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.

Aledmys Diaz is trying to improve his defense with strobe glasses

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MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.

Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.

The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.

Eduardo Rodriguez could rejoin the Red Sox rotation in July

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Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.

The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.

He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.