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Ranking the Rotations: Projected 2011 Starting Rotations Based on 2010 Statistics (Part One)

January 3, 2011

The biggest topic of discussion for much of the holiday season has been: Who has the best starting rotation in the majors going into 2011? The question is one that doesn’t have a single answer, or at least doesn’t have one single correct answer. ESPN’s Buster Olney took a stab at answering the question in a pair of columns posted in the few days leading up to Christmas. He first provided a look at his “humble answer” with a Top 11 (due to ties) that he posted on the 22nd. Two days later he followed up with a Top 10 based on the votes of 16 talent evaluators across the game. This group was assembled of General Managers, Assistant General Managers, Scouts, and one “particularly thoughtful” (yet unnamed) player.

Remarkably the two lists contained the same ten organizations, albeit in different orders. Considering our last impression from this past season and the biggest individual story of this winter’s offseason, the two names at the top of each list ended up being Philadelphia and San Francisco. The part that seemed to surprise Olney was how Philadelphia was unanimously selected first on all 17 (if we include his own) ballots. The part that surprised me most was how neither of the two Olney posts make a significant mention of what these opinions were based upon. There is little to refute. So, I thought it would be worthwhile to take a look at some numbers and see what we could find out.

Prior to taking on this task, it was clear we were going to need some data to base any conclusions from. As such, I’ve had to determine a number of things which I feel should be addressed before I get too far into answering the question at hand. First and foremost, in what context are we looking for the best starting rotation? Between current 40-man roster alignments, rotation orders at the end of the 2010 season, reports we’ve seen throughout this offseason, and overall 2010 statistics I had to project who I think could be filling the projected rotations for each of the 30 teams. With multiple free agents still remaining available on the market, there obviously could be some change between these projections and the rotations we see on Opening Day 2011. My projected rotations are essentially as of January 1st.

The next step I took was to assemble each player’s statistics from the 2010 season. For this, I stuck to season totals at the Major League level only. For instance, take a player like Kyle Drabek of the Toronto Blue Jays. Drabek made 3 starts in September but otherwise spent the entire season in the minor leagues. He is expected, however, to pitch out of the Blue Jays’ starting rotation at the start of the 2011 season. The statistics from those 3 September starts was used in calculating the performance of Toronto’s rotation but his minor league totals were not. However, take a player such as Edwin Jackson of the Chicago White Sox. Jackson split last season between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago. The statistics from all of his appearances – regardless of league – were combined together in calculating the performance of Chicago’s rotation going into 2011. 

In the interest of transparency, below are the 30 starting rotations that I chose to use for this. They are as follows:

Projected 2011 Starting Rotations
Arizona: Joe Saunders, Daniel Hudson, Ian Kennedy, Barry Enright, Zach Duke
Atlanta: Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, Mike Minor
Baltimore: Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen, Jake Arrieta, Chris Tillman
Boston: Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholtz, John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka
Chicago (NL): Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, Carlos Zambrano, Carlos Silva, Tom Gorzelanny
Chicago (AL): Mark Buerhle, Gavin Floyd, John Danks, Edwin Jackson, Jake Peavy
Cincinnati: Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto, Edison Volquez, Mike Leake, Homer Bailey
Cleveland: Fausto Carmona, Mitch Talbot, Justin Masterson, David Huff, Carlos Carrasco
Colorado: Ubaldo Jimenez, Jorge de la Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin, Aaron Cook, Jason Hammel
Detroit: Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello, Phil Coke, Armando Galarraga
Florida: Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez, Chris Volstad, Javier Vazquez
Houston: Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez, J.A. Happ, Bud Norris, Ryan Rowland-Smith
Kansas City: Luke Hochevar, Vin Mazzaro, Kyle Davies, Sean O’Sullivan, Danny Duffy
Los Angeles (AL): Dan Haren, Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana, Joel Pineiro, Scott Kazmir
Los Angeles (NL): Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda, Jon Garland
Milwaukee: Zack Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf, Chris Narveson
Minnesota: Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, Brian Duensing, Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey
New York (NL): Mike Pelfrey, R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese, Dillon Gee, Jenrry Mejia
New York (AL): C.C. Sabathia, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett, Ivan Nova, Sergio Mitre
Oakland: Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Dallas Braden, Gio Gonzalez, Brandon McCarthy
Philadelphia: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick
Pittsburgh: Paul Maholm, Kevin Correia, James McDonald, Brad Lincoln, Ross Ohlendorf
San Diego: Mat Latos, Clayton Richard, Wade LeBlanc, Aaron Harang, Cory Luebke
San Francisco: Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, Madison Bumgarner, Barry Zito
Seattle: Felix Hernandez, Doug Fister, Luke French, David Pauley, Erik Bedard
St. Louis: Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Jake Westbrook, Kyle Lohse
Tampa Bay: David Price, Matt Garza, James Shields, Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann
Texas: C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Scott Feldman, Tommy Hunter, Derek Holland
Toronto: Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil, Kyle Drabek, Marc Rzepczynski
Washington: Jordan Zimmerman, Livan Hernandez, Jason Marquis, John Lannan, Yunesky Maya

A few notes on the decisions above:

  • Boston: We could see Tim Wakefield earn some time in the rotation, especially if there is an injury to one of the first five. However, it does seem likely that Matsuzaka will at the least be given the first chance to remain in the rotation. There has to be hope that he shows a big step forward this season if the team is ever going to be able to justify the investment that they made in him.
  • Chicago (AL): I am aware that Peavy will likely miss the start to the regular season. However, I have not seen much showing with any certainty who will replace him in the rotation to start the season or exactly how long he will be out for. As such, I am sticking to the expectation that he will return within the season’s first month and thus be eligible for this list.
  • Detroit: Coke spent the entire 2010 season working out of the bullpen aside from a single September start. It is expected that he will convert back to the rotation in 2011. Should he falter and move back to the bullpen, Andy Oliver would likely be first in line to replace him. Also, despite his inconsistent track record I’m still giving the nod on the 5th spot in their rotation to Galarraga until proven otherwise.
  • Kansas City: After the moves they have made this offseason (trading Greinke, non-tendering Brian Bannister) there have been few additions to the pitching staff. Based on current roster composition and available internal options, Duffy seems like the best choice to fill out the rotation at this point. There are few other options barring another signing before the 2011 season.
  • Philadelphia: As of today, Joe Blanton is still on the Philadelphia’s active roster and the most likely to fill the 5th spot in their rotation. However, I strongly believe that Blanton will be dealt prior to the start of the 2011 season. Thus, I’ve replaced him in the rotation with Kendrick for my projections.
  • Pittsburgh: Lincoln and Ohlendorf were selected out of a large pool here. The Pirates have a fair amount of depth here which increases their options significantly. They should be one team that is certain to go through Spring Training with a good competition going for their starting rotation. Kevin Hart, Jeff Karstens, Daniel McCutchen, Charlie Morton, and Scott Olsen could all be potential options as well.
  • Tampa Bay: The Rays also have options here. However, it seems increasingly more likely that Jeremy Hellickson will begin the season in the minor leagues barring a trade between now and Opening Day. There had been some talk of using him in the rotation and bumping Niemann to the bullpen but I get the impression that is not the organization’s preferred route for either player’s development.
  • Texas: The team has signed Brandon Webb, however I did not include him here with the team’s projected rotation. Also, despite talk of moving Neftali Feliz to the rotation there does not appear to be evidence suggesting the team is planning on making such a move.

In Part Two, I will take a closer look at how these projected starting rotations actually match up with one another based on the team’s ranking (out of 30) in a number of statistical categories. The follow-up will be posted later this afternoon. Sometimes these posts are just too long a read to warrant posting them as one singular item.

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