2013 Positional Power Rankings: Starting Pitchers (#1-#15)

For an explanation of this series, please read the introductory post. The data is a hybrid projection of the ZIPS and Steamer systems with playing time determined through depth charts created by our team of authors. The rankings are based on aggregate projected WAR for each team at a given position.

Last week, we tackled the positional players, grading out each team’s options at each spot that is occupied by a fielder. You can see all those posts here, and yes, they’ve now been updated to reflect the correct park adjusted numbers. So, today, we move on to the pitching side of things. Because we’re dealing with 7-10 starters and an equal number of relievers for each club, we’re breaking these posts into two parts, less they become our own version of War and Peace.

After doing the bottom tier this morning — while noting again that the dividing line is essentially a false one, since there’s basically no separation between teams from #13 to #17 — we’re on to the strong pitching staffs, including a couple at the top that are exceptionally strong. There are also a few surprises in the top half, but overall, I think the projections look pretty good. There are inevitably going to be innings allocations or performance forecasts than one can quibble with, but overall, I think this system has done a pretty good job.

On to the list.

#1 Tigers


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Justin Verlander 229.0 8.8 2.4 0.9 .298 75.1 % 3.24 3.19 5.8
Max Scherzer 176.0 9.3 2.8 1.0 .313 74.0 % 3.67 3.47 3.8
Doug Fister 186.0 6.3 1.9 0.8 .307 70.1 % 3.86 3.61 3.7
Anibal Sanchez 180.0 7.0 2.5 1.0 .309 70.9 % 4.10 3.87 3.1
Rick Porcello 132.0 5.4 2.3 0.8 .317 67.9 % 4.39 3.92 2.2
Drew Smyly 49.0 8.2 3.2 1.0 .306 73.0 % 3.93 3.81 0.9
Casey Crosby 40.0 6.4 5.9 1.1 .310 68.7 % 5.58 5.38 0.0
Total 990.0 7.5 2.6 0.9 .308 71.7 % 3.87 3.66 19.6

When you start with the best pitcher in baseball, you have a pretty nice advantage over everyone else, but this Tigers rotation would be in the top 10 even if you took Verlander out of the picture. This is a strong group across the board, with both excellence and depth, to the point where they might end up trading a relatively cheap, young, average starting pitcher just because they don’t have room for everyone. It might not be quite as good as the rotation the Phillies put together a few years ago, but it’s close.

I’d also suggest that the data above makes a pretty decent case for why the Tigers should just hang on to Rick Porcello. The big drop-off between Smyly and Crosby could become a legitimate problem if they move Porcello and then someone goes down. The Tigers have six capable starters, but most big league teams ending up needing six capable starters to get through a season. If they got to a point where they had to depend on Crosby as their first fill-in and then various minor leaguers behind him, things could go downhill in a hurry. It might not be fair to Drew Smyly to start him back in Triple-A, but unless the Tigers get a really great offer for Porcello, they’re probably best served just maintaining their depth. No one ever missed the playoffs because they had too many good pitchers, but a decent amount have missed because their emergency fill-ins were pretty terrible.

#2 Nationals


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Stephen Strasburg 191.0 10.7 2.5 0.7 .309 77.9 % 2.69 2.61 5.7
Gio Gonzalez 202.0 9.1 3.5 0.7 .300 74.9 % 3.22 3.24 4.3
Jordan Zimmermann 175.0 7.1 2.1 0.9 .300 73.3 % 3.54 3.60 3.0
Dan Haren 165.0 7.3 1.7 1.0 .303 72.5 % 3.66 3.53 2.9
Ross Detwiler 129.0 6.0 3.1 0.8 .303 70.4 % 4.13 4.02 1.5
Chris Young 26.0 6.2 3.1 1.4 .295 71.6 % 4.65 4.81 0.1
Ross Ohlendorf 16.0 6.3 3.4 1.2 .300 70.5 % 4.66 4.72 0.1
Yunesky Maya 17.0 4.6 2.8 1.3 .305 67.4 % 5.13 4.98 0.0
Total 920.0 8.1 2.6 0.9 .303 73.7 % 3.48 3.44 17.6

The Nationals are basically the Tigers without the safety net. Their front five are also excellent, led by perhaps the game’s best starter on a per-inning basis, but they don’t have Detroit’s depth behind him. In fact, if any Nationals starter went down in week one, it’s not abundantly clear what the plan would be. Chris Young is in camp with the team, but might be able to secure a Major League job with another club, in which case Washington has agreed to let him go. The #6 starter candidates after Young are uninspiring, and really, Young isn’t that exciting himself.

But, that’s a lot of attention on the imperfection of a still-great rotation. Strasburg, Gio, Zimmerman, and Haren provide an elite front four, and if Strasburg blows through the 200 inning marker, he could very well take the title of the game’s preeminent ace away from Verlander. This rotation was built for October, and if the Nationals get into the playoffs with the big four all healthy and unrestricted, then they’re going to be very difficult to beat.

#3 Rangers


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Yu Darvish 215.0 10.0 3.6 0.8 .307 74.6 % 3.35 3.23 5.9
Matt Harrison 184.0 5.8 2.8 1.0 .298 70.9 % 4.14 4.08 3.2
Derek Holland 171.0 7.4 3.0 1.2 .300 71.7 % 4.23 4.17 2.8
Alexi Ogando 105.0 7.8 2.8 1.1 .292 74.1 % 3.75 3.92 2.0
Nick Tepesch 81.0 5.7 3.5 1.1 .305 69.2 % 4.78 4.70 0.9
Colby Lewis 103.0 7.6 2.2 1.3 .296 73.3 % 3.99 4.09 1.8
Martin Perez 32.0 5.2 4.3 1.1 .311 68.5 % 5.20 5.04 0.2
Robbie Ross 16.0 6.7 3.2 0.7 .299 73.0 % 3.64 3.79 0.3
Justin Grimm 8.0 5.6 3.4 1.3 .311 68.6 % 5.09 4.90 0.1
Total 917.0 7.5 3.1 1.0 .301 72.2 % 4.00 3.97 17.2

All winter, we kept wondering why the Rangers wouldn’t just pony up the 24th pick and sign Kyle Lohse. They’re at the right spot on the win curve, that pick isn’t super valuable, and the back end of their rotation is in shambles. Right?

Err, maybe not. I’ll admit to not knowing much about Nick Tepesch before spring training began, but the Steamer/ZIPS combo projection is pretty optimistic about his chances to fill the #5 spot until Colby Lewis returns, and it doesn’t hate the young kids behind him either. When the Rangers looked at their rotation and decided that Lohse wasn’t necessary, they may very well have been correct.

That paragraph also buries the lede a bit, since we skipped right over a glowing projection for Yu Darvish. His +5.9 WAR projection is the highest of any pitcher in baseball — ahead of Verlander, ahead of Strasburg, ahead of Felix. The command issues aren’t expected to completely go away, but the combination of strikeouts and HR prevention make him an ace’s ace, and his forecast is the reason the Rangers do so well here, even with a mix-and-match approach to the #5 spot. The projection for Ogando is also very rosy, and questions about his spring velocity might cause you to dampen that slightly, but there’s no amount of adjustments that can get us away from the conclusion that the Rangers rotation is the strength of their team, not the weakness.

#4 Phillies


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Cole Hamels 202.0 8.7 2.2 0.9 .303 74.8 % 3.32 3.28 4.3
Cliff Lee 231.0 8.7 1.4 0.9 .308 75.2 % 3.11 2.94 5.9
Roy Halladay 167.0 7.6 1.7 0.8 .308 72.2 % 3.43 3.15 3.8
Kyle Kendrick 122.0 5.8 2.7 1.1 .298 70.0 % 4.34 4.33 1.0
John Lannan 135.0 5.2 3.6 0.8 .309 69.5 % 4.55 4.39 1.1
Aaron Cook 42.0 3.9 3.0 0.9 .307 67.5 % 4.84 4.52 0.3
Tyler Cloyd 24.0 6.2 2.6 1.2 .304 70.6 % 4.45 4.42 0.2
Total 924.0 7.3 2.2 0.9 .306 72.3 % 3.70 3.56 16.6

It’s still tough to do much better than Hamels-Lee-Halladay at the front of the rotation, even though Doc hasn’t looked like himself in spring training. We’ve reduced his innings count to account for some of the health uncertainties around him, but the forecasts still think he’s going to be a frontline starter when he takes the mound. If they’re right and he stays healthy, the Phillies are contenders.

If he’s not healthy, though, the down-spiral begins. Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan aren’t horrendous, but if the team has to start giving innings to Aaron Cook and Tyler Cloyd at the expense of Roy Halladay, that’s going to cause a real problem. The drop-off between the front three and everyone else is expansive, and given Halladay’s health, the Phillies probably should have been more aggressive in upgrading their rotation depth.

#5 Yankees


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
CC Sabathia 213.0 8.2 2.3 0.8 .310 72.7 % 3.53 3.31 5.2
Hiroki Kuroda 187.0 6.6 2.2 1.1 .304 70.9 % 4.10 3.96 3.1
Andy Pettitte 169.0 7.4 2.7 0.9 .307 71.3 % 3.95 3.70 3.3
Ivan Nova 151.0 6.9 3.1 1.1 .311 69.6 % 4.47 4.17 2.1
Phil Hughes 107.0 7.4 2.6 1.4 .301 71.9 % 4.42 4.38 1.3
David Phelps 40.0 7.4 3.1 1.1 .310 71.6 % 4.30 4.15 0.6
Chien-Ming Wang 46.0 4.8 2.7 1.1 .312 68.4 % 4.82 4.59 0.4
Michael Pineda 19.0 8.2 3.1 1.1 .304 72.9 % 4.11 4.01 0.3
Total 932.0 7.2 2.6 1.0 .307 71.2 % 4.08 3.89 16.3

Predictors of Yankee doom and gloom – this is why they’re still contenders. Yes, the offense has all kinds of problems, and they’re not going to score nearly as many runs as they regularly do, but this is still an elite pitching staff. Sabathia, Kuroda, and Pettitte might not be young, but they’re still excellent, and assuming that any team with that front three is going to struggle is a reach at best. Toss in decent performances from Nova, Hughes, and Phelps, and maybe the eventual return of Michael Pineda, and the Yankees rotation is strong at the top, deep at the back, and offers the chance to turn a pitcher into a hitter if need be.

For the future, maybe there’s real concern, especially if Pettitte joins Rivera in retiring (again) after season’s end. These guys are getting older, and age will eventually catch up to them, but there’s no reason to expect 2013 to be the year where they prove too old to keep opponents from scoring.

#6 Dodgers


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Clayton Kershaw 211.0 9.5 2.7 0.7 .295 77.0 % 2.85 2.94 4.9
Zack Greinke 186.0 8.7 2.3 0.7 .304 74.4 % 3.11 2.97 4.3
Josh Beckett 178.0 7.9 2.8 1.0 .297 73.3 % 3.72 3.76 2.3
Hyun-Jin Ryu 146.0 8.2 3.1 1.2 .297 73.8 % 3.87 4.02 1.4
Chad Billingsley 135.0 7.5 3.2 0.7 .306 71.4 % 3.75 3.58 2.0
Chris Capuano 40.0 7.3 2.6 1.1 .300 72.4 % 3.95 3.92 0.4
Ted Lilly 47.0 7.0 2.7 1.3 .287 73.1 % 4.10 4.39 0.2
Aaron Harang 44.0 6.4 3.5 1.0 .300 71.3 % 4.32 4.33 0.3
Total 987.0 8.3 2.8 0.9 .299 73.9 % 3.50 3.51 15.9

This depth chart was impossible, because there are just so many unknowns. Is Greinke’s elbow soreness nothing, in which case his projected innings total too low? Is Billingsley’s elbow actually going to hold up without surgery? Are the expensive veterans going to sit around and wait for their turn while pitching in relief? I don’t have the answers, and I’m not sure the Dodgers do either. This could go so many ways.

On the one hand, the Dodgers have enviable depth. On the other hand, they’re more likely to need it than just about anyone else. And they can’t option their depth to Triple-A, so maybe they don’t have as much depth as it looks. I’m just going to stop writing now, once I point out that Kershaw and Greinke is a pretty amazing 1-2 punch, because after that, I have no idea who is going to do what.

#7 Diamondbacks


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Ian Kennedy 205.0 7.8 2.5 1.1 .302 74.1 % 3.76 3.88 3.4
Trevor Cahill 206.0 6.9 3.2 0.8 .303 71.4 % 3.84 3.79 3.6
Wade Miley 179.0 6.6 2.7 0.9 .307 70.6 % 4.05 3.81 3.1
Brandon McCarthy 137.0 6.6 1.9 0.9 .308 70.8 % 3.86 3.62 2.7
Patrick Corbin 65.0 7.3 2.8 1.0 .311 71.0 % 4.06 3.86 1.1
Tyler Skaggs 69.0 7.6 3.6 1.2 .309 71.6 % 4.49 4.41 0.7
Daniel Hudson 50.0 7.2 2.4 1.1 .309 71.5 % 4.05 3.81 0.9
Randall Delgado 33.0 7.5 4.1 1.0 .311 70.2 % 4.57 4.32 0.4
Total 944.0 7.1 2.8 0.9 .306 71.6 % 3.97 3.86 15.8

For the last few months, I’ve been somewhat defending the D’Backs off-season, in that while I don’t love all the moves individually, I still think the roster as constructed looks like a pretty good team. And it has nothing to do with how many good clubhouse white guys they acquired this winter. It has everything to do with this pitching staff, which might not have a true ace at the top end but also doesn’t have any obvious weaknesses, and might be the deepest staff in baseball once you factor in their ability to keep all of these guys in the organization past Opening Day.

With Kennedy, Cahill, Miley, and McCarthy, they have four above average starters, and enough weapons behind them to mix and match the #5 spot and fill in for McCarthy when he takes his annual trip to the DL. If Daniel Hudson returns to anything close to his pre-surgery form when he eventually returns, they’re going to have some tough decisions on who gets the ball every five days. This kind of rotation might not be optimal for October baseball, but for getting to the playoffs, having eight useful starters in the organization is a pretty good plan.

#8 White Sox


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Chris Sale 207.0 9.0 2.9 0.9 .302 74.2 % 3.47 3.43 4.9
Jake Peavy 186.0 7.6 2.2 1.2 .300 72.4 % 3.96 3.90 3.4
Gavin Floyd 160.0 7.2 2.8 1.0 .306 70.6 % 4.15 4.00 2.8
Jose Quintana 131.0 5.8 3.3 1.0 .304 70.3 % 4.51 4.38 1.7
Dylan Axelrod 97.0 6.4 3.4 1.1 .309 70.5 % 4.56 4.48 1.2
John Danks 92.0 6.5 3.0 1.1 .303 69.8 % 4.47 4.24 1.3
Hector Santiago 40.0 9.4 5.0 1.2 .299 75.4 % 4.22 4.59 0.4
Simon Castro 18.0 5.1 3.3 1.4 .305 67.5 % 5.36 5.17 0.1
Total 931.0 7.4 3.0 1.1 .303 71.7 % 4.11 4.03 15.8

If Chris Sale lives up to this projection, the White Sox could be sneaky playoff contenders again, even with all the question marks behind him. While Don Cooper and the training staff have a long history of keeping pitchers healthy, there are a number of question marks in the rotation, with John Danks’ ability to contribute chief among those.

Luckily for the White Sox, these forecasts don’t think that there’s really much of a drop-off in going from Danks to Dylan Axelrod, giving them very similar forecasts across the board. Unfortunately, with Danks on the shelf to start the season, the White Sox are a bit thin behind Axelrod, and another injury could create some real problems. Thus, Cooper and Herm Schneider will need to keep working their voodoo to keep the current five healthy as long as possible, at least until Danks is able to contribute again. Sale gives them a real weapon up front, but if they’re going to keep pace with the rest of the AL contenders, they need their rotation to be strong all the way through.

#9 Cubs


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Jeff Samardzija 182.0 8.9 3.4 0.9 .304 73.2 % 3.75 3.64 3.3
Edwin Jackson 182.0 7.6 2.9 0.9 .307 72.1 % 3.84 3.65 3.2
Matt Garza 151.0 8.2 2.8 1.0 .302 73.6 % 3.66 3.62 2.7
Scott Feldman 122.0 6.6 2.6 0.9 .309 70.0 % 4.08 3.79 2.0
Scott Baker 87.0 7.9 2.4 1.1 .306 73.6 % 3.81 3.77 1.4
Travis Wood 81.0 7.1 3.1 1.3 .301 72.1 % 4.37 4.46 0.7
Carlos Villanueva 73.0 8.1 3.3 1.1 .298 74.0 % 3.88 3.99 1.0
Casey Coleman 16.0 6.5 3.8 1.1 .304 70.7 % 4.60 4.54 0.1
Total 893.0 7.9 3.0 1.0 .304 72.5 % 3.89 3.79 14.5

And here we get our first big surprise. Yes, the Chicago Cubs, top ten rotation in baseball. At least, according to this system. Samardzija/Jackson/Garza give the team three guys who can miss bats at the front of the rotation, at least when Garza eventually gets healthy anyway, and the front office did a nice job assembling a collection of underrated guys to fill out the last few spots in the rotation over the winter. If they kept all these guys together for the whole season, the Cubs might be surprisingly decent, at least on the mound.

But, that’s where one flaw of this system likely comes out. We’re just projecting out depth charts based on current rosters, not accounting for likely transactions throughout the season. And, let’s be honest, no one expects Matt Garza to finish the year with the Cubs. And if Scott Baker or Scott Feldman are pitching well in July, you’d have to imagine that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer would be taking calls on those two as well. This Cubs team is still building for the future, and with three starters on the last year of their deals, this rotation probably doesn’t stick together all season. So, expect the Cubs actual performance to be worse than this, especially in the second half of the season.

But, it’s still worth noting that the group they’ve currently assembled is actually pretty interesting.

#10 Athletics


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Jarrod Parker 197.0 7.0 3.3 0.7 .305 70.9 % 3.95 3.75 3.3
Tommy Milone 178.0 6.7 1.8 1.0 .311 71.1 % 3.90 3.62 3.2
A.J. Griffin 183.0 6.5 2.5 1.1 .296 70.9 % 4.12 4.14 2.2
Brett Anderson 143.0 6.4 2.4 0.7 .307 69.9 % 3.83 3.65 2.5
Bartolo Colon 149.0 5.6 1.8 1.0 .300 70.5 % 4.02 3.89 2.2
Dan Straily 42.0 7.9 3.8 1.1 .299 73.7 % 4.11 4.36 0.4
Andrew Werner 46.0 6.2 3.1 1.1 .318 66.9 % 4.99 4.42 0.4
Total 939.0 6.5 2.5 0.9 .304 70.6 % 4.02 3.87 14.2

I’m a known Brett Anderson fanboy, so I’ll take the over on this forecast, which could propel the A’s forward a couple of spots. Also, I’ll note that the BABIP forecast for Tommy Milone is a little strange, given that he’s a fly ball guy in a pitcher’s park with a good outfield defense, and he got a decent amount of infield flies last year. But, at the same time, he was all of those things last year and posted a .310 BABIP, so maybe the forecasts are right.

In some ways, the A’s and Cubs have similar staffs, in that they don’t have a knockout ace up front but they have some interesting guys at the back. These types of staffs are usually underrated, but given what Oakland did last year, they might not be as underrated anymore. If they’re going to keep up with the Rangers and Angels in the AL West, they probably need Anderson and/or Parker to step up and turn into a frontline guy. It’s definitely possible with either one.

#11 Red Sox


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Jon Lester 183.0 8.0 3.3 0.8 .309 71.7 % 3.86 3.65 3.9
Ryan Dempster 177.0 7.3 3.2 1.1 .308 71.3 % 4.25 4.06 2.9
Clay Buchholz 150.0 6.3 3.3 0.9 .299 70.4 % 4.20 4.16 2.3
John Lackey 146.0 5.7 3.1 1.1 .311 68.0 % 4.83 4.53 1.7
Felix Doubront 122.0 8.3 3.9 1.0 .313 71.6 % 4.22 3.96 2.1
Franklin Morales 40.0 8.7 4.3 1.1 .301 74.3 % 4.04 4.26 0.6
Allen Webster 40.0 6.7 4.5 0.8 .309 69.6 % 4.60 4.46 0.5
Total 857.0 7.2 3.4 1.0 .308 70.7 % 4.26 4.08 14.0

Surprise #2, and maybe an even bigger surprise than the Cubs. Yes, the Red Sox, who finished 27th in starter’s ERA and 26th in starters FIP last year, are knocking on the door of the top 10. Why?

Well, for one, the system expects Jon Lester to be much better in 2013 than he was in 2012, but it’s not just Lester — these forecasts look at last year’s Red Sox home run problem and assume that it isn’t going to continue this year. 14.4% of the Sox outfield flies allowed by starting pitchers went for homers last year, putting them in the same category as Toronto (14.8%) and Colorado (15.3%). As you know, HR/FB rate isn’t particularly predictive, even for a team in Fenway Park — here are their HR/FB rates from 2008-2011: 9.2%, 10.3%, 8.0%, 10.0%. There’s some seriously positive regression coming to Boston’s pitching staff in 2013, at least in terms of home runs allowed.

Steamer and ZIPS look at this rotation and see one with a bunch of decent arms. The addition of Ryan Dempster is a big plus, and even the hated John Lackey is expected to be a roughly average starting pitcher when he’s on the mound, plus a collection of interesting young arms sharing the extra starts as well. It’s easy to overreact one bad year, and the Red Sox staff was bad last year, but the markers suggest that they’re in for a big improvement this season.

#12 Cardinals


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Adam Wainwright 212.0 8.0 2.4 0.7 .311 72.8 % 3.37 3.14 4.6
Jake Westbrook 179.0 5.4 3.0 0.7 .308 69.4 % 4.24 3.98 2.0
Jaime Garcia 156.0 7.2 2.5 0.7 .315 71.4 % 3.67 3.32 3.0
Lance Lynn 130.0 8.3 3.4 0.8 .312 71.7 % 3.90 3.63 2.0
Shelby Miller 123.0 8.6 4.3 0.8 .312 72.3 % 3.97 3.84 1.6
Joe Kelly 40.0 6.1 3.5 0.7 .308 70.6 % 4.10 3.98 0.5
Kevin Siegrist 40.0 6.1 4.9 1.0 .303 68.5 % 5.13 5.02 0.0
Total 881.0 7.3 3.1 0.7 .311 71.3 % 3.88 3.64 13.6

Occasionally, people ask me when Adam Wainwright is going to get back to being an ace. My answer: he already has. He posted a 7.32 ERA last April, which spoiled his overall season line, but his peripherals were excellent from the start, and he was one of the NL’s best pitchers by any metric you want to use after May 1st. Health might always be a lingering question with Wainwright, but when he’s on the mound, he’s a top tier starting pitcher.

After Wainwright, it gets a little shaky. Westbrook is an okay innings eater, but the Cardinals could really use a full season of good health from Jamie Garcia or a big step forward from Shelby Miller to strengthen the middle of the rotation. I like Lance Lynn, but he probably shouldn’t be the #2 starter in October if the Cardinals can get back to the playoffs.

#13 Reds


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Johnny Cueto 205.0 6.9 2.5 0.9 .300 73.0 % 3.64 3.72 3.4
Mat Latos 204.0 8.4 2.7 1.0 .298 74.1 % 3.63 3.59 3.7
Homer Bailey 199.0 7.2 2.4 1.0 .305 71.6 % 3.98 3.86 3.0
Bronson Arroyo 204.0 5.4 2.0 1.4 .294 70.2 % 4.56 4.64 1.3
Mike Leake 122.0 6.2 2.2 1.1 .304 70.4 % 4.20 4.06 1.5
Tony Cingrani 24.0 9.3 3.9 1.1 .303 74.2 % 3.94 3.93 0.3
Daniel Corcino 16.0 7.3 4.4 1.2 .301 71.6 % 4.67 4.80 0.1
Total 973.0 7.0 2.5 1.1 .300 72.0 % 3.99 3.98 13.3

Bronson Arroyo made a huge difference for the Reds last year, bouncing back to post a very solid season for Cincinnati, but these forecasts aren’t expecting a repeat, and his drop-off is the main reason why the Reds staff isn’t expected to be in the top tier again. Yes, Aroldis Chapman would have made them better, but he would bumped Mike Leake from the rotation, not Arroyo, so the difference isn’t as stark as you might think. And, of course, not having Chapman in the bullpen would have made that unit worse, so the net effect of shifting Chapman back to closer is actually not so large.

The real question might be how long Arroyo’s leash is, if these forecasts prove accurate, because the system loves Tony Cingrani, and if he can do anything close to those numbers, he’d be a significant improvement on Arroyo if given the chance. With Cueto, Latos, and Bailey at the front, the Reds have a strong front three, but improving their #4 spot should be a priority.

#14 Blue Jays


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
R.A. Dickey 190.0 6.9 2.4 1.0 .304 71.7 % 3.98 3.92 3.1
Josh Johnson 152.0 7.5 2.9 0.9 .306 72.0 % 3.87 3.69 2.9
Mark Buehrle 208.0 4.9 2.0 1.2 .303 69.1 % 4.53 4.37 2.3
Brandon Morrow 141.0 8.9 3.4 1.0 .309 72.8 % 3.92 3.79 2.5
Ricky Romero 137.0 6.8 4.0 0.9 .304 70.0 % 4.46 4.29 1.6
J.A. Happ 81.0 7.7 3.9 1.2 .307 70.9 % 4.72 4.51 0.8
Chad Jenkins 42.0 4.4 2.9 1.4 .317 66.1 % 5.64 5.19 0.1
Total 951.0 6.8 2.9 1.1 .306 70.7 % 4.28 4.12 13.3

Let’s point out the obvious right away – you should take the under on R.A. Dickey’s BABIP projection, and I’d expect him to easily beat that ERA forecast, even with the shift to the AL East. So, if you want to adjust the Blue Jays up a bit for the low-end forecast on Dickey here, I won’t object. I’d even join you in doing so.

However, we should acknowledge that the Jays rotation still has some real questions. Josh Johnson’s health, Brandon Morrow’s total revamp of his pitching style, and Ricky Romero’s performance are all unsettled issues, giving the Blue Jays staff a pretty big variance in outcomes for the upcoming season, even beyond the “can Dickey do it again?” issue. With J.A. Happ, they have a pretty interesting #6 starter, but he’s apparently not that interested in being a #6 starter, so they’ll have to sort that out as well. After him, it’s downhill in a hurry. So, yes, there’s clear upside with the reigning NL Cy Young winner and a couple of power arms, plus Mark Buehrle to eat innings, but there are scenarios where this all goes south in a hurry.

#15 Rays


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
David Price 219.0 8.8 2.8 0.8 .299 75.1 % 3.18 3.22 4.8
Jeremy Hellickson 181.0 6.5 3.2 1.1 .290 72.7 % 4.11 4.37 1.4
Matt Moore 182.0 9.2 3.9 1.0 .299 75.1 % 3.68 3.81 2.7
Alex Cobb 171.0 6.8 3.2 0.8 .306 71.1 % 3.94 3.87 2.4
Jeff Niemann 88.0 6.8 2.8 1.0 .301 71.5 % 4.13 4.08 1.0
Roberto Hernandez 72.0 5.4 2.6 1.0 .296 70.1 % 4.25 4.35 0.6
Chris Archer 40.0 7.6 5.2 0.9 .299 71.2 % 4.58 4.61 0.2
Jake Odorizzi 19.0 6.6 3.8 1.2 .296 70.9 % 4.65 4.65 0.1
Total 972.0 7.6 3.3 0.9 .298 72.9 % 3.83 3.91 13.2

When going through the data, I was shocked to see the Rays this low. I had mentally penciled them in for top 10, maybe even top 5, depending on many innings the young kids ended up getting. But, here they sit, #15 overall, lumped in with the Reds, Blue Jays, Giants, and Braves. What’s the deal?

Well, for one thing, these forecasts aren’t big fans of the kids, so giving extra innings to Archer and Odorizzi instead of Roberto Hernandez and Jeff Niemann wouldn’t actually help anything. Secondly, those guys are replacing James Shields, who was excellent last year, so perhaps I should have priced in a bigger discount for that loss. And finally, a lot of what we see as the Rays run prevention value is getting accounted for in non-pitching areas.

Their defense, for instance, is forecast to be among the league’s best once again, and their park favors pitchers to a pretty strong degree, so the park adjustments are also taking some of the credit for the team’s ability to keep opponents from scoring. The first part is why you’ll note that the Rays have a forecast ERA below their forecast FIP, while the second part explains some of why the WAR numbers might look a bit low despite solid raw stats for most of these guys.

And, again, keep in mind that ordinal rank isn’t actually a big deal in may of these cases. The gap between the Rays at #15 and the Cubs at #9 is +1.3 WAR, which is not quite a rounding error over 1,000 innings but isn’t far off from it. With gaps this small, don’t read too much into the actual placement on the list, and with the Rays specifically, remember that a decent portion of their run prevention is defense, not pitching.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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lester bangs
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lester bangs

I’d take the Giants staff over many of these teams. Cain disrespected again.

BookWorm
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BookWorm

The Giants write-up in the 16-30 segment freely admits that Cain outperforms his FIP. But if you’re going to use a method of calculation across the whole league, it’s going to help some teams and hurt others. And since Cain is their #1 starter and someone who has outperformed that measure, yes, they definitely could be a little deflated by this metric.

Tomcat
Guest
Tomcat

that’s not what being projected, the Giants lack MLB ready options beyond their top 5 and Lincecum/Zito have some things working against them.

elijah
Guest
elijah

Eh, Giants staff (its ace especially) tends to get underestimated when judging by fWAR, which really isn’t the best measurement for a pitcher’s performance imo. The same goes for the Rays’ staff.

Baltar
Guest
Baltar

I was initially surprised by the placement of both the Giants and Rays, too. However, the park adjustments did them both in. For the non-pitchers, the park adjustments took the Rays from very low to 3rd in baseball, so it is logical that the opposite would occur to their pitchers.

Sean
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Sean

One pitcher does not a pitching staff make. Cain is great and Bumgarner can be great, but there is a severe drop-off and uncertainties from there. Lincecum’s diminished velocity hasn’t returned this spring, bringing into doubt his ability to remain a starter. Zito is well below-average and Vogelsong isn’t much more than average (his previous season’s being blessed with low BABIP with weak peripherals).

If anyone of those starters goes down, there is NO depth as the article mentions.

Too many questions for the Giants staff, with no disrespect to Cain.

CJ
Guest
CJ

It has nothing to do with Cain. The Giants rotation is really nothing special after Cain and Bumgarner and THAT is the problem.

Greg
Guest
Greg

Yeah I’m pretty confused by the system especially in regard to its projections for the Giants. As eric and Joe pointed out in the 16-30 rankings, the Giants WAR for pitchers is lower than their ZiPS/Steamer projections, a factor that is NOT across the board for all teams.

Pitcher:Rankings WAR Projection/ZiPS WAR/Steamer WAR/ZiPS and Steamer averaged

Cain:3.5/4.7/3.4/4.1
Bumgarner:4.3/5.0/4.6/4.8
Lincecum:2.6/3.6/3.5/3.6
Vogelsong:1.8/2.5/2.3/2.4
Zito:0.6/1.2/1.1/1.2

Based on their explanation at the top (“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.”), it would seem that the explanation would be entirely playing time as that is the aspect that isn’t based on ZiPS/Steamer. So we should see an across the board lower projection for IP by the Rankings as compared to their system projections:

Pitcher:Rankings IP projection/ZiPS IP/Steamer IP/Oliver IP/Bill James IP/Fans IP

Cain:218/211/207/221/226/220
Bumgarner:206/209/198/208/203/212
Lincecum:162/189/179/202/197/200
Vogelsong:152/164/164/172/185/185
Zito:157/136/167/158/192/188

So it’s not entirely a difference in playing time as Cain, Bumgarner, and Zito have higher projected IP by the rankings over their ZiPS/Steamer projections and yet still have lower WAR. So it must be a difference in projected performance:

Pitcher:Rankings projected FIP/ZiPS FIP/Steamer FIP/ZiPS and Steamer averaged

Cain:3.52/3.28/3.75/3.52
Bumgarner:3.16/3.14/3.21/3.18
Lincecum:3.49/3.53/3.45/3.49
Vogelsong:3.88/3.81/3.95/3.88
Zito:4.54/4.39/4.64/4.52

Pitcher:Rankings projected WAR per 100IP/ZiPS WAR per 100IP/Steamer WAR per 100IP/ZiPS and Steamer WAR per 100IP averaged/Rankings projected WAR per 100IP – ZiPS and Steamer WAR per 100IP averaged

Cain:1.61/2.23/1.64/1.94/.33
Bumgarner:2.08/2.39/2.32/2.36/.28
Lincecum:1.60/1.90/1.96/1.93/.33
Vogelsong:1.18/1.52/1.40/1.46/.28
Zito:0.38/.88/.66/.77/.39

So here’s where the difference is, apparently the rankings projections have some serious deductions in their WAR production as a rate, despite have very similar FIP projections. I would guess it’s park/league effects, but the inconsistency of the differences would suggest otherwise as would the fact that the WAR rankings for the position players did not adjust for park(I would also guess that ZiPS and Steamer account for park/league effects in their WAR projections). This is odd, I don’t know what to say besides ask for the details of these rankings’ projections.

Greg
Guest
Greg

Wait I just realized the Rockies rankings were definitely adjusted for park effects, so I guess some of that was it. Still I’d expect ZiPS and Steamer to account for park effects too, so that’s odd. From this then, I would guess the inconsistency in the adjustment between pitchers is based off of fly ball rates, which is a little odd because Lincecum definitely has lower fly ball rates then Vogelsong.

Baltar
Guest
Baltar

I could be wrong, Greg, but I am fairly certain ZiPS and Steamer do not make park adjustments. When the totals per team are so close, that one factor can make a huge difference in rankings.

jim
Guest
jim

wtl;dr

Jason B
Guest
Jason B

You figured out the whole purpose for FanGraphs. It is a sham website set up for the sole purpose of “disrespecting” the Giants and their thin-skin fans.

I mean…really?! You can rank my favorite team 30th in every category and say awful things about their mothers and their manhood; if we win 2 WS in three years, I could give two shits.

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