Friday, September 30, 2011

2011 Playoff Rotation Rankings

Texas' CJ Wilson will throw the first pitch (and at least the 2nd and 3rd as well (barring an injury)) of the 2011 MLB playoffs that start in just a few hours when the Rays take on the Rangers.

How he, and the other 32 (or so) starters, throw those pitches will go a long way in determining what team will walk off the field sometime around Halloween as World Series Champions.

Since starting pitching is so important in playoff series, I'm attempting to rank each playoff team's starting rotation.

What I've done is:
Find the average innings per start for each expected playoff starter.
Average FIP, xFIP, tERA and SIERA to find the number of runs each starter is expected to give up per 9 innings

Find the average number of innings per start for all the starters expected to make playoff starts.
Find the weighted average (weighted by innings) of the expected number of runs all starters are expected to give up per 9 innings.

Subtract each pitchers' expected number of runs from the weighted average to find each pitchers' runs saved compared to average (negative numbers indicate more runs saved).
Multiply each pitchers' expected number of runs saved by their average innings pitched divided by 9 to get the expected number of runs saved per start.

*Notes: National league pitchers were given a .25 runs per 9 penalty to account for differences between the leagues (DH, etc...)
The penalty for pitchers (Edwin Jackson) who pitched in both leagues was weighted by innings pitched in each league.
FIP, xFIP, tERA, SIERA data is from FanGraphs
Innings pitched and games started data is from Baseball-Reference
For pitchers who both started and relieved during the 2011 season, only their starting innings were used to calculate IP per start.  However, their FIP, xFIP, tERA and SIERA numbers from relief innings were included (except for Josh Collmenter, who is the only starter to pitch a significant number of relief innings.  I did not use his tERA or SIERA numbers at all.  Only FIP and xFIP from his starting innings).
For the Yankees, because their top 4 starters is a jumbled mess, I used the top 3 starters and 1/3 of each of Bartolo Colon, Phil Hughes and AJ Burnett.


The results:
National League

*click to make bigger

Quelle suprise!  The Phillies' rotation is expected to be the best, by far, in the NL; giving up 1.34 runs less than the average playoff team.  Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee were the two best pitchers in the sample at -.73 and -.53 runs per start.  Zack Greinke was 3rd with -.52 runs per start.  

The DiamondBacks had the worst rotation with the starters expected to give up 1.72 runs more than the average group of starters.  

The other NL teams were below average as well.

In the

American League

The Tampa Rays have the best rotation; with a caveat.  I had no idea what to do with game 1 starter, Matt Moore.  Moore has started 1 game this season and he struck out 11 batters in 5 innings.  I averaged his season (9 innings) tERA and SIERA with his pre-season ZIPs projection.  This method gave him a .51 runs saved per 9 innings (a bit better than CC Sabathia).  I don't know how comfortable I am with this but there is some historical precedent for rookie pitchers faring well in the post-season. 

The Yankees' rotation fares worst with only Sabathia projecting to be better than average.  

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