Central Processing – Rotation ERA


After two dreadful games by the Kansas City Royals, I thought now would be a good time to kick-off a new series.  That said, welcome to the first edition of Central Processing.  The goal of this series is to see how the Royals stack up against their divisional foes in a specific statistic or at a specific position.  If all goes as planned, I will post a new edition of Central Processing every Friday.  To start this new venture off on a positive note, I selected starters’ ERA.

The data for this piece was compiled before the conclusion of last night’s games.  All ERAs listed for individual players are their ERAs as a starting pitcher only.

The Data:
1. Kansas City Royals (3.94)
2. Detroit Tigers (4.13)
3. Chicago White Sox (4.31)
4. Minnesota Twins (4.67)
5. Cleveland Indians (5.45)

After getting outscored by the Diamondback 24-10 in the last two games while playing some of the worst defense I have ever seen, it feels good to see the Royals in first place in something again doesn’t it?

The Contributors:
The Royals feature Zack Greinke (1.96) and Gil Meche (3.31), but they have also gotten solid performances from Bannister (4.10) and Davies (5.14).  All 4 have made 10 or more starts on the season comprising 83% of the innings pitched by the starting rotation.  Sidney Ponson (5.91), Luke Hochevar (5.60), and Horacio Ramirez (12.46) have made 6, 5, and 1 start respectively.

Detroit comes in second with 4 pitchers who have made 10 or more starts.  Edwin Jackson (2.39), Justin Verlander (3.39), Rick Porcello (3.54) and Armando Galarraga (5.56) have accounted for 86.5% of their rotation’s innings pitched.  Dontrelle Willis (7.49) has pitched in 7 starts and Zach Miner (4.74) has added 4 starts of his own.  Jeremy Bonderman (13.50) managed to contribute just 1 start before heading back to the DL.

In third place we have the Chicago White Sox.  Mark Buehrle (3.43) continues to lead the way and is followed by John Danks (4.48), Gavin Floyd (4.65), and the now injured Bartolo Colon (4.23).  This foursome has thrown 79.9% of the innings pitched by their rotation.  Clayton Richard (3.52) and Jose Contreras (5.32) have made 7 and 8 starts respectively.

The Minnesota Twins check into 4th place.  Nick Blackburn (3.09) leads the staff followed by Kevin Slowey (4.23), Glen Perkins (5.09), Scott Baker (5.30), and Francisco Liriano (5.91).  The Twins have the most stable rotation despite the high ERAs and as a result their starters have thrown more innings (401.0) than any other team in the division.  Anthony Swarzak (3.90) is back in Triple-A after making 5 starts for the team.  R.A. Dickey (5.40) has also chipped in 1 start for the team.

Last place belongs to the Cleveland Indians.  Not surprisingly, many pitchers have contributed to their lofty 5.45 rotation ERA.  Cliff Lee (2.88) stands alone in the Indians rotation as the only legitimate ML quality starting pitcher.  Carl Pavano (5.73) and Fausto Carmona (7.42) are the only other two pitchers to start more than 10 games for the Tribe this season.  Anthony Reyes (6.57), Jeremy Sowers (6.00), Aaron Laffey (4.09), David Huff (7.09), Tomo Ohka (2.57), Zack Jackson (13.50), and Scott Lewis (8.31) have have combined to make 28 starts.

The Indians are a wreck and will continue to get poor results from the junk they send out to the mound.  Only Baltimore is keeping them from having the worst rotation ERA in MLB.  Cliff Lee is really good but beyond him, you could argue that no one else would crack the rotation of the other AL Central teams.  Aaron Laffey has a decent ERA as a member of the rotation, but on the season he has 1.0 SO/BB, and is currently on a rehab assignment.  The fact that Pavano has managed to make 14 starts this season is in itself somewhat amazing, but the results have been bad regardless.  He has been mentioned in a number of trade rumors and could be on his way to a different team in the near future.  Fausto Carmona had his miracle season and is now on the Dontrelle Willis career path.

The White Sox are a mixed bag.  I have little doubt that Buehrle will keep his ERA in the mid 3s.  After all the Missouri born lefty has a 3.78 ERA over 10 seasons and 1900 innings in the majors.  John Danks and Gavin Floyd are potentially better than their current ERAs suggest, but lack the track record that Buehrle has.  Assuming he can get back and stay healthy, Bartolo Colon will finish the year with an ERA much worse than his current 4.23.  Contreras can’t stay healthy and at his advanced age he’s not very good anyway.  For me, Clayton Richard is the guy to watch in this rotation.  Since he is only 25, and has logged a total of 102.2 innings in the majors, his season ending ERA figures to be quite a bit higher than it is today.  It seems Richard has already hit a wall recently so the future is really up in the air with him.  For the White Sox to finish the year with the best rotation ERA in the AL Central he needs to pitch well.

The division leading Tigers are heading for a fall.  Don’t believe me?  Jackson (2.39) and Porcello (3.54) will not, and can not, pitch at their current level for the entire season.  Even if the 20 year old Porcello could keep this going, I can’t imagine Detroit is going to let him pitch much beyond 150 innings this season.  He’s already at 73.2 so the clock is ticking on his availability.  Like all young pitchers, Porcello will hit a wall at some point and I have a feeling he is going to hit it awfully hard.  Verlander, if he stays healthy, can probably stay the course, but 3.39 might be the best he can do.  I find it more likely that he ends the year in the 3.65 range.  Galarraga isn’t as bad as a 5.56 ERA, but he is much closer to that than the 3.73 he put up last season.  Bonderman is hurt again.  2006 was a nice year for him, but beyond that he has been a number 3 starter at best.  Miner, another Missouri kid, is a decent back of the rotation option who can probably maintain his current level of pitching when given some starts.

I am sticking to my preseason prediction that the Minnesota Twins are going to win this division and their rotation remains the reason why.  Blackburn figures to come back to the pack and finish the season with an ERA in the low 4s.  However, the other 4 starters are all very capable of finishing the season with better ERAs than what they currently carry.  The Twins rotation lacks a true ace, but they have excellent depth 1-5 and a viable 6th option ready in Triple-A if needed.  No other team in the AL Central division can make either of those claims right now.

Finally we come to the Kansas City Royals.  Obviously Greinke isn’t going to finish with a sub-2 ERA, but I can see him finishing with a low-2 ERA.  Despite some recent struggles, his season just has that special feel to it.  I think we can count on Meche to turn in an ERA somewhere around 3.80.  That means the Royals top 2 starters figure to finish the season with higher ERAs than what they have done up to this point.  I can see Bannister and Davies trading their ERAs back and forth throughout the year as they both figure to have hot and cold stretches.  Together they should continue to give the Royals what they have thus far.  That leaves it up to Luke Hochevar to improve and I think he will.  In 2008 he finished with a 5.51 ERA and it seems reasonable to expect that he will be better than that when all is said and done this season.  Horacio Ramirez is gone and Sidney Ponson will hopefully never sniff the Royals rotation again.  Those two factors in addition to Hochevar should help offset the slightly higher ERAs we can expect from Greinke and Meche.

Predicted end of season rotation ERA:
1. Kansas City Royals (4.20)
2. Chicago White Sox (4.30)
4. Minnesota Twins (4.30)
4. Detroit Tigers (4.40)
5. Cleveland Indians (5.25)

I don’t know how the Indians are going to lower the rotation ERA they currently carry by the end of the season, but I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt.

I close with a tip of the cap to my brother-in-law Mark, who submitted the idea and name for the Central Processing series.