September 27, 2022

Where Would the Indians’ Pitchers Start in Other Team’s Rotations?

The Indians pitching staff has been on a tear lately. Since a 4-0 win on July 25 over the Pirates, the starters have combined for a 12-2 win-loss record, a 1.95 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 1.11 K/9. The Indians have gone on to win 14 of those 19 games, extending their division lead to an MLB-best 12.5 games. Two of our starting pitchers are Cy Young candidates ( Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber). Kluber, Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevenger, and Shane Bieber each have an ERA lower than the American League average of 4.32 for starting pitchers. The success of each of our starting pitchers got me wondering where they would pitch in the other teams’ rotations.

For my approach, I first needed to find the depth charts of all of the MLB teams to create a “Starting Pitcher Universe.”  I used the first five pitchers from each team on FanGraphs as each team’s rotation. Then, I used the Baseball Reference WAR database (August 15) to gather the Wins Above Replacement for each pitcher to measure each pitcher’s overall value. For pitchers who were traded mid-season, I used their WAR from the full season.

Some teams have utilized many different starters this season due to injuries. The Rays have experimented with using relievers as starters this season, resulting in “starters” who have not pitched a lot of innings this year. To account for this effect, I normalized each pitchers’ WAR to what it would be over 200 innings – WAR/200 IP. However, because a pitcher who has pitched more innings is generally more valuable than pitchers with fewer innings, I maintained overall WAR as a variable. Then I ranked each pitcher by overall WAR and WAR per 200 innings to come up with an overall rank. For example, Corey Kluber ranks 7th in WAR and 12th in WAR per 200 innings, so his overall rank would be the average of each rank or 9.5.

Using this methodology, the rank of each member of the Indians rotation is as shown in the table below in parentheses (out of 149 pitchers). The rest of the table shows the number of teams where each pitcher would pitch in the designated rotation spot. For example, Carrasco would be in the second rotation spot for 10 teams (highlighted in red).

From this table, we can see that Bauer, Kluber, Clevinger and Carrasco would all be first or second in the rotation for a majority of teams. Even our 5th pitcher, Shane Bieber, would be an ace for three teams (Reds, Padres and Marlins) and on average, would be a typical 3rd or 4th pitcher.

Right now, thanks in large part to the starting pitching, the Indians have been on a hot streak. Needless to say, having four aces on the pitching staff will be huge coming down the home stretch and in the postseason.

Image: ESPN

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