Time to Drop the Numbers and Focus on WAR
by, 12-17-2012 at 10:11 PM (1006 Views)
In the current era of baseball it doesn't make sense to quantify pitchers as #X starter. It used to be that #1 or #2 starters would get more starts because they would skip over guys at the back end of the rotation. I think Verlander and the Tigers are the only team that did that with any consistency.
Virtually all teams roll their starters so that all slots get about the same number of starts. Even when the opportunity at the all star break comes to skip some starts at the back end, those opportunities aren't often taken. Last year the Twins took the opportunity to give Diamond a longer rest at the all star break taking away a start rather than getting an extra.
It is more important to look at the staff's overall contribution in terms of WAR as a whole. Instead of a #4 starter, it would be better to quantify a starter as a 2 WAR starter or a 1 WAR starter. The #4 no longer has any value. The pitcher is not going to get their starts skipped.
Note: Top starters in the playoffs often do get an extra start and rotations are dropped to 4 pitchers.
There were 2268 starts last year in the AL. The ERA for those starts was 4.40. That included 95 pitches in 5.9 innings. Looking at AL pitchers who pitched the full season and had that profile you will find the league average pitcher contributes just less than 2 WAR over a full season.
If the Twins can get 5 guys to give them 2 WAR they will far exceed the total of 3 WAR the starters earned last year.
Let's look at the Twins recent acquisitions.
According to fangraphs, from 2008-2011 Mike Pelfrey had 8.1 WAR over 4 seasons. If he can do 2 WAR for the Twins he will be well worth the contract.
Vance Worley had 4.3 WAR over the last two seasons. It seems reasonable to project 2 WAR from him.
Kevin Correia was worth 0.9 WAR last year and that was his best season in the last three. At his age, it doesn't seem likely he will produce more than 1 WAR. If he does achieve 1 WAR, he will be worth about the
level of his contract.
Of the returning staff, only Scott Diamond had more than 2 WAR (2.6) as a starter.
Instead of debating pitcher number, the Twins should be striving towards putting together a league average pitching staff that contributes about 10 WAR. That alone is a 7 game improvement.
I used fangraphs WAR calculation for this article.