Rankings. Everyone loves them. And everyone hates them. We love them when they confirm what we already believe to be true. And we rage against them when they don’t, because we clearly have the only viewpoint that is correct (GUILTY AS CHARGED). On Monday over at The Athletic, Eno Sarris released his Top 175 Starting Pitcher rankings for the 2020 season. That’s essentially six starters per team in the league, so it’s going to include the entire rotation for just about every team.
The Cincinnati Reds had six starters make the list, with all of Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, Trevor Bauer, Anthony DeSclafani, Wade Miley, and Tyler Mahle finding themselves on the list. Sarris used a plethora of data to come up with his rankings. He utilized the Command+ metric, command stats from from STATS, the ATC Projections, and Driveline Baseball’s Stuff metric to come up with his rankings.
Luis Castillo was the highest rated pitcher among the Cincinnati Reds staff. The 27-year-old starter came in at #10 on the list. He was one of three pitchers from the organization to make the Top 35. Both Sonny Gray and Trevor Bauer were also listed in the Top 35 starting pitchers in all of baseball according for Sarris’ rankings. Tom Tango, who helped author The Book, now works for MLBAM as their data architect, in response to the article, put out his own Top 25, too. His list had three Reds pitchers in the Top 25, with Sonny Gray at #19, Luis Castillo at #21, and Trevor Bauer at #23.
If you’ve found your way to Redleg Nation, you probably feel pretty good about how the Reds rotation stacks up. When it comes to the division, at least according to the rankings by Eno Sarris, the Reds rotation looks even better. Utilizing an AP style ranking where the #1 spot is worth 175 points and the #175 spot is worth 1 point, here’s how each of the five teams in the division stack up (the higher number, the better):
As you can see, the Reds are far and away above the rest of the division. Cincinnati had six pitchers ranked inside the Top 175. The Cubs and Brewers both had five, while the Pirates and Cardinals only had four each. When looking specifically at each role, the Reds had the top guy in the division among the #1 ranked pitcher for each team. They also had the top guy at the #2 spot, the #3 spot, the #4 spot, the #5 spot, AND the #6 spot.
Not only were the Reds better at each spot in the rotation than the rest of the division, they had more guys rated, too. It’s in those 4-6 spots where the Reds truly separate themselves from everyone else. The Reds 4-5-6 guys combined for 338 points. The entire rest of the division combined in the 4-5-6 spots combined for just 183 points. There’s an edge at the top for Cincinnati, but at the bottom is where the Reds may have an enormous advantage as they try to take over the National League Central division in 2020.
I love our rotation but I question that last chart if they have the Cardinals as fourth. They are right up there with the Reds IMO.
It looks to me like the Cardinals have a similar 1-2-3. I believe that’s what Doug is trying to say at the end of the article, ‘but at the bottom is where the Reds may have an enormous advantage”.
I would agree that our 4-5-6 are significantly better than theirs.
I’m going out on a limb here to say that’s good. And no one at RLN should be surprised by this assessment. The Reds should have a good chance to win almost every day based on starting pitching. I’ll go out on an actual limb and predict that the Reds second best starter this year will be Trevor Bauer. Wouldn’t that be fun?
The bullpen will make a huge difference between a good team and a very good one this year, and IMO the keys to winning the division are the bullpen and (lack of) injuries. But the Reds look strong on paper, and that’s exciting. Now we need to find out if they look just as strong on the field.
It would be fun- but other than one year of his major league career, Bauer has never been #2 starter material. He’s generally a 4.00+ ERA guy and as much as it sucks, there’s no reason other than hype and hyperbole and talk to indicate otherwise. He has talent but he can’t get himself dialed in. He often has very bad stuff to accompany lots of nice strikeouts I don’t get why people trash certain players who underperform, like Jose Iglesias or Puig, but kinda end up carrying water for a mediocre 18,000,000$ player like Bauer.
Can’t speak for others, but my obsession with Bauer isn’t about his past performances, but by the potential of future success. Eventually this becomes null when he’s 45 years old and coaching HS baseball, but Bauer more than most has demonstrated a “potential” to mow down an All-star lineup and make it look easy.
Bauer+dialed in+ October = why I carry his water.
Igelsias never underpeformed. He is a what he is which is a 16% below league average hitter for his career.
Bauer over the last 4 season has been 4-96% better than league average. Before the trade last year he was 24% better than league average. So I guess my question would be if he is mediocre what do you call the 55% or more that are worse?
Mediocre for his price and overall level of hype. Career WAR of 1.5. Without one good year, every year is mid 4 ERA and replacement level. Gifted a bunch of the time, but seems he just can’t figure himself out, even with a good brain and access to limitless frontline analysis and coaching. Unique in that he is very good sometimes and very bad equally often. Which I guess makes him average.
There are lots of OK pitchers I would never expect to be top of rotation guys, who are worse than Trevor. That said, doesn’t make Trevor a top of the rotation guy. Solid middle. He wasn’t even the #2 for the Indians. Seems like he should be, right? But that’s the story for 7 years.
If anyone thinks he’ll crest into a #2 spot heading into his 30s, I dunno. Maybe. I suspect whatever mechanical things he’s doing to strike lots of guys out is also what makes him blow it so often. Not even including the absurd anti-clutch performance stuff like drone injuries and acting petulant instead of digging in. all that. I don’t see him landing an 18,000,000 deal when he leaves here. I (random internet guy) predict a little more than half that.
I’m seriously not trying to sound smug- but aside from high strikeout numbers, he IS very close to league average. Same with Jose Iglesias- but in one situation we call it what it is. Bauer is riding out a big contract based on expected performance that just kinda fell short of his potential- actually quite like Puig.
You are right that Bauer has been inconsistent and has been hyped (college pitcher of the year, high draft pick who made it to the majors quickly). But most young pitchers deal with significant inconsistency, so it’s not too far out of the ordinary, and we shouldn’t hold it against him that he was highly regarded at a young age.
Over the last four seasons, 140 pitchers have been qualified starters in MLB. Bauer is 13th in WAR value generated (Fangraphs), 38th in xFIP, and 43rd in ERA. Those numbers all suggest he could be a good #2 starter.
Two highly regarded analysts rank him in the top 35 (and top 25) pitchers in MLB. Again, easy to see that as a good #2 guy.
Both Bauer’s performance and projections show him to be well above average.
As for his contract, he is not on a long-term deal. He is in the arbitration phase of his career, so he is getting less than he would get on the open free agency market (if he were way over-valued, the arbitrator would side with the Reds and award a lower salary).
Bauer has a personality that is off-beat and at times difficult and has done some unlikable things, so you would not be alone in disliking him, but he could well be a good #2 starter this year and he is not overpaid by baseball standards.
With 30 teams, you’re right- falling towards the bottom of the top 50 definitely could make someone competitive for a number 2 spot. I hate to cherry pick, but if you leave out his outlier season, where does that put him?
I’d definitely need to get more savvy with FanGraphs to pull this stuff up, so thanks for talking me through some of this. I definitely want him to succeed, have absolutely nothing against him, I just can’t quite put my finger on why he continually falls short. Is this his age 31 season? Maybe he’ll pull it together.
Crazy that the top 40 or so on Eno’s list are all on just 11 teams.
A lot of these Bauer descriptions are reminding me of Bailey. The guy seemed as likely to give you 8 innings of 1-run ball has he was to get bounced by the 2nd or 3rd after giving up 4-5 runs.
Funny because their contracts are similar, with Bailey making just 500k more than Bauer. Lotta risk in pitching!
I will say considering they’re al making the same money I’d take Odorrizi, Hamels, Keuchel, Kluber before Bauer, but the Sarris projection is higher on TB than the rest of the herd
Cubano, I don’t think it is a good idea to throw out his best season; he earned those results the same as all the others, and those results indicate he may do it again (and is much more likely to have a great season than someone who has not had one yet).
A key to remember, as well, especially for any player (pitcher or hitter) who is less consistent, is that the calendar is partially random. For example, if a player performs well four out of every five months, and then hits a rough patch/slump, some seasons there will only be one slump, and some there will be two. The player was the same, but the season’s start and end didn’t coincide with the swings in their performance. The year with two big slumps will look a lot worse than the years with just one.
The slumps do matter, and you are correct to wonder why he gets off kilter more often than some other pitchers, but performance over time will be a better indicator of future performance than grabbing shorter periods of performance (unless there is something new and repeatable about performance in a period). And first impressions are stronger than later evidence; the fact that he pitched poorly as he arrived in Cincinnati gave all of us lasting images we will be prone to remember.
And yes, there is a lot of risk in pitching!
If I had a team set to go after 100 wins I’d take one of those guys you mentioned. Predictable performance with a skinny standard deviation from the expected mean.
But for us I want Bauer. His expected outcome includes a standard deviation that includes a Cy Young type season… or a bust type season. It’s that variation that can take a team like the Reds (the Royals, e.g.) to the WS.
Great post Doug! Hopefully Eno can do something like this for relief pitchers and position players.
Good article, and it reaffirms my perception of just how good this starting staff should be. This is why they had to #getthehitting, because the pitching is already in place to make a run at the playoffs and perhaps more.
They need a top notch LH RP to go along with Garrett.
I believe Iglesias will improve but, the Reds missed the window to trade him when he was on top of his game.
Maybe, just maybe, the new 3-batter rule for relief pitchers will cut down on some of the “way David Bell abuses” the bullpen? I’m actually more optimistic about the Reds entering this season than I have been in quite a while.
Love the reds rotation. I think overall it’s the top in the division and top 5 in baseball. With that said idk how Flaherty isn’t the top overal pitcher in the NL Central.
So MLB ranked Luis Castillo as the 18th ranked Opening Day Starter? Castillo ranked in the bottom half of the league. Good to see an article like this actually giving the Reds rotation a really good report with actual research to back it up.
Off topic completely.
If the Dodgers pick up Betts and Price from Boston, it would seem like they would want to shed some payroll to make it happen. Thoughts?
What if the Reds grabbed Corey Seager ($7.6m) and Kenley Jansen ($18m) for a guy like Joe Kuhnel (Maybe more toss ins). Reds take Jansen to get Seager, similarly to the Dodgers taking Price to get Betts. They seem to have to have the talent to absorb the loss of those two, though I’m sure they’d rather dump a guy like Pollack or even Pederson.
My two cents. Your Reds Jansen/Seager trade not likely to happen. Boston is likely sending cash anyway to pay down part of Price’s contract in order to sweeten the prospect talent sent by Dodgers, plus adding Betts would likely have them send one of Pollock or Pederson to not only lessen their OF roster crunch but lower $$$ on Dodgers end as well. Plus any trade would leave the Dodgers with no clear cut closer, irregardless of Blake Treinen signing.
Also off-topic: MLB Trade Rumors is reporting that the Reds offered Ozuna three years and $50 million, but he went for the one-year deal from Atlanta instead. The article poses the idea that Ozuna was not happy with the $16-plus million AAV in the Reds deal, and is betting on himself to have a great year and go back into free agency with a chance to get a mega-contract.
We certainly can’t say the Reds haven’t been ultra-aggressive this off-season.
Interesting. I think Ozuna made a bad bet on himself. I don’t think he has a really big year left in him. But then again, the value for a player like him might just go up.
MLB is becoming more and more like the NBA, in terms of contracts and payroll problems. I don’t know if this is an attractive thing to model itself after, but the money may be doing all the talking.