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Ranking the rotations: 2012 edition

Feb 2, 2012, 10:45 AM EDT

Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay AP

Last year’s attempt was quite a hit, so let’s try it again, with a somewhat different methodology. Here’s how the 30 rotations stack up, according to my projections. I’ll go strictly by ERA here, taking the top five pitchers on the staff. Along with the ERA totals are the combined inning projections for the five starters.

1. Phillies: 3.39 (1001 1/3)
2. Cardinals: 3.648 (942 1/3)
3. Giants: 3.649 (994)
4. Angels: 3.68 (990 2/3)
5. Rays: 3.69 (995 2/3)
6. Nationals: 3.70 (908 2/3)
7. Red Sox: 3.70 (869)
8. Braves: 3.71 (974 1/3)
9. Marlins: 3.74 (953 1/3)
10. Dodgers: 3.77 (927 2/3)
11. Brewers: 3.81 (952 1/3)
12. Tigers: 3.83 (939)
13. Yankees: 3.89 (991)
14. Mariners: 3.93 (923 2/3)
15. Diamondbacks: 3.93 (991 1/3)
16. Reds: 3.94 (916 1/3)
17. Padres: 3.97 (863 1/3)
18. Rangers: 3.98 (951 2/3)
19. White Sox: 4.04 (860)
20. Athletics: 4.07 (800)
21. Cubs: 4.08 (967 1/3)
22. Mets: 4.08 (926)
23. Blue Jays: 4.10 (880 2/3)
24. Indians: 4.12 (942)
25. Pirates: 4.18 (820 1/3)
26. Rockies: 4.24 (818)
27. Astros: 4.24 (953)
28. Twins: 4.28 (900)
29. Royals: 4.32 (890 2/3)
30. Orioles: 4.36 (915 1/3)

Of course, there’s no factoring for league and ballpark there. There’s also no accounting for depth beyond the top five. So, while the Rays come in ever so slightly behind the Angels here, the quality of the Rays’ sixth and seventh starters would push them ahead in a subjective ranking. In fact, let’s do a more subjective ranking:

1. Phillies
2. Rays
3. Angels
4. Giants
5. Cardinals
6. Braves
7. Yankees
8. Tigers
9. Rangers
10. Red Sox
11. Marlins
12. Brewers
13. Nationals
14. Diamondbacks
15. Dodgers
16. Reds
17. Mariners
18. Indians
19. White Sox
20. Cubs
21. Blue Jays
22. Mets
23. Rockies
24. Padres
25. Athletics
26. Orioles
27. Pirates
28. Twins
29. Royals
30. Astros

The top five was pretty easy, but six through 12 was a mess. I have the Red Sox with a nice ERA, but that’s partly because of a generous Daniel Bard projection (3.53 ERA in 155 1/3 IP) and because I don’t have them with a certain fifth starter dragging them down (right now it’s Vicente Padilla with a 4.31 ERA in 131 2/3 IP). So, they drop here. The Nationals are kind of in the same boat, since their best starter, Stephen Strasburg, is projected to throw 168 2/3 innings.

Meanwhile, the Yankees and Rangers, both getting held back by their ballparks in the ERA projections, rise here. The Rangers certainly come with some risk — I have Yu Darvish and Nettali Feliz finishing with the best ERAs on the staff — but they also have more depth than most. The Yankees also get bonus points for having seven major league starters.

I’m sure fans of teams at the bottom will be annoyed. Kansas City’s rotation actually looks better than it has in years, and the Orioles at least have some upside after importing a couple of NPB pitchers to battle their youngsters. As for the Twins, well, I really don’t think much of Jason Marquis or Nick Blackburn. The Padres are getting dinged because I’m not sure any of their starters are a good bet to throw 190-200 innings.

  1. pkiguy22 - Feb 2, 2012 at 10:55 AM

    Twins are ranked way too high

    • lapsncaps - Feb 2, 2012 at 12:47 PM

      …and to think, I thought the O’s were ranked to high

  2. packerpride03 - Feb 2, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    Gods team starters are real good but there bullpen is very subject need to fix that for sure.

    • brewcitybummer - Feb 2, 2012 at 12:32 PM

      Don’t make our people look like douchebags.

  3. burm61 - Feb 2, 2012 at 11:07 AM

    Tribe have a top 10 rotation in statistics and depth this year when it’s all said and done.

    • kopy - Feb 2, 2012 at 11:42 AM

      Wouldn’t be surprised if that came true. Their ground ball experiment will be fun to track.

    • Matthew Pouliot - Feb 2, 2012 at 3:10 PM

      Part of my issue there is that I’m not a Tomlin believer. I think Slowey might be an upgrade on Carmona, though.

      • El Bravo - Feb 2, 2012 at 4:40 PM

        Give me a 29yo Carmona any day over that Slowey guy…wait, what? He’s 33? Shit! Never mind.

  4. natstowngreg - Feb 2, 2012 at 11:07 AM

    Dropping the Nats a bit makes sense. Not only because Strasburg will be innings-limited. Gio will be moving from a very pitching-friendly park to a neutral park, though it shouldn’t hurt his ERA much. Wang and Detwiler had their moments late last season (Wang after his first 2 starts; Detwiler after getting sent to Syracuse to get his head together), but they’re unproven over an entire season.

    Still, it should be a significant improvement over previous seasons’ rotations.

    • kopy - Feb 2, 2012 at 11:42 AM

      And also because the Twins stole away Marquis!


      • natstowngreg - Feb 2, 2012 at 1:03 PM

        The Nats traded Marquis to the D-Backs, then he went to the Twins. But if it makes you feel better for the Nats getting Wilson Ramos, who an I to complain? :)

  5. dlevalley - Feb 2, 2012 at 11:11 AM

    Your second list looks pretty fair. You take account for depth, which a lot of commentators seem to ignore completely.

    But I don’t really get ranking the Red Sox that high.

    They’ve got a ‘4th starter’ who’s coming back from TJ surgery (and wasn’t worth pitching for awhile before he got hurt) and a ‘5th starter’ who has never started a game in the majors. But the biggest concern is who steps in if one of these guys can’t pitch (or pitches poorly)? Andrew Miller, with his career 5.79 ERA?

    Obviously things change if they sign Oswalt (or E. Jackson) but neither is a foregone conclusion.

    • Joe - Feb 2, 2012 at 12:04 PM

      But Lester, Beckett and Buchholz are probably top 5 for the 1-3 starters (albeit with injury risk to the B’s, though I’m sure Matthew’s projections have that built in). Those guys carry a lot of the weight here.

      • aceshigh11 - Feb 2, 2012 at 12:38 PM

        “Those guys carry a lot of the weight here.”

        Especially Beckett, that fat, fried chicken-eating prick.

        And this is coming from a Red Sox fan…no way the Sox should be #7.

        Lester, Beckett and Buchholz all have the POTENTIAL to be great…but they most likely won’t.

      • Matthew Pouliot - Feb 2, 2012 at 3:14 PM

        It’s true… I’m quite high on Buchholz as well as Bard. I have Buchholz projected for a 3.48 ERA, Lester 3.46, Beckett 3.74.

      • El Bravo - Feb 2, 2012 at 4:43 PM

        I will never call him simply Josh Beckett again in my life. Forevermore, I shall call him “Josh “the fat, fried chicken-eating prick” Beckett! Or just “fat, fried chicken-eating prick” for short. Thanks for that.

      • baseballisboring - Feb 2, 2012 at 5:16 PM

        Jesus man. Be a little more negative why don’t you.

        Lester is one of the best left handers in the game. Beckett is still pretty good. Buchholz is pretty good too provided he can stay healthy. That’s a front 3 that’s rather enviable, frankly. After that, it depends what you think of Bard…I tend to be optimistic about him but he’s never started a game in the majors before, so I can understand the concern. The #5 spot is kind of a toss up, but I figure we probably have enough arms to throw at the wall to where we can get 30 somewhat servicable starts from the #5 spot.

        I thought the Sox were ranked a little aggressively here, but not *too* aggressively. Don’t buy into the fried-chicken narrative, for god’s sake. We’re a good team, even if we’re not a clear favorite, have a LITTLE faith. It’s amazing what one bad month can do to the psyche of a fanbase.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 2, 2012 at 5:22 PM

        I have Buchholz projected for a 3.48 ERA, Lester 3.46, Beckett 3.74.

        But this is an even year, and Beckett has never had a 3.74ERA in an even year (he’s broken it 4 times in odd years).


        /or is it….

  6. kaf39 - Feb 2, 2012 at 11:20 AM

    Go Phillies!

  7. cur68 - Feb 2, 2012 at 11:26 AM

    Blue Jays look a bout right….alas…

  8. phillyphreak - Feb 2, 2012 at 11:45 AM

    Only 62 days til opening day gents….

    • stlouis1baseball - Feb 2, 2012 at 12:13 PM

      Absolutely Philly! I am starting to get real antsy!

      • macjacmccoy - Feb 6, 2012 at 7:04 PM

        That ranking aint going to change anytime soon either. Baby Aces AA this year.

    • baseballisboring - Feb 2, 2012 at 5:19 PM

      Might as well be 62 years. ghrughreiurunpwi

  9. dracko19 - Feb 2, 2012 at 11:56 AM

    You have DET at 8th. With that DEF??? The whole planet thinks they have to hit to win. Of course you’re talking about EARNED runs against. I wonder what their UNEARNED runs against average will be.

    • stlouis1baseball - Feb 2, 2012 at 12:08 PM

      It looks about right to me as well. Good work Matthew!

    • Matthew Pouliot - Feb 2, 2012 at 3:16 PM

      I’m really, really skeptical the Cabrera experiment will last past Memorial Day, and once they put Inge back at third or trade for someone there, the defense should merely be below average instead of terrible.

  10. APBA Guy - Feb 2, 2012 at 12:02 PM

    Last year the A’s as a team finished 10th at 3.71. This year you project 4.07 for the starters without park effects, which for the A’s is a profoundly pitcher friendly park, and for defensive improvement (trust me, a whippet with a glove in left would be a huge boost over Josh Willingham). With the loss of Gio and Moscoso (330 IP, 3.22) and Cahill and Outman (4.06, 266 IP) or 80% of their rotation, any projection is a guess. But I think the A’s starters will end up a bit better than you project because of the park, the defense, and the better than league average bullpen which will strand a few extra runners. Of course, they’ll be 29th in run support, but that’s a separate post, I’m sure.

    • stlouis1baseball - Feb 2, 2012 at 12:14 PM

      A “whippet?”

      • foreverchipper10 - Feb 2, 2012 at 2:50 PM

        That is what it is called when you suck the gas out of a can of whip cream.

      • chadjones27 - Feb 2, 2012 at 3:35 PM

        stlouis and foreverchipper, a whippet is a small breed of dog. Looks like a mini greyhound. So, I’m sure he meant having a quick little dog with a glove would be better than Willingham. Mmmmm, now I want whip cream….mmmmm

    • nolanwiffle - Feb 2, 2012 at 12:45 PM

      Outman…… there can’t possibly be a better surname for a pitcher.

    • Matthew Pouliot - Feb 2, 2012 at 3:21 PM

      FWIW, the (i know, it’s ridiculous, but it’s also really easy to type) hasn’t played as that much of a pitcher’s park the last few years. Anti-home runs, but not so anti-runs.

      McCarthy is the only starter I have projected for a sub-4.00 ERA at the moment. He’s at 3.58, Colon 4.12, Braden 4.17 and Milone 4.36. Then I have Parker at 4.20 and Ross at 4.01 in about 130 innings each. I used Parker as the fifth starter for this. If Ross wins it instead, I’d bump his ERA up a bit, probably to right around 4.20 as well. I have Peacock seventh on the depth chart and at 4.48.

      I didn’t really factor in Anderson at all, but he’ll help if he can make it back after the break.

      • APBA Guy - Feb 2, 2012 at 4:08 PM

        It’s safe not to factor in Anderson. He’ll be 1 year removed from TJ in July, so he could make some starts, but pitchers can go two years between surgery and pitching again, like Devine and Outman.

        The park effects point is interesting, and we could get into a whole thread about whether most park effects calculations measure the park or the home team’s offense. For example the Mausoleum ( I know as a professional you have to call it in 2005 when the A’s had offense it was a 1.061 (ie hitter friendly). Last year it was .947, ie pitcher friendly. Same park. AT&T was .737 last year, and in 2010, the championship year, it was .942.

  11. yankeesfanlen - Feb 2, 2012 at 1:10 PM

    Positive Universe rankings are always welcome in these parts. And maybe AJ and The Fat Toad will never appear

    • El Bravo - Feb 2, 2012 at 4:46 PM

      AJ must appear on occasion if not only to deposit his giant paycheck at the local Chase branch.

  12. brucewaynewins - Feb 2, 2012 at 1:12 PM

    I think the Reds starters will fair better than 16th ranking they have. Cueto will hopefully play the full season which will bring the numbers down from the games he was replaced, I think Mat Latos will continue his bounce back to pre 2011 numbers like he was at the end of 2011, I think Arroyo will be better but not to such an extent that it will be talked about much, Homer Bailey shows improvement but he always does and I think he’ll go big this year because he has a contract coming up.

    Leake will be there interesting question because his increase in innings indicates this could be a down year for him. The other factor is will Arolids Chapman be a starter and I think not or at least not to start the season.

    The bullpin will be the strong point in the pitching staff. Which will be handy if a starter can’t last long or needs to be rescued.

    As long the offense doesn’t drop in numbers and the defense continues to be among the best then they will be non factors in how the pitching results turn out.

    • Matthew Pouliot - Feb 2, 2012 at 3:25 PM

      The Reds are punished some in the original list because the two weakest starters are projected to throw the most innings. I have Arroyo at 4.47 in 205.1, Leake at 3.99 in 189.2, Latos at 3.53 in 183.1, Cueto at 3.79 in 178 and Bailey at 3.83 in 160.

      I am projecting Chapman as a starter and working under the assumption that he’ll spend at least the first month in Triple-A. Have him at 3.45 in 109.2.

      I figure most are higher on Cueto than I am. I know he can pitch like an All-Star for three months at a time, but can he do it for six? My guess is that he’ll have an ERA well under 3.79 at the All-Star break.

      • gloccamorra - Feb 3, 2012 at 6:02 PM

        Are you downgrading the IP maybe a bit too much based on last year’s loss of time to injury? Latos started last season on the DL but still had 10 more IP than you’re giving him, and Cueto didn’t miss a start for 3 years before last year.

        I’ve noticed a lot of projections that heavily weigh the previous year, virtually ignoring the injury component, and sometimes using only the major league totals. Since the IP factors into the team projections, misreading injuries or ignoring extensive minor league rehab innings can cause havoc with the assessments.

        While brucewaynewins has a point, the Reds move up from 20th to 16th in ERA, while the Padres move down from 3rd to 17th. That’s curious since the teams basically swapped Volquez for Latos in the biggest off-season trade and both teams had shortened seasons from injured starters. You could also factor in the managers, since one is a former pitcher and pitching coach with a quick hook and the other is a former outfielder whose hook is still in the box it came in.

  13. hasbeen5 - Feb 2, 2012 at 1:36 PM

    Sucks to be a hitter in the NL East.

  14. kandh2004 - Feb 2, 2012 at 1:47 PM

    Yo know Matt now that you have the Phillies ranked #1 Craig is not gonna talk to you anymore

  15. burnsy - Feb 2, 2012 at 2:10 PM

    The Phillies are only ranked No. 1? They deserve to be way higher than that. Man, this site’s anti-Philly stance just continues to amaze me.

  16. wegohardinthepaint - Feb 2, 2012 at 5:36 PM

    This is awful

  17. lostsok - Feb 2, 2012 at 8:04 PM

    Funny, but I have the Dodgers starters projected at 1000 innings, a 0.00 era and a 161-1 record (thanks to a bad call on the a throwing error).

    Hey…nobody’s perfect.

    Of course, it’s February. Everything seems possible in February.

  18. muskyhunter2542 - Feb 6, 2012 at 5:18 PM

    Brewers are WAAAYYYY too low!!!

    Thats a top 5 rotation when on!!!

    • Matthew Pouliot - Feb 6, 2012 at 6:06 PM

      And yet the Brewers finished sixth in the NL in starters RA last year despite 155 starts from those five. I don’t disagree that it has that kind of upside, but I docked them some because I expect Wolf to be worse and because they have such little depth beyond those five.

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