %||4.13||4.37||0.6|
All offseason long, we were preparing to evaluate a 2014 Rays team that didn’t have David Price on it. The team still has David Price on it, and it’ll remain that way through the summer, and it’s hard to argue with the effect. Sans Price, the Rays would still be all right, and perhaps better set up for the future. With Price, the Rays are in the argument for best team in the AL East.
For the rotation’s sake, it’s a good thing Price is still around. Not that the situation would be hopeless without him, but Price is a clear No. 1, while Alex Cobb is a more subtle sort. And then it drops off in a hurry, at least so long as you presume Matt Moore isn’t on the verge of a breakout. Some people have maintained that expectation, but Moore’s indicators are going the wrong way. Chris Archer has talent and things to work on, and Jake Odorizzi will try to pitch well enough to fight off Jeremy Hellickson. There’s some depth here, but also concerns, and note that Erik Bedard isn’t Rays property anymore. And Alex Colome’s been suspended!
During the winter, the Rays picked up Ryan Hanigan, to team with Jose Molina. Both Hanigan and Molina are excellent pitch-receivers, so that’s going to give the rotation some help. If it’s too expensive to improve on the arms, make them look better through some other means. I wish I could see the Rays’ 2014 numbers, and then the Rays’ 2014 numbers with league-average backstops. That being impossible, I wish I could see the Rays’ 2014 numbers, so I could place some bets.
|Justin Masterson||198.0||8.0||3.3||0.7||.310||70.4 %||3.84||3.56||3.0|
|Corey Kluber||180.0||7.9||2.5||1.0||.313||70.2 %||4.05||3.64||2.7|
|Danny Salazar||161.0||9.7||3.1||0.9||.311||74.5 %||3.53||3.37||3.1|
|Zach McAllister||156.0||6.7||2.8||1.0||.311||70.1 %||4.33||4.05||1.7|
|Carlos Carrasco||112.0||6.8||3.2||1.1||.313||68.4 %||4.68||4.28||0.7|
|Trevor Bauer||76.0||7.5||6.1||1.2||.307||69.4 %||5.46||5.37||-0.2|
|Josh Tomlin||38.0||5.4||1.6||1.3||.303||68.4 %||4.56||4.33||0.2|
|Shaun Marcum||28.0||6.7||2.6||1.3||.301||71.1 %||4.42||4.38||0.2|
|Aaron Harang||9.0||6.5||3.2||1.4||.306||69.9 %||4.91||4.75||0.0|
A year ago, the Indians came as a surprise. Ubaldo Jimenez turned things around. Scott Kazmir didn’t even have any things to turn around, so he built entirely new things. Justin Masterson rocketed his strikeout rate forward. Corey Kluber emerged. This year, the Indians’ rotation might be less surprising, even given Jimenez and Kazmir’s departures. This year, we can see Masterson coming, and we know about Kluber, and I don’t know that anyone had a more electrifying big-league debut than Danny Salazar.
The rotation does trail off, as is the case with all rotations. Trevor Bauer, at this point, is a complete mystery, and Shaun Marcum is forever simultaneously appealing and hurt. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a season-long battle for slot No. 5, but at least in front of that slot, things ought to be fairly secure. It’s an optimistic projection for Salazar. He could also be even better than that. Prepare for a season of comparing Danny Salazar to Yordano Ventura. A final note: how thankful are these guys to be throwing to Yan Gomes instead of Carlos Santana? Don’t you dare discount that minor boost, where by minor I mean probably not actually minor.
|Cliff Lee||218.0||8.7||1.5||0.9||.305||75.1 %||3.14||3.02||4.4|
|A.J. Burnett||179.0||8.9||3.3||0.8||.311||71.8 %||3.80||3.53||2.4|
|Kyle Kendrick||143.0||5.7||2.5||1.1||.302||69.5 %||4.40||4.30||0.8|
|Roberto Hernandez||76.0||6.4||2.5||1.1||.306||68.6 %||4.46||4.26||0.4|
|Jeff Manship||47.0||5.4||3.8||1.2||.305||67.7 %||5.15||4.91||-0.1|
|Jonathan Pettibone||55.0||5.9||3.2||0.9||.305||69.5 %||4.48||4.32||0.3|
|Jesse Biddle||66.0||8.6||5.2||0.9||.303||71.6 %||4.44||4.37||0.3|
|Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez||41.0||5.6||2.6||1.2||.298||67.9 %||4.71||4.47||0.2|
|Ethan Martin||19.0||8.0||5.9||1.2||.305||70.9 %||5.13||5.15||-0.1|
|Cole Hamels||151.0||8.3||2.1||1.0||.298||73.9 %||3.41||3.37||2.6|
Here’s something I learned: last season, Cliff Lee had 35 called strikes in 0-and-2 counts. In second place was David Price, with 18. A fun game I like to play is to go in search of statistical indicators of Cliff Lee’s incredible command. He’s an amazing pitcher, and an amazingly reliable pitcher, and an amazingly watchable and likable pitcher. With Cliff Lee on their side, Phillies fans and Phillies players are lucky. He’s cut from the cloth of the perfect starting pitcher, and he ought to remain an ace for the foreseeable future.
Cole Hamels is probably an ace, too, but he’s an ace working off shoulder discomfort. A.J. Burnett pitched like an ace with the Pirates, despite his advanced age. Already this spring, Burnett has hit six guys. So maybe there are questions there. And there are a whole lot of questions after the three proven types.
One of the answers was supposed to be Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, but it’s hard to imagine his stock cratering more than it already has. Roberto Hernandez is of statistical interest, but it sure looks like he just has his own significant home-run problem. You can say this for the Phillies: they sure do have pitchers. Look at all of those pitchers, in the table. They are all, unquestionably, pitchers.
|Sonny Gray||178.0||7.5||3.4||0.8||.303||71.7 %||3.87||3.75||2.3|
|Scott Kazmir||163.0||8.5||3.1||1.0||.304||72.3 %||3.85||3.72||2.3|
|Dan Straily||155.0||7.8||3.4||1.1||.294||74.0 %||3.96||4.22||1.6|
|Tommy Milone||141.0||7.2||1.9||1.2||.301||73.8 %||3.80||3.86||1.9|
|Jesse Chavez||94.0||7.0||2.9||1.0||.302||70.7 %||4.20||4.13||0.9|
|A.J. Griffin||133.0||7.5||2.5||1.3||.289||74.5 %||3.93||4.23||1.4|
|Drew Pomeranz||66.0||7.8||4.2||1.0||.299||72.2 %||4.21||4.28||0.5|
|Josh Lindblom||19.0||6.6||3.5||1.2||.293||73.0 %||4.36||4.71||0.1|
The bad news for the A’s is that they’re already without Jarrod Parker for the entire season. The good news for the A’s is that Tommy Milone projects to be just as good, if not even a little better. Yeah, losing Parker moves everyone else up in the depth chart, and that makes the depth chart weaker, but the A’s were in position to be able to deal with that kind of blow. They can’t take more of them, but they remain a legitimate contender, even with Parker sidelined.
I’d be willing to bet the over on the Sonny Gray projection. In ten starts last season, he notched a sub-3 xFIP, and he appears to me to be the ace of the staff. I like Scott Kazmir behind him, and there’s certainly plenty of adequacy here. Of additional encouragement: Drew Pomeranz’s spring. In 11 innings, he’s recorded two walks and 18 strikeouts, and though you never want to care too much about spring-training numbers, your eyes are drawn more to the extremes. On the flip side, Jesse Chavez gets one of those weird starter/reliever projection boosts. Not that his projection is even all that good.
The A’s can deal with being without Parker. They can’t deal with much more pain. It would be of great service if Gray throws 180 innings or so of ace-level baseball. Not many guys out there would be more capable.
|Matt Cain||207.0||7.7||2.5||1.0||.290||74.2 %||3.46||3.66||2.2|
|Madison Bumgarner||204.0||8.7||2.5||0.8||.293||75.2 %||3.05||3.14||3.5|
|Tim Lincecum||186.0||8.6||3.5||0.8||.305||71.2 %||3.90||3.59||1.8|
|Tim Hudson||170.0||6.5||2.5||0.6||.304||70.9 %||3.65||3.48||1.8|
|Ryan Vogelsong||111.0||6.5||3.0||1.0||.301||70.9 %||4.20||4.17||0.4|
|Edwin Escobar||66.0||7.4||2.8||0.8||.301||71.8 %||3.72||3.66||0.6|
|Yusmeiro Petit||38.0||7.4||2.0||1.0||.304||72.6 %||3.71||3.63||0.4|
|David Huff||19.0||6.1||2.7||1.0||.299||71.0 %||4.17||4.22||0.1|
|Mike Kickham||10.0||6.8||4.2||0.9||.304||69.4 %||4.63||4.40||0.0|
You know where the Giants finished last season? Fourth-worst. They finished with the fourth-lowest starting-rotation WAR in all of baseball. But now Barry Zito’s gone! And Ryan Vogelsong is…well we don’t know, but Zito’s gone, and Tim Hudson is the opposite of gone.
The Giants’ rotation still suffers from a lack of quality depth. But the picture is starting to look better with the emergence of Edwin Escobar and with the re-emergence of Yusmeiro Petit. One of them could be needed soon if Vogelsong doesn’t improve, but at least there are options. Toward the front, there’s no question about Madison Bumgarner. Matt Cain is projected for a bit of a bounceback, and Tim Lincecum is projected to be the same, with a lower ERA. If Lincecum finds himself, and if Cain goes back to being an exception to the rules, the Giants will find themselves in the thick of the Wild Card race. If things are as they were, last place in the division is a possibility. (It’s a tight division.) (After the Dodgers.)
|Ubaldo Jimenez||196.0||8.8||3.9||1.1||.304||72.8 %||4.09||4.01||2.7|
|Chris Tillman||175.0||7.8||3.2||1.4||.294||73.6 %||4.23||4.42||1.7|
|Miguel Gonzalez||171.0||6.8||3.0||1.3||.294||72.3 %||4.38||4.58||1.5|
|Wei-Yin Chen||170.0||7.1||2.6||1.3||.298||73.2 %||4.18||4.32||2.0|
|Bud Norris||93.0||7.8||3.3||1.2||.304||72.2 %||4.32||4.31||1.1|
|Kevin Gausman||56.0||7.9||2.4||1.1||.310||70.7 %||4.15||3.83||0.8|
|Suk-Min Yoon||28.0||6.6||3.6||1.2||.309||68.6 %||4.78||4.67||0.2|
|Zach Britton||28.0||6.0||4.1||1.0||.309||69.0 %||4.90||4.68||0.2|
|Dylan Bundy||20.0||7.3||3.6||1.2||.302||71.5 %||4.47||4.52||0.2|
|Johan Santana||20.0||7.2||3.0||1.4||.296||72.6 %||4.31||4.45||0.2|
Could you ask for two more interesting names at the bottom of the table than Dylan Bundy and Johan Santana? Neither, here, is being counted on for much. Both could make for valuable contributors down the stretch. Not bad wild cards to have tucked away in the back pocket.
But we should talk more about everyone else. The situation, in a word: “fine”. Miguel Gonzalez is fine. Wei-Yin Chen is fine. Bud Norris is fine. Suk-Min Yoon is probably fine. What the Orioles don’t have enough of is better-than-fine. Not that they’re without their hope.
Ubaldo Jimenez is two years removed from a disaster, but he’s coming off a year with better than a strikeout an inning. If he sustains his improvement, he could play the part of a No. 1. Chris Tillman just had a much higher FIP than xFIP, and you know how we feel about that sort of thing. The projection here seems pretty negative. And then there’s Kevin Gausman. Gausman has certain ace potential, and it shouldn’t be too long before the Orioles realize he’s one of their five best starters. If the Orioles make a charge for the playoffs, it could be because Gausman took over the rotation and dominated every five days.
So there’s upside in the Baltimore starting staff. There’s also some depth, and some wild cards of intrigue. No one doubts that the Orioles, overall, are talented. It’s a question of whether they’re talented enough. It wouldn’t surprise me too much if the Orioles won 90 games. It wouldn’t surprise me if they lost 90, either. On this roster, and in this rotation, there’s volatility.
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