Ranking the rotations: 2012 edition

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Last year’s attempt was quite a hit, so let’s try it again, with a somewhat different methodology. Here’s how the 30 rotations stack up, according to my projections. I’ll go strictly by ERA here, taking the top five pitchers on the staff. Along with the ERA totals are the combined inning projections for the five starters.

1. Phillies: 3.39 (1001 1/3)
2. Cardinals: 3.648 (942 1/3)
3. Giants: 3.649 (994)
4. Angels: 3.68 (990 2/3)
5. Rays: 3.69 (995 2/3)
6. Nationals: 3.70 (908 2/3)
7. Red Sox: 3.70 (869)
8. Braves: 3.71 (974 1/3)
9. Marlins: 3.74 (953 1/3)
10. Dodgers: 3.77 (927 2/3)
11. Brewers: 3.81 (952 1/3)
12. Tigers: 3.83 (939)
13. Yankees: 3.89 (991)
14. Mariners: 3.93 (923 2/3)
15. Diamondbacks: 3.93 (991 1/3)
16. Reds: 3.94 (916 1/3)
17. Padres: 3.97 (863 1/3)
18. Rangers: 3.98 (951 2/3)
19. White Sox: 4.04 (860)
20. Athletics: 4.07 (800)
21. Cubs: 4.08 (967 1/3)
22. Mets: 4.08 (926)
23. Blue Jays: 4.10 (880 2/3)
24. Indians: 4.12 (942)
25. Pirates: 4.18 (820 1/3)
26. Rockies: 4.24 (818)
27. Astros: 4.24 (953)
28. Twins: 4.28 (900)
29. Royals: 4.32 (890 2/3)
30. Orioles: 4.36 (915 1/3)

Of course, there’s no factoring for league and ballpark there. There’s also no accounting for depth beyond the top five. So, while the Rays come in ever so slightly behind the Angels here, the quality of the Rays’ sixth and seventh starters would push them ahead in a subjective ranking. In fact, let’s do a more subjective ranking:

1. Phillies
2. Rays
3. Angels
4. Giants
5. Cardinals
6. Braves
7. Yankees
8. Tigers
9. Rangers
10. Red Sox
11. Marlins
12. Brewers
13. Nationals
14. Diamondbacks
15. Dodgers
16. Reds
17. Mariners
18. Indians
19. White Sox
20. Cubs
21. Blue Jays
22. Mets
23. Rockies
24. Padres
25. Athletics
26. Orioles
27. Pirates
28. Twins
29. Royals
30. Astros

The top five was pretty easy, but six through 12 was a mess. I have the Red Sox with a nice ERA, but that’s partly because of a generous Daniel Bard projection (3.53 ERA in 155 1/3 IP) and because I don’t have them with a certain fifth starter dragging them down (right now it’s Vicente Padilla with a 4.31 ERA in 131 2/3 IP). So, they drop here. The Nationals are kind of in the same boat, since their best starter, Stephen Strasburg, is projected to throw 168 2/3 innings.

Meanwhile, the Yankees and Rangers, both getting held back by their ballparks in the ERA projections, rise here. The Rangers certainly come with some risk — I have Yu Darvish and Nettali Feliz finishing with the best ERAs on the staff — but they also have more depth than most. The Yankees also get bonus points for having seven major league starters.

I’m sure fans of teams at the bottom will be annoyed. Kansas City’s rotation actually looks better than it has in years, and the Orioles at least have some upside after importing a couple of NPB pitchers to battle their youngsters. As for the Twins, well, I really don’t think much of Jason Marquis or Nick Blackburn. The Padres are getting dinged because I’m not sure any of their starters are a good bet to throw 190-200 innings.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.