After passing by Buster Olney's blog post from yesterday about who he considered to be the five best rotations in the game, it got me thinking about what projection systems had to say.
The major trend seems rather simple: he considers the top tier rotations in the AL to be better than those in the NL.
For the sake of making things easier, I decided to just look at the top six starters for each team using Sean Smith's CHONE projections. Specifically, I decided to look at which rotations were projected to offer the most value above replacement.
Before getting into it, it's worth noting that some pitchers were projected by CHONE as relief pitchers for next season in spite of the fact that they're competing for rotation spots. Specifically, it led to the omissions of Joba Chamberlain, Brandon Morrow, and Kevin Hart. Additionally, Jeff Francis' projection was not available either, so instead I used the starter that CHONE projected to be in his place, left-handed pitcher Franklin Morales. Francis is expected to be Colorado's fifth starter next season, he missed the 2009 season after having shoulder surgery.
Here are the top 5 rotations for 2010 according to CHONE WAR projections: 1. Yankees 2. Red Sox 3. Phillies 4. White Sox 5. Mariners
Some details, going division by division, after the jump.
The Yankees were head and shoulders above everyone, as all six of their starters are projected at 2 WAR or above, and the system projects 3+ WAR seasons for Sabathia, Burnett, Pettitte and Vazquez, led by CC's impressive 5.6 WAR projection. At 21.5 WAR as a unit, they're projected to be over 3.5 wins more valuable than the second-place Red Sox. The Rays settled in at No. 12, but only Shields and Garza projected to be worth more than 1.9 WAR. Toronto and Baltimore are in the bottom ten, but the upside of guys like Matusz and Romero is worth noting.
When it comes to starting pitching, the White Sox and Royals are the class of the division according to CHONE. CHONE projects 3.5+ WAR seasons for all four of Chicago's top four starters, led by Jake Peavy's 3.8 mark. The Royals have the advantage of Zack Greinke's 6.0 WAR projection, the highest among pitchers, and took that mark along with optimistic projections for Gil Meche and Brian Bannister all the way to the sixth-best rotation in the projections. The Twins' rotation is likely to out perform its projection, which has them in the middle of the pack, if Pavano stays healthy and Liriano returns to form on some level. Detroit's rotation (No. 19) is held down by a lack of depth, while Cleveland's rotation is projected to have some unsurprising issues.
The AL West is projected to have some very solid starting pitching, with the A's holding the lowest ranking at No. 18, and the other three teams are all in the top 11. The Angels have impressive depth, while the Mariners are projected to take advantage of arguably the best 1-2 punch in the game in Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee. The Rangers are one of the more interesting cases, as their projected ace didn't even pitch in the U.S. last season. Colby Lewis, who signed to a two-year deal after a monster stint in Japan, is projected to post a 3.7 WAR in Texas, one of four Texas starters with a WAR over 2.2 in the projections.
As for the NL East, CHONE projects the Mets, Nationals and Marlins to have some trouble with their rotations, projecting all of them in the bottom five in the rankings. The Phillies are near the top and the Braves in the middle of the pack at No. 14, but Atlanta could easily out pitch their projection, and they're docked for having such a mediocre sixth starter in Jo-Jo Reyes.
CHONE is least impressed with the NL Central, projecting the Cubs to be the best at No. 13 thanks to good depth, with the Brewers ranking the worst at No. 27. The Brewers' mark was dragged down a good deal by the presence of Jeff Suppan (0.1 WAR projection), while Cardinals' and Astros' marks were dragged down by a lack of depth beyond their best two starters.
Like their American League counterpart, the NL West is also loaded with quality pitching. All four teams with the exception of the Padres rank between No. 7 and No. 15, and the Diamondbacks, Giants and Rockies are all among the top 10. One number worth noting is the impressive 2.5 WAR mark that CHONE projects for Billy Buckner, and a healthy Brandon Webb could make that rotation one of the best in the game.
Looking over the list though, the trend in Olney's rankings was apparent in my CHONE-based ones as well: 5 of the top 6 rotations were from the AL, and the five worst projected rotations all reside in the NL. That should certainly help to explain the divide between the two leagues.