Thursday, April 7, 2011

Rotation Rankings: Week 1

Lincecum got off to a hot start, but how 
about the rest of the Giants rotation?
One full week has come and gone in the 2011 Major League Baseball season, enough time for hopes to be built (see: Baltimore; Pittsburgh) or for fanbases to wonder what has happened to their team (see: Boston, Tampa Bay). Are these evaluations always accurate? Of course not--five or six games is not nearly enough time for a large enough sample size in basically any statistic--but they're something, so we use them with quite a large grain of salt. With that in mind, we present our first Rotation Rankings--similar to our Leadoff Rankings (released every Monday), our Rotation Rankings are purely statistical evaluations of the performance of each starting rotation. We've tracked each start, and looked at a few basic, key statistics: earned run average, game score (explanation: here), strikeout-to-walk ratio, and some others explained below. In the first week, ERA is very volatile--just one extra run over the course of a week can mean a difference in ERA of 0.20-0.30 for an entire rotation, so keep that in mind when comparing differences in ERA. Obviously there is going to be quite a lot of movement between weeks one, two, and the rest of the season, but here's what we have so far:

G: Games; ERA: Earned Run Average; WHIP: (Walks + Hits)/Innings Pitched; GS: Game Score; K/BB: Strikeout-to-walk ratio; K/9: Strikeouts per nine innings

30. Houston Astros
This Week (5 G): 0-4, 9.62 ERA, 1.93 WHIP, 30.0 GS, 1.45 K/BB, 5.92 K/9
The Astros have the unfortunate distinction of the worst rotation performance in week one of the season, helped by four pitchers in a row (Wandy Rodriguez, Bud Norris, J.A. Happ, and Nelson Figueroa) who all threw ERAs over 10.10 in their first starts.

29. Boston Red Sox
This Week (5 G): 0-4, 8.52 ERA, 1.74 WHIP, 35.2 GS, 1.00 K/BB, 4.29 K/9
Don't think you're going to see the BoSox up in this territory for too much longer, but not one of the five starters this week had a quality start (game score of 50). John Lackey put up a wonderful game score of six, giving up 10 hits and nine runs in just 3.2 innings.

28. Detroit Tigers
This Week (5 G): 2-2, 8.87 ERA, 1.70 WHIP, 40.8 GS, 2.44 K/BB, 8.87 K/9
Justin Verlander had two decent starts, striking out 17 in 14 innings to go along with a 3.86 ERA, but the problem comes from Brad Penny and Max Scherzer, who combined for 9.1 innings and 14 runs.

27. Cleveland Indians
This Week (5 G): 2-2, 6.75 ERA, 1.68 WHIP, 40.0 GS, 1.55 K/BB, 5.46 K/9
The Tribe got off to a rough start on Day One, when Fausto Carmona gave up 10 runs in 3 innings against the White Sox; the last three starters (1.92 ERA) far outpitched the first two (15.83 ERA).

26. Minnesota Twins
This Week (5 G): 1-3, 6.67 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 42.0 GS, 1.35 K/BB, 6.33 K/9
The putrid K/BB ratio makes it impossible for the Twins' starters to keep their team in a game.  In all but one game, the starter has allowed at least 4 earned runs.

25. Philadelphia Phillies
This Week (5 G): 2-1, 6.58 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 46.2 GS, 6.40 K/BB, 11.08 K/9
Don't panic, Phils fans--this is a purely statistical exercise and it's only been one week. Still, back-to-back stinkers against the Mets by Joe Blanton and Cole Hamels (combined seven innings, 13 runs, 17 hits, four walks) put a little damper on the "best rotation ever" talk for a few days.

24. New York Mets
This Week (5 G): 2-1, 5.11 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 46.2 GS, 1.54 K/BB, 7.30 K/9
Two rough starts from Mike Pelfrey are weighing down a Mets rotation that dearly misses Johan Santana.  The 2-1 record is largely a product of surprising offensive production and R.A. Dickey's knuckleball.

23. Chicago White Sox
This Week (5 G): 2-1, 5.10 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 46.8 GS, 2.20 K/BB, 6.60 K/9
Staff ace Mark Buehrle's 1.73 ERA is not setting a good example for the rest of the White Sox staff; no starter has allowed fewer than seven hits/walks in a start yet this season on the South Side.

22. Kansas City Royals
This Week (6 G): 0-1, 5.05 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 44.3 GS, 2.38 K/BB, 4.80 K/9
Jeff Francis has been great for his new team (13.2 IP, 3 ER, 8 K, 2 BB), but the rest of the staff has failed to follow in his footsteps (6.95 ERA besides Francis).

21. Florida Marlins
This Week (5 G): 1-1, 4.39 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 46.4 GS, 1.14 K/BB, 5.40 K/9
Not really any great starts this week for the Marlins to balance out Javier Vasquez's stinker against the Mets--2.2 IP, seven runs (four earned), and five walks for an ERA of 15.4 and a WHIP of 4.72. Ouch.

20. Arizona Diamondbacks
This Week (5 G): 1-2, 4.65 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 49.4 GS, 1.46 K/BB, 5.52 K/9
The Diamondbacks are giving up fewer than a hit per inning, but they've also walked 13 batters in five starts, making for a mediocre WHIP and a less-than mediocre ERA.

19. Tampa Bay Rays
This Week (5 G): 0-5, 5.01 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 51.4 GS, 4.43 K/BB, 8.63 K/9
The Rays are striking out a lot of batters and walking very few.  But they're giving up moonshots to pretty much everyone else.

18. Los Angeles Dodgers
This Week (6 G): 3-3, 4.81 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 51.3 GS, 4.57 K/BB, 8.56 K/9
Clayton Kershaw has been great (3 earned runs in 13 innings), but Chad Billingsley has been anything but (8.00 ERA).  The staff-wide bright spot: only seven walks in six starts.

17. Chicago Cubs
This Week (6 G): 1-2, 4.26 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 51.5 GS, 3.08 K/BB, 8.76 K/9
Lots of strikeouts for this Cubs staff, including 12 by Matt Garza in his Cubs debut, but they're giving up too many hits thus far and have a lower-tier WHIP of 1.40.

16. Toronto Blue Jays
This Week (5 G): 3-1, 4.18 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 51.0 GS, 3.38 K/BB, 8.68 K/9
Kyle Drabek has been widely regarded as one of the top prospects in baseball, and his debut (7 innings, one hit, one run in a win over the Twins) can't be considered anything less than a smashing success.

15. San Diego Padres
This Week (5 G): 2-1, 3.34 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 51.0 GS, 1.75 K/BB, 4.25 K/9
Dustin Moseley took a tough loss at St. Louis this week, going 7 innings and only giving up one run, in what could be a theme for Padres pitchers all year--that is, if they can limit opposing teams to one run.

14. Colorado Rockies
This Week (4 G): 3-0, 3.47 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 52.3 GS, 1.71 K/BB, 4.63 K/9
Staff ace Ubaldo Jiminez was roughed up (6 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, and only 1 K) in his opening day start; that's not looking good for a starter trying to prove his bad second half last year was a fluke.  The rest of the staff was solid, though.

13. Washington Nationals
This Week (5 G): 1-2, 3.45 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 52.0 GS, 1.22 K/BB, 3.45 K/9
The low strikeout numbers will probably continue without Stephen Strasburg coming back in the forseeable future, and this ranking will probably drop without him as the season goes on.

12. Milwaukee Brewers
This Week: (6 G): 2-2, 3.72 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 48.4 GS, 1.33 K/BB, 5.14 K/9
Yovani Gallardo is off to a good start (16 innings, two earned runs), and this rotation would be higher if not for Randy Wolf (4 innings, 10 H, 6 ER against the Reds).

11. New York Yankees
This Week (5 G): 2-1, 4.18 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 52.8 GS, 3.29 K/BB, 7.39 K/9
A productive offense has helped the Yankees starters overcome a mediocre ERA, but a disappointing bullpen has simultaneously been holding them back.

10. St. Louis Cardinals
This Week (6 G): 1-3, 3.89 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 56.2 GS, 3.09 K/BB, 7.78 K/9
Besides Jake Westbrook's 8-run, 4.1-inning excretion is a solid staff that is still missing Adam Wainwright; the start by Jamie Garcia (complete-game shutout, four hits, two walks), is the gem of the season thus far.

9. Cincinnati Reds
This Week (5 G): 4-0, 4.36 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 55.0 GS, 3.22 K/BB, 8.42 K/9
No Aroldis Chapman yet, but that K/BB ratio was helped out big time by Bronson Arroyo and Travis Wood--the pair combined for 14 innings, 12 strikeouts, and no walks.

8. Seattle Mariners
This Week (6 G): 1-4, 2.98 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 56.2 GS, 3.71 K/BB, 5.95 K/9
On Opening Day, King Felix scored the only win for this Mariners' staff (with a complete game) and followed it up with a solid (7 IP, 2 ER) performance yesterday.  If the offense can get its act together, maybe the sub-3.00 ERA will count for something.

7. Oakland Athletics
This Week (5 G): 1-1, 2.76 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 54.6 GS, 2.00 K/BB, 6.06 K/9
Yes, the A's are just 1-4, but that hasn't been their rotation's fault--the team has wasted starts like Brett Anderson's 6 IP, 1R against the Mariners and McCarthy's 8 IP, 2 ER start against the Blue Jays.

6. Atlanta Braves
This Week (6 G): 1-3, 3.03 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 54.8 GS, 2.15 K/BB, 7.72 K/9
Braves fans have plenty to be excited about regarding their rotation, although Tommy Hanson's first start (3.2 IP, 4 R) against the Nationals wasn't exactly how you want to start the year.

5. Pittsburgh Pirates
This Week (6 G): 3-0, 2.23 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 55.2 GS, 1.00 K/BB, 4.49 K/9
Though the staff as a whole is averaging almost 4.5 walks per 9 innings, new Pirate Kevin Correia has given up only two earned runs in 13 innings; he got the win yesterday with seven shutout innings.

4. Texas Rangers
This Week (6 G): 5-0, 2.62 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 56.50 GS, 2.64 K/BB, 6.93 K/9
Not amongst the best WHIP on this list, but the Rangers' starters are limiting the damage and have a top-5 ERA in baseball thus far.

3. San Francisco Giants
This Week (6 G): 1-3, 2.33 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 58.8 GS, 3.27 K/BB, 9.35 K/9
Tim Lincecum is 1-1 despite an ERA and WHIP both under 0.80; Matt Cain (6 IP, 0 ER, W @ Dodgers) could be the key to another Giants World Series.

2. Los Angeles Angels
This Week (6 G): 3-0, 2.78 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 59.2 GS, 3.33 K/BB, 7.57 K/9
Jered Weaver and Dan Haren have been filthy for the Angels, allowing only three earned runs in 27.1 innings with a 0.73 WHIP.  If only Scott Kazmir (1.2 IP, 5 ER) hadn't imploded...

1. Baltimore Orioles
This Week (5 G): 3-1, 1.21 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 63.2 GS, 2.00 K/BB, 6.68 K/9
The Orioles have been the biggest surprise of the season, and their pitching numbers show why--the rotation ERA, WHIP, and average game scores are the best in the majors so far.

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