There have been many recent discussions concerning the possibility of the Reds dealing a starting pitcher this off season. Sometimes in these discussions people will tag starting pitchers as being a #1, #2, #3, #4, or #5 starter to describe their level of ability as a starting pitcher. The trouble is, most really don’t have a clear understanding what a pitcher in each of those rotation slots really looks like.

I’ve devised a method of defining what a pitcher in each of these rotation slots looks like that may hopefully clear up some confusion in future discussions of starting pitchers and the rotation slots that they are capable of filling. This method basically uses the starting pitching statistics for the previous season and ranks the pitchers by both ERA (for traditionalists) and then also by XERA (for non-traditionalists). The pitchers are then divided up appropriately into five groups and their numbers averaged to give us an idea of what a league average #1 through #5 starter would look like in each league. Below are the results for each league.

The ERA results.


The XERA results.

2014_rot_slot_xeraBelow is how the Reds starters from last season fell into the NL league average rotation slot definitions. There are no big surprises here. Cueto is a #1, Latos a #2, and Bailey and Leake are #3. Simon, as discussed much around these parts, is a #2 by ERA and a #3 by XERA.


The Reds starting pitching as a total ranks as follows. Note that the staff as a whole performed at the level of a NL #2 starter.

2014_rot_slot_reds_staffI haven’t done this exercise since after the 2011 season and thought with the pitching numbers in MLB improving the last few years and with the Reds potentially dealing SP this winter it would be interesting to see again. I hope you all find it as interesting and enlightening as I do.

20 Responses

  1. wvredlegs

    Outstanding Tom. When you lay it out like this, it gives you a better perspective on the Reds SP situation, where they stand against other NL and AL teams, and what their potential might be on the trade market. Excellent stuff.

  2. al

    That is a useful breakdown Tom, thanks.

    I think having a rotation full of #3 starters led by a true ace is about as good as most teams can hope for. We really have been lucky to have this rotation.

    It also points out how hard it will be to lose Cueto, since he was so much better than anyone else. Although it was in a tiny amount of innings, I was impressed with Corcino this year, and it’s nice to have a little hope for him going forward.

    • tct

      The chances of them getting that type of production out of Cueto again seems pretty low to me though. And this is the issue I have with a lot of reds fans who say they can’t trade Cueto because he’s their ace. Cueto has had two seasons where he has pitched like an ace, and he will be 29 next year. Why do so many people think he will continue to pitch like an ace? Think about Rijo, Soto, or Harang. All were aces in their late twenties and all fell apart after turning thirty. To bet 100 plus million dollars on Cueto being an ace in his thirties seems like a really bad bet, especially when they already have some really big contracts.

  3. lwblogger2

    Good stuff Tom. I did a similar exercise a few years ago using ERA+ and OPS+ against for the NL pitchers. I excluded all pitchers with fewer than 10 starts. Things like this put a lot of things in perspective. I think a lot of people would also be shocked at what the NL average batting average, OBP, and K% are as well.

  4. redsfan06

    Thanks, Tom. This work certainly helps in understanding the starters performance in comparison to the league and helps to frame their possible trade value. With all of the talk about his fastball velocity and K rate being down, Latos did better than I realized.

    I think some of the trade proposals mentioned on this site tend to underrate the Reds SP.
    The Reds are fortunate to have a rotation full of pitchers like this. They also have a good number of prospects to step in if a trade is made. Just because it is an area of depth and the Reds need to improve their hitting, doesn’t mean they should squander the advantage they have in the rotation.

  5. Grand Salami

    Multiple Corcino and Axelrod’s SSS x10 and this staff would have the luxury of trading any pitcher it desired. Sadly, neither could likely maintain that type of luck (or in Axelrod’s case those overall numbers. That’s a phenomenal BB/K rate).

    Unless Iglesias is major league ready to start, I am getting a little gun shy about the idea of trading a SP for a LF or SS. Trading Chapman is another story.


      They cannot afford to keep them, its not really an option.

  6. sultanofswaff

    Excellent read.

    I don’t see how trading Simon makes sense unless someone bowls us over. Even if you believe that this is the best we’ll get out of him and we should sell high, we’d never receive full value for him. I mean, he performed like a #2, which should mean we get a top 50 prospect, but I’m sure no rival GM would even come close to offering that.

  7. cfd3000

    What a beautiful, finely balanced game baseball is. I’ve always tried to explain that to people based on the dimensions of the field. A really good runner can steal second almost all the time, but an average runner is out with a good throw almost every time. But these numbers show another finely tuned aspect of the game. As a pitcher, if you walk 2 batters every full game and strike out 8, with one home run allowed every 15 innings, you’re a star and your team wins two games out of every three. But walk just one more each 9 innings and strike out just one less, and give up just one home run every 7 innings then you’re barely good enough to stay with the team all year and your team will lose two thirds of the games you start. That’s the small difference in stats that translates to a huge difference in results. Beautiful. How soon until April?

    • jdx19

      I’ve also come to love the relative mathematical symmetry of baseball! 🙂

  8. cfd3000

    By the way, these numbers make me think the Reds should sign Leake, trade Cueto and Chapman (and maybe Simon too) and get Latos healthy before deciding his fate. But I’ve said that many times before…

  9. RedsFaninPitt

    Thanks for the info., Tom. Not sure how you calculate XERA, but eyeballing prior year numbers for Cueto, Latos, Bailey and Leake. It would appear that in 2013 that Latos, Bailey, Cueto (if he pitched innings), and Leake would have all been #2 (Leake would be a fringe #2 or #3). In 2012, Cueto would have been a fringe #1 or #2, Latos would be a #2, Bailey #3 and Leake #4.

    I am always a bit skeptical looking at just one year since pitchers, particularly, can be so up and down from year to year. Obviously, Cueto has been our best starter over the past 3 years overall, but Latos is not too far behind – a solid #2 every year – and Bailey has been a solid #2 or #3. And, all of them have had repeated injury issues except for Leake.

  10. Tom Reed

    Joe Maddon has opted out of his contract with the Rays. Does this mean he will be managing the Reds?

  11. Shchi Cossack

    Buster Olney via Twitter…

    The expectation of sources is that Kevin Towers will soon be hired by the Reds, and work with his good friend Walt Jocketty.

    That pretty much definitively tells everyone about the structure and philosophy of Reds management. Bad times ahead for Reds fans.

    • tct

      Good help us all. I mean, really? The guy who decided he should evaluate players on their grittiness and the guy who gave Skip Schumaker a multi year contract in the same office.

    • Jake

      That squanders what little hope I had for next year

  12. Shchi Cossack

    Dionisio Soldevila‏@dSoldevila via Twitter…

    Confirmed: Cardinals’ prospect Oscar Taveras was killed in a car accident along with hits girlfriend in Puerto Plata.