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Ranking the Top Starting Rotations

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Although this has been a slow MLB offseason by most standards, some of the moves have resulted in notable starting pitchers such as Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta and Gerrit Cole moving to new teams. With Major League Baseball’s Opening Day just a few weeks away, we decided to rank baseball’s top starting rotations based on Bill James’ Starting Pitcher Rankings.

The Starting Pitcher Rankings are based on park-adjusted Game Scores. Each pitcher starts his career at a score of 300, and for every game he starts, 30 percent of his game score is added to 97 percent of his previous rating. If he pitches well, his score goes up, but if he pitches poorly or doesn’t start a game for an extended period, his score goes down. The numbers below are based on the sum of a team’s five highest starters in the Starting Pitcher Rankings as of today.

The top three rotations in baseball entering the 2018 season remain unchanged from the 2017 end of regular season rankings—the Indians, Nationals, and Cubs. The order has shifted from 2017, however, with the Cubs falling from first to third and the Indians and Nationals ahead of them, respectively. In the case of the Nationals, there is room for improvement as Edwin Jackson (313) is currently slotted as the fifth starter. Cleveland, meanwhile, will be hoping for a healthy season from Danny Salazar (413).

We see a lot of the offseason’s impact on the teams outside of the top two. Despite losing Arrieta (496) in free agency, the Cubs were able to maintain a top three rotation with the additions of Darvish (448) and Tyler Chatwood (402). Replacing Mike Fiers (392) with Cole (445) accounts for the Astros’ upward movement from the eighth-ranked staff at the end of 2017 to the fourth-ranked staff as of today.

Thanks to a late push from free agent Lance Lynn (406) and trade acquisition Jake Odorizzi (440), the Minnesota Twins are one of two newcomers to the top ten rotations. Odorizzi and Lynn rank as Minnesota’s second and fourth starters, replacing Bartolo Colon (378) and Hector Santiago (326). Free agents are responsible for the other new inclusion in the top ten, the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers added Jhoulys Chacin (414) and Wade Miley (384) this offseason and moved up six spots to enter 2018 as the 10th-ranked staff.

Note that these scores tend to favor pitchers who stay healthy and start consistently, so seasons interrupted by injury can throw off a pitcher’s score. For example, Noah Syndergaard (407) is the 64th-ranked starter overall after missing most of 2017 to injury, and Lance McCullers (375) is ranked 101st-overall and sixth on the Astros after being limited to fewer than 126 innings in three consecutive seasons. There is room for upward (or downward) mobility for these pitchers and others as 2018 unfolds.

The full list of team rankings can be found below.

Starting Pitching Staff Rankings
Rank Team Score Rank Team Score
1 Cleveland Indians 2348 16 Philadelphia Phillies 1938
2 Washington Nationals 2326 17 New York Mets 1925
3 Chicago Cubs 2293 18 Detroit Tigers 1901
4 Houston Astros 2259 19 Baltimore Orioles 1899
5 Boston Red Sox 2241 20 Colorado Rockies 1872
6 Arizona Diamondbacks 2221 21 St. Louis Cardinals 1855
7 New York Yankees 2218 22 Tampa Bay Rays 1818
8 Los Angeles Dodgers 2209 23 Pittsburgh Pirates 1816
9 Minnesota Twins 2113 24 Atlanta Braves 1787
10 Milwaukee Brewers 2100 25 Chicago White Sox 1778
11 Toronto Blue Jays 2090 26 Miami Marlins 1736
12 San Francisco Giants 2054 27 Oakland Athletics 1721
13 Kansas City Royals 1983 28 San Diego Padres 1702
14 Seattle Mariners 1963 29 Cincinnati Reds 1647
15 Texas Rangers 1955 30 Los Angeles Angels 1641

Thanks to Mike Murphy of ESPN Radio in Chicago for this idea. The full list of 2017 Starting Pitcher Rankings can be found in the 2018 Bill James Baseball Handbook, available now at ActaSports.com.

Daily updates of the Starting Pitcher Rankings can be found on Bill James Online throughout the season.

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