Thursday, March 15, 2007

Handicapping the AL East: Rotations

I definitely don't have the energy to go through every team as you guys appear ready to do, but I figured I could at least break down the division that I'll be watching the most, beginning with the starting rotations. First, here's each team's rotation as I project it on Opening Day, along with a power ranking, if you will, of where each pitcher ranks if you lined up all the starters in the division from 1-25 (1 being the best).

Yankees

Blue Jays

Red Sox

Orioles

Devil Rays

M. Mussina (8)R. Halladay (1)C. Schilling (5)E. Bedard (4)S. Kazmir (6)
C. Wang (3)A. Burnett (7)D. Matsuzaka (2)D. Cabrera (10)J. Shields (18)
A. Pettitte (11)G. Chacin (14)J. Beckett (12)A. Loewen (15)J. Seo (16)
K. Igawa (13)T. Okha (19)T. Wakefield (17)J. Wright (21)C. Fossum (20)
C.Pavano (22)J. Thomson (25)J. Papelbon (9)S. Trachsel (24)J. Howell (23)

I'm pretty high on Matsuzaka, and the Red Sox rotation in general, but compared to the rest of the division, I don't think I'm too far off. There are a few guys who could swing pretty far up or down depending on injuries and other factors (Cabrera, Pettitte, Pavano, and Beckett are the most volatile, I think, and possibly Kazmir), which kinda makes this exercise futile, but it's fun nonetheless.

Here's how the rotations break down, by my average ranking:

Red Sox: 9.0
Yankees: 11.4
Blue Jays: 13.2
Orioles: 14.8
Devil Rays: 16.6

So what does that tell us? Nothing, really, since it's all so subjective. The only reason I posted this is to compare it to what the grid below, so I can see how much my snap opinions agree with actual statistical projections. Here are the same rotations, ranked by Baseball Prospectus' projected VORP for 2007.

Yankees

Blue Jays

Red Sox

Orioles

Devil Rays

M. Mussina (29.3)R. Halladay (50.4)C. Schilling (36.2)E. Bedard (26.6)S. Kazmir (27.8)
C. Wang (27.5)A. Burnett (35.8)D. Matsuzaka (35.9)D. Cabrera (22.1)J. Shields (17.9)
A. Pettitte (29.7)G. Chacin (7.3)J. Beckett (26.6)A. Loewen (20.0)J. Seo (3.0)
K. Igawa (24.4)T. Okha (7.8*)T. Wakefield (17.7)J. Wright (9.0)C. Fossum (8.5)
C.Pavano (13.7)J. Thomson (2.7)J. Papelbon (26.5)S. Trachsel (8.7*)J. Howell (14.9)

An asterisk indicates that the projection is based on the player still being with his former team (in Okha's case, Milwaukee, and in Traschel's, the Mets) - these projections are from the book since I'm too cheap to spring for a monthly membership at BP. Here's the total VORP for each rotation:

Red Sox: 142.9
Yankees: 124.6
Blue Jays: 104.0
Orioles: 86.4
Devil Rays: 72.1

So the order is still the same, but there are some notable differences between my estimates and BP's projections. Roy Halladay is clearly the best pitcher in this field, but after that it breaks down into tiers (no pun intended). 2-4 could be Schilling, Matsuzaka, and Burnett, in any order. After them come Pettitte and Mussina, then Kazmir and Wang. The last cluster is Bedard, Beckett, and Papelbon, and then after Igawa it shakes out a little more cleanly.

As for my rankings, I'm glad to see that BP isn't very high on Gustavo Chacin - I'm not either (although I still ranked him 14th in the division, probably my biggest mistake). I'll have to plead ignorance on Adam Loewen, Jamie Shields, and J.P. Howell; although I ranked them in the right order, I sold them all short compared the rotational fillers like John Thomson and Jae Seo (who I greatly overvalued). Hopefully I'll be able to see more of them in division play this season.

Relative to the rest of the division, the Red Sox currently do sport the strongest rotation, which they'll need to off-set their weakness in the bullpen. And although I don't necessarily think they can do it, if Toronto can somehow get into the playoffs, they'll have a stronger 1-2 punch than anyone else (they'll need to add a #3 to get there, though, because the bottom of their rotation is putrid). Baltimore doesn't know what they're doing, and Tampa Bay is taking over where the Reds left off as they hoard 17 talented outfielders with clear holes in their rotation.

3 comments:

Ross said...

I think the person you overrated the most is Jae Seo. If Carl Pavano makes 10 starts this year (which would be 10 more than he's made since the 2005 All-Star game) he'll be more valuable than Jae Seo.

I would be shocked if the AL East didn't completly abuse him to an ERA over 6.

Wakefield should be ahead of Seo as well. I think Fossum should be too.

Ross said...

It's a little hard since Kazmir is so good. However, I would take, right now for ML effectiveness, the Yankees' AAA rotation of Jeff Karstens, Phillip Hughes, Darrell Rasner, Ross Ohlendorf, and Humberto Sanchez over the Devil Rays Major League pitching staff.

Sully said...

Yeah, Seo was pretty bad, but I knew Chacin was bad, and still over-rated him. For some reason, I remembered Seo from his 2005 with the Mets. Oh well - that's why I posted my estimates before actually looking them up.

And I'm pretty sure that the Yankee kids aren't good enough to replace an entire MLB rotation right now... but let's find out. Here's BP's projected MLB VORP for each pitcher you listed:

Karstens: 0.3
Hughes: 32.0 (wow)
Rasner: 0.7
Ohlendorf: 0.6 (with Arizona)
Sanchez: -1.0
------------------
Total: 32.6

And that's pretty much all Hughes - he can replace Kazmir, but the rest still have some growing to do.