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Young Guns in the Rotation

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This season, with injuries to Sonny Gray, Daniel Mengden, and Chris Bassitt, the Oakland Athletics are turning to three players in their starting rotation with very little major league playing experience. These players include two rookies, Jharel Cotton and Raul Alcantara, and sophomore Andrew Triggs who only just exceeded rookie limits in 2016. Similarly, the Rockies are starting the season with two rookies with no prior major league experience, Antonio Senzatela and Kyle Freeland. This got us thinking, how does the inexperience of these two opening day pitching staffs compare to opening day rotations of teams over the last 10 seasons?

Here is a table of the teams since 2008 whose first five starting pitchers of the season had the fewest previous career starts:

Season Team Prior Games Started
2009 Oakland Athletics 63
2017 Oakland Athletics 92
2015 Tampa Bay Rays 101
2016 Cincinnati Reds 102
2017 Colorado Rockies 145
2013 Oakland Athletics 156
2008 Tampa Bay Rays 167
2011 Texas Rangers 168
2009 Los Angeles Angels 171
2009 Minnesota Twins 178

Only one other team had a less experienced starting rotation than this year's Oakland Athletics, and that was also an A's team from 2009. Kendall Graveman and Sean Manaea, joined by Cotton, Triggs, and Alcantara combine for only 92 games started and 559 innings pitched. Sonny Gray is expected to return in mid-April though, and has more experience than the five current starters combined, starting 96 games so far in his career and pitching 608 innings.

This season’s starting rotation for the Colorado Rockies has the fifth fewest prior games started with 145. After Tyler Chatwood (88 GS, 500 IP), their next most experienced starting pitcher would have been Chad Bettis (60 GS, 370.1 IP) who recently started chemotherapy, but will hopefully be able to return at some point this season.

Here are the teams since 2008 whose first five starting pitchers of the season had the most previous career starts:

Season Team Prior Games Started
2008 Atlanta Braves 1420
2010 New York Yankees 1403
2009 Philadelphia Phillies 1252
2008 San Diego Padres 1215
2013 New York Yankees 1186
2016 San Francisco Giants 1184
2011 Philadelphia Phillies 1180
2009 Houston Astros 1145
2010 Milwaukee Brewers 1144
2014 San Francisco Giants 1137

This season, none of the starting rotations rank in the top 10 most experienced rotations. The result of these experienced teams varies greatly with one team—the 2014 Giants—winning the World Series, one team—the 2011 Phillies—having the best record in baseball, five teams making the playoffs, and four of the five teams who didn't make the playoffs finishing below .500.


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