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March 14, 2014

Pebble Hunting

Sounding the Depths of Each Team's Rotation

by Sam Miller


The problem is, people get hurt. People get hurt, you’re going to expose your lack of depth. There just is no depth. There is no number six. If Joe Blanton pitches an inning this year it will be just a catastrophe for the Angels and I don’t knowShoemaker? Is that number six? Even in my ideal world I’m trying to figure out who is number six. Matt Welch, author of the Angels chapter in this year’s annual, on Effectively Wild.

Every fan thinks his team’s closer is especially shaky, every fan thinks his team’s shortstop should win a Gold Glove, and every fan worries about his team’s starting pitching depth. The last one is with good reason: Since 2000, only 34 teams—about 1.2 per league per year—have had five pitchers make 25 or more starts each in a season. (Of those 34, about 62 percent made the playoffs.) Which means that, as shaky as your favorite team’s fifth starter is, you are overwhelmingly likely to see an extended appearance by the even-shakier sixth starter. And, as Eno Sarris wrote this week, 65 percent of teams will have two starters injured at the same time, which means you and the even-shakier seventh starter are going to be getting acquainted with each other.

The Braves have already seen this happen—fortunately (?) for them, it happened just in time to sign Ervin Santana. What happens for each team if two of its starters get injured in the first week of the season and the sixth and seventh starters are suddenly put into play? An assessment of 30 teams’ sixth and seventh starters, categorized by level of personal tribulation suffered by Frank Grimes:

Methodology: Using BP’s depth charts, and adjusting in only a couple cases to reflect current realities, I identified two pitchers most likely to be called upon in case of injury to current rotation member. Pro-rated each pitcher’s WARP over 165 innings; summed, sorted.

Grimes’ College Diploma Nearly Stolen By a Bird pitching depth
A’s (Tommy Milone, Drew Pomeranz; 2.9 WARP)
Mets (Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero; 2.7 WARP)
Orioles (Zach Britton, Kevin Gausman; 2.0 WARP)
Braves (Freddy Garcia, Gavin Floyd; 3.1 WARP)
Blue Jays (Drew Hutchison, Todd Redmond; 1.8 WARP)

The A’s have two starters in reserve whom PECOTA projects to be considerably more valuable than the Angels’ no. 3, 4, and 5 starters. PECOTA is cautious with Gausman, but it’s not unreasonable to speculate that he could be their best pitcher this year; it’s not inconceivable that any injury to the starting staff could, in a very simple way of doing the arithmetic, actually improve them. Given the bad news they’ve received this month, the Braves’ depth will likely be stretched beyond Garcia and Floyd, and Floyd likely won’t be available until May. However, they start with starting depth a position of strength. As with the A’s and Orioles, an injury or two (if not three) would be more inconvenience than tragedy.

Grimes Impregnates Prostitute pitching depth
Cardinals (Jaime Garcia, Carlos Martinez; 1.8 WARP)
Cubs (James McDonald, Carlos Villanueva; 1.7 WARP)
Brewers (Will Smith, Tyler Thornburg; 1.7 WARP)
Royals (Danny Duffy, Wade Davis; 1.5 WARP)

In none of these cases is the season obituary likely to lead with “Everything went downhill after injuries hit the starting rotation.” All the teams could count on reasonable, major-league quality pitching. But each would consider it a heavy inconvenience to lean on this depth, partly because the switches would cannibalize the relief corps and/or move pitchers from a role in which they have excelled into a role in which they have struggled or are unproven. Still, something good could come of it.

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Related Content:  Starting Pitching,  Pitching Depth

24 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

docg16

What? No Mets? Normally I would not want to look at an article like this in March since as a Mets fan I need to work very hard to generate any optimism and this may crush it, however, I guess they still belong somewhere...even if you need to create a new category just for them.

Mar 14, 2014 04:17 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Sam Miller
BP staff

Huh. I guess I'd better put the Mets in. Fixing!

Mar 14, 2014 08:02 AM
 
Sharky

Way to go, Grimey!

Mar 14, 2014 04:41 AM
rating: 5
 
nriguardi

Why does BP hate the Mets

Mar 14, 2014 06:21 AM
rating: 5
 
Johnston

Good taste.

Mar 15, 2014 10:54 AM
rating: 5
 
nriguardi

Rafael Montero and Noah Syndegaard are some pretty good backup options

Mar 14, 2014 06:21 AM
rating: 1
 
kgbacengro

I know, finally something I actually wanted to see the Mets ranked in.

Mar 14, 2014 06:54 AM
rating: 2
 
Kyle Matte

Drew Hutchison is all but locked in as the #4 and rightfully so. The #5 will likely come down to a mud wrestling contest between Todd Redmond, Esmil Rogers, and the incumbent J.A. Happ, with the other two as the #6 and #7 options. Not sure how that changes your groupings but up north we're not particularly enthused about any of those three dudes right now.

Mar 14, 2014 07:24 AM
rating: 0
 
membengal

I am guessing if the pitching need arises in Cincy around the All-Star break, that it will be Robert Stephenson getting the call.

Mar 14, 2014 07:33 AM
rating: 0
 
TGT969

For the Pirates Wandy makes rotation with Locke as #6.

Mar 14, 2014 07:34 AM
rating: 1
 
thirteenthirteen

Pretty sure the Giants are expecting their #7 option (and possibly #6, if he has time for a few months of seasoning in AAA) to be Edwin Escobar.

Mar 14, 2014 08:52 AM
rating: 0
 
hankfiddich

I think there might be a typo with the Yanks

Yankees (Michael Pineda, Adam Warren; 3.8 WARP)

Wouldn't that WARP score put them at the top of this list.

I think it should be 1.2 based on what's on the depth charts, but with expanded use it could be higher.

Mar 14, 2014 09:34 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Sam Miller
BP staff

They are at the top of the list. I docked them because Pineda belongs more accurately in the "oh my gosh we're relying on this guy's tendons etc" category.

Mar 14, 2014 09:42 AM
 
klipzlskim

Next time you can map them to the travails of Gil Gunderson.

Mar 14, 2014 10:15 AM
rating: 2
 
bigchiefbc

Interesting that the Red Sox are so far down, most Sox fans I've spoken to have an extremely high level of confidence in the 6th, 7th and even 8th starters that will be called upon. Workman looked great in his 3 starts last summer before the Peavy trade, and the Sox love Allen Webster and will definitely give him another shot for to get a few starts.

Mar 14, 2014 10:19 AM
rating: 0
 
Ogremace

These are the same people who said Craig Hansen was gonna be an All Star.

Mar 15, 2014 19:58 PM
rating: 1
 
davestokley

And now the A's are gonna need it! Do me a favor and move the Tigers up there too.

Mar 14, 2014 13:59 PM
rating: 0
 
terryspen

Would the Marlins really go with Hand and Koehler if two pitchers went down for an extended period or would they call up Andrew Heaney and/or Justin Nicolino?

Mar 14, 2014 14:33 PM
rating: 1
 
Blackmax

Sam, are you personally and officially designating James McDonald as an above replacement level pitcher? If so, why in the world would you do that?

Mar 14, 2014 17:17 PM
rating: 0
 
fawcettb
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

This would have been a lot more useful without the distraction of the self-consciously witty headings. It also appears to expose PECOTA as a blunt instrument (again...)

Mar 15, 2014 06:50 AM
rating: -4
 
Ogremace

Does that really affect its usefulness? I mean, you can't figure it out?

Mar 15, 2014 19:59 PM
rating: 1
 
Plucky

Montgomery Burns called and asked for his sense of humor back

Mar 17, 2014 12:07 PM
rating: 0
 
oldbopper

At what level does a replacement player perform? Using Joe Blanton for 15 starts would put him at a -15.0 WARP, not the -0.8 that he is listed at.

Mar 16, 2014 13:04 PM
rating: 0
 
Pat Folz

-15 Wins, but a replacement-level pitcher would lose those games slightly better.

Mar 16, 2014 23:55 PM
rating: 0
 
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