Rotational Consistency

Rummaging through my garage this weekend, I stumbled across my old 2004 Baseball Register.  Per custom, I gave it a good flipping through, and upon glancing at the statistics for Jamie Moyer, who had just performed arguably the best he had ever performed, I remembered that the 2003 season saw the opening day rotation of the Seattle Mariners make all of their starts.  The quintet of Freddy Garcia, Jamie Moyer, Ryan Franklin, Gil Meche, and Joel Pineiro started all 162 games for the Mariners that season.  Perhaps they were not as scary as a rotation headlined by Clemens-Pettitte-Oswalt, but all five managed to stay healthy enough to reach an unprecedented feat.
Garcia, Moyer, Franklin, and Pineiro tossed over 200 innings, with Meche registering 186.1.  Moyer and Franklin posted WHIPs of 1.23, with Pineiro at 1.27 and Garcia and Meche both at 1.33.  Their max K/BB ratio was the 2.06 of Gil Meche, with Garcia’s 2.03, Pineiro’s 1.99, and Moyer’s 1.95 right around the corner.  Via WPA/LI, this quintet was worth 4.18 wins above average, which does not exactly light the world on fire.  They did, however, prevent potential ineffective replacement starters from seeing any action, so take what you can from that.  This got me curious, though: these five made all 162 starts, but has anybody else come close in the recent past?
Luckily, Bill James Online keeps tabs on this crazy measurement, making my job a heck of a lot easier.  The earliest year kept on the site is 2002, but there were a good number of teams that saw their opening week rotation realize 145+ of the entire number of starts.  The highest in this span, and the closest to the Mariners, are the 2005 St. Louis Cardinals.  That season, Chris Carpenter and Jason Marquis made 33 starts apiece; Jeff Suppan and Mark Mulder started 32 games; and Matt Morris started 31 games.  This rotation had a legitimate ace in Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter, but while everyone produced an ERA+ above 100 (ranging from 102-149), outside of Carpenter, they did not strike many batters out, and their walks (except for Carpenter and Morris) were generally high in relation.  For good measure, here is a list of the AL and NL leader each year from 2002-2008 in starts made by the opening week rotation:

  • 2002: Athletics-138, Mets-139
  • 2003: Mariners-162, Cubs-154
  • 2004: Red Sox and Athletics-157, Cardinals-154
  • 2005: White Sox-152, Cardinals-160
  • 2006: White Sox-159, Giants-144
  • 2007: White Sox-150, Diamondbacks-139
  • 2008: White Sox-153, Phillies and Mets-145

What stands out about this list?  Yes, the White Sox have led the junior circuit in each of the last four years.  Overall, 614 of their 648 games in this span were made by their first five starters, a rate of 95%.  In 2005, the rotation featured Mark Buehrle, Freddy Garcia, Jose Contreras, Jon Garland, and Orlando Hernandez.  The next year, Javier Vazquez replaced Hernandez, with the other four staying put.  Last season, John Danks replaced Garcia, with Vazquez, Contreras, Garland, and Buehrle in the fold.  And this season, Gavin Floyd replaced Garland, with Vazquez, Buehrle, and an injured-Contreras rounding out the rotation. 
The 2006 White Sox rotation is interesting, as they made 159 of the 162 starts, yet overall, each had somewhat poor seasons.  Though they ranged from 196 to 216.1 innings pitched, their ERAs ranged from Contreras’s 4.27 to Buehrle’s 4.99.  Now, Garland, Vazquez, and Contreras all had FIPs lower than their ERA that season, all five had K/BB ratios above 2.0, and apart from Buehrle’s 1.45 WHIP, the other four ranged from 1.27-1.36, not tremendous, but not awful either.  What I began wondering upon looking up these numbers was whether or not you, as fans, would rather have the consistency of five guys making 95%+ of your team’s starts, if their overall numbers would be league average or worse, or if you would prefer a couple of them to make every start with others essentially platooning.  As in, does the idea of consistency and always having the same five guys pitch each week add anything to the team?


2 Responses to Rotational Consistency

  1. Pizza Cutter says:

    The Indians now talk about being “8 deep” in starting pitching. But, then I’m not so sure that consistency just for consistency’s sake is something that I would aim for. Sure, if I had five clones of Pedro Martinez from 1999, I’d want consistency, but that has more to do with talent than anything.

  2. Shane says:

    I’d guess it would depend on the lineup as well. If a team struggles to hit over three runs a game, then five guys that allow only 3-4 runs a game don’t help much.

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