Monday, January 29, 2007

MLB Preview 2007 – NL Rotation Analysis

As with yesterday’s post, I’ll be looking at projected starting rotations, this time of the NL teams. This is the first time I have ever attempted such a venture, so the method may be a bit raw, and in need of refinement. You can see the algorithm used in the previous post.

Without further ado, the results:

Tier One
Arizona Diamondbacks: 4.29 EqERA, 977 IP
St. Louis Cardinals: 4.36 EqERA, 944 IP
San Diego Padres: 4.36 EqERA, 980 IP
Philadelphia Phillies: 4.39 EqERA, 966 IP
Milwaukee Brewers: 4.40 EqERA, 990 IP

It’s difficult to come up with a snappy title for the first group of NL teams, since only the Diamondbacks would crack the top five of the AL list. The NL lacks both top-line talent and depth when compared to their AL counterparts. The Diamondbacks show up on the list thanks to two of the NL’s best starters, Brandon Webb and the returning Randy Johnson (PECOTA sees a big bounce-back for Mullet Man). I am shocked – SHOCKED – to see St. Louis in the second spot on the list. PECOTA loves three of their young starters in Anthony Reyes, Adam Wainwright, and Brad Thompson. Still, the young age of their rotation is reflected in the low projected Innings total. The composition of the St. Louis bullpen will be critical to their success next year. The Padres and Phillies have the deepest rotations in the NL. The Brewers probably have the strongest starting trio in the NL with Ben Sheets, Chris Capuano, and Dave Bush, who can all pitch deep into games. However, PECOTA does not like Jeff Suppan, projecting a nearly 5.00 ERA. Still, having four starters who have the potential to average 6 innings or more per start is incredibly valuable.

Florida Marlins: 4.49 EqERA, 964 IP
Chicago Cubs: 4.51 EqERA, 950 IP
Los Angeles Dodgers: 4.54 EqERA, 948 IP
Atlanta Braves: 4.56 EqERA, 930 IP

The team average EqERA is 4.50, making this quartet decidedly average. However, they achieve average-ness in quite unique ways. My intuition was that the Dodgers would appear far higher on the list, but the reality is that none of their top three (Jason Schmidt, Derek Lowe, Brad Penny) is truly an elite starter, and Chad Billingsley is nowhere near the pitcher he appeared to be last year. Florida surprised the world last year with their pitching staff, which has the advantage of being young, but once again they truly lack a star-level performer on the staff. The Cubs projection includes a projected 4.66 EqERA from Mark Prior in the five spot. Prior seems to me to be an extremely high variance player at this point. He could fail miserably, or he could far exceed that projection. If Prior regains some of his lost ability, the Cubs will definitely contend for strongest rotation in the NL. Prior could also fail to produce, forcing more starts to go to Jason Marquis, Wade Miller, or Sean Marshall, and the Cubs could rank in the bottom half of the league. As Chuck Klosterman would say, it's 50/50.

Below Average
Cincinnati Reds: 4.62 EqERA, 955 IP
Colorado Rockies: 4.65 EqERA, 949 IP
Pittsburgh Pirates: 4.68 EqERA, 931 IP
San Francisco Giants: 4.72 EqERA, 956 IP
New York Mets: 4.73 EqERA, 904 IP
Houston Astros: 4.74 EqERA, 938 IP

A diverse group of teams here, from perennial rebuilders Colorado and Pittsburgh to perennial playoff contenders New York and Houston. Houston has very little pitching depth after the loss of both Clemens and Pettitte. I think New York is going to truly regret not overpaying for at least one starter this offseason, as the rest of the team has the talent to take them to the World Series. As it stands, I think the rotation is weak enough to open the door for both Atlanta and Philadelphia to win the division. Cincinnati, while still below average, has improved their pitching tremendously in the last year, when they had exactly zero pitchers (starters or relievers) projected to be above average. San Francisco seems to me to be the White Sox of the NL in terms of starters – lots of recognizable names, lots of innings eaters, but no true stars (although Matt Cain could be that guy).

Bottom of the Barrel
Washington Nationals: 5.29 EqERA, 841 IP

Quite simply, the KC Royals of the NL, without the promise of better times ahead. In my NL Lineup preview, Washington came out last after the Pittsburgh addition of Adam LaRoche, and they come in last in pitching by a wide margin here. After John Patterson, the Nationals will run out the motley collection of Sean Hill, Jerome Williams and Mike O’Conner. They definitely have a very good shot at a 100 loss season.

Incorporating Innings Pitched
As a last step, I incorporate an innings pitched credit or debit. Teams with more starter IP get a credit, teams with less a debit. This produces a linearized ranking of NL teams that is intended to represent true rotation value. The ranking is as follows:

1. Arizona Diamondbacks
2. Milwaukee Brewers
3. San Diego Padres
4. Philadelphia Phillies
5. Florida Marlins
6. St. Louis Cardinals
7. Chicago Cubs
8. Los Angeles Dodgers
9. Cincinnati Reds
10. Colorado Rockies
11. San Francisco Giants
12. Atlanta Braves
13. Pittsburgh Pirates
14. Houston Astros
15. New York Mets
16. Washington Nationals

Milwaukee moves up to number 2 due to their high projected innings pitched. Looking at the list above, one can see why Arizona and Milwaukee are popular picks to break out this season.

No comments: