Monday, July 26, 2004

Best Rotations

Back in January, I remember reading a number of articles about "The Best Rotations in Baseball." Rotational Metrics was one such article that I enjoyed. The concluding thought there: "The Oakland Athletics get my personal vote as the most promising staff in baseball looking ahead to 2004. An honorable mention has to go to the Red Sox..."

So, what are the league's top Starting Rotations so far? When looking at this, I wasn't exactly how to define a starting rotation. The Yankees, for instance, have used eleven(!) different pitchers as starters. It doesn't really make sense to lump Alex Graman into any discussion of the Yankee rotation, so I decided to look only at the top 5 starting pitchers on each team.

Again, however, I ran into trouble. Should I use the pitchers with the most starts? The starting pitchers with the most win shares? The pitchers with the most IP? The "most talented?"

For simplicity's sake, I went with the most-used starting pitchers - that is the pitchers on each team who had started the most games. For the most part, I think this captures each team's true, intended "starters." The one truly odd exception that I ran into, however, is Mark Prior. Kerry Wood, Matt Clement, Greg Maddux, Carlos Zambrano and Glendon Rusch have all started more games than Prior, so I didn't include him in my little study.

Now, onto success and greatness as a pitching rotation. I've decided to rate each staff by total win shares. Sure, Win Shares Above Average will tell you how well each pitcher has performed, given his playing time, but I want to know how much have these pitchers contributed to team success. Fortunately, that's what Win Shares are all about - how each player contributed to team success.

And the results:

Team - Total Win Shares (Starting Rotation)
OAK - 44
BOS - 36
NYM - 35
MIN - 35
CHC - 34
HOU - 34
CHW - 34
STL - 32
FLO - 31
MIL - 30
TOR - 30
CLE - 29
SFG - 28
NYY - 27
ATL - 26
ANA - 25
TEX - 25
BAL - 25
DET - 25
COL - 23
SDP - 23
SEA - 23
MON - 22
ARI - 21
TBD - 20
PHI - 19
CIN - 19
PIT - 19
LAD - 19
KC - 16

Very interesting stuff. As Jason Moyer predicted in his "Rotational Metrics" article, the A's rotation is indeed the cream of the crop with the Red Sox receiving "honorable mention."

A couple other things that jumped out at me...

-> The Mets' staff has really done a phenomenal job, coming in third in my rankings. I have pretty much written them off in the playoff hunt, but with pitching that good, they should continue to stick around. I guess I'm going to have to reconsider them.

-> The Phillies have gotten terrible starting pitching from pitchers that sound like they should be better: Milton, Wolf, Padilla, Millwood and Brett Myers. If you told me that rotation was going to be the fifth worst in all of baseball, I would have laughed in your face. I'm still shocked to see that the Tigers, Rockies, Expos and Devil Rays all have better pitching than the Phillies. If the Philadelphia pitching doesn't improve, I'm not sure I like them much better than the Mets in the NL East.

-> I'm not surprised to see the Royals, Pirates and Reds in the "Bottom Five" here, but the Dodgers are another big surprise. Their pitching staff was great last year - so great that they felt comfortable giving away Kevin Brown for the enigmatic Jeff Weaver. Kevin Brown's health problems this year come as no surprise, but he did throw 211 innings last year with a 2.39 ERA. It's tough to give that up and get 4.17 ERA in return. And seriously, what's wrong with Hideo Nomo? Did his arm fall off? He has a career ERA of 4.00 and is more than doubling that with this year's 8.06.

-> Gotta love those A's. Starting pitching is clearly their strength, but it's pretty remarkable how much better (and healthier) the A's starting pitching has been than every other team in baseball this year. Oakland's SP's have contributed 22% more Win Shares than the next best team's starters so far. If only the bullpen was this good...

UPDATE: Credit where credit is due. Big thanks to The Hardball Times for their Stats pages. Couldn't live without 'em.

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