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A guide to the most watchable rotations: AL Central

Which AL Central starting rotations are the most enjoyable to watch?

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

This is part four of a series to find the most watchable rotations in baseball. The NL East can be found here, the AL East can be found here, and the NL Central can be found here. A reminder of the methodology:

Age — 1 point if the pitcher was born between 1988 and 1990; 2 points, 1991-1993; 3 points, 1994 and beyond.

Effectiveness — 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 — 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.

Strikeout rate — 1 point if the pitcher's 2015 K% was between 20.0 and 23.0 percent; 2 points, 23.1-26.0 percent; 3 points, 26.1 percent+.

Breaking ball usage — 1 point if, using FanGraphs' "pitch type", the pitcher's curveball usage plus slider usage is between 25.0 and 30.0 percent; 2 points, 30.1-35.0 percent; 3 points, 35.1 percent+.

Name Age Effectiveness Velocity K% Breaking ball usage Total
Corey Kluber 0 2 1 3 3* 9
Carlos Carrasco 0 2 2 3 2 9
Danny Salazar 1 1 3 2 0 7
Cody Anderson 1 0 2 0 0 3
Josh Tomlin 0 0 0 1 0 1

*counting Kluber's cutter/slider thing as a slider

Corey Kluber throws two breaking balls -- pitch classifications and announcers alike can't seem to agree on whether they're a cutter and a slider, a cutter and a curveball, or a slider and a curve. Regardless of what you want to call them, they're both nasty. If you haven't yet watched Kluber pitch and/or seen the slower of the two breaking balls (which still averages about 83 mph, mind you), I highly recommend you take a break from this article and go watch some highlights. Here, I'll help you. Strike three to Jose Abreu to end the first inning in that clip could be the best right-handed breaking ball I've ever seen. Ever. Not exaggerating.

The funny thing is -- Kluber may not have the best stuff in the rotation, or even the second best. Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar are just as fun to watch, but they get a much more significant portion of their strikeouts with their split-changes, as opposed to Kluber and his breaking balls.

I don't plan on tuning in to watch any Cody Anderson or Josh Tomlin starts this season, but I think it's pretty safe to say that the top three in Cleveland are my favorite trio of starting pitchers to watch out of any team in the Majors. Another favorite, Trevor Bauer, will hopefully figure out his command and gopher-ball problems, and find his way back into the rotation as well.

Kansas City Royals:

Name Age Effectiveness Velocity K% Breaking ball usage Total
Edinson Volquez 0 0 2 0 0 2
Yordano Ventura 2 1 3 1 0 7
Ian Kennedy 0 0 0 2 0 2
Chris Young 0 0 0 0 3 3
Kris Medlen 0 0 0 0 0 0

The Royals seem to target starting pitchers that rely heavily on a changeup. That could be purely coincidence, or because they subscribe to the theory that changeup-reliant starters are less prone to injury. The idea is that both supination (cutters, sliders, curves) and forearm pressure (split-fingers) are considered more dangerous for the pitching arm than pitches delivered with natural pronation (fastballs and changeups), so it's safest to invest in pitchers with a less risky repertoire.

Again, I don't know if this is the Royals' line of thinking or just a coincidence, but it's there. Volquez, Kennedy, and Medlen all boast a changeup as their best secondary pitch, and even Ventura throws more changeups than you might think. That explains why every member of the rotation, besides Chris Young, scored a "0" in the breaking ball usage category. Also of note, the only two big starting pitchers that Kansas City has acquired in the trade market in recent memory were James Shields and Johnny Cueto, both changeup-dominant pitchers as well.

I wanted to take a moment to talk about Yordano Ventura in particular, though. Why? Well, none of the other starting pitchers are particularly interesting to watch, and in particular, Chris 'I throw 83 mph fastballs up in the zone, which for some reason professional hitters can't seem to hit' Young is probably my least favorite pitcher to watch in the Major Leagues. Despite all of my emphasis on changeups, though, I actually wanted to mention Ventura's curveball (some examples). Batters hit a paltry .153/.196/.202 on plate appearances that ended in a Ventura curveball last season, with a 45.9 strikeout percent and a 21 wRC+.

Generally, pitch result stats can be taken with a small grain of salt since they ignore sequencing, earlier pitches in the plate appearance, and that certain offerings (curves, in this example) are thrown frequently when the pitcher is already in a favorable count. Even with all of that being said, the opposing numbers are so good on Ventura's curveball that it's likely he should be throwing it more often, especially considering the .514 slugging percentage that batters produced against his changeup last season.

Detroit Tigers:

Name Age Effectiveness Velocity K% Breaking ball usage Total
Justin Verlander 0 1 1 1 2 5
Jordan Zimmermann 0 0 1 0 3 4
Anibal Sanchez 0 0 1 1 0 2
Mike Pelfrey 0 0 2 0 0 2
Shane Greene 1 0 1 0 0 2

This rotation isn't the same juggernaut that it used to be in the days with Max Scherzer or David Price, when you were liable to catch an ace any day that you tuned in. Even the two that have stayed, Verlander and Sanchez, have dealt with the effects of Father Time and are inferior forms of their younger selves. It's also a bit perplexing why the Tigers decided to use resources to sign Mike 'I don't like striking out hitters' Pelfrey. The velocity jump last season was nice, but it only catapulted his K/9 all the way up to...4.70 batters per nine innings.

Also, while we're dealing with small sample sizes here, Pelfrey's velocity in his debut dropped back down over two miles per hour, back to his 2014 level. Shane Greene has been just as mediocre, but at least he pairs that inconsistency with youth and a good breaking ball. This rotation could get a boost in both watch-ability and real-life results with the potential debut of Michael Fulmer. Just a fun thing to note, as well: this is the third straight rotation that has not featured a single left-hander. The last rotation on this list seems to be hogging all of the southpaws in this division.

Minnesota Twins:

Name Age Effectiveness Velocity K% Breaking ball usage Total
Ervin Santana 0 0 1 0 2 3
Kyle Gibson 0 0 1 0 0 1
Phil Hughes 0 0 0 0 0 0
Tommy Milone 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ricky Nolasco 0 0 0 1 3 4

Minnesota starting pitching is very boring to watch and has been for quite a long time. Going in, I knew that if this rotation didn't grade out as the most boring rotation in baseball, then I was going to quit baseball and go write about college curling. (I don't even know if curling is a college sport or not.) Not only is the Twins' rotation generally bad, but they also don't throw particularly hard or strike out hitters.

Before Twins fans start coming after me with pitchforks, I will say that I'm feverishly awaiting the debut of Jose Berrios. "Feverishly", you say? Yes, because I got sick from watching all of the current Twins' pitchers...

Chicago White Sox:

Name Age Effectiveness Velocity K% Breaking ball usage Total
Chris Sale 1 3 2 3 0 9
Jose Quintana 1 1 1 1 2 6
Carlos Rodon 2 0 2 1 2 7
Mat Latos 0 0 1 1 0 2
John Danks 0 0 0 0 0 0

Remember how I said that Kluber might have thrown the best right-handed breaking ball I've ever seen (emphasis on "might have" and "right-handed")? Well, Chris Sale threw the unequivocally nastiest breaking ball that I've ever seen, and it happened on a 1-2 pitch to Carlos Gonzalez in the 2013 All-Star Game. It was the type of pitch that you have to start at the first-base dugout so that it doesn't break into the third-base dugout.

Carlos Rodon seems to have a Chris Sale-starter kit and may develop into that ace someday as well, but it'll have to start with getting the ball over the plate first. His slider is pretty legendary as well, and he knows it. Rodon was in the top 10 in slider usage last season, among pitchers that threw as many innings. The White Sox quietly have an exciting young trio of left-handers that have the potential to form the foundation of their rotation for many years to come.

The Results

Team Score
Indians 29
White Sox 24
Tigers 15
Royals 14
Twins 8

The gems in this division, if you plan on catching any games this season, are definitely Sale, Rodon, Ventura, and the top three Cleveland starters. However, be on the lookout for Jose Berrios, Michael Fulmer, and maybe even Kyle Zimmer coming soon to a theater near you.

. . .

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