2014 Positional Power Rankings: Starting Pitchers (#1-#15)

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.

#1 Tigers

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
Total 984.0 8.4 2.7 1.0 .306 73.0 % 3.72 3.57 18.8

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
Total 972.0 7.5 2.8 1.0 .305 71.9 % 4.03 3.94 15.4

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.

#3 Rangers

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
Total 962.0 7.7 3.0 1.1 .305 72.5 % 4.01 3.99 15.2

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.

#4 Yankees

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
Total 992.0 7.5 2.5 1.1 .304 71.4 % 4.03 3.90 15.0

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.

#5 Nationals

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
Total 968.0 7.6 2.5 0.9 .301 72.6 % 3.60 3.57 13.2

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.

#6 Cardinals

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
Total 970.0 7.9 2.7 0.8 .305 72.7 % 3.59 3.47 13.1

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.

#7 Mariners

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
Total 976.0 7.5 3.0 1.0 .302 71.4 % 4.05 3.96 12.9

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.

#8 Dodgers

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
Total 1010.0 7.9 2.4 0.9 .296 74.1 % 3.43 3.51 12.7

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!

#9 Rockies

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
Total 959.0 6.7 3.3 1.0 .313 69.9 % 4.49 4.22 12.5

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.

#10 Rays

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
Total 968.0 7.9 3.3 0.9 .295 73.6 % 3.70 3.84 12.3

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.

#11 Indians

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
Total 958.0 7.7 3.2 1.0 .310 70.5 % 4.19 3.92 11.5

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.

#12 Phillies

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
Total 996.0 7.6 2.7 1.0 .304 71.5 % 3.94 3.80 11.4

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.

#13 Athletics

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
Total 949.0 7.6 3.0 1.1 .299 72.8 % 3.95 4.00 11.0

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.

#14 Giants

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
Total 1010.0 7.6 2.8 0.8 .299 72.5 % 3.62 3.58 10.8

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.)

#15 Orioles

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
Total 958.0 7.6 3.2 1.2 .300 72.4 % 4.27 4.32 10.5

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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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

120 Responses to “2014 Positional Power Rankings: Starting Pitchers (#1-#15)”

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  1. Dbacks Fan says:

    Yankees, Rangers and Red Sox over Dodgers? I get this is an exercise based on ZIPS, WAR and Steamer, but the Dodgers easily have the #2 rotation in baseball, if not #1. I despise them as a Dbacks fan, but it’s not even close.

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    • semperty says:

      That’s not really all the close. The Tigers easily have the best rotation in baseball, and the Dodgers may not even have the 2nd best. The Nationals are grossly underrated in these standings, and would be my guess for the 2nd best rotation in baseball (and the only rotation that even rivals the Tigers).

      The Dodgers would need a pretty big step forward from both Haren and Beckett to become the best rotation in baseball

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      • binqasim says:

        Nationals may have a depth issue. Beyond TJ, I don’t see any decent backups for their starting five (including Roark as #5). I guess RD can step out from his bullpen for few starts but there is a reason they sent him to the bullpen. In my book, cardinals would be higher. as someone noted below, Carlos Martinez is not even counted here and I feel like he will be the primary backup if anyone goes down with an injury.

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        • semperty says:

          Even as a Cardinals fan, it’s hard for me to put them in this discussion. With regressions from Wainwright and (probably) Miller, they’re probably not going to be as great as advertised. They’ll still be really, really good, but it’s hard for me to put them in the discussion of the Nationals and Tigers (though that could be because I think this is the year that Stras takes a big step forward with his progression and steps into his “ace” role)

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        • JCA says:

          Detwiler and the loser of Jordan / Roark looks like a pretty good top 7 for the start of the year. Ohlendorff has time to get well for the 8th, and in the second half of the year AJ Cole and others should be in the mix. I don’t see a serious depth issue.

          Jeff more or less expresses his skepticism about the rankings when he starts out by saying knock down my Rangers projections and add to my Nats. I’m skeptical about the projections for Doubront/Capuano (3.1 WAR) v. the backend of the Nats staff (1.3). Eh, they all are good at the top, and picking among them is like choosing your favorite Beatle.

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      • libradawg says:

        They gave a Cy Young to RA Dickey. That is why Clayton Kershaw wasn’t pitching his 3rd Cy Young Award season while age 25. Now he’s entering his prime. That holds several barrels more water than what’s happening with the 4th and 5th starters.

        Another thing is to have the dominant ace Justin Verlander capable of dealing the same numbers. The unique thing here is that the year he didn’t put up a Verlander season, his teammate did. That’s not exactly the assurance the Dodgers have going for them but it indicates the same double-barreled ace possibilities that the Nationals simply don’t have. Greinke, Verlander and Scherzer may very well fall short for whatever reason, but certainly nothing that won’t befall Washington’s top 3. Kershaw is the only guarantee here.

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        • semperty says:

          Kershaw is pretty undeniably the best pitcher in baseball, no one’s arguing with that. But no matter how good Kershaw is, he only effects 1 out of every 5 games. Kershaw could be the Babe Ruth of pitchers, and he still wouldn’t effect the games where he’s on the bench any more than the number 5 pitcher. To say Kershaw is better than Verlander and Strasburg is pretty accurate, but to say the Dodgers are better at any other point in the rotation may not be.

          Think about it this way: the Dodgers 3 (Ryu) is matched by the Tigers 4 (Porcello), the Nats 4 (Fister), and the Cardinals 4 (Lynn). Kershaw is great to start a rotation, but if you can’t go as deep as the other teams (which the Dodgers don’t) it’s hard to be considered better than the others.

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        • Bip says:

          The Dodgers’ top three is good as any top three aside from the Tigers. Ryu is certainly underrated here. The main issue is their depth. I think they have good rotation depth, and yet their depth is more unreliable than most.

          On the one hand, they have two rotation spots open to be filled by Chad Billingsley, Josh Beckett, Paul Maholm, Dan Haren, and Zach Lee. That is excellent depth, possibly best in the majors. The main issue is that the best of those five all have issues. Billingsley and Becket cannot be certain to be healthy all season, and Haren very well may not even be good enough to stick.

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    • arc says:

      Show your work.

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  2. Darren says:

    This is likely the only time the Dodgers have been under-rated.

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  3. Rob Roel says:

    It’s worth pointing out that as bad as the Doug Fister trade has been perceived, Rick Porcello is projected for essentially the same WAR per IP as Mr. Fister. Given how little interest other teams seemed to have in Porcello, maybe the Tigers keeping a guy who is slightly cheaper and has a better track record health-wise wasn’t the worst thing ever.

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    • mike wants wins says:

      It wasn’t trading Fister that was the problem, it was what they got for him.

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    • Well-Beered Englishman says:

      “Better track record health-wise”? Aside from a single strained muscle, Fister hasn’t had a health record. And, of course, they effectively traded a 3-win player for Alex Gonzalez, Ian Krol, and Robbie Ray.

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    • arc says:

      That is not relevant to merits of the trade. That is relevant to the merits of the decision to make a trade.

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    • KCDaveInLA says:

      If it was true that Detroit traded Fister to free up money for a Scherzer extension, then they really hosed themselves, given Scherzer’s current state of mind about the negotiations.

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  4. Angel dust in the outfield says:

    Let’s see how that Rockies over Giants projection plays out.

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    • Hurtlockertwo says:


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    • RMD says:

      FanGraphs and ZiPS might overrate Coors’ effects too much. The Rockies have been 1st in the NL in pitching WAR 3 of the last 5 years!

      I find it really hard to believe the Rockies sheer brilliance is only being masked by their ballpark. They’ve always seemed like a mediocre bunch. Any team would rather have the five rotations below them without hesitation.

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      • wobatus says:

        Maybe, but we may just underrate the Rockies staff.

        Last year the Rockies ranked 19th in fielding and 23rd in batting per fangraphs. It is likely hard to think of the Rockies as not having decent hitting last year, with Tulo, Cargo, Rosario, Cuddyer, Fowler etc. But their front line guys missed a lot of games, depth was an issue, 2b was a black hole.

        Chacin and De la Rosa pitched well, Chatwood was semi-ok, Nicasio perhaps a bit unlucky. And they added Anderson, admittedly a bit of a wildcard.

        But admittedly it doesn’t “feel” quite right.

        The 2010 team had a great year from Ubaldo, very good year from Chacin, de la Rosa good but hurt, Hammel pitched better than his peripherals, even Francis pitched well, plus some good pen work.

        Maybe we’re understating the Coors effect in our minds.

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      • Shield Wall says:

        I don’t necessarily disagree, but let’s not forget the other aspect of FIELDING Independent Pitching. The Rockies have had a -110.9 UZR over the last five years, which is good for last in the National League.

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        • Erik says:

          It’s not really that surprising that the Rockies defense would rate out poorly in that giant park.

          I think what is happening here is that some of the WAR given to the pitchers needs to be given to defense. The offensive value of a ball in play at Coors field has got to be significantly higher than for other stadiums.

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      • Cicero says:

        Well Chacin does have the best road ERA of any starter in the last 5 years

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  5. tehzachatak says:

    No mention of Carlos Martinez for St. Louis? That’s the X-Factor, no?

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    • crw says:

      I believe Rosenthal should be on here as well. If injuries to the cardinals rotation occur, they could potentially allocate starts to both Martinez and Rosenthal.

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    • emdash says:

      Seems like it would be difficult to stretch him and/or Rosenthal out if they’re pitching in strict 8th/9th inning contexts throughout the year.

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    • chuckb says:

      Teams tend not to move relievers into the rotation during the season.

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    • ralph says:

      The Cardinals have been pretty candid that Martinez will likely start at some point this year, and his usage in spring furthers that point. He seems to be a glaring omission…but not moreso than Tim Cooney, who is also likely get starts if injuries occur. To a lesser extent, most would agree that Zach Petrick and Marco Gonzalez would also get a chance before Gast or Castro would.

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    • The Continental says:

      Martinez isn’t listed, but if Jaime accrues 1.3 WAR this season I’ll eat my smoking jacket. Seems like a wash.

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  6. Darren says:

    Im shocked the Reds are not here.

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    • bkgeneral says:

      100% agree. Reds Rotation is not top 5, but surely top 15. I have a hard time thinking Cueto, Latos, Bailey, Cingrani, Leake is not better than about 1/2 of these teams listed ahead of them. Even the probable 10-15 starts by a Jeff Francis type should not move them out of the top 1/2 of the league. The Reds lineup is sub par, so any projections about the Reds winning 85+ games is driven by their pitching. Some of that is an excellent bullpen, main a lot of it is their very good rotation.

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      • Wobatus says:

        It’s a depth issue per the projections. The Reds are projected to have 10.2 starter war. Their front 5 get 10.2 alone. But the projection on the depth charts is for only 171 IP per starter in the front 5.

        They’d be ahead of the Orioles at 15, but the Orioles are projected to get .4 WAR from Bundy and Santana combined, .2 each in 20 innings. As Jeff says those are nice wildcards to have in your back pocket. The projections don’t like the Reds backups, and suggest they’ll be needed. Of the front 5 can make almost all of their starts, the Reds look good. That’s always a big if. Cingrani had some minor health issues last year, and Cueto hit the DL more than once.

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        • Darren says:

          The problem is that Zips and Steamer take two different opinions of Reds starters. Zips loves them, and Steamer hates them. By splitting the difference, Fangraphs pushes the Reds into the second group.

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        • chuckb says:

          @ Darren,

          You could just as easily argue that, by splitting the difference, Fangraphs pushes the Reds up into a tie for 15th.

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  7. Angelsjunky says:

    Yet another example of why WAR is ineffective in ascertaining overall starting pitcher value. A pitcher’s, and pitching staff’s, primary objective is to prevent runs from scoring – in whatever manner they can, often regardless of how pretty one’s peripherals are to look at on a web page.

    According to WAR, in 2012 Rick Porcello and his 4.59 ERA in 176.1 IP was a better pitcher (3.0 WAR) than Jered Weaver and his 2.81 ERA in 188.2 IP (2.9 WAR). Please tell me why this is true?

    Lest I be accused of homerism, let us look at another striking example. Weaver is a similar type of pitcher to Tom Glavine in that both prevent runs in ways that aren’t adequately expressed by WAR. Glavine’s two best seasons were 5.5 and 5.1 WAR, Weaver’s are 5.7 twice. In 2001 Glavine had a 3.57 ERA in 219.1 IP with a rather pedestrian 1.5 WAR due to a 4.77 FIP. Glavine was 70th in WAR among 84 qualifiers; I won’t even list who was ahead of them because it was almost everyone – many names which have been forgotten. But most of those pitchers were not better pitchers than Glavine, even in that one year, if we look at the primary objective of a pitcher being run prevention.

    I am not arguing for ERA as the end-all be-all stat for pitchers, but to use WAR is equally silly, in some ways more so because its a further abstraction away from what actually happens on the field, indicative of statistical fetishism.

    Glavine had an excellent 64.3 WAR over the course of his career, but his RA9-WAR was 88.0 – which I think is more accurate to his actual value. He was a very smart pitcher who knew how to pitch in his context. His RA9-WAR in 2001 was 4.9, good for 18th in the majors. Now what makes more sense, that in 2001 Glavine was the 70th or 18th best pitcher in baseball? Who would really have preferred Pedro Astacio (169.2 IP, 5.09 ERA, 3.7 WAR, 2.5 RA9-WAR)? According to WAR, Astacio was a much better pitcher but this is clearly absurd – no one in baseball would have taken Astacio over Glavine.

    Now tell me why Fangraphs continues to use WAR as the best indicator of how good a pitcher is? Why was Porcello better (if only slightly) than Weaver in 2012? And why was Astacio better than Glavine in 2001 (and a couple other years)? If WAR is recognized to be only one data point, why is it continually used on this site as the best overall indicator of pitcher value?

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    • Eminor3rd says:

      Because a pitcher shouldn’t get credit for what his defense does.

      Read up on FIP.

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      • vivalajeter says:

        While that might be the intention of FIP, it’s way too basic to accomplish it. There’s more to pitching than walks, strikeouts and home runs.

        Glavine, for instance, pitched on the corners as much as possible (or as some would say, he pitched a few inches off the corners as much as possible). He wasn’t afraid of walking someone, but maybe he gave up weaker-than-average contact by rarely pitching it over the middle of the plate. It’s a lot harder to make strong contact on a low/outside pitch than a middle-in pitch.

        On the whole, FIP can do a solid job – but I don’t think Angels was wrong in his specific criticisms. Heck, when did we come up with FIP? 10 years ago? Given the batted ball data that we have access to lately, that should show how outdated FIP can be. It was a great first step in giving the appropriate credit to a pitcher, but it was just one step.

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        • Catoblepas says:

          But in a lot of ways no, there really isn’t more to pitching than walks, strikeouts, and home runs. Yeah, if you look, you can find some examples of guys underrated by FIP. You can also find many, many examples of guys over- or underrated by ERA, with an amazing/awful infield behind them. The three true outcomes are the only things pitchers can definitively control. If you think it’s flawed and represents just a single step forward, come up with something better! The new fielding data should mean we have some improvement in ~5 years, but until then, I strongly believe FIP is our best bet.

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        • vivalajeter says:

          Catoblepas, I disagree with your first sentence. There is more to pitching than those three things. There are pitchers that can control factors beyond walks, strikeouts and home runs. This has been shown already.

          We’ve already come up with something better. Look at SIERA, for instance. Or xFIP.

          This doesn’t mean you should ignore FIP, because it does take into account a lot of what a pitcher can control, but we’ve advanced since FIP was introduced.

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        • Shield Wall says:

          I agree, that’s why I prefer SIERA.

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        • Cool Lester Smooth says:

          “Maybe he gave up weaker-than-average contact”?

          The maybe is completely unnecessary.

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        • arc says:

          “The three true outcomes are the only things pitchers can definitively control. ”

          This isn’t even an accurate statement (see e.g. park factors, umpires). DIPS is not trying to measure things they can “definitively control”; it is trying to separate the performance of the pitcher from the performance of the defense.

          Yes, a pitcher influences and thus is responsible for more than K, BB, and HR. But quantifying that influence and thus that responsibility is a challenge we’re poorly-equipped to meet for now. FIP metrics give you the cleanest data, an average of fWAR and RA9 WAR probably give you the most accurate data.

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      • mlmorgen says:

        “Read up FIP,” said Jerry DiPoto in response to the question, “Why on God’s green earth do you want to sign Joe Blanton?”

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    • arc says:

      I’m sure this bait will get you a number of responses, but it shouldn’t. You aren’t engaging with the DIPS argument at all and are not even making an honest effort to do so.

      The takeaway from this is that you either genuinely don’t know what the counterargument is (despite the fact that an entire glossary and index of articles on this site is devoted to it) or that you do know, but you’re ignoring it for some reason.

      Tedious either way.

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      • Angelsjunky says:

        Or it could be that I don’t think DIPS is adequate as a comprehensive theory and it underrates players like Glavine and Weaver, or that any stat can truly accurately represent the value of a player have. All stats have flaws 9think Korzybski: “the map is not the territory”) – I’m pointing out what I think is the flaw in WAR (for pitchers).

        What is tedious is you assuming that I’m trying to bait people or operating out of ignorance, yet at the same time not actually addressing my points. Resorting to ad hominems is a bit of a red herring tactic, don’t you think?

        For instance, if you’re so confidence in DIPS and FIP, please explain to me why Pedro Astacio was better than Tom Glavine in 2001? And who in all of baseball would actually have preferred Astacio?

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        • arc says:

          “Or it could be that I don’t think DIPS is adequate…”

          No, that’s already obvious. That’s what you already said. The question was explicitly consequent to what you had already said. The question was *why* you said that *in lieu* of actually engaging the DIPS argument. In other words, why trot out a pile of conclusory rhetoric instead of engaging the merits of the argument?

          It is either that you don’t know what the DIPS argument is (which is inexcusable, since it’s hosted in volumes on this site), or you do know but are deliberately omitting it. And whichever one it is, it makes you tedious and ignorable.


          And just to be clear: “Resorting to ad hominems is a bit of a red herring tactic, don’t you think”

          There was no ad hominem; there was no red herring; and no, an ad hominem is not a red herring. You are completely confused about what these fallacies are and there are none of them here to identify anyway.

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    • RA9 WAR is much better than FIP-WAR when you have big sample sizes. FIP-WAR kind of ridiculously (er, by about 10% on average) over-values starting pitchers. I could keep going, but I wrote a whole article on this over on the community blog.

      The nasty nature of FIP is that it isn’t just fielding independent–it’s also batted ball independent. And batted balls most definitely are controlled to a small extent by pitchers.

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    • Preston says:

      Your problem isn’t with WAR, it is with fWAR. bWAR is calculated in a way that credits pitchers for their era rather than FIP. bWAR is more accurate in telling us how a pitcher actually contributed to his team in a given year. fWAR has been found to be more predictive. There are in fact pitchers who can outperform their peripherals. But its hard to separate who’s who. Matt Cain was considered to be that type of pitcher, but last season he wasn’t. Jered Weaver has significantly outperformed his peripherals in three straight seasons. That might mean that he’s Tom Glavine and he will continue to do that for his career. It also might just be an extended period of good luck.

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      • Cool Lester Smooth says:

        Or it means that he plays in an enormous stadium.

        I think he’d put up Phil Hughes-esque numbers in YSIII.

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    • Eric Feczko says:

      You are right that fWAR is not a perfect measure of pitcher ability. Neither is ERA, FIP, nor any single metric.

      That being said, I think the Glavine comparison is a little over the top. Glavine never had a strong peak regardless of whether you use RA9 or FIP. His strength was pitching over 4000 innings in a 20 year span, with a 3.5ish ERA. Personally, I actually think Glavine is a little bit overrated compared to some of his peers, which had stronger peaks (e.g. Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson).

      Jered Weaver is already showing signs of decline. His fastball velocity has dropped to 86 MPH, 2 MPH below his career average. This corresponded with an uptick in both ERA and FIP last year.

      Yes, Glavine performed better than his peripherals, but he also maintained velocity and did not rely on stranding runners. His 73.8% strand rate ranks him in the 400’s among qualified pitchers.

      Jered Weaver performed better than his FIP in the past three years, but some of the recent success could be attributable to his extremely high strand rates (82.6,79.8,78.5). All of which are above his career average of 77.3. If his strand rate is unsustainable, we may see an increase in ERA next year.

      By my eye, I’ve never really been impressed by Jered Weaver. In terms of stuff I would put him in the same ballpark as Rick Porcello. I was also not that impressed by Glavine’s peak. He always struck me as the longevity-career type of hall of famer and not the incredible-peak type of hall of famer. I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree there, but I think I’ve justified why one may be concerned about Jered Weaver’s ability to pitch in the future.

      Finally, WAR is useful because it allows us to compare players across different positions. In terms of projecting how a team will perform, WAR is a useful figure. On the other hand, determining the best player requires looking at a handful of stats; WAR is a crude metric that allows us to eliminate the obvious candidates.

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      • Cool Lester Smooth says:

        A 3.5 ERA during that run environment is pretty exceptional.

        From 1991-2000, Glavine pitched to a 3.13 ERA (3.46 RA9). He was worth 47.7 wins by rWAR, and was worth 44.8 wins if you take his best 7 seasons, rather than a range.

        That’s a hell of a peak.

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  8. arc says:

    The Phillies really should trade Cliff Lee.

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    • Ruben Amaro Jr says:

      I have a big trade in the works for Raul Ibanez and Josh Hamilton to help bring our team the veteran presence it needs.

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      • Phillies Phanatic says:

        I love veteran presents! It’s been Christmas all year here in Philadelphia. Woohoo Abreu! Let’s see what Kruk has left in him.

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    • jruby says:

      Then the Phillies can ride the Jeff(erson) Manship to glorious victory!

      Seriously, do people call him that? Jefferson Manship? Because if they don’t, they need to start. And the Phillies need to start feeding him starts to build the brand.

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  9. Dave says:

    I can’t find the bottom 16 by Dave Cameron anywhere on the site, anyone have a link for that? Thanks

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  10. Matt says:

    Hyun-Jin Ryu is down for 2 WAR, the top 3 Rockies’ starters are down for 2.2, 2.5, 2.6. Yet Ryu is projected to be better across the board. More IP, more Ks, less walks, much better ERA & FIP. Is it simply park-adjustments causing a huge change, or am I missing something?

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    • Park Matters says:

      Pitching with a 3.30 ERA in Dodger Stadium is MUCH easier than pitching with a 3.30 ERA in Coors Field.

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  11. LaLoosh says:

    yeah these rankings look pretty absurd.

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  12. Jack says:

    Why is Bud Norris projected for 93 innings? Assumed Gausman is going to take over for him?

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  13. zimmerman says:

    I am curious to see how well your confidence in Texas rotation plays out. You have a stud with 4 #5’s in rotation with two decent pitchers on dl. I don’t see how that ranks as #3, but you guys are the experts.

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  14. Bobby Flay says:

    Rockies and Orioles in the top 15 kind of blows my mind.

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    • chuckb says:

      Rockies (at least) in the top 15 shouldn’t. They were good last year, too.

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    • BobbyJohn says:

      Chacin, De la Rosa, and Chatwood combined for 9.2 WAR last season across 476.1 IP 81 starts), and wound up with a collective 38-21 record. Nicasio was a .500 pitcher (9-9) in 31 starts (157.1 IP).

      It was that last spot in the rotation that sank the team in 2013, somehow managing a combined 0-19 across 26 starts by 5 or 6 different pitchers. Poor defense at a couple of positions (RF, C) did not help, either.

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  15. Sam says:

    Not very surprised to see the Braves fall out of the top 15, but still crazy to realize how far & fast they’ve fallen with the injuries. I’d expect them to be in the 15-20 range now, but imagine where they’d be were they not able to pick up Santana.

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  16. libradawg says:

    A nightmare situation for the Braves isn’t replacing Medlen, Hudson and Garcia with Santana, Wood and Harang. No, I’ll give you an example of a nightmare situation: Trying to coast to the finish line in order to avoid injuries THEN losing two starters. Before you know it here were are starting Freddy Garcia in an elimination game.

    We got eliminated. It’s a little early in the season for that as of now. People are predicting regressions for both Minor and Teheran with the most asinine logic imaginable. “Teams now have Minor figured out”. Really? What did they learn that they were unable to pick up during the 2 full seasons and 350 IP before 2013?? And then there’s Teheran, a guy who these exact same sites shoved down our throats for years as an upper echelon elite young phenom. And then he delivers a great season. NOW is when they decide he actually wasn’t worth it?

    All-in-all I’m not all that worried that the Braves aren’t in here. Given where the Dodgers, Rays, Orioles, Rangers, Indians and Mariners are ranked I’m actually comforted by the Braves being the ones most inaccurately placed. I simply never really bought the idea of using Independent metrics for projections. I love ’em when it comes time to compare and give out awards, but I don’t see the point when it involves a season about to be played under the conditions isolated by each metric. To each his own!

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    • TheGrandslamwich says:

      If you’d like to be relevant, try the second post.

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    • Bip says:

      I simply never really bought the idea of using Independent metrics for projections.

      No one is saying they are anywhere near perfect. What is the better alternative though? You want to be as objective as possible, which is what projection systems are. Then, you can adjust them according to knowledge they don’t have access to.

      That’s what is great about these projection systems. Subjective judgments like whether or not teams have figured Minor out play no part. If you think Minor’s projection is too low, take it up with the data that these systems are based on, because it’s certainly not because of bias against Minor or the Braves.

      I also don’t see how the Braves are a top-half rotation at all with Medlen or Beachy. With them yes. They have nothing close to an ace, and their depth is only good. Minor, Teheran and Wood are good, but all are young and without much track record, so you can understand why the projections are conservative. They have exactly one 3 WAR season between the three of them.

      But even then, they Braves are only 1.5 WAR out of the top half, and if you read the other post, the author acknowledges that they are position to outperform their projections. That’s how it’s done, start with an objective baseline, and fill in the details that the objective systems cannot account for.

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      • Bip says:

        I don’t see how they are a top half rotation *without Medlen or Beachy.

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        • libradawg says:

          Because they have better Starting Pitchers than more than half the league. They have a 23-year-old ace. They have a 25-year-old #2. Their 3rd starter is another 23-year-old, this one going from the LH side of the mound. Their 4th starter is freakin’ Ervin Santana. He’s a floor 3rd, and certainly Harang is better than 60% or more of fifths. Hale, Floyd, they’re there.

          No, the thing you shouldn’t be seeing are Medlen or Beachy’s names as factors. Because they weren’t last year. Medlen used a scorching September to keep himself from being ousted from the rotation. There’s no possible way you don’t remember all that. Beachy hasn’t been relevant for 2+ years.

          Aces, Power, Upside. We have more of that than other teams. 20 points fewer RA from the rotation and only one other team struck out more. I’m done here.

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    • Bip says:

      I simply never really bought the idea of using Independent metrics for projections.

      No one is saying they are anywhere near perfect. What is the better alternative though? You want to be as objective as possible, which is what projection systems are. Then, you can adjust them according to knowledge they don’t have access to.

      That’s what is great about these projection systems. Subjective judgments like whether or not teams have figured Minor out play no part. If you think Minor’s projection is too low, take it up with the data that these systems are based on, because it’s certainly not because of bias against Minor or the Braves.

      I also don’t see how the Braves are a top-half rotation at all with Medlen or Beachy. With them yes. They have nothing close to an ace, and their depth is only good. Minor, Teheran and Wood are good, but all are young and without much track record, so you can understand why the projections are conservative. They have exactly one 3 WAR season between the three of them.

      But even then, they Braves are only 1.5 WAR out of the top half, and if you read the other post, the author acknowledges that they are position to outperform their projections. That’s how it’s done, start with an objective baseline, and fill in the details that the objective systems cannot account for.

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  17. Spudchukar says:

    The projections for Lackey and Peavy are risible. There is no chance either one crack 2 War in 2014, and a person can add Doubront to that list too, although I would prefer him to the other two. Gonna be a long year for the Sox, with the starting pitching woes, a return to normal by Uehara, major drop-offs by the aging Gomes, Ortiz, and Napoli, and the slower than development of Bradley and Bogaerts, and the realization that Middlebrooks just cannot cut it.

    I look for them to be finishing looking up at all four division rivals, but just a tad below the Yanks.

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    • Tom B says:

      I’m not sure you understand what “normal” for Uehara is.

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      • Shield Wall says:

        You mean to tell me his K rate will fall back down to 10.45, his BB rate will climb to 1.20 and his ERA will be above 2.00? Oh, the horror!

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    • steex says:

      And let’s not forget that Lester and Buchholz will be hampered by overconfidence; Victorino will like Florida so much this spring that he doesn’t bother to travel with the team to Boston; Pierzynski and Ross will fight to the death (somehow both dying); Carp will turn into an actual carp; and Pedroia will decide to experiment with batting exclusively left-handed. Did we forget anyone?

      Yep, all in all, things are looking pretty bleak for the last-place Red Sox.

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    • Blount says:

      Look, you might want to grasp what “no chance” actually means before you go throwing it around. Matter of fact, brush up on “risible”.

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  18. channelclemente says:

    So you discount all the discussion about Kershaw’s loss in velocity and mechanics issues.

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  19. regular guy says:

    Does this mean Detroit will win the most games?

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  20. William says:

    Great piece. Just a small note: something’s wrong with the graph. The Yankees at #4 are at 15 WAR yet the 4th bar on the graph is shown at basically 14, substantially below the 15.2 and 15.4 of #2 and #3

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  21. So many people targeting a poor season for the Giants again. With their improved offense as well as defense (pitching and fielding), they should win at least 90+ games. And if everything comes together, as hoped, closer to 100 wins than 90.

    And the Dodgers, I’m not sure why so many people are so sure that they are going to run away with the division. They seem to forget that they still had a losing record late into June, and pretty bad too. It took a historic run for two months, where hitters went crazy and pitching pitched crazy (bullpen with ERA under 1 and starters under 2 for two months?), for them to run away with the division.

    And Puig, after his hot first month, cooled off in the latter three months, hitting low 800 OPS. Given his very high BABIP, I think he’ll be closer to 800 than 1000 OPS in 2014. And Hanley hasn’t hit that well in a season since 2009, why does everyone think he’s going to do that again for sure in 2014? Take those two out as offensive leaders, and their offense isn’t looking so good anymore.

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    • Fred says:

      Of course they aren’t good as the 42-8 run, no one is.

      They’re are probably somewhere in between that run and what they were at the start of the season, which is still clearly the best team in the division.

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    • Scott says:

      How exactly are “so many people” saying the Giants are going to be poor? Fangraphs has them projected for the 6th most wins in MLB (tied with the Rangers) and Baseball Prospectus has the Giants projected to be somewhere in that range as well. If you’re just talking about the Giants starting pitching ranking, I think middle of the pack is pretty fair. There are two very good pitchers (Bumgarner and Cain), one average-ish pitcher (Hudson), and two questionmarks at the end of the rotation (Lincecum and Vogelsong). Vogelsong looks like he’s going to be a disaster, but he’s risen from the ashes and been productive before. Lincecum, who knows, but it’s doubtful he’ll be considerably better than the last 2 seasons.

      Overall, the Giants have a good offense, middle-of-the pack pitching, and good defense. That adds up to a good team, just what they’re projected to be. Not sure what the issue is here.

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    • Bip says:

      Improved offense? What about Mike Morse?

      Improved defense? What about Mike Morse?

      As for your argument that the Dodgers are overrated, you’re implying the more tired sports-fan fallacy of all time, the selective endpoints fallacy.

      “The Dodgers were worse at the beginning of the season than at the end, therefore they are as bad as they were at the beginning.”

      “Puig hit worse in one part of the season than he did in another, therefore he is the worse of those two sections.”

      “Hanley was worse before 2013 than he was in 2013, therefore he is the worse of those two periods of time.”

      All players/teams have times when they are better and times they are worse. Why can’t I just say that Pablo, Cain and Lincecum are going to be exactly as bad as they were in 2013 and leave it at that?

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  22. isavage30 says:

    I think Carlos Santana will still find a way to screw over Justin Masterson. Instead of balls and strikes, it will be ground balls to third

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  23. I just noticed something very interesting (not sure if noted in article or not), but the Giants are 14th but if the WAR estimates are off by 1.5 WAR, adding that would place them at 10th. And 2.0 WAR would put them 7th, just ahead of the Dodgers. There is a lot of sensitivity in the ranking for not a lot of change in WAR production.

    If Bumgarner pitches like he did in 2011, that would add 1.1 WAR right there. And if Cain returns to his mid-3 WAR production that he had done for 7 straight seasons, that would add another 1.3 WAR there as well. Either one happening should put the Giants near 10th, both would push them into Top 5. And if Cain has a peak season, that’s probably Top 3.

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    • Preston says:

      There is obviously huge variability in rankings like this. Even a team as low as the Marlins at 27th wit 8 WAR, you could see leapfrogging a team as high as the Nationals at 5th without too much creativity. Obviously all it takes is one or two injuries for the Nats to drop, but you could project the Marlins to get 5 WAR from Fernandez, 2+ WAR each from Alvarez, Eovoldi and Turner and then a top prospect like Heaney or Nicolino getting a quick promotion and making an impact right away to make them better than the Nationals 13.2 WAR projections

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    • TheGrandslamwich says:

      You can say “If 1-2 of our players performs like he previously did/lives up to his prospect hype” about pretty much every team on this list and they would get a huge bump in the rankings. The Giants are certainly not alone.

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    • Maaaad Libs!!! says:


      ___(FanGraphs / Dave / these rankings)____

      ____(hates my favorite team / has it in for my team / has always had a clear vendetta against my team)____

      and furthermore, ___(needs to leave mom’s basement / sucks at this / sucks donkey balls)____

      The methodology is ____(stupid / flawed / laughable)____

      Because my team is ____(5 / 10 / 13 / 29)_____ spots too low.

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    • Shield Wall says:

      We get it, you like the Giants.

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    • Cool Lester Smooth says:

      Yes, that would be why it’s deeply, deeply stupid to bitch about their relative placement.

      One might even say that it is mindbogglingly stupid to complain about their placement, when you consider how small the margins are.

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    • liamandme says:

      Maybe instead of scrolling down until you found the giants write-up you could have read all the way to the 5th sentence of the introduction where your exact concern was addressed.

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    • Bip says:

      So… you yourself point out how the Giants are not that far behind the teams ahead of them in terms of WAR, while complaining earlier that these projections unfairly hate your team.

      As you pointed out, they don’t hate your team. There are just a bunch of teams that project to be ever-so-slightly better.

      If the projection had the Giants rotation as 10 WAR behind the Dodgers, THEN maybe start bitching.

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  24. pudieron89 says:

    Why bother posting these numbers before fixing the projections systems estimates of relievers as starters? Just apply some sort of weighted penalty based on historical performance of certain types of relievers stretched out as starters, i.e., flamethrowers with only fastballs, control artists with low velo, junkballers, LOOGYs, etc.

    Because Texas at #3 is absolutely laughable, especially since it’s been known for a few days now that Darvish will start the season on the DL.

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    • Doug Lampert says:

      I would guess because the projection systems they are using belong to someone else, and they can’t actually fix it, just point out the problem.

      Even if they came up with a “quick fix” implementing it and posting the description would probably take more than the time left prior to opening day.

      And who really cares anyway? It’s starting pitching projections, the error bars are huge anyway. One ill-timed injury and most of these teams can drop half a dozen spots. Don’t worry about your team’s place in order, look at the pitchers and see who’s expected to be good and bad and look at the total to get a rough idea of staff quality.

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  25. Ralph Libinski says:

    Given the numbers above for Kershaw and Felix, how does WAR favor Felix by almost one run? Is it the presence of the DH?

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  26. Schaf says:

    Excellent piece of work! Felix over Kershaw in war? FIP?

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  27. Garrett says:

    Suprised the Rays aren’t getting any love here. They’re rotation is worse than the Rockies? I also have a tough time believing CC will be worth 4 WAR with the decreased velocity and the way he finished out the season.

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    • SeattleSlew says:

      The Yankees always gets love in projections to make their fans happy and keep them coming back. They had a terrible year last year but they signed a pitcher who has no major league experience, they have another pitcher who is coming back from injury, all of a sudden they have the 4th best rotation in baseball. Incredible!

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  28. pudieron89 says:

    Tanner Scheppers, Martin Perez, Robbie Ross, Joe Saunders and Nick Martinez.

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  29. Bret says:

    Yeah… it makes total sense that Capuano will see a 40%-plus improvement in WAR/IP as he enters his late 30’s.

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  30. Joe says:

    Not sure the correct place for it, but it does have to do with SP. Why is it that some stats for pitchers are only available for certain splits, and not the whole season? Specifically, I can think of OBP, SLG, wOBA, and wSB. These can be customized into the leaderboard for home/away splits but do not show up when looking at full seasons. I could really use these data for a project.

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  31. BenRevereDoesSteroids says:

    “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.”

    As someone noted above, the Rangers are starting the season with a Rotation of Scheppers, Martin, Ross, Saunders, and Nick Martinez. That, for the record, is not good.

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  32. Ryan says:

    question: I was looking at Michael Wacha and though that 2.1 WAR seemed low if he’s projected for a 3.56 FIP, but I chalked it up to his 174 inning projection.

    Then I go down the list and see Justin Masterson. 3.56 FIP, 3.0 WAR, 198 innings. 198/174 is approximately 1.14. 1.14 x 2.1 is 2.394. So why does Masterson have 3.0 projected WAR while Wacha has only 2.1? fWAR is based on FIP, right? And that has park and league factors already included?

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    • TheGrandslamwich says:

      League adjustment. A 3,56 FIP in the AL is more impressive than the same in the NL.

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  33. SeattleSlew says:

    I must say I am surprised to see Seattle at #7. I was expecting bottom 15.

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  34. Helladecimal says:

    I like Sonny Gray, but that projection seems bullish to me. I always assumed he would need to develop an average-ish changeup to be a true staff ace. Maybe I’m missing something.

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  35. Ray Ray says:

    Where the hell is the pittsburgh pirates they had the best rotation in the leaue this is bull shit

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