Local 610 Sports morning radio host Bob Fescoe posted on his Facebook page that Bruce Chen will be the 2012 Opening Day starter for the Royals (in Anaheim). Though I think some of the ire in response was misplaced as this was likely done so that Hochevar can start the home opener, there were some nuggets in the discussion.
One thing that kept getting bandied about is the notion of position in the starting rotation. Specifically, comments were made such as:
"Tells you we dont have the pitching to play with The Tigers.What would Chen be on that staff? 4# starter?"
"We need better pitching and hochevar is a 4th starter on most other teams at best"
I remember seeing a breakdown on FanGraphs after 2010 that ranked starters by their FIP and broke out "tiers" to determine where the performance of a "#1," #2, #3, etc. starter would theoretically be. If that was done after this past season on FG, I wouldn't know, because it's not very searchable, or I'm not using the right keywords to find it in a Google search.
So I decided to peek at the 2011 ERAs and FIPs for American League starters with at least 100 innings pitched. I also looked at only "qualifying" starters (162 innings), but only Hochevar and Francis pitched enough innings to qualify for an AL ERA title last season.
What I found is here.
70 starting pitchers that eerily break out into 5 even tiers of 14 pitchers, an average of exactly 5 pitchers per team. And mercifully no Kyle Davies. Try to get that to happen twice. So I threw in some breakpoints to determine the theoretical starting pitcher "tiers."
|3.22 - 3.75||3.43 - 3.83|
|3.76 - 4.33||3.84 - 4.12|
|4.34 - 4.82||4.13 - 4.54|
The results for the 2011 Royals staff:
So a #3 w/ SSS (Paulino), three #4's (Francis, Hochevar, and Chen), and a #5 Duffy.
I then averaged the projected 2012 ERA and FIP for the projected Royals rotation using all of the systems listed on Fangraphs (other than "Fans"), and saw where things shook out:
|2012 Royals Projections||ERA||FIP|
Potential #3's in Paulino and Sanchez, #4's in Hochevar, Duffy, and Chen, and a #5 in Mendoza. Given that some will outperform and some will under-perform the projections, the general tiers of the Royals starters don't look that much different than 2011's staff.
Just to make sure I wasn't being especially harsh on the Royals here, I looked at the Tigers' 2012 projections:
|2012 Tigers Projections||ERA||FIP|
You could almost say they have a "textbook" rotation with #1 Verlander, #2 Fister, #3 Scherzer, #4 Porcello, and #5 Oliver. Of course, the goal would be to have as many starters in the #1-#3 range as possible.
Conclusion: The Facebook posters are correct, and Chen and Hochevar project to be in 2012, and were in 2011, no better than #4 starters in the American League.