keyboard_arrow_uptop

Last year Sam did some analysis to identify which teams had the most effective depth in their starting rotation. Sam noted just how fragile starting rotations are: that only about one team per league per year gets 25 starts out of all five starters, and most of the teams that do make the playoffs. He also linked to an article by Eno Sarris that found two-thirds of teams will have two starters get hurt at the same time—in other words, will need not just a sixth starter but a seventh at some point each season.

With the glut of recent injuries to key starting pitchers (Darvish, Lee, Stroman, etc.) teams are again reminded that no plan is strong enough to withstand 60 Newton meters of valgus stress. And so we will make an attempt to see which teams are best positioned to manage the loss of two key starters.

Below is an assessment of 30 teams’ sixth and seventh starters, categorized by level of personal tribulation suffered by Frank Grimes. how they would do in the event of an apocalypse.

Methodology: Using BP’s depth charts, and adjusting in only a couple cases to reflect current realities, we identified two pitchers likely to be called upon in case of injury to current rotation member. We pro-rated each pitcher’s WARP over 165 innings; summed, sorted. I also made an effort to not include guys who won’t be available until midseason (like Matt Moore), since they don’t fit the spirit of this exercise. Also, no adjustments were made for the recent injuries announced by the Rangers, Phillies, or Blue Jays. After all, they’re just getting a head start on bringing along their sixth and seventh starters.

Doomsday Prepper pitching depth

Cubs (Kyle Hendricks, Jacob Turner) 3.4 WARP
Angels (Nick Tropeano, Andrew Heaney) 3.9 WARP
Indians (Zach McAllister, Josh Tomlin) 2.6 WARP
Diamondbacks (Chase Anderson, Randall Delgado) 2.2 WARP
Mets (Noah Syndergaard, Dillon Gee) 1.7 WARP

If these teams were people, they would be the ones who are on a first-name basis with the guy at the counter at the local military surplus store. They have plenty of “food” in storage for a rainy day, you know, just in case. The Cubs are the editors of the self-published Survivalist magazine, as beyond Hendricks and Turner—both solid options—they also have Tsuyoshi Wada, who pitched well last year. (Good thing, too. Turner’s elbow is already barking.) The Angels are the most improved on this list, having risen from our lowest tier last spring, and having last September relied on a series of all-hands-on-deck bullpen starts to clinch the AL West. The other six pitchers listed in this tier would all fit adequately in the fourth spot of some second-division team’s rotation.

Ex-Military/SWAT/Etc. pitching depth

Padres (Odrisamer Despaigne, Robbie Erlin) 1.8 WARP
Twins (Tim Stauffer, Alex Meyer) 1.9 WARP
Cardinals (Jaime Garcia, Marco Gonzalez) 1.7 WARP
Dodgers (Juan Nicasio, Joe Wieland) 1.6 WARP
Marlins (David Phelps, Brad Hand) 2.0 WARP
Giants (Yusmeiro Petit, Ryan Vogelsong) 1.3 WARP
Athletics (Chris Bassitt, Jesse Hahn) 1.7 WARP

These teams aren’t really prepared for a specific apocalyptic scenario per se, but they could pretty much get their post-apocalyptic survival thing going with minimal effort. They’re well trained and will figure things out if they need to. The Padres and Giants have each had one of their best 2014 starters squeezed out of crowded rotations, while the Twins and Cardinals each have a top prospect in the high minors ready to go (or to contribute in the bullpen in the meantime). The Marlins have the benefit of the world’s swingiest swingman, “our bedrock… in a chaotic and frightening world,” as this year’s BP Annual put it. Like the group above, each team typically pairs a capable veteran with a top prospect, promising both dependability and upside depending on the nature of the need. The biggest issue here is that the capable vets aren’t quite as good, but still these teams would likely be in decent shape despite losing two starters.

Outdoor Enthusiast pitching depth

Astros (Dan Straily, Asher Wojciechowski) 1.4 WARP
Mariners (Danny Hultzen, Roenis Elias) 1.2 WARP
Royals (Yohan Pino, Brandon Finnegan) 1.4 WARP
Nationals (Tanner Roark, Blake Treinen) 1.1 WARP

The equivalent of the guy who prudently put together a Go-Bag for the inevitable day he has to Go!, but that was four years ago and everything in it has since expired. Even the Purell—Purell has an expiration date! Still, expired Purell is better than hose water, and in the end this guy’s probably going to be okay. Roark is the exception in the group, as he is arguably good enough to push the Nationals up a tier or two on his own, but even he has a short track record of success, just like every other pitcher on this list. Ultimately, Hultzen and Finnegan are the half-cooked pitchers you’d desperately like to avoid in emergency call-ups, not just because they probably aren’t ready to contribute but because their teams would prefer to spend this season developing them so they will be ready someday. Hultzen’s also a good example of a particular species of pitcher you tend to see on these lists: The “depth” that comes with so many injury warnings that they require an extra layer of depth for when they break. The reigning king of this species is probably Matt Harrison, which, speaking of whom…

Doomsday Prepper Who Is Unfortunately Allergic To Grass, Sunlight and Bottled Water pitching depth

Rangers (Lisalverto Bonilla, Matt Harrison) 2.2 WARP

Boy, it looks better in a projection than it does in reality.

Self-Taught Survivalist pitching depth

Red Sox (Henry Owens, Robbie Ross) 1.3 WARP
Phillies (Chad Billingsley, Miguel Gonzalez) 1.0 WARP
Blue Jays (Todd Redmond, Liam Hendricks) 1.0 WARP

What this group lacks in practical experience, they make up for with internet-provided knowledge. They may have never camped a day in their life, but they know the proper technique for constructing a fallout shelter from twigs and leaves and that has to be worth something. The bummer for each team is that their starting pitching is already a question mark without anything bad happening to it. That the understudies for all three teams combined to make just 18 major-league starts last year makes the stakes all the higher. Expect to hear a trade rumor or two around these teams before the season begins, or else the GMs to start prepping “we really believe in insert AAA player here” quotes now.

Millennial pitching depth

White Sox (Carlos Rodon, Erik Johnson) 0.9 WARP
Braves (Josh Outman, Daniel Winkler) 0.8 WARP
Tigers (Tom Gorzelanny, Kyle Lobstein) 0.8 WARP
Yankees (Chase Whitley, Ivan Nova) 0.7 WARP
Rays (Burch Smith, Alex Colome) 0.7 WARP

Let’s be honest. Millennials are ill-suited to surviving a large-scale extinction event. I say this as a card-carrying member of the millennial generation, but come on. We’re all glued to our phones, best friends with Google, and use apps as our yule log come Christmastime. Much like Millennials, this group of teams is in pretty bad shape if something bad were to happen to a couple of their starters. (The White Sox are obviously the possible exception, but one is cautious projecting a saves-the-day season from a pitcher with six professional starts.) Unfortunately for these teams, they don’t make an app for acquiring decent no. 6 starters, so things will go downhill pretty quickly.

“I give up” pitching depth

Brewers (Tyler Thornburg, Taylor Jungmann) 0.3 WARP
Rockies (Jonathan Gray, David Hale) 0.0 WARP
Reds (Dylan Axelrod, Anthony DeSclafini) -0.3 WARP
Pirates (Brandon Cumpton, Jeff Locke) -0.3 WARP
Orioles (Ubaldo Jimenez, Dylan Bundy) -0.5 WARP

So whenever our family dinner table conversation inevitably turns to post-apocalyptic scenarios, my mother replies that she’d rather not endure the difficulties that come with life in a barren wasteland. This feeling, I imagine, is shared by the Brewers, Rockies, Reds, Pirates, and Orioles. Now, not all of these teams are created equal. The Brewers, Rockies, and Reds have put themselves in this situation to some degree by trading away pitching. For them, this won’t be a real surprise. The Pirates, on the other hand, take a shotgun approach to replacing pitchers that have suffered hypothetical injuries, while the O’s have invested a tremendous amount in the two pitchers listed, but seen a lot of things go wrong on the way to here. So while the O’s and Pirates hope and pray that maybe there’s a Four Seasons still operating just over the hill, the other clubs here have likely consigned themselves to their inevitable fate. They say being zombified is painless.

Notes: Pitching depth charts are, of course, fluid, and while we did our best to identify numbers six and seven, the teams themselves don’t necessarily even know who those pitchers are right now. Further, depth doesn’t stop at seven. So we acknowledge the limitations here.

You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
Muboshgu
3/12
Robbie Erlin mentioned for Seattle... Did you by some chance mean Roenis Elias? Both are R.E.
Muboshgu
3/12
Also Brandon Cumpton just had TJS two days ago.
BSLJeffLong
3/12
I knew I missed at least one! Ugh. Next man up in PIT would be either Kingham (-0.3 WARP) or Stolmy Pimentel (-1.3). So, there's that.
BSLJeffLong
3/12
For reference - Cumpton was 0.0 WARP over 165 IP.
Muboshgu
3/12
It proves your point about how fast pitching depth evaporates!
therealn0d
3/12
There was once a saying: the best way to develop a major league pitcher is to start with five minor league pitchers. Works for staffs, too.
lyricalkiller
3/12
Yes
bosox18
3/12
Pretty sure Robbie Ross is about ninth on the list of emergency starters for the Red Sox.
lyricalkiller
3/12
Jeff's process tried to balance likelihood of use with the most generous projection we could give each team. So while, say, Write and Barnes are more likely to get an extended spot in the rotation, the projections for them are worse. Generally speaking -- and this isn't to say that there aren't bad guesses in an exercise like this -- but predicting a seventh starter in March is very, very difficult. Like predicting who will be the left-handed bench bat if the team makes the playoffs. So as a blanket response, this is a estimate at the team's bestish outcome from its depth.
BSLJeffLong
3/12
Well yes. So the idea was we sort of used PECOTA as our guide and adjusted manually as little as possible. And PECOTA likes Ross (0.3 WARP over 165 IP) more than guys like Eduardo Rodriguez (0.0), Zeke Spruill (0.0), Matt Barnes (-0.6), or Steven Wright (-2.8).
BrettLarter
3/12
This is particularly interesting as an Orioles fan as everyone complains that we have 6 starting pitchers and only 5 slots, so how will the Orioles sort out all of the depth, especially when Bundy comes along? Evidently it's not a big issue.
BSLJeffLong
3/13
As an expert on the Orioles I can tell you that the O's bigger issue is that they have 5 #4 starters, and that's my assuming Gausman jumps into 2/3 territory this season.
Asinwreck
3/12
Isn't Jameson Taillon due to be available in April? Does his presence merit mention for the Pirates' situation?
BSLJeffLong
3/13
We felt Taillon was a bit too far off, but if he were available he'd be a much better option (as far as PECOTA is concerned) at ~-0.2 over 165 innings (back of the envelop).
jonraypyle
3/12
I would like to adress the notion that Millennials would be poor survivalists. yes, we love our cell phones. yes, the lack of TV and Interwebs would be a big struggle. BUT...who was raised on Survivorman and Bear Grylls? Mellennials. Who binge watches Walking dead and countless zombie flicks? Millennials. Who actually watches doomsday preppers on TV? Millennials. Who most recently spent time being a poor college student(or post college) student with the ability to ration $20 across a whole week of food and beer????? Millennials. /quits the internet forever /im sorry
BSLJeffLong
3/12
Congratulations! You've moved up to the Self-taught Survivalist category!
mvolber
3/14
I just about died laughing at your reply, Jeff. (I am a non-Millenial but caused that generation.)
Akalhar
3/12
Matt Harrison is mentioned as the Rangers pitching depth? If he throws another inning in the major leagues ever, I'd be pleasantly surprised. A more realistic choice might be Ranaudo. Oh wait. He just broke today. Wouldn't it be amazing if the Rangers only needed a 6th or 7th starter, instead of a 22nd and 23rd starter?
lewist
3/13
Great list and interesting take. The Nick Tropeano trade looks just as bad (for the Astros) here as it did in reality! I would contend Tyler Thornburg is out of the running as a SP in milwaukee, especially after he really shined in relief and then spent 3/4 of the year on DL with a UCL partial tear. I know everyone says he's next in line but I don't buy it. Hiram Burgos maybe is next?
BSLJeffLong
3/13
Either Hellweg or Burgos I suppose. Hellweg (-2.1) would be pretty bad. Burgos comes out to about -0.9 over 165 innings with a back off the envelop calculation.
gtgator
3/13
Presuming Wandy and Stults grab 4 and 5 spots out of ST, the Braves next 3 are Folty, Banuelos and Martin. And once Minor returns, whomever is bumped would become long man and add to the mix. Additionally, Outman was signed to be a LOOGY (look at his platoon splits) and Winkler had TJS and is out for at least the first half of the year. Neither of them are going to start a game for the Braves unless it is September (Russell will get a shot before Outman will). Now, this may not change the Braves tier placement. But you should have the correct names under consideration when making that determination.
BSLJeffLong
3/13
So on the depth charts the Braves rotation is: Teheran, Minor, Miller, Wood, Folty. That leaves Stults, Wandy, Banuelos, Jenkins, Sims as spot start options. We also have Outman as a long man, which, if that is his role in the bullpen then he'd likely be first man up to start. That said, here are the WARP over 165 IP for the rest of the Braves options: Banuelos -0.5 Sims -1.0 Jenkins -3.0 Wandy - 0.0 Stults - 0.0 So Wandy & Stults are definitely the best options IF they aren't in the rotation already.
gtgator
3/13
Just trying to help. But Outman isn't the long man and was signed to be a LOOGY (http://www.ajc.com/news/sports/baseball/braves-sign-lefty-reliever-outman/njh4K/). And you're forgetting Cody Martin had a nice spot start in lieu of Minor on Sunday and is pushing his way into the conversation for 5th spot (according to Fredi). He's definitely ahead of Jenkins and Sims, at least.
BSLJeffLong
3/13
No, I appreciate it! I didn't work on the Braves' depth chart so I'm just going by what we have. That's good to know. Martin's PECOTA projection is actually quite good!
tomshipley75
3/13
Everything I've read has Kyle Hendricks penciled in as the Cubs' fourth starter. Wouldn't it be more accurate to have Turner and Wada as the sixth and seventh starters, assuming Wood is the fifth?
BSLJeffLong
3/13
On the depth charts we have: Lester, Arrieta, Hammel, Wood, Jackson. I think Wood might be interchangeable with Turner/Wada but he's projected for 0.7 WARP so he's a good option to start right away. I imagine they'll let Jackson start and see if they can flip him before the trade deadline.
tomshipley75
3/13
Oh yeah. Jackson. Wonderful.
qwik3457bb
3/14
From Rotoworld, March 2nd: Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Monday that Kyle Hendricks is a lock for the starting rotation. Hendricks posted an excellent 2.46 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 47/15 K/BB ratio over 80 1/3 frames (13 starts) last season with the Cubs. It was an easy call for Maddon to commit a rotation spot to the 25-year-old righty, who should carry decent value in most standard fantasy leagues.
anderson721
3/15
So, I wanted to read up on the Cub's pitchers, and I find that Jacob Turner has been erased from existence in this year's Prospectus. What would have been the BP comment on Turner if it had made into the book? And is there anyone else you are aware of who has been a victim of this Stalinesque purge?
lyricalkiller
3/15
Turner was eaten by the same bug that ate Henderson Alvarez last year. He's the only one we've heard of this year, and I'm confident we'd have heard of any others by now. The comment for Turner that was shipped over was: Turner defines the term "post-hype prospect" and, as is the case with many of that breed on the pitching side, command of his two fastballs and swing-and-miss slider is the key to becoming some semblance of the player his top-25 prospect rankings envisioned. His ERA jumped two and a half runs in 2014, but his FIP shrunk. That's not the answer to everything, but you'd hope somebody mentioned it to the poor kid at some point. And it is on his player page. Sorry!
lipitorkid
3/13
1. The writer of this article fails to point out that the pitching depth WARP for the Angels is better than the starting rotation. Bring on the backups! 2. There are a LOT of comments on this thread. Well done Jeff Long.
BSLJeffLong
3/13
1. PECOTA is pretty bearish on Garrett Richards. I doubt Tropeano is nearly 4x as good as Richards this season! 2. Thank you!
lipitorkid
3/13
If PECOTA's .7 WARP prediction for Richards is bearish than its 1.3 prediction for CJ Wilson is downright Mastodonian. It was the Mazda dealership owner's WARP prediction I was thinking of. If healthy, I think Richards is the Angels best pitcher.
JCCfromDC
3/13
This article is pretty bearish on Roark (or is REALLY down on Treinen) to say that (estimating 165 IP) that they will total 1.1 WAR between them. Given that Roark put up 5.1 WAR last season in 198 IP and was also very good in 2013 he'd have to do some serious regressing to drop to 1.1 WAR over 165 IP. And I know that the article only looks at the top two alternates. But I'd have to put the Nationals' pitching depth up against any other team given that even past Roark and Treinen the Nationals have two other pitchers (Taylor Jordan and Taylor Hill) expected to start in AAA that have staring experience at the MLB level, and another pitcher (A.J. Cole) who is a consensus Top 100 MLB prospect. With pitchers worth watching even at the AA level (Joe Ross, Austin Voth) the Nationals have absolutely no need to rush prospects with high end up side like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. Power bats they could certainly use, but the pitching is deep throughout the system.
adamlee83
3/15
I completely agree about Roark. He was just shy of 200 IP last year (198.2) and had more quality starts than Fister and Gio, a better ERA than Strasburg, and pretty much the same WHIP as Zimmermann (1.09 to 1.07). Then again, I kind of like having someone so talented that can still be considered underrated.
champaigncaviar
3/13
Not that this changes the substantive part of the article in any way, but I think Tom Gorzelanny is locked into the Tigers pen. The Tigers would probably use Buck Farmer or Drew VerHagen as a 7th starter behind Lobstein.
oldbopper
3/14
Untested young pitchers with talent, Bundy, Owens, Rodon, Gray, et al, should be rated above proven stiffs, Delgado(OMG), Turner, or Tomlin who are in the first group. At least these young guys have a chance to get somebody out. I know that PECOTA has no way to pass an eye test but some projection should be part of the equation because no Cub fan should ever want to see Jacob Turner throw another pitch in Wrigley.
qwik3457bb
3/14
The first two backup starters for the Yankees are apparently Adam Warren and Esmail Rogers, both listed as relievers in their depth chart.
Oleoay
3/18
The Rockies didn't trade any pitching this offseason.