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.

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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


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
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


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
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


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
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


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
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


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
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


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
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


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
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


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
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


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
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


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
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


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
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


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
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


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
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


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
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


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
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.



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Dbacks Fan
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Dbacks Fan

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.

semperty
Member
semperty

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

binqasim
Member
binqasim

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.

semperty
Member
semperty

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)

Petey Bienel
Member
Petey Bienel

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.

libradawg
Member
libradawg

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.

semperty
Member
semperty

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.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip

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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