Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Comparing AL Central Starting Rotations

This is part of an ongoing series where I rank the American League Central teams at each position. This idea stems from something they did over at Fangraphs. Their series was doing Power Rankings at each position for all of Major League Baseball, and their rankings were generated by taking their best guess at starting rotation depth and using a combination of their ZiPS and Steamer projection systems. 

My process is much more subjective. Still, I rely heavily on the Fangraphs pieces, team depth charts and recent press to get a feel for who's in the mix at the position. 

Previous posts: C1B2B3BSSLFCFRF, DH


1. Detroit Tigers

Justin Verlander, 17-8, 238.1 IP, 2.64, 192 H, 19 HR, 239 K, 60 BB
Max Scherzer, 16-7, 187.2 IP, 3.74, 179 H, 23 HR, 231 K, 60 BB 
Anibal Sanchez, (FLA/DET) 9-13, 195.2 IP, 3.67, 200 H, 20 HR, 167 K, 48 BB
Doug Fister, 10-10, 161.2 IP, 3.45, 156 H, 15 HR, 137 K, 37 BB
Rick Porcello, 10-12, 176.1 IP, 4.59, 226 H, 16 HR, 107 K, 44 BB
Drew Smyly, 4-3, 99.1 IP, 3.99, 93 H, 12 HR, 94 K, 33 BB

The argument in discussing the quality of the Tigers' starting rotation isn't whether it's the best in the division. It's whether it's the best in the majors. Fangraphs thinks it is. I think it's good enough that the difference between the Tigers and any team that might have a better rotation doesn't matter much. That is to say, it's very good. There have been stretches over the last couple years where Scherzer, Fister and last year in the playoffs, maybe even Sanchez seemed like the best pitcher in the rotation. That's in a rotation that includes Justin Verlander. That's special. 

2. Chicago White Sox

Chris Sale, 17-8, 192 IP, 3.05, 167 H, 19 HR, 192 K, 51 BB
Jake Peavy, 11-12, 219 IP, 3.37, 191 H, 27 HR, 194 K, 49 BB
Gavin Floyd, 12-11, 168 IP, 4.29, 166 H, 22 HR, 144 K, 63 BB
John Danks, 3-4, 53.2 IP, 5.70, 57 H, 7 HR, 30 K, 23 BB
Dylan Axelrod, 2-2, 51 IP, 5.47, 56 H, 8 HR, 40 K, 21 BB
Jose Quintana, 6-6, 136.1 IP, 3.76, 142 H, 14 HR, 81 K, 42 BB
Hector Santiago, 4-1, 70.1 IP, 3.33, 54 H, 10 HR, 79 K, 40 BB

Sale and Peavy can team up to make winning a three game series against the Sox pretty difficult. After those two, though, it can get a little dicey. One possible boost could come from a return to form by John Danks. He missed all but nine starts last season and is starting this season on the disabled list, but is close enough to returning that he's making rehab appearances in Arizona. Until that happens, and when the Sox need somebody to step in for somebody else, Jose Quintana can step in and try to repeat last year's success. 

3. Kansas City Royals

James Shields, (TB) 15-10, 227.2 IP, 3.52, 208 H, 25 HR, 223 K, 58 BB
Jeremy Guthrie, (COL/KC) 8-12, 181.2 IP, 4.76, 206 H, 30 HR, 101 K, 50 BB
Ervin Santana, (LAA) 9-13, 178 IP, 5.16, 165 H, 19 HR, 127 K, 60 BB
Wade Davis, (TB) 3-0, 70.1 IP, 2.43, 48 H, 5 HR, 87 K, 29 BB
Luis Mendoza, 8-10, 166 IP, 4.23, 176 H, 15 HR, 104 K, 59 BB
Bruce Chen, 11-14, 191.2 IP, 5.07, 215 H, 33 HR, 140 K, 47 BB
Will Smith, 6-9, 89.2 IP, 5.32, 111 H, 12 HR, 59 K, 33 BB

The Royals' rotation looks a lot different from last year. Where it stands on Opening Day, only Guthrie and Mendoza made starts for the team last year. Yes, Bruce Chen is still around, but the team's innings leader from last season failed to crack the rotation this year. It's true that speaks to upgrades having been made, but it probably speaks more to how bad the rotation was last year. 

It's better this year, to be sure, but it can probably be described more as different than good. After Shields, the Royals are betting on a lot of things breaking their way. You can reasonably hope for those kind of breaks from one, maybe two, of your starters. When you're hoping for them from four, there could be trouble. 

4. Minnesota Twins

Scott Diamond, 12-9, 173 IP, 3.54, 184 H, 17 HR, 90 K, 31 BB
Vance Worley, (PHI) 6-9, 133 IP, 4.20, 154 H, 12 HR, 107 K, 47 BB
Kevin Correia, (PIT) 12-11, 171 IP, 4.21, 176 H, 20 HR, 89 K, 46 BB
Mike Pelfrey, (NYM) 0-0, 19.2 IP, 2.29, 24 H, 0 HR, 13 K, 4 BB
Liam Hendriks, 1-8, 85.1 IP, 5.59, 106 H, 17 HR, 50 K, 26 BB
Cole DeVries, 5-5, 87.2 IP, 4.11, 88 H, 16 HR, 58 K, 18 BB
Kyle Gibson, Did not pitch in majors in 2012

The Twins' would be Opening Day starter opened the season on the disabled list after having a "minor surgery" on his elbow in December. That's kind of how things have gone for Twins pitchers these last couple seasons. So aside from getting their default Opening Day starter, Vance Worley, in the Ben Revere trade, how did they shore up their rotation? Well, with the reliably....what's the word I'm looking for? Present? Yes, the reliably present Correia and Pelfrey, who missed the majority of last season to Tommy John surgery. Forgive the Twins fans if they were cheering a little extra hard Monday. It may have been their one and only shot to see their team own a winning record.

5. Cleveland Indians

Justin Masterson, 11-15, 206.1 IP, 4.93, 212 H, 18 HR, 159 K, 88 BB
Ubaldo Jimenez, 9-17, 176.2 IP, 5.40, 190 H, 25 HR, 143 K, 95 BB
Brett Myers, 3-8, 65.1 IP, 3.31, 65 H, 8 HR, 41 K, 15 BB
Zach McAllister, 6-8, 125.1 IP, 4.24, 133 H, 19 HR, 110 K, 38 BB
Scott Kazmir, Did not pitch in majors in 2012
Carlos Carrasco, Did not pitch in majors in 2012
Trevor Bauer, (ARZ) 1-2, 16.1 IP, 6.06, 14 H, 2 HR, 17 K, 13 BB

Turn your heads, Tribe fans. It could get ugly. How ugly was it last year? Masterson was the only starter to clear 200 innings and he also posted an ERA under five...by 0.07. McAllister was the only other starter to throw more than 100 innings and keep his ERA under five. 

What to do? Well, the Indians added Brett Myers. He was quite good last season. In relief. He hasn't been a starter since 2011, but to his credit he did pitch 440 innings between 2010 and 2011. Unfortunately, his 2011 results as a starter might have been what pushed him back to the pen. They also signed Scott Kazmir. He'll be the one of the team's reclamation projects, and I bet even the Indians front office would say he might be their best starter and he might be released by May. 

Sound kooky? Well, at least they traded for Trevor Bauer and stashed Daisuke Matsuzaka in Columbus. Oh, and their outfield defense is going to be really good. Honestly, that's probably going to be their best "pitching" move of the offseason. The actual pitching moves improve a snuff film of a rotation to something more like a B horror film.

Summary

This category is obviously a big one. Good starting pitching is a big part of why the Tigers are World Series contenders (favorites?) and the Sox are candidates to be underestimated again. Bad starting pitching is why I have trouble taking the playoff resumes of the Indians and Royals all that seriously. Teams don't live and die with starting pitching as much as baseball announcers would have you think, but I wouldn't try to make that argument by pointing to the AL Central in 2013. 

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