FanPost

Possible 2013 Rotations Compared to American League Average

There has been a lot of talk about how pitchers slot into different roles (i.e. a "Number 4" starter or an "Ace") but I think it might be more useful to think about the starting pitching as a staff with an overall performance level and not get too caught up on how that performance is distributed throughout the rotation. Accordingly, I will go through a handful of potential offseason scenarios, and offer very rough projections (basically three year averages of xFIP) of how each possible starting rotation as a whole might stack up against the rest of the league. I will start with the best case scenario and work down from there. Also, I will not include projections for Paulino or Duffy coming back from injury or for Odorizzi coming up from AAA. Odorizzi has a FIP of 4.10 in AAA and Duffy had an xFIP of 4.79 this year before getting hurt. Thus, it is not clear that either one would immediately improve the rotation next year anyway.

Scenario 1: Two Good FA Starters

This is an admittedly very unlikely scenario in which Moore acquires two legitimately good FA pitchers. I would include people like Anibal Sanchez, Shaun Marcum, Edwin Jackson, etc. to be in this tier. Over the last three years, starters of this rough caliber have averaged an xFIP of around 3.70 . A starting rotation with two signings like this might look like:

FA #1 - 3.70

FA #2 - 3.70

Hochevar - 4.30

Mendoza - 4.50

Chen - 4.70

Overall xFIP: 4.18 Runs Below Average (based on SP pitching 2/3 of total innings): 3 (less than half of a win)

Scenario 2: One Good FA SP and One "Project" SP

I would consider this scenario signing one guy from the pool described above, and one from the pool of guys like Ben Sheets, Erik Bedard, Joe Blanton, etc. I will arbitrarily assign an xFIP of 4.10 to players like this. Surveying a few of these types of guys, that might be a little optimistic because of potential injury concerns, but this whole post is not that scientific anyway.

FA #1 - 3.70

FA #2 - 4.10

Hochevar - 4.30

Mendoza - 4.50

Chen - 4.70

Overall xFIP: 4.26 Runs Below Average: 12 (one win)

Scenario 3: One Good FA Pitcher

FA #1 - 3.70

Hochevar - 4.30

Mendoza - 4.50

Chen - 4.70

Smith / Other - 4.50 *I think Smith is likely a better pitcher than Chen, but Chen will certainly start over Smith

Overall xFIP: 4.34 Runs Below Average: 21 (two wins)

Scenario 4 (aka "What Will Actually Happen"): Resign Jeremy Guthrie

Hochevar - 4.30

Mendoza - 4.50

Guthrie - 4.60

Chen - 4.70

Smith / Other - 4.50

Overall xFIP: 4.52 Runs Below Average: 40 (four wins)

Analysis:

If the Royals sign two good FA pitchers, the starting rotation has a good chance to be roughly average. If they sign a good starting pitcher and a "project" starter, then they will be about one win below average. If they sign one good starter and no one else, they will likely be two wins below average, and if they do something like resign Jeremy Guthrie and add nobody else, they will be four wins below average. For comparison, the starting rotation is on pace to be about five wins below average (by xFIP) this year.

Assuming the bullpen is above average at a similar rate to this year, it will be about 11 runs above average. That translates into roughly one win.

The lineup will have a few question marks, primarily at first and second base and right field. If we assume replacement level production from those positions (admittedly an upgrade at each position) the Royals are on pace to produce about 22 WAR with their lineup. Incidentally, that is about what the average AL team's lineup has produced over the last three years.

It doesn't seem implausible that the Royals could league average production from those positions with some sort of Getz/Gio platoon, Hosmer playing better, and Myers replacing Francouer. That might be optimistic, but it is certainly plausible. In that scenario, the Royals lineup would be six wins above average. Paired with their bullpen, that would put the Royals at roughly 89 wins in an optimistic scenario. Over the last five years, that would have won the division once, and made the wild card (under the new rules) once, been tied for the division and wild card once, and been tied for only the wild card once. This translates to a roughly 50% chance of actually playing in a division series.

Unfortunately, those 89 (optimistic) wins don't account for the starting pitching. The best case scenario doesn't hurt the win total, but it doesn't help it, either, even if the two FAs stay healthy. This is actually somewhat depressing. If the Royals sign two legitimately good FA SPs, and 2B, 1B, and RF all turn in 2 WAR production, and no other position drops off, they still only have a 50% chance to play in a divisional playoff series.

The most likely FA SP scenarios are numbers 3 and 4. Those would put the Royals at about 87 and 85 wins, respectively, again assuming the otherwise rosy projections. Based on outcomes over the last five years, an 87 win performance would give the Royals about a 15% chance of playing in a divisional series, while 85 wins would give them zero chance. In other words, if the Royals sign one good FA SP, and everything else breaks their way, they will still have only a 15% chance to play in a divisional series. If they do not sign a good FA SP, they will not make the playoffs even if they replace the cumulative -3 WAR at 1B, 2B, and RF with +6 WAR next year without a drop off anywhere else.

Others have demonstrated previously why signing a FA SP to a large contract is not a good idea unless a team is very close to contending. I would argue that the Royals are not one, but two good SPs away from contending. Therefore, I do not think they should sign a good FA SP this offseason unless 1) they sign two of them, or 2) it will be significantly cheaper to sign one this year and one next year instead of signing two next year. Finally, I would like to thank anyone who made it all the way through this long-winded and poorly organized FanPost.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Royals Review community. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors and writers of this site.

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