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Before I get started, let me thank whatever merciful higher power that’s responsible for finally snuffing out the soul-murdering, unspeakably played out Sex and the City

Since the recent signing of Greg Maddux by the Cubs, a flurry of “who’s got the best rotation” navel-gazing has ensued. In mainstream circles, the debate has generally come down to a derby comprising the Red Sox, Cubs, A’s and Astros, with the Yankees thrown in on occasion. Rather than listen to me pontificate on who I think has the best starting five, let’s see what the PECOTA 2004 Weighted-Mean Projections say. We’ll take the VORP for each projected member of the rotation and use the team totals to determine the rankings. For some clubs, the back spot or two of the rotation is up for grabs, but, irrespective of who comes out of the spring-training wash, the rankings aren’t likely to be substantially altered.

And here’s how they shake out:


Rank    Team                    Total Rotation VORP
1.      Red Sox                 217.4
2.      Cubs                    191.9
3.      Yankees                 188.2
4.      A's                     151.8
5.      Astros                  148.9
6.      Mariners                122.4
7.      Phillies                120.2
8.      Angels                  118.2
9.      Twins                   114.0
10.     Blue Jays               112.6
11.     Diamondbacks            106.1
12.     White Sox               102.6
13.     Dodgers                  98.7
14.     Marlins                  94.1
15.     Cardinals                93.3
16.     Padres                   90.1
17.     Royals                   89.5
18.     Giants                   87.3
19.     Expos                    70.7
20.     Orioles                  70.0
21.     Pirates                  65.9
22.     Braves                   64.3
22.     Mets                     64.3
24.     Indians                  59.7
25.     Rangers                  57.7
26.     Rockies                  48.8
27.     Brewers                  43.3
28.     Reds                     42.3
29.     Devil Rays               41.8
30.     Tigers                   37.3                  

Some ruminations on the data…

  • The staggering VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) projection of Boston’s Pedro Martinez (70.0) is better than that of the entire rotation of 10 other teams (including the sum total of the state of Ohio).
  • Only two projected members of Opening Day rotations, Jimmy Haynes of the Reds (-5.2) and Wes Obermuller of the Brewers (-2.3), have negative projected VORPs.
  • PECOTA projects only a 7.0 VORP for Jon Lieber, which sounds a bit low. He seems like a good bet to heartily out-perform the projection, and the Yanks could wind up with a better corps than the Cubs.
  • Besides having what’s likely the best lineup in the senior circuit, the Phillies also project as having one of the best rotations.
  • Ben Sheets stands out on an otherwise sub-optimal Brewers rotation. Of the 43.3 rotation VORP, Sheets supplies 31.4 of it, or 72.5%.
  • PECOTA says the second-best starter on the Angels isn’t Jarrod Washburn, Kelvim Escobar or Ramon Ortiz; rather, it’s John Lackey, who’s tabbed for a VORP of 25.1.
  • We know that the Blue Jays can knock the crap out of the ball, but it may come as a surprise that PECOTA tabs them as having the seventh-best rotation in the AL. It’s possible the best three teams in baseball may all be in the AL East.
  • Maddux will indeed strengthen the Cubs’ rotation. But the addition of Curt Schilling, combined with incumbents Martinez, Derek Lowe and Tim Wakefield, projects to top them all.