2012 MLB Predictions: Projecting Every MLB Team's ERA

Eli MargerCorrespondent IMarch 8, 2012

2012 MLB Predictions: Projecting Every MLB Team's ERA

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    The 2011 MLB season was, in a sense, the continuation of the "Year of the Pitcher." There were many dominant performances around baseball, from Clayton Kershaw to Justin Verlander. As a whole, however, only a few teams were truly excellent in terms of team ERA.

    The Braves, Padres, Giants and Phillies had the four lowest team ERAs last year, but only one of those teams made the playoffs. One can clearly see that a low ERA doesn't guarantee success. However, it is always a good indicator of how strong a team's pitching is.

    Today, we'll look at each team in descending order of their 2011 ERA and project what their ERA will be this year.

Baltimore Orioles

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    2011 ERA: 4.92

    2012 Outlook: It would be very challenging for the Orioles to have a worse year in 2012 than they did last year, pitching-wise. They boast a very young pitching staff, many of whom had so-so years last year. The exception is Brian Matusz, the lefty who was flat-out awful in 2011. He will almost certainly improve from his 10.67 ERA.

    With across-the-board growth, I'd expect the Orioles' team ERA to drop, but not by a great amount. Look for something in the 4.30 range.

Minnesota Twins

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    2011 ERA: 4.60

    2012 Outlook: It was surprising to see the Twins pitch so poorly last year, especially given some of the arms on their pitching staff. Guys like Francisco Liriano, Brian Duensing and Nick Blackburn all struggled, while the only truly effective starter was Scott Baker.

    Overall, I'd look for the Twins to improve, especially with a healthy lineup to back up the pitchers. They certainly won't post such a high ERA again, although their results will depend primarily on how their starters pitch.

    If they get decent seasons from everyone in the rotation, I'd expect a team ERA at around 4.10.

Houston Astros

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    2011 ERA: 4.51

    2012 Outlook: With Brett Myers being apparently converted into closer, the 'Stros will have a depleted rotation this season. Beyond Bud Norris and Wandy Rodriguez, Houston's starters are mediocre at best.

    I would be bullish on the team's ERA, but when you also consider that Mark Melancon is gone, there really isn't much to be excited about. I'd say the Astros will post a 4.60 ERA this year.

Kansas City Royals

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    2011 ERA: 4.45

    2012 Outlook: Kansas City made a strong move this winter, sending Melky Cabrera to San Francisco for lefty Jonathan Sanchez. Sanchez is going to give the Royals some quality innings, and with growth in other places and a continued strong performance from an unheralded bullpen, the Royals will probably make strides in their pitching this year.

    Don't expect anything drastic, but something in the 4.25 range.

Colorado Rockies

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    2011 ERA: 4.44

    2012 Outlook: The Rockies lost Ubaldo Jimenez, but that's not going to make a huge difference in the team's pitching. With the acquisition of Jeremy Guthrie, the growth of Jhoulys Chacin, Alex White and Drew Pomeranz, the Rockies' rotation will actually be pretty solid this year.

    On the flip side, the bullpen is a bit of a question mark. There will be lots of ups and downs in this staff, but I wouldn't count on any sort of drastic change from last year. The Rockies' team ERA should be around 4.40.

Chicago Cubs

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    2011 ERA: 4.34

    2012 Outlook: It's no secret that the Cubs are in total rebuild mode right now. With Carlos Zambrano and Sean Marshall departed, there will be plenty of new faces at Wrigley Field this year.

    There are going to be lots of ugly ERAs, but guys like Matt Garza, Carlos Marmol, and Jeff Samardzija will buoy the team's pitching. It would surprise me if the Cubs improved, but it won't be a big drop, either. Their team ERA should be in the 4.40 range.

Toronto Blue Jays

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    2011 ERA: 4.33

    2012 Outlook: There is going to be a lot of continuity on the Blue Jays' pitching staff, something that can do nothing but good for a team trying to contend in an unfairly stacked AL East. Flipping Jason Frasor for Sergio Santos was a great move, and the rotation is going to continue to grow.

    If Brandon Morrow becomes consistent, he could have a really special year. This team is going to make a bit of a jump in ERA, and I wouldn't be surprised if their team mark was around 4.05 next year.

Cleveland Indians

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    2011 ERA: 4.24

    2012 Outlook: I really can't see Cleveland's pitching improving or declining significantly in 2012. Depending on what becomes of the Fausto Carmona situation, the team may be down a starter. If so, it's going to be a struggle to stay afloat.

    Ubaldo Jimenez will be solid, and good seasons can be reasonably expected from Justin Masterson, Derek Lowe and Josh Tomlin. Aside from that, there are plenty of question marks. I think the Indians will hover around the same and finish with a 4.25 ERA.

Boston Red Sox

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    2011 ERA: 4.20

    2012 Outlook: Enough has been said about last year in regards to Boston. This is a new year, and you can bet that the Sox will be back looking to exact revenge on the baseball gods.

    A full season from Clay Buchholz and a potentially big shift to the rotation for Daniel Bard will do wonders for Boston, and their pitching will continue to get tremendous run support from the offense.

    I personally think Boston's being overlooked this year to an extent, and a massive jump to a 3.75 ERA is not out of the question at all.

New York Mets

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    2011 ERA: 4.19

    2012 Outlook: The Mets are going to be an interesting team to watch, and their pitching staff will be the backbone of the team. The rotation is decent, and the bullpen has the potential to be good. If the Mets get good seasons out of most of their pitchers, the ERA may improve slightly.

    But because they're the Mets, and misery always seems to befall them, I'm going to say they'll remain almost exactly the same. They'll get a few points better at best, so 4.15 seems fair for them.

Cincinnati Reds

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    2011 ERA: 4.16

    2012 Outlook: I'm still not sure what to think about the Mat Latos trade, and perhaps only time will tell. Just going off statistics, I think Latos might crash and burn to an extent, but because I'm not Nostradamus, I'll resist setting that in stone.

    Still, adding Sean Marshall and Ryan Madson was tremendous, and they will continue to get solid seasons from most of their other starters. I'll say the Reds will jump below 4 and finish with a 3.95 ERA.

Chicago White Sox

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    2011 ERA: 4.10

    2012 Outlook: Sorry, Chicago fans, but I'm extremely bearish on the White Sox pitching staff. I can't trust Jake Peavy, I'm not a huge Gavin Floyd fan, and although John Danks and Chris Sale will be solid, there just aren't enough safe bets on this staff.

    Unfortunately, this team is going to sink this year, and their ERA won't plummet but it will certainly go with the rest of the team. I'd say the White Sox will post something like 4.25 this year.

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    2011 ERA: 4.05

    2012 Outlook: The Pirates are returning almost everyone to their pitching staff from last year, and the addition of A.J. Burnett could actually pay some dividends.

    The problem is that this staff doesn't have a whole lot of upside, so I can't say their ERA will drop a whole lot. At the same time, I can't imagine the staff getting worse. I could predict they would stay exactly the same, but that wouldn't be any fun. I'll give them a nice drop down to a 3.95.

Detroit Tigers

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    2011 ERA: 4.04

    2012 Outlook: The Tigers are the best illustration of why team ERA perhaps isn't the best measure of a team's pitching prowess. With how strong Detroit's rotation is, I find it inconceivable that the team's ERA will remain above 4.00 this season.

    The bullpen, which was pretty good last year, will probably see some improvement. I'm going to be kind of bold here and put the Tigers into the upper echelon of teams with a huge jump down to a 3.55.

Miami Marlins

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    2011 ERA: 3.95

    2012 Outlook: The biggest addition to Miami's pitching staff this season? Undoubtedly, it's Josh Johnson. The ace, who will be returning this season, will provide stability and leadership to a strong, deep rotation in Miami.

    There are still some question marks in the bullpen before Heath Bell, but this is a strong rotation in general.

    I'm not ready to give them a huge jump, but they'll be in the 3.75 range if everyone does well.

Seattle Mariners

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    2011 ERA: 3.91

    2012 Outlook: This year, there are tons of question marks on the Mariners' pitching staff. With Michael Pineda gone, Seattle is left with unproven commodities in the bottom half of the rotation.

    Everyone knows what Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas will do. What will determine the fate of the team is dependent upon Blake Beavan, Hisashi Iwakuma and whoever else is in the mix for the Mariners' rotation.

    Unfortunately, I don't see great things happening here. Their ERA will drop back into the 4.05 range.

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    2011 ERA: 3.80

    2012 Outlook: Arizona's rotation is dangerous. I say that partially because it's a "no-name rotation" of sorts, with no real superstar pitchers. However, every starter is very capable, and they are all guys who will log big innings this year.

    The bullpen will continue to be strong, and the Diamondbacks are really going to be contenders again this year.

    The problem, however, is upside. I don't see Arizona improving all that much, so I'll say that at their best, the team ERA will be around 3.75.

Texas Rangers

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    2011 ERA: 3.79

    2012 Outlook: Everyone in the baseball world is saying that Yu Darvish is the key to Texas' pitching success. I disagree. I believe that if Neftali Feliz develops into an effective starter, he could bring this team back to the World Series. Darvish is going to be fun to watch, but Feliz is arguably more important to the team's success.

    There are many ways this team could get back to the Fall Classic, but it would start with a great rotation. Regardless, I see them staying roughly the same, and I'll round them up to a 3.80.

St. Louis Cardinals

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    2011 ERA: 3.79

    2012 Outlook: As a baseball fan, no matter your allegiance, you hate to see a guy like Adam Wainwright go down like he did last year. Baseball is worse off without its best pitchers, and it makes St. Louis' championship last year more impressive that they did it without their true best pitcher.

    With Wainwright back this year, the Cards will be back at it. The bullpen is going to be the question here, but Wainwright alone will push the ERA down a few points. I'd feel comfortable putting them at 3.65.

New York Yankees

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    2011 ERA: 3.73

    2012 Outlook: Few teams have turned their rotation around so drastically in such a short time as the Yankees did this winter. Trading for Michael Pineda and signing Hiroki Kuroda on the same night instantly lifted the Yankees from playoff threat to instant contender.

    This will be an exceptionally strong pitching staff from top to bottom. I can't see this team missing the playoffs with their pitching staff, and frankly, anything less than an AL East crown would be utterly embarrassing.

    Their ERA will drop down to the 3.45 range, among baseball's best.

Oakland Athletics

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    2011 ERA: 3.71

    2012 Outlook: With the organizational overhaul that the Athletics performed this winter, it's not going to surprise anyone when I say that a 3.71 ERA is not sustainable given their current pitching staff.

    There will be some strong pitching from the likes of Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson, but for the most part, it's going to be a very patchwork staff.

    This won't be totally ugly, but the A's are in line for a 4.10 team ERA this year.

Milwaukee Brewers

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    2011 ERA: 3.64

    2012 Outlook: As far as continuity goes, the Brewers are almost the cream of the crop. They will return their entire rotation and pretty much their entire bullpen. This was a fantastic staff last year, and they should continue to perform at a high level this year.

    Zack Greinke almost certainly won't have an ERA as high as 3.83 this year, so that is something that could spearhead a drop. Honestly, though, there won't be much change. Look for a 3.60 from the Brew Crew.

Tampa Bay Rays

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    2011 ERA: 3.58

    2012 Outlook: The Rays are yet another team with great continuity in the pitching staff. They are young, talented and will continue to improve.

    David Price, especially, is due for an ERA drop, and as long as the bullpen doesn't collapse, the Rays' pitching staff is among baseball's best.

    Because it's a relatively volatile staff in the sense that younger pitchers tend to deviate from expected statistics more, it's hard to say the Rays will improve. I'll say they'll be right around where they were last year, at 3.55.

Washington Nationals

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    2011 ERA: 3.58

    2012 Outlook: Poor John Lannan. This was a guy who was the ace of the Nationals staff a few years ago, and this year, he is listed as sixth on the rotational depth chart. It's all for the best, though, as the Nationals have a very good rotation lined up for this year.

    As far as ERA goes, I actually think the Nationals sorely overperformed last year, so the fact that I'm giving them a 3.65 for this year is not so much of a statement about this year's staff as it is last year's.

Los Angeles Angels

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    2011 ERA: 3.57

    2012 Outlook: The Angels really outdid themselves this offseason by adding C.J. Wilson and that one Pujols guy. The front of the rotation is as good as anyone's, but there are some questions in the bullpen and in the back end of the rotation.

    I'd be tempted to say the Angels' ERA will improve, but it probably won't by much. I'm going to be conservative and say that a 3.60 is safe. But if this were based on the first three starters, we'd be having a different conversation.

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    2011 ERA: 3.56

    2012 Outlook: It's surprising to me that the Dodgers had such a good ERA last year, but much of that had to do with Clayton Kershaw and the bullpen. It will be a similar situation this year.

    Los Angeles' rotational depth beyond the reigning Cy Young award winner is dismal, so don't expect anything great there. The bullpen is stellar, but the question is whether that will matter enough.

    I'd expect a decline from last year to 3.70, just because of the back end of the rotation.

Atlanta Braves

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    2011 ERA: 3.49

    2012 Outlook: I was absolutely floored when I read about Julio Teheran's home run party earlier this week in spring training. I would be slightly concerned as a Braves fan, but in all honesty, it's unlikely he will be in the rotation in April anyways.

    The Braves' staff is going to be strong again this year, but you have to wonder if the bullpen's extraordinary success is sustainable. I say yes, but it's hard to see the ERA being much lower than it was last year. Look for 3.55 this year.

San Diego Padres

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    2011 ERA: 3.43

    2012 Outlook: It's hard to get excited about a team with Tim Stauffer leading the rotation, but the Padres are getting better. Adding Edinson Volquez was nice, but it came at the cost of Mat Latos. However, this year's bullpen is going to be flat-out phenomenal with the additions of Andrew Cashner and Huston Street.

    However, that won't be enough to compensate from an all-around spike in rotation ERA. The Padres are looking at a 3.75 team ERA.

San Francisco Giants

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    2011 ERA: 3.21

    2012 Outlook: Let's be honest here— the Giants are going to be a dominant pitching team as long as Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner are in San Francisco. There is little to make anyone think that the Giants' pitching is going to get worse, unless you think losing Jonathan Sanchez and Ramon Ramirez was the next-worst thing to a zombie apocalypse.

    It's going to be another pitching-friendly season at AT&T Park, and a worse-but-not-bad team ERA of 3.30 is quite likely.

Philadelphia Phillies

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    2011 ERA: 3.02

    2012 Outlook: Here are my questions about the Phillies:

    1. What song will Jonathan Papelbon come out to this year, if not "Shipping Up to Boston"?

    2. Is Vance Worley as good as he showed last year?

    3. How will the middle of the bullpen hold up?

    Even if all three of those questions are answered positively, I see a spike in ERA. I don't see 3.02 as sustainable. Don't get me wrong—the pitching is still going to be tremendous. But a 3.20 team ERA is much more realistic.