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A guide to the most watchable starting rotations: NL East

Which teams in the NL East have the pitching staffs that are the most enjoyable to watch?

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

If you're a baseball nerd like me, then...well, you are. You're reading this article right now, aren't you?

If you're a super baseball nerd like me, then you enjoy a good starting pitcher. What draws me to watching a regular season game between two teams, if I don't happen to root for either team? It's an entertaining starting pitcher. Maybe if Giancarlo Stanton happens to be batting against Kyle Kendrick at Coors Field, I will stay glued to the TV for the at-bat because, well, I like #DINGERZ. But I wouldn't watch a Marlins game just to watch Stanton hit four times. I would, however, tune in to a Marlins game to watch a healthy Jose Fernandez throw.

I have therefore sought out to find the most "watchable" pitching rotation in baseball. I intend for this to be a multi-part series, and I will use a somewhat-objective methodology to find myself an answer for which team has the most enjoyable-to-watch starting pitchers. My scoring process will share some similarities to FanGraphs' NERD scores for individual starting pitchers, if you're familiar with them.

My methodology:

Age -- I prefer watching promising young pitchers over old geezers that I've watched chuck stitched cowhide for many years already. 1 point if the pitcher was born between 1988 and 1990; 2 points, 1991-1993; 3 points, 1994 and beyond.

Effectiveness -- I prefer watching good athletes over bad ones. As do you. 1 point if Steamer projects the pitcher for an ERA between 3.40 and 3.75 in 2016; 2 points, 3.00-3.39; 3 points, 2.99 or lower.

Velocity -- I prefer not having to wait like 12 seconds for my pitcher's fastball to reach the plate. 1 point if the pitcher's average fastball velocity in 2015, by FanGraphs' "pitch type", was 91.5-93.0 MPH; 2 points, 93.1-94.5 MPH; 3 points, 94.6+ MPH.

K% -- There is a correlation between this and velocity, so this methodology is doubling up on these skills and weighting them a little bit heavier. That's OK, though, because stuff is one of the most important reasons why I watch a pitcher. Pitchers with slow stuff can still strike people out too. 1 point if the pitcher's 2015 K% was between 20.0% and 23.0%; 2 points, 23.1%-26.0%; 3 points, 26.1%+.

Breaking ball usage -- I'm not discriminating against fastballs, changeups, splitters, etc. But I find a good breaking ball to be the most aesthetically-pleasing pitch in baseball. 1 point if, using FanGraphs' "pitch type", the pitcher's curveball usage plus slider usage is between 25.0% and 30.0%; 2 points, 30.1%-35.0%; 3 points, 35.1%+.

Atlanta Braves:

Name Age Effectiveness Velocity K% Breaking ball usage Total
Julio Teheran 2 0 0 1 2 5
Matt Wisler 2 0 2 0 1 5
Bud Norris 0 0 2 0 2 4
Manny Banuelos 2 0 0 0 0 2
Williams Perez 2 0 0 0 0 2

The Braves' current pitching rotation is fairly unwatchable. However, the key word is "current". Atlanta has arguably the best collection of pitching prospects in baseball, with names such as Sean Newcomb, Kolby Allard, Max Fried, Aaron Blair, Touki Toussaint, Mike Soroka, Lucas Sims, Tyrell Jenkins, and John Gant all various levels of intriguing. Newcomb, Blair, Sims, Jenkins, and Gant all have a chance of making starts for the big club this season. Bud Norris, Williams Perez, and possibly Manny Banuelos are all just placeholders.

On a side note, despite Wisler's watchability score of just five out of 15, Wisler is subjectively one of my favorite pitchers to watch. Athletic pitchers who throw good hard sinkers and sliders with above-average depth are fun to watch, especially when they're young, throw strikes, and work quickly, all of which Wisler does.

Miami Marlins:

Name Age Effectiveness Velocity K% Breaking ball usage Total
Jose Fernandez 2 3 3 3 2 13
Wei-Yin Chen 0 1 0 0 1 2
Tom Koehler 0 0 1 0 3 4
Jarred Cosart 1 0 2 0 0 3
Edwin Jackson 0 0 1* 0 3* 4

*using 2014 numbers, which was Jackson's last season as a starting pitcher

Well, this looks like a case of "tune in when Fernandez is starting". But for the non-Marlins fans out there, I don't think this article will be changing your viewing patterns of the Marlins, nor will it change the coverage patterns of the nationally broadcasted games. Jose Fernandez is the big ticket here.

Unfortunately, there isn't a lot on the horizon, either. Jarlin Garcia is a lefty that can touch the mid-90s and appeared in the Futures Game last year, and he's close to the Majors. However, he isn't exactly a top prospect himself.

New York Mets:

Name Age Effectiveness Velocity K% Breaking ball usage Total
Matt Harvey 1 2 3 2 1 9
Jacob deGrom 1 2 3 3 1 10
Noah Syndergaard 2 2 3 3 0 10
Steven Matz 2 1 2 1 0 6
Bartolo Colon 0 0 0 0 0 0

I don't think I needed to run "watchability scores" to reveal that the Mets have one of the most exciting pitching staffs in baseball. On four of every five days, the viewer will be treated to a combination of blistering fastballs with late finish (a.k.a. high spin rate), devilish Warthen sliders, surprisingly good changeups, and heaps of swings-and-misses. Once Zack Wheeler comes back, it'll make five out of five days a good day to tune into a Mets game. (We will miss Bartolo at-bats, though.)

The Mets are so loaded in pitching that they dealt promising youngster Michael Fulmer, who has Tigers fans excited with his plus stuff and high K potential. In addition, all of the Mets' young starters (the top four, plus Wheeler) are under club control for at least the next three seasons, so we have plenty of time to cherish this rotation.

Washington Nationals:

Name Age Effectiveness Velocity K% Breaking ball usage Total
Max Scherzer 0 3 2 3 1 9
Stephen Strasburg 1 3 3 3 0 10
Gio Gonzalez 0 1 1 1 0 3
Tanner Roark 0 0 1 0 1 2
Joe Ross 2 0 2 1 3 8

In my opinion, it never gets old watching Stephen Strasburg throw a baseball. Besides a drop from his blistering rookie debut to his later campaigns, Strasburg has held his velocity surprisingly steady. And his deuce and changeup both look like someone went in to edit an MLB: The Show player and set the "movement" ratings to the max.

With a trio of Max Scherzer, the aforementioned Strasburg, and the up-and-coming Joe Ross, Washington has a very watchable rotation. But this doesn't even include much-hyped flamethrower Lucas Giolito, who could debut sometime this season and has the potential to score a perfect 15 out of 15 on my scale, checking every single box that makes a pitcher fun to watch.

Philadelphia Phillies:

Name Age Effectiveness Velocity K% Breaking ball usage Total
Aaron Nola 2 0 0 1 0 3
Charlie Morton 0 0 1 0 0 1
Jeremy Hellickson 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jerad Eickhoff 1 0 0 2 2 5
Vincent Velasquez 2 1 3 2 0 8

This seems like a rotation that would be in the lower half of the MLB in terms of watchability. To be honest, I'm secretly glad that Velasquez turned out with as high of a score as he did, because I love watching Velasquez throw. I'm also not surprised by the low score for Aaron Nola. Before he debuted, I expected a much more dynamic repertoire from a player of his pedigree. But he disappointed both with the fastball and the breaking ball; the fastball velocity was lower than promised from his scouting reports, while the slider was big but loopy. Maybe his stuff diminished at the end of a long season, and it rebounds this year. Maybe he succeeds in the future based off pitchability. Remember that this score isn't a predictor of current or future success; it's just one way of measuring how aesthetically pleasing a pitcher is to watch.

The Phils have a very exciting young crop of prospects coming up through their organization, but unfortunately, almost all of them are of the hitting variety. Mark Appel and Jake Thompson are the two bigger names on the farm, but both look more like Lance Lynn/young Joe Blanton-types than future aces.


The final scores for each of the rotations look something like this:

Mets -- 35

Nationals -- 32

Marlins -- 26

Braves -- 18

Phillies -- 17

The Mets seem to have the most watchable corps of starting pitchers, and that's before you take into account Zack Wheeler, who would have scored a "9" if we used data from his 2014 season. That would have pushed the Mets' score up into the mid-40s. I haven't yet run the numbers for the other divisions, but it'd be hard to imagine another team topping the Mets with Wheeler.

Next time we will take a look at the rotations in the AL East.

. . .

Austin Yamada is a contributing writer for Beyond the Box Score.