Friday, January 13, 2012

Do they need a better rotation?

I like crunching numbers, and the vast majority of talk this off-season for the Yankees has had to do with improving the rotation. I've been an advocate of making a move, preferably a one-year deal for Hiroki Kuroda, in order to do just that. But does the rotation need to improve?

I took a look at Bill James' predictions in order to try and shed some light on that question. Now, I know, Bill's predictions are not gospel. Some would say they're worthless. But what's the worst that can happen? I waste an hour of my life? Well, that's okay. My time right now isn't all that valuable anyway.

Here's what the top five starters, in terms of most games started, did last season...

CC Sabathia 237.1 79 3.00
AJ Burnett 190.1 109 5.15
Ivan Nova 165.1 68 3.70
Bartolo Colon 164.1 73 4.00
Freddy Garcia 146.2 59 3.62

All of that is good for a total ERA of 3.86. Now here are Bill James' predictions for what would most likely be the starting rotation next season...

CC Sabathia 235 87 3.33
Ivan Nova 183 87 4.28
Freddy Garcia 144 68 4.25
Phil Hughes 102 42 3.71
AJ Burnett 173 83 4.32

First thing's first, I'd say that Hughes and Burnett both have higher ERAs. But CC, Ivan, and Freddy all had lower ERAs last year than they are predicted this year, so who knows? Honestly, I feel pretty sure that Phil and AJ won't pitch that well, but screw it. Let's go with those numbers anyway.

The total ERA for next season's five starters would be 3.95, a difference of .09 between 2011 and 2012. If Yankee starters threw 977 innings like they did last season, then that would only be a difference of about 10 runs over the season. Well add those 10 runs to last seasons runs allowed, and you'll find a differential of 200... which would still be the best in Major League Baseball.

So does the rotation really need an improvement? No. But that's if you believe Bill James. For comparison's sake ZiPS projections have Phil Hughes at an ERA of 4.84, while AJ Burnett's ERA is 5.31. Going by ZiPS projections then I'd say that the rotation does need to improve. But I wanted to show that according to some there is no need to spend another $12 million or so on Hiroki Kuroda, and certainly no need to spend about the same amount for Edwin Jackson... only for 3 or so years.

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)