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.

Sign-stealing penalties could be ‘unlike anything seen in the sport’s recent history’

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Early this morning we learned that Major League Baseball was planning to talk to former Astros Carlos Beltrán and Alex Cora as part of the sign-stealing investigation. Late this morning Jeff Passan of ESPN reported that the investigation is, actually, going to go much wider than that.

Passan reports that Major League Baseball will not limit its focus to the 2017 Astros, who were the subject of the report in The Athletic on Tuesday. Rather, it will also include members of the 2019 Astros and will extend to other teams as well. Passan specifically mentions the 2018 Red Sox which, of course, were managed by Alex Cora one year after he left Houston, where he was A.J. Hinch’s bench coach.

Oh, it also includes recently-fired Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman, who the league plans to interview but who, Passan says, has hired a lawyer. Which is sort of interesting in its own right, but let’s stay on topic.

Passan:

The league is attempting to cull tangible evidence from the widespread paranoia of front offices and teams around the game about others cheating and has indicated it will consider levying long suspensions against interviewees who are found to have lied, sources said . . . The penalties for illegal activity are determined by commissioner Rob Manfred, though if the league can prove wrongdoing, the severity could be unlike anything seen in the sport’s recent history, sources said.

The Cardinals were fined $2 million when an employee, Chris Correa, hacked the Astros computer system. Correa, of course, was permanently banned from baseball and served prison time. Former Braves GM John Coppolella was likewise given a permanent ban for lying about the team’s circumvention of international signing rules. If Passan’s source is right and the league is going to level heavy penalties here, that’s where you have to start, I imagine.

To me, the stuff about Coppolella’s lying and the bit about interviewees lying mentioned in the block quote is key.

Will anyone have the hammer brought down upon them for being responsible for stealing signs? Hard to say. But they likely will if they are not forthcoming with league investigators. Which is actually a pretty decent way to handle things when one is conducting an internal investigation. Maybe you don’t give amnesty to wrongdoers in the name of information-gathering, but you do signal to them that cooperation is incentivized and lack of cooperation will be punished.

It’s an approach, by the way, that Major League Baseball notably did not take in the course of its PED investigations a decade ago. That led to a final report that had massive gaps in information and caused the league to focus on and publicize only the lowest-hanging fruit. As I argued at the time, if information-gathering, as opposed to P.R. considerations was its true aim, MLB would’ve handled it differently.

In the early stages here, in contrast, it does sound like baseball is taking this seriously. That’s a good thing.