MLB Power Rankings: Re-Ranking All 30 MLB Rotations at the 1-Quarter Mark
Let's briefly travel four months into the future.
It's the last week of September. Your team is in a three-way tie for the final playoff spot with five games left to play. Based on what we've seen through one quarter of the season, which starting rotation would you most trust to take you to the promised land?
That's the thought process behind these rankings.
Whether it's the same thought process that Rick Weiner had when he did his rankings prior to spring training is unknown, but his rankings are the benchmark used when referencing a rotation's previous rank.
Where applicable, players on the disabled list are referenced and taken into consideration, but this is primarily focused on starting rotations as they stand today.
All statistics are courtesy of ESPN.com and FanGraphs.com and are accurate through the start of play on Wednesday, May 15.
No. 30: Houston Astros (Previous Rank: 30)
Starting Rotation: 6.43 ERA, 6.43 K/9, -0.6 WAR
Bud Norris: 4.32 ERA, 5.94 K/9, 0.6 WAR
Lucas Harrell: 5.11 ERA, 5.29 K/9, -0.3 WAR
Erik Bedard: 6.67 ERA, 10.33 K/9, -0.5 WAR
Dallas Keuchel: 4.43 ERA, 5.24 K/9, -0.4 WAR
Jordan Lyles: 8.36 ERA, 8.36 K/9, 0.1 WAR
Ugly would be an understatement.
The Astros' starting pitchers have a combined ERA that is more than a full run worse than the second-most abysmal rotation.
With the possible exception of Bud Norris—whose K/9 is substantially lower than it used to be—you wouldn't even consider picking any of these guys up in your fantasy league for a spot start against the lowly Miami Marlins.
At any rate, you definitely wouldn't want to throw these five guys out there in succession with your playoff life on the line.
No. 29: San Diego Padres (Previous Rank: 28)
Starting Rotation: 4.88 ERA, 5.59 K/9, -1.1 WAR
Eric Stults: 4.57 ERA, 6.15 K/9, 0.3 WAR
Jason Marquis: 3.48 ERA, 5.32 K/9, -0.4 WAR
Edinson Volquez: 5.15 ERA, 4.95 K/9, -0.2 WAR
Andrew Cashner: 2.84 ERA, 6.39 K/9, 0.1 WAR
Tyson Ross: 3.00 ERA, 7.50 K/9, 0.0 WAR
(DL) Clayton Richard: 8.54 ERA, 4.44 K/9, -0.9 WAR
Eric Stults is 33 years old. At $507,600, his 2013 salary is barely minimum wage for MLB. Yet you could make a compelling case that he has been the ace of the Padres staff to this point in the season.
That isn't to say that Stults has been dominant. Not at all. It's just a testament to how weak the Padres pitching has been.
Both Cashner and Ross were primarily relievers before the start of this season, and I chronicled the rise and fall of Edinson Volquez earlier this week.
It might be a while before this team is pitching for anything in September again.
No. 28: Toronto Blue Jays (Previous Rank: 8)
Starting Rotation: 5.39 ERA, 6.96 K/9, 0.8 WAR
R.A. Dickey: 4.83 ERA, 8.00 K/9, 0.4 WAR
Mark Buehrle: 6.19 ERA, 5.63 K/9, -0.3 WAR
Brandon Morrow: 4.69 ERA, 7.59 K/9, 0.3 WAR
Ramon Ortiz: 3.24 ERA, 3.24 K/9, 0.0 WAR
Chad Jenkins: 3.6 ERA, 3.6 K/9, 0.0 WAR
(DL) Josh Johnson: 6.86 ERA, 8.69 K/9, -0.4 WAR
(DL) J.A. Happ: 4.91 ERA, 7.09 K/9, 0.4 WAR
Back in February, ranking them eighth almost seemed offensively low. The Blue Jays had acquired the reigning National League Cy Young winner in R.A. Dickey, a four-time All-Star in Mark Buehrle and a two-time All-Star with Josh Johnson.
Coupled with a healthy Brandon Morrow, and J.A. Happ as the fifth starter, what wasn't there to love about Toronto's pitching rotation?
Well, it certainly hasn't played to form.
Dickey had arguably his best game of the season on Tuesday night, so maybe he's starting to turn things around. That's where the optimism starts and ends, though.
The oft-injured Morrow has been scratched from his last two starts and, frankly, wasn't his normal self before that anyway.
Who knows when Josh Johnson will actually be back? Reports say early June, but if a lingering injury that initially seemed harmless eventually causes him to be shut down for the rest of the season, it wouldn't be the first time.
Assuming Morrow eventually lands on the disabled list—as is usually the case when a pitcher is scratched from consecutive starts—the Blue Jays' dream staff has already been reduced to a subpar Dickey, a beyond subpar Buehrle and three would-be minor leaguers.
No. 27: Minnesota Twins (Previous Rank: 26)
Starting Rotation: 5.18 ERA, 4.25 K/9, 1.7 WAR
Kevin Correia: 3.35 ERA, 3.69 K/9, 0.6 WAR
Vance Worley: 7.15 ERA, 4.85 K/9, 0.2 WAR
Scott Diamond: 4.08 ERA, 3.82 K/9, 0.2 WAR
Mike Pelfrey: 6.03 ERA, 3.93 K/9, 0.6 WAR
Pedro Hernandez: 5.79 ERA, 4.82 K/9, 0.0 WAR
Here is one of the many instances in which WAR makes no sense.
Among pitchers with at least 30 innings pitched in 2013, Vance Worley has the fourth-worst ERA. If we exclude Philip Humber because he was designated for assignment a few days ago and Roy Halladay because of his shoulder surgery, only Ryan Vogelsong stands between Worley and the honor for most earned runs allowed on average.
Worley is also in the bottom 10 in K/9—though he looks like Nolan Ryan compared to the three Twins in the bottom four.
How in the world is he worth 0.2 wins above a replacement-level player when he has arguably been the worst pitcher in the league to date?
I would rank the Twins even lower if it weren't for the terrible BABIP that their starting pitchers have had. To at least some extent, they've been unlucky and should slightly improve. We'll see if that actually comes to fruition.
No. 26: Los Angeles Angels (Previous Rank: 13)
Starting Rotation: 5.04 ERA, 6.45 K/9, 1.4 WAR
C.J. Wilson: 3.88 ERA, 8.69 K/9, 0.4 WAR
Jason Vargas: 4.03 ERA, 5.96 K/9, 0.7 WAR
Jerome Williams: 3.06 ERA, 5.57 K/9, 0.4 WAR
Joe Blanton: 6.46 ERA, 5.67 K/9, 0.1 WAR
Tommy Hanson: 3.86 ERA, 5.46 K/9, -0.1 WAR
(DL) Jered Weaver: 4.91 ERA, 4.91 K/9, -0.1 WAR
If the Dream Weaver was healthy, this would be a different story. Without him in there, though, the Angels starting rotation has struggled.
To be fair, the ERA is inflated by a couple of failed experiments not included on this list. Garrett Richards had a 5.54 ERA in his four starts in late April. Michael Roth and Barry Enright both gave up five earned runs in 3.1 innings of work in their solitary spot starts, each registering an ERA of 13.50.
Take those six starts out of the "starting rotation" equation, and the remaining nucleus comes in with an ERA closer to 4.60. Still, not what you would hope for from a team that's supposed to be competing with the Texas Rangers for supremacy in the AL West.
C.J. Wilson is the only one who's been anything close to an ace of the staff, and he has been far from what you would call dominant. He has yet to turn in a scoreless outing, nor has he made it out of the seventh inning in any of his eight starts. He's also walked at least two batters in every start.
No. 25: Baltimore Orioles (Previous Rank: 20)
Starting Rotation: 4.59 ERA, 6.09 K/9, 2.1 WAR
Chris Tillman: 3.40 ERA, 6.99 K/9, 0.5 WAR
Jason Hammel: 4.93 ERA, 6.31 K/9, 0.3 WAR
Freddy Garcia: 4.26 ERA, 3.55 K/9, 0.0 WAR
Jair Jurrjens: No games played
(DL) Wei-Yin Chen: 3.04 ERA, 5.13 K/9, 1.1 WAR
(DL) Miguel Gonzalez: 4.58 ERA, 5.6 K/9, 0.1 WAR
As of Wednesday afternoon, 40 percent of Baltimore's starting rotation is a mystery.
After injuries sent Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez to the disabled list, the Orioles starting pitching depth chart on ESPN only lists Hammel, Tillman and Garcia—the latter of which started the season in the minors after 346 career starts in the big leagues over the previous 14 seasons.
We shall see what the future holds for the Orioles staff. As long as it doesn't involve Jake Arrieta, they should move up the list in our midseason rankings.
No. 24: New York Mets (Previous Rank: 15)
Starting Rotation: 4.49 ERA, 6.94 K/9, 1.5 WAR
Matt Harvey: 1.44 ERA, 9.91 K/9, 1.8 WAR
Jeremy Hafner: 4.61 ERA, 5.93 K/9, -0.3 WAR
Jon Niese: 5.93 ERA, 4.61 K/9, -0.3 WAR
Dillon Gee: 6.13 ERA, 6.13 K/9, -0.1 WAR
Shaun Marcum: 8.59 ERA, 6.14 K/9, 0.1 WAR
If we were talking about who you would want on the mound for a one-game playoff scenario, Matt Harvey would definitely be near the top of the list.
However, it's pretty indicative of the strength of the rest of the Mets rotation that Harvey's WAR is higher than that of the entire rotation.
Shaun Marcum should bounce back as he rounds into midseason form, and we've certainly come to expect better than this from Opening Day starter Jon Niese. As things stand today, though, I wouldn't want to have this rotation in a pivotal five-game stretch of the season.
No. 23: Milwaukee Brewers (Previous Rank: 23)
Starting Rotation: 5.06 ERA, 6.12 K/9, 0.7 WAR
Kyle Lohse: 3.49 ERA, 6.06 K/9, 0.6 WAR
Yovani Gallardo: 4.70 ERA, 6.07 K/9, 0.5 WAR
Marco Estrada: 5.32 ERA, 8.67 K/9, -0.2 WAR
Wily Peralta: 5.40 ERA, 4.60 K/9, 0.2 WAR
Hiram Burgos: 6.86 ERA, 5.14 K/9, -0.1 WAR
In an ideal world, the Brewers rotation would consist of three aces and a pair of rookies that were finally ready for a full season in the majors after a combined 10 years in the farm system.
Kyle Lohse has been a solid offseason acquisition, but the rest of the plan has been a slightly colossal letdown.
Opening Day starter Yovani Gallardo has only registered three quality starts this season. The most noteworthy thing he's done is get arrested for a DUI that didn't even result in missing a start. Most of the U.S. population would get fired and have serious trouble finding a new job after a DUI, but Gallardo threw six innings and picked up his first win of the season three days later. Simply fascinating.
All in all, the Brewers are jockeying with the Cubs for last place in the NL Central, and they will continue to do so until the starting pitching lives up to its potential.
No. 22: Cleveland Indians (Previous Rank: 24)
Starting Rotation: 4.44 ERA, 7.82 K/9, 1.4 WAR
Justin Masterson: 3.14 ERA, 8.57 K/9, 1.4 WAR
Zach McAllister: 2.68 ERA, 6.80 K/9, 0.6 WAR
Ubaldo Jimenez: 5.55 ERA, 8.83 K/9, 0.1 WAR
Scott Kazmir: 5.33 ERA, 9.95 K/9, -0.1 WAR
Corey Kluber: 5.64 ERA, 8.06 K/9, 0.2 WAR
Allow me to be the one millionth person to point out that Justin Masterson has gotten off to a masterful start this season. He already has more complete-game shutouts this season (two) than he did in his entire career before 2013 (one).
Zach McAllister is also pitching quite well through seven starts, posting a sub-3.00 ERA while holding each opponent to three or fewer earned runs.
Whenever someone else stops on the mound, though, it's been a real adventure.
Scott Kazmir had two good starts against the Twins and A's. Suddenly, everyone wants to forget about his terrible ERA and claim he's back to pitching like the guy we haven't seen since they took the Devil out of the Rays. Ubaldo Jimenez has the worst ERA of any pitcher with at least 350 IP since the start of the 2011 season.
And those are just the guys who are still in the starting rotation.
Brett Myers' return to starting has been a complete disaster, turning in an 8.02 ERA before landing on the DL. Trevor Bauer has 15 walks against 11 strikeouts in 16.1 innings of work. Carlos Carrasco gave up seven runs and failed to make it out of the fourth inning in his sole appearance.
Even if you believe McAllister and Masterson can keep up their current pace for the rest of the season, you've got to be more than a little concerned about the other 60 percent of the rotation.
No. 21: Oakland Athletics (Previous Rank: 10)
Starting Rotation: 5.03 ERA, 7.25 K/9, 1.9 WAR
A.J. Griffin: 3.48 ERA, 6.79 K/9, 0.5 WAR
Tommy Milone: 3.71 ERA, 7.94 K/9, 0.9 WAR
Bartolo Colon: 4.56 ERA, 5.13 K/9, 0.6 WAR
Jarrod Parker: 6.86 ERA, 6.64 K/9, -0.6 WAR
Dan Straily: 7.06 ERA, 10.38 K/9, 0.4 WAR
(DL) Brett Anderson: 6.21 ERA, 9.0 K/9, 0.4 WAR
The Athletics' fall from power rankings grace is due to one man and one man alone: Jarrod Parker.
Everyone else has been pretty much exactly as advertised.
Tommy Milone's ERA is within 0.03 of what it was in 31 starts last season. A.J. Griffin had ace-worthy stuff in 15 starts in 2012 and has picked up right where he left off. Bartolo Colon is eating up innings without getting into too much trouble.
Brett Anderson is back on the disabled list for what feels like the 17th time in his five-year career. Dan Straily is getting a ton of strikeouts in his place, but he's struggling to keep opposing teams off the scoreboard.
None of these things were unexpected.
Jarrrod Parker's disaster season comes as a surprise, however. Parker is walking nearly five batters per nine innings, which is the fourth-worst walk rate in the league among pitchers with at least 30 innings pitched.
The A's desperately need him to fix whatever is going wrong. With Anderson on the DL, Parker is supposed to be the ace of this staff right now.
No. 20: Colorado Rockies (Previous Rank: 29)
Starting Rotation: 4.22 ERA, 5.96 K/9, 2.8 WAR
Jorge de la Rosa: 2.98 ERA, 5.56 K/9, 0.6 WAR
Jhoulys Chacin: 2.70 ERA, 5.89 K/9, 1.0 WAR
Jon Garland: 4.83 ERA, 4.83 K/9, 0.5 WAR
Juan Nicasio: 5.13 ERA, 6.02 K/9, 0.1 WAR
Jeff Francis: 6.00 ERA, 7.75 K/9, 0.3 WAR
If based solely on team WAR, the Rockies should be 13th in these rankings, but I'm not totally buying it.
Jorge de la Rosa's lowest ERA in any season with at least 60 IP is 4.22.
Jhoulys Chacin's walk rate and HR/FB rate are substantially below his career average. Maybe he discovered some control this offseason, but home run rates inevitably regress to league average or worse when you pitch in Colorado.
Juan Nicasio has been lucky to have the high ERA that he does. With a walk rate of 3.79 per nine innings and a BABIP of .256, all signs point to his ERA getting even worse.
No. 19: Miami Marlins (Previous Rank: 27)
Starting Rotation: 4.19 ERA, 6.66 K/9, 1.7 WAR
Kevin Slowey: 2.55 ERA, 6.57 K/9, 0.8 WAR
Jose Fernandez: 3.65 ERA, 9.49 K/9, 0.7 WAR
Ricky Nolasco: 4.39 ERA, 6.58 K/9, 0.5 WAR
Alex Sanabia: 4.85 ERA, 5.08 K/9, -0.3 WAR
Wade LeBlanc: 5.79 ERA, 6.51 K/9, 0.0 WAR
If you had Kevin Slowey pegged for a sub-3.00 ERA in the preseason, you should spend less time reading these articles and more time using your powers to protect the world from completely unforeseen dangers.
Not too many people expected Jose Fernandez to appear in the big leagues this early or make this much of an impact as a 20-year-old.
Thanks to those two surprises, we've finally found something where the Marlins aren't unequivocally the worst team in the National League this year.
Time will tell whether the frustrations of pitching to practically no run support all season eventually catches up with them. There aren't very many sports where it's enjoyable to play defense for a team that fails to support you with offense.
No. 18: Kansas City Royals (Previous Rank: 21)
Starting Rotation: 4.01 ERA, 8.62 K/9, 1.9 WAR
James Shields: 2.48 ERA, 8.22 K/9, 1.6 WAR
Ervin Santana: 2.79 ERA, 7.26 K/9, 1.0 WAR
Jeremy Guthrie: 2.82 ERA, 4.97 K/9, -0.1 WAR
Wade Davis: 5.86 ERA, 7.13 K/9, 0.2 WAR
Luis Mendoza: 6.00 ERA, 6.60 K/9, 0.2 WAR
At this time last year, Shields and Davis were in Tampa Bay, Guthrie was in Colorado, Santana was with the Angels and Mendoza had roughly the same ERA for Kansas City.
Behind the almost entirely rebuilt rotation, the Royals are doing pretty well in the standings into the second half of May, which is certainly something you can't say every year.
Would you trust this rotation with your season on the line, though? Probably not. Sure, you'll take "Big Game" James in a crucial situation. But you don't want to rely on Guthrie or Santana. Not with how wildly unpredictable they've been at times over the past four seasons.
And the ERAs of Davis and Mendoza kind of speak for themselves regarding whether or not you'd want to use them in a playoff push.
No. 17: Seattle Mariners (Previous Rank: 25)
Starting Rotation: 3.97 ERA, 7.16 K/9, 3.1 WAR
Felix Hernandez: 1.53 ERA, 8.91 K/9, 2.2 WAR
Hisashi Iwakuma: 1.74 ERA, 8.88 K/9, 1.4 WAR
Joe Saunders: 5.51 ERA, 3.8 K/9, -0.1 WAR
Brandon Maurer: 5.97 ERA, 5.71 K/9, -0.2 WAR
Aaron Harang: 7.30 ERA, 8.39 K/9, 0.0 WAR
For those of you with an East Coast bias who have been paying little to no attention to the Seattle Mariners, imagine if the Mets rotation was made up of two Matt Harveys and three Dillon Gees.
That's more or less what the Mariners have been working with this season.
In a short series, I can't think of a one-two punch I'd rather have right now than Hernandez and Iwakuma. (Shelby Miller and Adam Wainwright are a close second.) Both Mariners rank in the top 10 in the majors in ERA, and both are in the top 25 in K/9.
But oh my does it get ugly when they aren't pitching. The combined forces of Saunders, Maurer, Harang and Blake Beavan have an ERA of 6.43 and a WHIP of OMG. Hernandez and Iwakuma have combined for 15 quality starts in 17 chances, while the rest of the rotation is 9-of-22.
No. 16: Pittsburgh Pirates (Previous Rank: 22)
Starting Rotation: 4.01 ERA, 8.25 K/9, 1.3 WAR
A.J. Burnett: 2.73 ERA, 11.57 K/9, 1.5 WAR
Wandy Rodriguez: 3.62 ERA, 6.51 K/9, 0.0 WAR
Jeff Locke: 3.15 ERA, 5.52 K/9, 0.0 WAR
Jeanmar Gomez: 2.28 ERA, 5.86 K/9, -0.3 WAR
Francisco Liriano: 1.69 ERA, 15.19 K/9, 0.3 WAR
(DL) James McDonald: 5.76 ERA, 7.58 K/9, 0.2 WAR
When A.J. Burnett was traded to Pittsburgh two years ago, Yankees fans all but volunteered to help pack his bags. Burnett had an ERA above 5.00 in each of the previous two seasons and had so worn out his welcome in the Bronx that the Yankees agreed to pay $20 million of the $33 million still owed to him just to get him off the roster.
Naturally, he now owns the best K/9 in the National League and will almost certainly be an All-Star this July unless he really falls apart in the next eight weeks.
The Pirates also took a flyer this offseason on Francisco Liriano. He's only made one start so far in 2013, so the jury is still out on that move, but he sure looked dominant against the Mets last week.
Beyond that, though, this is a replaceable rotation.
Rodriguez isn't as dominant as he used to be, and his FIP indicates that it's only going to get worse. Gomez has yet to make it out of the fifth inning in a start despite a very favorable BABIP. Locke has been fairly hit or miss in his eight starts and is walking too many batters.
No. 15: Philadelphia Phillies (Previous Rank: 6)
Starting Rotation: 4.11 ERA, 6.84 K/9, 2.3 WAR
Cliff Lee: 2.86 ERA, 6.83 K/9, 1.3 WAR
Kyle Kendrick: 2.47 ERA, 6.42 K/9, 1.0 WAR
Cole Hamels: 4.18 ERA, 7.49 K/9, 0.3 WAR
Jonathan Pettibone: 3.41 ERA, 5.28 K/9, 0.0 WAR
Tyler Cloyd: 2.84 ERA, 5.68 K/9, 0.1 WAR
(DL) Roy Halladay: 8.65 ERA, 9.17 K/9, -0.5 WAR
(DL) John Lannan: 6.14 ERA, 4.30 K/9, 0.1 WAR
If Pettibone and Cloyd are still putting up these kinds of numbers six weeks from now, don't be surprised to see the Phillies jump back into the top 10 when we refresh these rankings at the halfway point.
Until then, I'm going to express some skepticism about the back-of-the-rotation starters that have a combined 12 career starts at the major league level.
I like the first three guys, though.
Cliff Lee's K/BB ratio is way down from what we've grown accustomed to seeing the past three seasons, but he's still getting the job done. Kyle Kendrick has seven consecutive quality starts and should be involved in All-Star discussions next month if he can keep it up. Meanwhile, Cole Hamels has had a few hiccups and virtually no run support, but he's still a more-than-suitable No. 3 starter.
No. 14: San Francisco Giants: (Previous Rank: 5)
Starting Rotation: 4.34 ERA, 8.10 K/9, 1.7 WAR
Madison Bumgarner: 2.18 ERA, 9.06 K/9, 1.3 WAR
Barry Zito: 3.40 ERA, 5.40 K/9, 0.4 WAR
Tim Lincecum: 4.07 ERA, 9.62 K/9, 0.5 WAR
Matt Cain: 5.04 ERA, 7.74 K/9, -0.2 WAR
Ryan Vogelsong: 7.78 ERA, 8.47 K/9, -0.4 WAR
This certainly won't be a popular ranking for the reigning World Series champion rotation, but it might be even better than it really deserves.
Madison Bumgarner has been extremely good for a fourth consecutive season. There's no denying that. However, everything he's bringing to the table is being immediately removed by Ryan Vogelsong's absurdly high ERA. This certainly isn't the first time that Vogelsong has disappointed as a starting pitcher, and now we're starting to remember why he was out of the big leagues for four years.
Barry Zito's numbers look respectable. However, he's gotten some help from out-of-town scorekeepers, as eight of the 25 runs he's allowed to score have been of the unearned variety. In four of his eight starts, he's gone seven innings and allowed no more than one run to score. For his sake, let's not talk about the other four outings, though.
Still, on the whole, Zito's been much better to this point in the season than in any of the previous six. That is the complete opposite of what you would say about Matt Cain right now. Whatever was ailing Tim Lincecum last season appears to have bitten Cain. After six consecutive seasons with an ERA of 3.76 or better, Cain finished the month of April with a 6.49 ERA.
He's starting to come around, though, and so is Lincecum. He still isn't as dominant as he used to be, but he's doing much better than he did in 2012. Unfortunately, every time he has back-to-back poor outings, people inevitably start to question if it's the beginning of the end all over again.
All in all, this is a very average rotation right now. It has a very strong ace, a very weak No. 5 starter and a bunch of hit-or-miss guys in between.
No. 13: Arizona Diamondbacks (Previous Rank: 12)
Starting Rotation: 3.64 ERA, 6.63 K/9, 3.5 WAR
Patrick Corbin: 1.52 ERA, 6.92 K/9, 1.2 WAR
Trevor Cahill: 2.70 ERA, 7.02 K/9, 0.7 WAR
Wade Miley: 3.75 ERA, 6.56 K/9, 0.6 WAR
Ian Kennedy: 4.83 ERA, 6.62 K/9, 0.3 WAR
Brandon McCarthy: 5.63 ERA, 6.00 K/9, 0.8 WAR
The crazy thing about Rick Weiner's preseason rank of the Diamondbacks is that he was anticipating Kennedy and McCarthy to be the aces of the staff. They've been relatively terrible through six weeks, but the overall ranking remains very similar because of the unforeseen dominance of Patrick Corbin.
I still stand behind my belief that Corbin will eventually experience some serious regression. His HR/FB rate is the 10th-lowest in the majors and is way below his average (including minors) over the past several years. He also has a fairly high walk rate and a relatively low BABIP. Eventually, those numbers tend to balance out to an ERA in the mid- to high-3.00s rather than a 1.52.
Still, I can't completely discount what he's done to this point in the season. Against eight solid opponents, he has eight quality starts.
If Kennedy and McCarthy start pitching up their potential, this could be a top-five rotation a few months from now.
No. 12: Tampa Bay Rays (Previous Rank: 4)
Starting Rotation: 4.01 ERA, 8.62 K/9, 1.9 WAR
Matt Moore: 2.44 ERA, 9.56 K/9, 0.4 WAR
Alex Cobb: 3.09 ERA, 8.87 K/9, 0.6 WAR
David Price: 4.78 ERA, 8.20 K/9, 0.5 WAR
Roberto Hernandez: 4.43 ERA, 8.65 K/9, 0.2 WAR
Jeremy Hellickson: 5.25 ERA, 7.88 K/9, 0.1 WAR
Matt Moore's ERA is too good to be true. Even if you don't believe in or understand FIP (Moore's is 4.41, for the record), you have to be able to appreciate that 4.69 walks per nine innings pitched is not a promising figure.
It's a horrible signal for regression when your BB/9 is a lot higher than your ERA, and Moore's is 2.25 points higher than his ERA. The only other starting pitcher with a differential of more than 1.6 is Jake Westbrook, and nobody is buying Westbrook's 1.62 ERA.
Moore's incredibly low .193 BABIP and incredibly high 92.9 LOB% rates are to blame for that drastic difference between BB/9 and ERA. Of the 143 pitchers with at least 25 innings pitched and at least four games started, Moore has the third-lowest BABIP and the third-highest LOB%. In my opinion, he's been the luckiest pitcher in the majors to this point.
On the flip side of that coin, David Price has been quite unlucky. His BABIP, LOB% and HR/FB rates are all among the 25 unluckiest starting pitchers. The only other person in the bottom 25 of each of those categories is Ryan Vogelsong and his league-worst 7.78 ERA.
Both guys will eventually regress toward league averages, leaving Tampa Bay with a fairly average rotation.
No. 11: Chicago White Sox (Previous Rank: 14)
Starting Rotation: 3.46 ERA, 7.92 K/9, 4.1 WAR
Chris Sale: 2.88 ERA, 7.83 K/9, 1.2 WAR
Jake Peavy: 2.96 ERA, 10.05 K/9, 1.1 WAR
Jose Quintana: 3.72 ERA, 6.98 K/9, 0.8 WAR
Hector Santiago: 2.23 ERA, 8.63 K/9, 0.4 WAR
Dylan Axelrod: 4.17 ERA, 4.83 K/9, 0.4 WAR
(DL) Gavin Floyd: 5.18 ERA, 9.25 K/9, 0.3 WAR
As the White Stripes would say, the White Sox were "the hardest button to button" on this list.
I originally had them in the top five because of how strong their ERA, K/9 and WAR are. But that never felt right. After all, how could a top-five rotation be in last place in the AL Central?
Then I went through the rotation and questioned which guys actually felt like a solid representative for that spot in the rotation. Chris Sale is absolutely an ace, and I can go to war with Jake Peavy at No. 2. But Jose Quintana as a No. 3? Hector Santiago fourth? That's getting pretty sketchy. And who in the world is Dylan Axelrod?
After that exercise, I wanted to slot them outside the top 15, so No. 11 feels like a pretty good compromise.
The White Sox are clearly doing something right if their team numbers are this good, but the back end of the rotation doesn't have the names or the arms to strike fear into the hearts of men. Quintana and Axelrod are still young and unproven, and Santiago has hit 11 batters and thrown six wild pitches in just 108 career innings. Still waiting to see how all three of them pan out.
No. 10: New York Yankees (Previous Rank: 11)
Starting Rotation: 3.52 ERA, 7.50 K/9, 3.9 WAR
Hiroki Kuroda: 2.31 ERA, 6.04 K/9, 1.2 WAR
C.C. Sabathia: 3.19 ERA, 8.19 K/9, 1.0 WAR
Andy Pettitte: 3.83 ERA, 6.85 K/9, 0.6 WAR
Phil Hughes: 4.43 ERA, 8.19 K/9, 0.5 WAR
David Phelps: 4.33 ERA, 9.68 K/9, 0.4 WAR
(DL) Ivan Nova: 6.48 ERA, 9.72 K/9, 0.3 WAR
(Quick reminder that these statistics are as of the start of play on Wednesday, May 15. Therefore, these numbers do not include Hughes' outing on Wednesday in which he gave up seven earned runs in two-thirds of an inning. I would imagine that's one of the two or three worst starts anyone has had this season, but that's only a guess.)
Business as usual for Sabathia. He's had seven consecutive seasons with an ERA between 2.70 and 3.38 and is right in that range again for this season. His strikeout and walk rates are par for the course as well. His HR/9 is a bit high, but these things happen when seven of your first nine starts are either in Yankee Stadium or Coors Field.
Kuroda has been a pleasant surprise for Yankees fans. He's certainly been good in his other five years in the league, but he's never quite had ace-worthy numbers. After opening the season with two tough starts, though, he has an ERA of just 1.64 over his last 44 innings.
Hughes and Phelps are wild cards insomuch as we really don't know what to expect from the 26-year-olds, but the true wild card on this rotation is how long Andy Pettitte can keep this up.
Here's a list of all the pitchers in the last four seasons to have pitched more than 162 innings in a season while 39 years old or older. The link leads to a blank list, you say? And Andy Pettitte turns 41 in a month? Interesting. Better hope Michael Pineda actually comes back in June.
No. 9: Los Angeles Dodgers (Previous Rank: 3)
Starting Rotation: 3.69 ERA, 8.58 K/9, 2.7 WAR
Clayton Kershaw: 1.40 ERA, 9.37 K/9, 1.7 WAR
Hyun-Jin Ryu: 3.40 ERA, 9.12 K/9, 0.9 WAR
Zack Greinke: 1.59 ERA, 7.94 K/9, 0.5 WAR
Josh Beckett: 5.19 ERA, 8.52 K/9, 0.0 WAR
Chris Capuano: 6.60 ERA, 7.80 K/9, -0.1 WAR
(DL) Ted Lilly: 5.63 ERA, 10.13 K/9, -0.1 WAR
Forget all the hoopla over Matt Harvey and Shelby Miller. Clayton Kershaw is the clear-cut favorite to win the NL Cy Young and every other award anyone feels inclined to give to a pitcher for pitching. Kershaw has the lowest ERA of any starting pitcher with at least 1,000 innings pitched in the last 75 years, and he's only getting better. His presence alone makes it impossible to keep the Dodgers out of the top 10.
Ryu has been pretty darn good as well in his rookie season in the MLB. His strikeouts have really tapered off in May, though. It's possible that scouts are starting to pick up something now that there's enough tape out there to analyze.
Greinke is on here more as an asterisk than anything else. However well or poorly he does in his "debut" on Wednesday against the Nationals will not be reflected here, but his name inspires more confidence than Matt Magill's.
No. 8: Atlanta Braves (Previous Rank: 9)
Starting Rotation: 3.83 ERA, 6.71 K/9, 1.8 WAR
Mike Minor: 2.75 ERA, 7.22 K/9, 0.7 WAR
Kris Medlen: 3.44 ERA, 5.98 K/9, -0.1 WAR
Tim Hudson: 4.70 ERA, 6.85 K/9, 0.4 WAR
Paul Maholm: 3.94 ERA, 7.69 K/9, 0.6 WAR
Julio Teheran: 4.57 ERA, 5.66 K/9, 0.2 WAR
The Braves lost their strikeout leader from 2012 (Tommy Hanson) to the Los Angeles Angels, and another stud pitcher is still recovering from Tommy John surgery (Brandon Beachy).
No matter. They still have one of the best rotations in the league.
Tim Hudson might not be an ace anymore, but he's a formidable option as a No. 3 starter, and so is Paul Maholm at No. 4.
If Teheran figures out how to consistently deliver anything resembling quality starts, the Braves could climb to No. 1 in these rankings by the end of the year. And don't forget that Beachy should be back around the All-Star break should Teheran falter or someone else get injured.
No. 7: Chicago Cubs (Previous Rank: 19)
Starting Rotation: 3.59 ERA, 7.63 K/9, 3.4 WAR
Travis Wood: 2.03 ERA, 6.08 K/9, 0.9 WAR
Jeff Samardzija: 3.70 ERA, 10.54 K/9, 1.0 WAR
Scott Feldman: 2.53 ERA, 6.96 K/9, 0.4 WAR
Carlos Villanueva: 3.93 ERA, 6.15 K/9, 0.4 WAR
Edwin Jackson: 6.02 ERA, 8.72 K/9, 0.7 WAR
(DL) Matt Garza: No starts yet
This is the part where the fans from the South Side lose their collective mind.
"The White Sox have a better ERA, better K/9 and better WAR than the Cubs!"
Sorry, but I would much rather have the Cubs rotation in a pivotal situation—provided the team wasn't actually wearing Cubs jerseys, because the Cubs could have five Nolan Ryans and find a way to miss the playoffs in a do-or-die situation.
Jeff Samardzija is an incredible talent. On a different roster in a different ballpark, he would be a more legitimate candidate for a Cy Young Award.
Travis Wood has been a more-than-capable No. 2 starter. He currently owns the lowest BABIP in the majors, though, so regression is coming soon.
Scott Feldman's transition from the Rangers to the Cubs has gone better than anyone could have possibly imagined, as has Villanueva's from Toronto.
Edwin Jackson has certainly been disappointing, but there's hope waiting in the wings for the Cubs. Matt Garza and Scott Baker should be returning from the disabled list at some point before the All-Star break. For the first time in who knows how many years, the Chicago Cubs will have an issue of possessing too many quality starters.
And to think—as recently as 2006, the Cubs gave at least nine starts in a season to Rich Hill, Angel Guzman, Juan Mateo, Glendon Rusch, Carlos Marmol and Mark Prior.
No. 6: Boston Red Sox (Previous Rank: 17)
Starting Rotation: 3.77 ERA, 9.23 K/9, 5.0 WAR
Clay Buchholz: 1.69 ERA, 9.20 K/9, 2.2 WAR
Jon Lester: 2.73 ERA, 7.69 K/9, 1.3 WAR
Ryan Dempster: 3.75 ERA, 11.44 K/9, 0.8 WAR
John Lackey: 4.05 ERA, 9.11 K/9, 0.6 WAR
Felix Doubront: 6.40 ERA, 9.74 K/9, 0.9 WAR
At long last, we've made it to the rotations that you would actually want when it matters!
I don't think anyone is questioning the first three guys in this rotation, aside from the people questioning whether or not the whole sunscreen controversy will affect Buchholz. Buchholz and Lester are bona fide top-of-the-rotation starters, and Dempster fits in just fine as a No. 3 guy with five consecutive seasons with a FIP of 4.00 or better.
It's the last two names that might make you cringe.
John Lackey had a 6.41 ERA in 2011 and then missed the entire 2012 season following Tommy John surgery. Despite those facts and him never really having ace material, Lackey is getting paid almost $16 million this year, and all Red Sox Nation is hoping is that he will pitch well enough to be the No. 4 starter.
Both Doubront and Alfredo Aceves have been wildly erratic in their few starts, walking a combined 24 batters in 40.1 innings pitched.
Between doubts over Lackey and the free-pass machine pitching in the fifth slot, it's tough to imagine the Red Sox climbing any higher than this in future rankings.
No. 5: Texas Rangers (Previous Rank: 18)
Starting Rotation: 3.54 ERA, 9.15 K/9, 5.7 WAR
Yu Darvish: 2.73 ERA, 13.67 K/9, 1.9 WAR
Derek Holland: 2.93 ERA, 7.81 K/9, 2.1 WAR
Alexi Ogando: 3.09 ERA, 7.01 K/9, 0.5 WAR
Nick Tepesch: 4.03 ERA, 7.11 K/9, 0.6 WAR
Justin Grimm: 4.28 ERA, 9.09 K/9, 0.5 WAR
I'm not a big believer in Tepesch or Grimm over the long haul, simply because I never believe in rookies that are flung into a starting role solely because of injuries to other guys.
Still, I defy you to find a hole in that rotation.
Yu Darvish is a strikeout god, and Derek Holland is pitching like a second ace behind him.
Alexi Ogando is the only pitcher of the bunch with a FIP higher than his ERA, meaning the other four guys in the rotation should actually get better than they already are. And who's to say Ogando can't do the same? The Rangers have bounced him in and out of the rotation in each of the last four years, but he has responded well no matter the role.
As our sample sizes on Tepesch and Grimm increase, we'll get a better feel for whether or not this is actually the best rotation from top to bottom.
No. 4: Cincinnati Reds (Previous Rank: 7)
Starting Rotation: 3.47 ERA, 7.91 K/9, 3.6 WAR
Mat Latos: 3.04 ERA, 8.40 K/9, 0.9 WAR
Homer Bailey: 3.51 ERA, 9.12 K/9, 1.2 WAR
Bronson Arroyo: 3.76 ERA, 5.13 K/9, 0.6 WAR
Tony Cingrani: 2.89 ERA, 11.89 K/9, 0.3 WAR
Mike Leake: 4.32 ERA, 6.05 K/9, 0.3 WAR
(DL) Johnny Cueto: 2.60 ERA, 9.35 K/9, 0.3 WAR
At this point, we're honestly just splitting hairs. You could make a very compelling argument for any order with the top four teams.
Still no official word on who gets demoted when Cueto makes his return (via John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer) to the rotation this Monday. The smart money is on Mike Leake due both to merit and the fact that Leake would've been projected to pitch on Monday.
Who knows, maybe Dusty Baker will go with a six-man rotation until someone plays his way out of his good graces.
Regardless of the decision, the Reds will be in good hands.
When healthy, there are few in the game better than Johnny Cueto. Mat Latos is working on his fourth consecutive season as a downright stud in an MLB rotation. Both Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey are picking up almost exactly where they left off in 2012.
In limited action, Tony Cingrani has been very impressive and provides a little left-handed flair in a rotation otherwise dominated by righties.
It's really a testament to the strength of the other options that Mike Leake has a career ERA of 4.24 and is seemingly the unanimous choice for a demotion next week.
No. 3: St. Louis Cardinals (Previous Rank: 16)
Starting Rotation: 2.38 ERA, 7.94 K/9, 5.5 WAR
Adam Wainwright: 2.30 ERA, 8.44 K/9, 2.2 WAR
Shelby Miller: 1.58 ERA, 10.05 K/9, 1.2 WAR
Lance Lynn: 2.88 ERA, 9.72 K/9, 0.9 WAR
Jaime Garcia: 2.88 ERA, 6.84 K/9, 0.7 WAR
John Gast: 6.00 ERA, 4.50 K/9, 0.0 WAR
(DL) Jake Westbrook: 1.62 ERA, 4.38 K/9, 0.5 WAR
Slight bias here, but having owned both Lance Lynn and Jaime Garcia in a fantasy league last season, I don't trust either of them any further than I can throw them. I have a bad back, and Lance Lynn is generously listed at 250 pounds, so that isn't very far.
Even if you're in the camp that believes in Lynn and Garcia, that fifth spot in the rotation is a bit troublesome. John Gast has precisely one start in his MLB career, and he didn't exactly dazzle at the Triple-A level last season.
Westbrook is hoping to be back before the end of May, but it remains to be seen whether he'll also bring with him the unsustainable good luck he had through his first five starts.
No. 2: Detroit Tigers (Previous Rank: 1)
Starting Rotation: 3.22 ERA, 9.52 K/9, 8.4 WAR
Justin Verlander: 1.93 ERA, 9.99 K/9, 2.1 WAR
Anibal Sanchez: 2.05 ERA, 11.28 K/9, 2.6 WAR
Max Scherzer: 3.61 ERA, 11.60 K/9, 2.0 WAR
Doug Fister: 3.06 ERA, 7.20 K/9, 1.5 WAR
Rick Porcello: 6.68 ERA, 5.85 K/9, 0.2 WAR
You couldn't ask for a better rotation in a playoff series. In a best-of-seven format in which you typically only use your top four pitchers, I would take the Tigers over any other team in the league.
But there's the pesky problem of that fifth starter for this discussion.
Rick Porcello has just not been all that good to this point in his career. He's a Greek god compared to some of the No. 5 starters we've seen thus far, but I would argue he's nowhere near as good as the No. 5 starter for the No. 1 team.
Aside from Porcello, though, it's hard to find any fault here.
Verlander is unarguably one of the top five pitchers in the league, and Scherzer is somewhere within the top 25. Anibal Sanchez's numbers are both out of this world and out of the ordinary for him, but he's been good enough over the past four years to be one of the best No. 3 guys in the league. Doug Fister's sub-3.70 FIP in four straight seasons is pretty enviable for a fourth starter.
No. 1: Washington Nationals (Previous Rank: 2)
Starting Rotation: 3.17 ERA, 7.13 K/9, 3.9 WAR
Jordan Zimmermann: 1.69 ERA, 5.98 K/9, 1.7 WAR
Stephen Strasburg: 3.10 ERA, 9.30 K/9, 0.8 WAR
Gio Gonzalez: 4.20 ERA, 9.40 K/9, 0.5 WAR
Ross Detwiler: 2.53 ERA, 4.85 K/9, 0.7 WAR
Dan Haren: 4.76 ERA, 6.15 K/9, 0.2 WAR
I will confess to being a Washington Nationals fan, but I attacked the Tigers versus Nationals debate as objectively as possible—by simply comparing the starters side by side.
Justin Verlander vs. Stephen Strasburg: Who would I rather have on my team under a long-term contract? Strasburg. Who would I rather have on the mound this season in a must-win situation? Verlander. Not even close.
Max Scherzer vs. Jordan Zimmermann: An interesting contrast in styles. If you want strikeouts, you're taking Scherzer. But if you want wins, I think you're taking Zimmermann.
Anibal Sanchez vs. Gio Gonzalez: Another interesting debate. Coming into the season, I would've taken Gio Gonzalez and laughed at the question. Today, though, I'd probably lean toward Sanchez. Gonzalez is really struggling to hit his spots this season, only once emerging from a start without allowing multiple walks. All in all, the No. 2 and No. 3 comparisons end up being a wash.
Doug Fister vs. Dan Haren: If his back is OK, I'm definitely going with Haren. He was a top-half-of-the-rotation starter for the Angels for the past two seasons and was the ace of the Diamondbacks prior to that. Hard to believe he's fallen so far from grace that he isn't the best No. 4 starter in the league, regardless of how he struggled in his first three or four starts of this season.
Rick Porcello vs. Ross Detwiler: This one is more of a no contest than Verlander over Strasburg. Detwiler could legitimately be a No. 3 starter in most rotations. He has made more starts for the Nationals since the start of the 2011 season than anyone other than Zimmermann, and he has a 3.32 ERA in those 44 starts.
Of course, the only proper way to settle this debate would be in the World Series.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!