Stephen Strasburg

Ranking the rotations: 2014 edition

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I’ll be dipping into my Rotoworld player projections from time to time for HBT posts. Here’s the first of this year: my ranking of each five-man rotation as we head into 2014.

Before actually posting my 1-30, I’ll start with my raw ERA rankings by league. A couple of qualifications: I’m only using the top five for each team, so depth beyond that is being ignored. Of course, the teams with quality depth outside the top five are going to do pretty well here anyway. On the other hand, this method does help teams that still have rotation spots to be decided. For example, I have the Yankees fifth starter as David Phelps, but he’s projected for just 106 innings at the moment. If he were projected at 180 instead, the rotation’s collective ERA would be higher. The Mariners are also overrated here, since Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma are responsible for 48 percent of the 857 innings in the sample below.

AL
Tigers: 3.38 in 991 IP
Rays: 3.40 in 919 IP
Mariners: 3.59 in 856 2/3 IP
Athletics: 3.65 in 912 IP
Yankees: 3.73 in 895 IP
Indians: 3.75 in 862 1/3 IP
Angels: 3.78 in 871 1/3 IP
Red Sox: 3.80 in 951 IP
Rangers: 3.83 in 812 2/3 IP
White Sox: 3.85 in 897 2/3 IP
Royals: 3.94 in 940 IP
Blue Jays: 4.06 in 847 IP
Orioles: 4.10 in 845 1/3 IP
Twins: 4.16 in 804 2/3 IP
Astros: 4.34 in 893 2/3 IP

NL
Dodgers: 3.306 in 958 1/3 IP
Nationals: 3.312 in 1002 2/3 IP
Cardinals: 3.369 in 940 1/3 IP
Braves: 3.371 in 918 1/3 IP
Reds: 3.509 in 977 1/3 IP
Padres: 3.513 in 894 IP
Giants: 3.52 in 941 2/3 IP
Pirates: 3.60 in 865 2/3 IP
Marlins: 3.63 in 863 2/3 IP
Phillies: 3.68 in 895 2/3 IP
Mets: 3.77 in 875 1/3 IP
Diamondbacks: 3.78 in 929 2/3 IP
Brewers: 3.939 in 930 IP
Cubs: 3.945 in 940 IP
Rockies: 4.15 in 872 1/3 IP

There were a bunch of virtual ties on the NL list, requiring the extra digit. The Nationals came in just behind the Dodgers, but that’s with an extra 44 innings. The Cardinals and Braves were also in pretty much a dead heat for the third spot.

Using those ERAs as a guideline and adjusting for league, defense, ballpark and my own personal whims, here’s how I’m ranking the rotations:

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

Some thoughts:

– The Tigers elevated the Nationals from fifth to second by gifting them Doug Fister, yet still had the artillery to claim the top spot. I’m expecting much better from Rick Porcello because of his improved K rate and the much better infield defense behind him. I also don’t see Drew Smyly dragging them down very far in his new role.

– The top three NL teams are all close, and I’d swing the edge over to the Cardinals if I were considering a team’s entire rotation picture. With Carlos Martinez and Joe Kelly likely in reserve, they’re going to be able to weather any storm. Of course, the Nationals aren’t bad there either with Taylor Jordan, Tanner Roark and Nathan Karns behind Ross Detwiler. And the Dodgers have Chad Billingsley potentially on the way back from Tommy John surgery in May or June.

– I love the Braves’ upside if Brandon Beachy stays healthy and Alex Wood can hang in the rotation most of the year. Those are question marks, though.

– Pre-Tanaka, the Yankees probably would have come in 20th or so.

– The Rangers are down about four spots because of Derek Holland’s knee injury.

– The Mets’ rotation is plenty intriguing, but the only one of their five starters I have throwing 190 innings is the guy I expect to be the weakest of the bunch, Dillon Gee. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Jenrry Mejia can do, assuming he wins the fifth spot.

– I don’t buy the idea that the Twins’ shopping spree is going to do them a lot of good. They would have actually fared better here had they passed on re-signing Mike Pelfrey and traded Kevin Correia.

Video: Nelson Cruz hits second-longest home run of 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Nelson Cruz #23 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his solo homerun with Daniel Vogelbach #20 of the Seattle Mariners to take a 2-1 lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the seventh inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 14, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.

It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.

Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.

Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.

Report: John Farrell won’t rule out a postseason return for Pablo Sandoval

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 11:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout before the Red Sox home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 9-7.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.

On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.

At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.

If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.

Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.

Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.