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How Good is your #4 Starter


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When pundits talk about a free-agent pitcher, they often refer to him as a "#3 starter" or, say, a "#4 starter for a contender." It's common enough usage that most baseball fans know what that means, or at least know what the pundits are getting at.


Of course, this usage is extremely imprecise: one man's #2 is another man's #4, and there's no clear way to settle the debate. Taken literally, a pitcher's position in the rotation depends entirely on context: Zach Miner, the fifth-best starter on last year's Tigers, had a lower ERA than any regular starter for the Royals.


My biggest beef with this kind of talk is that it invariably overestimates just how good pitchers should be. Ask most fans to list you some #1 starters and you might get 15 aces out of them; within the 30 top pitchers in baseball, there are some names that don't seem to fit. Practically speaking, that means there aren't enough #1 starters to go around. Ignoring for the time being that Luke Hudson was the best starter on his team, that top 30 list still includes names such as John Lackey, Chris Capuano, and Jason Jennings.


Further complicating the situation is the prevalence of pitcher injuries. Ben Sheets is one of those big-name aces, but while the Brewers planned for him to be their #1 guy last year, it was more frequently Capuano at the top of the rotation. The injury effect on the entire rotation is even more dramatic: many teams have to get thirty or more outings out of replacements. For instance, John Rheinecker, Carlos Marmol, and Joe Saunders each started 13 games last year.


The result of all of those injuries: the guy you sign as your #4 starter becomes your #3 guy, and your swingman enters the rotation for a month. An above-average rotation can look outstanding if everyone stays healthy: think of the 2006 Tigers (Jeremy Bonderman, Kenny Rogers, Nate Robertson, and Justin Verlander), or more dramatically, the 2003 Mariners, for whom five pitchers started all 162 games.


How Good is your 4th SP?


This is an excellent article on the differing values and expected performance of SP 1-5. The bar has been set lower and lower to the point that the average 5th starter posts an ERA OVER 6. Follow the link for the rest.

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He should ahve removed injury replacements / spot starters from his analysis. They skew the numbers.


I disagree. They are a part of baseball life. This analysis shows the importance of having durable starters. No one has been more durable over the last 3+ years than D-Train.

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My problem with this article is that it is based solely on ERA. That's a terrible statistic for determining a "#1" or "#2" starter. That number is based on a ton of factors outside the pitcher's control; ball park, defense, relative strenght of schedule, etc.


As good as Liriano was, for example, Johan Santana IS Minnesota's #1 starter. He's a #1 starter on any team.


Anibal Sanchez had a better era than D-Train; does that mean he was your #1 starter?


I like the idea of this article but the execution was poor.

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So ERA's the only measure of a pitchers worth?


While I agree that ERA is a more fair barometer with starters than relievers, it's still a falled number and a very very faulty evaluative measure, and it certainly is a foolish thing to do to base a study solely around one statistic to determine value.


K/9, WHIP, ERA, they all just tell part of a puzzle.


Great article. It says D-Train was a "Fringe #1" starter last season. So despite what TSWIFT says, statistically we do have a true Ace in Dontrelle.



So you want to base it all on one statistic?


If you go by WHIP, he's not in the top-50.

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there's no doubt D-Train is an ace SP...


I agree on the ERA issue, but I thought the article addressed that issue. It's extremely difficult to do a study like this inclduing all those variables, but they certainly have an affect on performance. Probably needs refining...as a coarse study though I think it's valid.

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