Rotation Expectations

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On Thursday, Peter Ellwood wrote a column on the Fifth Starter and how much of an impact they make on a team over a full season. Yes, it was initially my theory to begin with, but I asked Peter do write it, so it would be written by someone without bias towards the fifth man in the rotation. I hope you took the time to read that through, as he did an awesome job explaining the role of that guy in the rotation, as well as breaking down the success or failure of last year’s #5 starters.
After reading it, I began to wonder what the other spots in the rotation offered as far as success or failure. What I mean is, what is expected from each guy in the rotation? What does the “Top Of The Rotation” guy or TORP give you, that the 2nd or 3rd pitcher in line doesn’t, as far as expectancy? What does Justin Verlander give the Tigers that Max Scherzer doesn’t? (aside from Cy Young Awards and AL MVP’s)  Is there a baseline for wins, losses, ERA, FIP or ERA+? I haven’t found a formula, or a Magic 8 Ball that gives us what Justin Verlander SHOULD do, just what people expect him to do, through PECOTA or Bill James or what have you.

When researching the article that Peter eventually penned for us, I sent him a spreadsheet with data that included statistics from 3 pitchers from different teams, in each spot in the rotation, based on last year’s Opening Day roster. The #5 starter data, however, is based on this year’s expected rosters. The data was basically useless to Peter’s column, since he was focused solely on the #5 man. However, it is very useful trying to determine expectations for each other rotation spot.

****Before we go any further, the data used is EXTREMELY subjective, and open to debate. It doesn’t include every pitcher on every team, is not broken down by league, doesn’t use ballpark factors or run support. The purpose here is to give us an IDEA on what to expect based on 2-3 year trends. I used 3 pitchers in every category (#1 through #5). I just randomly picked starters in each slot in their rotations from last. Also, wins and losses really mean nothing when it comes to stats, but I included them here for new baseball fans, or simply the fan that likes to use those as gauges of success. Again, this is very subjective.****

. #1 Starter
. Name Wins Losses IP Hits BB K bWAR FIP ERA+
. Justin Verlander 18 9 224 190 71 219.0 4.1 3.52 124
. 24 5 251 174 57 250.0 8.3 3.12 172
. 17 8 238 192 60 239.0 7.6 3.31 160
. David Price 19 6 209 170 79 188.0 4.4 3.83 144
. 12 13 224 192 63 218.0 2.4 3.32 108
. 20 5 211 173 59 205.0 6.4 3.12 149
. Clayton Kershaw 13 10 204 160 81 212.0 5.4 3.64 133
. 21 5 233 174 54 248.0 6.3 2.84 161
. 14 9 228 170 63 229.0 6.2 3.25 150
. 17.56 7.78 224.67 177.22 65.22 223.1 5.7 3.33 144.56
.
. #2 Starter
. Name Wins Losses IP Hits BB K bWAR FIP ERA+
. Max Scherzer 12 11 196 174 70 184.0 3.1 3.71 120
. 15 9 195 207 56 174.0 1.1 4.14 93
. 16 17 188 179 60 231.0 4.0 3.27 113
. Matt Harrison 14 9 186 180 57 126.0 3.5 3.52 130
. 18 11 213 210 59 133.0 6.2 4.03 138
. CJ Wilson 15 8 204 161 93 170.0 4.7 3.56 134
. 20 11 230 186 56 206.0 4.4 3.24 150
. 14 13 199 196 52 173.0 0.4 4.04 99
. 15.50 11.13 201.38 186.63 62.88 174.6 3.43 3.69 122.13
.
. #3 Starter
. Name Wins Losses IP Hits BB K bWAR FIP ERA+
. Bronson Orroyo 17 10 216 188 59 121.0 2.2 4.61 105
. 9 12 199 227 45 108.0 -1.2 5.71 78
. 12 10 202 209 35 129.0 3.4 4.08 113
. Jeremy Hellickson 13 10 189 146 72 117.0 3.5 4.44 128
. 10 11 177 163 59 124.0 2.9 4.60 123
. Ervin Santana 17 10 223 221 73 169.0 2.5 4.28 102
. 11 12 229 207 72 178.0 2.7 4.00 111
. 9 13 178 165 61 133.0 -1.6 5.63 73
. 12.25 11.00 201.63 190.75 59.50 134.9 1.8 4.67 104.13
.
. #4 Starter
. Name Wins Losses IP Hits BB K bWAR FIP ERA+
. Wade Davis 12 10 168 165 62 105.0 1.1 4.79 96
. 11 10 184 190 63 87.0 -0.7 4.67 85
. Gavin Floyd 10 13 187 199 58 151.0 3.1 3.46 105
. 12 13 194 180 45 151.0 2.5 3.81 99
. 12 11 168 166 63 144.0 2.3 4.46 101
. Kyle Kendrick 11 10 181 199 49 84.0 0.2 4.88 86
. 8 6 115 110 30 59.0 1.6 4.55 119
. 11 12 159 154 49 116.0 1.3 4.32 103
. 10.88 10.63 169.50 170.38 52.38 112.1 1.43 4.37 99.25
.
. #5 Starter
. Name Wins Losses IP Hits BB K bWAR FIP ERA+
. Rick Porcello 10 12 163 188 38 84.0 -0.1 4.31 85
. 14 9 182 210 44 104.0 0.0 4.06 87
. 10 12 176 226 46 107.0 1.4 3.91 92
. Tommy Hanson 10 11 203 182 56 173.0 2.6 3.31 117
. 11 7 130 106 46 143.0 1.2 3.67 106
. 13 10 175 183 71 161.0 -0.9 4.57 89
. Freddy Garcia 12 6 157 171 45 89.0 1.9 4.77 92
. 12 8 147 152 45 96.0 3.3 4.12 119
. 7 6 107 112 35 89.0 0.0 4.68 80
. 11.00 9.00 160.00 170.00 47.33 116.2 1.04 4.16 96.33

In comparing the averages from the above table wins, losses, innings, K’s, WAR, FIP and ERA+ all decrease as you move down the table from #1 to #2, and so on. Walks decrease as well, but most likely due to the decreased number of innings pitched. If you were to look at BB/9, you’d see that the TORP’s have a lower number in that category.

So, what can we extract from the above? We can see an average of each spot in the rotation and compare to the 2013 Texas Rangers rotation vs their 2012 stats, using the table below.

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In comparing the “average” we got from the first table, and applying it to the ‘12 Rangers (Ogando in ‘11) we can see the Rangers are not far off in stats. Holland would be a concern for me, since he seems to go one less inning than the average #3 starter. There is hope here Ranger fans. The rotation, even with what can be called an inconsistent Derek Holland and an unknown Alexi Ogando is still strong, based on what we have gathered as an average of each spot.

Also, once a healthy Colby Lewis is plugged into the rotation, Texas pitchers against the average become much better. Also, when looking at this comparison, Yu Darvish was in his rookie year, and according to our subjective data, looks to be on track for an outstanding career.

Keep the faith.

Patrick Despain is the CEO and Co-Founder of ShutDown Inning. He can be reached atPatrick.Despain@shutdowninning.com or on Twitter @ShutDownInning
Patrick Despain
Patrick is a member of the IBWAA and creator of Shutdown Inning. He was raised him Arlington, Texas and grew up watching games on HSE and listening to Eric Nadel and Mark Holtz on the radio. He is a long time Rangers fan and never achieved his dream of being a bat boy. He know lives in Georgia with dreams of a Texas return.

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