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Thread: What does a league average rotation look like?

  1. #1
    The Boss dougdirt's Avatar
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    What does a league average rotation look like?

    After discussing what the Reds need from their rotation to compete in 2008, I decided to go ahead and look at every pitcher in the NL with 100 innings pitched. Turns out there were 77 of them. Since there are 16 teams in the NL, I just broke them down into 5 groups to represent the #1, #2, #3, #4 and #5 spots in the rotation by ERA. There were 16 players in the #1-4 spots and 12 for the #5 spot. Ran all of the numbers and here is what the average pitcher in the NL looked like for each of the spots in the rotation:

    Let me note that the ERA numbers are not at all park adjusted, so Reds pitchers are going to suffer a bit compared to the league average a little bit.

    I also did some searching around the internet and found several articles that also touch on this subject.
    The first was this piece done by Jay at Recondite Baseball.
    He looks at what the average NL rotation looks like by FIP. His findings were that the average NL rotation looked like this:
    Code:
     #1	 #2	 #3	 #4	 #5
    3.69	4.25	4.69	4.98	5.83
    There was also this article by Jeff Sackmann over at The Hardball Times that looks at the league average spot by ERA in both leagues for 2006.
    Here is what his data showed for the NL for the 2006 season
    Code:
     #1      #2      #3      #4      #5
    3.51    4.04    4.57    5.11    6.26
    So generally speaking it looks like your average rotation in the NL looks like this:
    #1 - 3.60 ERA
    #2 - 4.00 ERA
    #3 - 4.55 ERA
    #4 - 5.00 ERA
    #5 - 5.90 ERA

    So given the Reds rotation having Harang and Arroyo looking pretty good to lock down that #1 and #2 spot at or slightly better than league average (given park adjustment of course) will the remaining group of Belisle, Bailey, Cueto, Volquez and Maloney fit into the equation to give us somewhere the remaining numbers?

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    Member Crosley68's Avatar
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    Re: What does a league average rotation look like?

    Thanks for doing the search Doug, I often wondered how far off we were. Looks to me like we could do average with what we aready have.
    Let's play two!!!

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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: What does a league average rotation look like?

    Thanks for the post, Doug. I've attempted to make this post numerous times as well. We tend to have preconceived notions about what qualifies as "#1 or #3" starter -- by and large, we tend to have an inflated view of reality. From the article you linked, I found this table quite interesting. Here is the FIP of Reds starters by # in 2007:

    Code:
    AVG	#1	#2	#3	#4	#5
    4.54 	3.67 	4.45	4.53	4.55	6.29
    The Reds really struggled in that #5 spot. Having a 5th capable starter is the most cost effective way to prevent more runs.

    I think that an easy way to think of it is that for spots 1-4, you start at a 3.50 ERA and 1.2 WHIP and add .5 ERA and .1 WHIP for each subsequent spot. It's a simple rule of thumb that helps me keep perspective.

    Also interesting was their sample league average rotation:
    1. Aaron Harang
    2. Rich Hill
    3. Doug Davis
    4. Jamie Moyer
    5. Byung-Hyun Kim/Adam Eaton

    When people say that our pitching is horrible, it helps to understand what average really looks like. I think it should also help us appreciate the role our park and poor defense have in making our pitching look worse than it is. Now certainly we shouldn't strive for average. However, I think in terms of the talent on our pitching staff, we're not as far behind as we might otherwise think. With the additions we've made and maturation of existing players, I think we have a roughly league average staff at the moment with the potential to be better depending on how much the youngsters advance. Not that we should rest on our laurels, but a singular focus on pitching talent as "the problem" is probably short sighted at this point.
    Last edited by RedsManRick; 12-24-2007 at 02:04 PM.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    Re: What does a league average rotation look like?

    Is the suggestion that league average numbers are generally bad and that the Reds can therefore contend by sitting tight? I don't buy into any such analysis.

    First, I don't think league average is the goal. Contention is. Consider the terrible bullpen numbers last year. A league average rotation and a subpar bullpen equals a subpar pitching staff. I don't think one new reliever changes that equation.

    According to ESPN the NL average starting pitcher ERA was 4.65. The Reds starters were at 4.86. The Reds had a about 440 innings from Harang at .373 and Arroyo at .423. No other starter came close to 4.65, except for Lohse who is gone and Shearn's few starts. So the Reds' "not much worse than league average" starting ERA is extremely sensitive to any injury or slippage by the two main starters.

    To me, the equation is very simple. It's hard to be above .500 when three fifths of your starters are below average. You need a good starter in more than half your games. Right now the Reds have a good starter in two of every five games and a question mark in the other three. One of those question mark spots needs to be a consistently good pitcher -- I'd rather go get a proven guy to fill that role.
    Last edited by Kc61; 12-24-2007 at 02:43 PM.

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    The Boss dougdirt's Avatar
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    Re: What does a league average rotation look like?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kc61 View Post
    Is the suggestion that league average numbers are generally bad and that the Reds can therefore contend by sitting tight? I don't buy into any such analysis.
    Its not a suggestion, I was merely throwing the numbers out there as the idea of a #1, #2, #3, #4 and #5 pitcher are quite often midlabeled as to what they truly are in baseball.

    First, I don't think league average is the goal. Contention is. Consider the terrible bullpen numbers last year. A league average rotation and a subpar bullpen equals a subpar pitching staff. I don't think one new reliever changes that equation.
    League average gets you closer to contention, and I would argue that the Reds look to actually have above league average rotation next year with no moves to make at all. That said, you are right, the bullpen is still questionable. However getting 60-70 innings from Cordero certainly makes a difference when those innings may have gone to someone like Santos/Saarloos/whatever else we threw out there last year.

    According to ESPN the NL average starting pitcher ERA was 4.65. The Reds starters were at 4.86. The Reds had a about 440 innings from Harang at .373 and Arroyo at .423. No other starter came close to 4.65, except for Lohse who is gone and Shearn's few starts. So the Reds' "not much worse than league average" starting ERA is extremely sensitive to any injury or slippage by the two main starters.
    The average NL rotation didn't pitch in GABP either. We had a park factor for runs of 1.095.

    To me, the equation is very simple. It's hard to be above .500 when three fifths of your starters are below average. You need a good starter in more than half your games. Right now the Reds have a good starter in two of every five games and a question mark in the other three. One of those question mark spots needs to be a consistently good pitcher -- I'd rather go get a proven guy to fill that role.
    Except that Matt Belisle certainly isn't below average. He was quite unlucky, his 1.43 WHIP (to go with his extremely high BABIP that also led to a higher WHIP than would be expected) at 177.2 innings projects him at a #3 pitcher when using innings, WHIP, strikeouts, walks and his FIP. So now we are looking at trying to get 2 of Bailey, Cueto, Volquez and Maloney to give the Reds 288 innings of about 5.30 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP.... just to be 'average'. Anything better than that and the Reds are going with an above average rotation. Yeah, if Harang or Arroyo has an injury, we are in some trouble probably.... but lets all knock on some wood and hope they just continue on their healthy career paths.

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    The Big Dog mth123's Avatar
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    Re: What does a league average rotation look like?

    I think the Reds have a #1 (Harang) a strong #3 (Arroyo) and a bunch of #4's (Belisle, Bailey, Volquez, Cueto) and a #5/swingman (Maloney). Since Bailey, Cueto and Maloney aren't fully cooked yet, I see no reason to serve them up to major league hitters. They need to go back to the AAA oven. Realistically the team could probably acquire another strong number 3 with some stuff they have to spare (EdE, Stubbs, Roenicke, etc) and I wouldn't mind going to war with a 1 a couple 3's and couple 4's while the youngsters are still cooking down in AAA. The Reds need to bring in another vet but it doesn't have to be a Bedard unless the price drops quite a bit. OTOH bringing in a Tomko or the like doesn't help much either. A solid guy needs to be targeted but it doesn't need to be some one to sell the farm for.
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    Re: What does a league average rotation look like?

    Quote Originally Posted by dougdirt View Post
    Its not a suggestion, I was merely throwi

    Except that Matt Belisle certainly isn't below average. He was quite unlucky, his 1.43 WHIP (to go with his extremely high BABIP that also led to a higher WHIP than would be expected) at 177.2 innings projects him at a #3 pitcher when using innings, WHIP, strikeouts, walks and his FIP. So now we are looking at trying to get 2 of Bailey, Cueto, Volquez and Maloney to give the Reds 288 innings of about 5.30 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP.... just to be 'average'. Anything better than that and the Reds are going with an above average rotation. Yeah, if Harang or Arroyo has an injury, we are in some trouble probably.... but lets all knock on some wood and hope they just continue on their healthy career paths.

    You're really banking a lot on Belisle's expected improved "luck." I would be more inclined to agree if there was some previous season where he pitched as a starter (say, 150 or more innings) and had better luck. Right now I see a 5.32 ERA pitcher who isn't a number 3 or even a 4 under any of the charts presented in your opening post.

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    The Boss dougdirt's Avatar
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    Re: What does a league average rotation look like?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kc61 View Post
    You're really banking a lot on Belisle's expected improved "luck." I would be more inclined to agree if there was some previous season where he pitched as a starter (say, 150 or more innings) and had better luck. Right now I see a 5.32 pitcher who isn't a number 3 or even a 4 under any of the charts presented in your opening post.
    Except he certainly was a #3 according to the FIP chart which lists the FIP of a #3 pitcher with a 4.69 FIP, while Belisle had a 4.54 FIP while meeting inning requirements. That actually puts him ahead of the curve of #3 pitchers.

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    Re: What does a league average rotation look like?

    Excuse me, but shouldn't the Reds be looking to compile an above average starting rotation? I just got THE HARDBALL TIMES for an early Christmas present, and they don't seem too be to high on the Reds' offense or defense either. I think we're all assuming that the hitters we've got will be able to carry a mediocre pitching staff... but I'm worried that this might be a false assumption.
    "Iíll kind of have a foot on the back of my own butt. Thatís just how I do things.Ē -- Bryan Price, 10/22/2013

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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: What does a league average rotation look like?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kc61 View Post
    You're really banking a lot on Belisle's expected improved "luck." I would be more inclined to agree if there was some previous season where he pitched as a starter (say, 150 or more innings) and had better luck. Right now I see a 5.32 ERA pitcher who isn't a number 3 or even a 4 under any of the charts presented in your opening post.
    The problem is that ERA is a poor measurement of how a guy pitched. It's not that he will improve because of luck. It's that he doesn't have to improve in actual skill for his ERA to improve.

    The first set of code Doug posted looked at the average position by FIP. FIP is a luck independent metric which limits the evaluation of the pitcher to those things most under his control. In 2007, Belisle had a FIP of 4.54. According to the analysis Doug posted, that puts Belisle at slightly better than a #3 starter.

    When your starting point for analyzing Belisle is an assumption that his ERA is most reflective of the quality of his pitching and likely to be what you'll get in 2008, you've already misstepped.

    Arroyo is called a strong #3, and Belisle a #5. Is that fair?

    Code:
    	BB/9	K/9	HR/9	H/9	BABIP	FIP	ERA
    Arroyo	2.69	6.66	1.20	9.91	.318	4.53	4.23
    Belisle	2.18	6.33	1.32 	10.74	.331	4.54	5.32
    Those look like really similar pitchers to me. Arroyo allowed .8 H/9 fewer than Belisle, partially due to a lower BABIP. Belisle allowed .5 fewer BB/9, completely of his own according. Their K/9 and HR/9 were similar, with Belisle just a hair worse. Using FIP, they were nearly twins. However, Arroyo had a 4.23 ERA to Belisle's 5.32. Why? Because runs don't score exactly according to how well you pitch. Sometimes you walk a guy, he steals second, gets sac'd over the third and sac'd home. Other times, you allow a walk, a single, get a play at the plate, another single to the load the bases and then a double play on a speared liner.

    Stuff happens and it's not all sorted out in ERA over the course of even 200 IP. I'm not calling Belisle even a sure thing. But focusing on his ERA is simply a poor way of evaluating the kind of pitcher he was in 2007 and the kind of pitcher he is likely to be in 2008.

    As for Arroyo, in similar fashion, don't let that flashy ERA in 2006 fool you. He's a weak #2 or a strong #3. Here's Arroyo every year he's had 100 IP

    2004: 3.97 FIP
    2005: 4.61
    2006: 4.21
    2007: 4.53

    At Belisle's age, expecting him to repeat his FIP isn't a bad starting point. And assuming he does repeat the performance underlying his FIP, we should expect his ERA to regress back towards that 4.5ish number.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    The Boss dougdirt's Avatar
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    Re: What does a league average rotation look like?

    Also, just wanted to note that in the first article I reference that looks at the FIP for the average NL Starters 1-5, it shows the FIP of the individual teams 1-5 starters. Here is where the Reds sat at compared to the league average

    Code:
    Team	total	  #1	  #2	  #3	  #4	  #5
    Reds	4.54	3.67	4.45	4.53	4.55	6.29
    NL	4.61	3.69	4.25	4.69	4.98	5.83
    Just something to think about.

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    Re: What does a league average rotation look like?

    Quote Originally Posted by mth123 View Post
    I think the Reds have a #1 (Harang) a strong #3 (Arroyo) and a bunch of #4's (Belisle, Bailey, Volquez, Cueto) and a #5/swingman (Maloney). Since Bailey, Cueto and Maloney aren't fully cooked yet, I see no reason to serve them up to major league hitters. They need to go back to the AAA oven. Realistically the team could probably acquire another strong number 3 with some stuff they have to spare (EdE, Stubbs, Roenicke, etc) and I wouldn't mind going to war with a 1 a couple 3's and couple 4's while the youngsters are still cooking down in AAA. The Reds need to bring in another vet but it doesn't have to be a Bedard unless the price drops quite a bit. OTOH bringing in a Tomko or the like doesn't help much either. A solid guy needs to be targeted but it doesn't need to be some one to sell the farm for.
    The way the starting pitching is set up now 2009 seems to be the year when the Reds compete for the playoffs. However if the Reds could get a #3 SP as you suggest, plus another arm for the pen & a RH power bat for bench/part time duty ( ie Mench ) then 2008 will be a lot of fun. In this case the Reds could compete for the playoffs even if Cueto/Bailey/Maloney pitched the entire year in AAA.

    If we could get Bedard for Bailey(or Cueto) plus some 'B' prospects then great. But it seems like the Os want way too much.
    .

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    Re: What does a league average rotation look like?

    Some Belisle home/away splits for 2007:

    home: 92.2 IP 17 HR .318 BABIP .828 OPSa
    away: 85.0 IP 9 HR .343 BABIP .822 OPSa

    BB/9 and K/9 were similar home and away.

    I think improved outfield defense will certainly help Belisle, whose main strong suits are limiting walks and taking the ball every fifth day. He is a cost-effective #4, IMO. On the other hand, I don't think he was "incredibly" unlucky, as he will have the same range-challenged defenders behind him for the most part. Hopefully, GABP won't kill him next season.

    Here is the link to his stats; maybe others come to a different conclusion.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/pi...ma01&year=2007

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    Member Crosley68's Avatar
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    Re: What does a league average rotation look like?

    I dont think the assertion was the Reds are average and we should be content. Personally I think we are average now and that is a good place to be BEFORE we do something to improve it. I like our position much better at this time of the winter than in years past when we were poor and looking for career years in order to contend.
    Let's play two!!!

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    The Boss dougdirt's Avatar
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    Re: What does a league average rotation look like?

    Quote Originally Posted by boognish View Post
    I think improved outfield defense will certainly help Belisle, whose main strong suits are limiting walks and taking the ball every fifth day. He is a cost-effective #4, IMO. On the other hand, I don't think he was "incredibly" unlucky, as he will have the same range-challenged defenders behind him for the most part. Hopefully, GABP won't kill him next season.

    Here is the link to his stats; maybe others come to a different conclusion.
    The thing that leads me to think Belisle was unlucky was his .338 BABIP. Even though he had a bad defense behind him, so did Arroyo, Harang and Lohse who posted the following BABIPs:
    .318
    .298
    .307

    Belisle was certainly the most unlucky one of the group, by far.


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