With the Toronto Blue Jays’ signing of Gausman, we thought it would be fun to compare the rotations in the AL East
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The Toronto Blue Jays have landed a big fish by signing Kevin Gausman to a 5yr/$110M deal on Sunday. With the signing, they have collected a starting rotation that is sure to provide them an opportunity to challenge for the division title. A question that pops up is how their group of starters compare to the rest of the AL East.
When conducting this exercise, there are a few acknowledgements we need to make: 1) there seems to be a rush of deals being done before the Dec 1 CBA expiration date, so the 5 teams in the AL East could still alter their rotations. That also meas that, in the event of a work stoppage, deals could be made when a new agreement is in place, so again rotations could change. 2) we will be using Fangraphs roster depth pages to examine starting pitching. Teams may end up going with a rotation that has differences than what is listed at Fangraphs, but it gives us a good starting point. An example of this would be Toronto having Ross Stripling listed instead of Nate Pearson. They could decide that Pearson is the better option. 3) this is just for fun, so it shouldn’t be taken as a scientific, be all, end all discussion of the AL East rotations. 4) we will use 2021 numbers and 2022 expected/projected numbers for the comparison.
Just looking at the list of names for each rotation, you have to be feeling pretty good about the Blue Jays’ chances in this comparison, and then in the FAR more important 2022 season. For starters (see what I did there?), the Baltimore Orioles do not stack up all that well, but they’re rebuilding and could see another 100 loss season. The Yankees’ rotation has injury risk written on it and is rather top heavy. The Red Sox are projected to start with an interesting mix. Sale and Eovaldi give them an interesting 1-2 punch. But, who knows if the rest of the group will be able to keep pace. The Rays always seem to be able to get the most out of names most fans haven’t heard of and 2022 looks to be a year where they will be relying on more of those guys. They throw hard and will be supported by a solid bullpen, so it will be interesting.
2021 By the Numbers
The Blue Jays will (according to Fangraphs) run a rotation that collected 13.6 fWAR in 2021. That total could look different if Stripling is used a swing man type arm and the club decides that Pearson will get another shot at starting. For me, the wild card in all of this is Ryu, who seems to really need his innings managed. He has been brilliant in some starts, but not in others. The biggest knock on him is his health and ability to go deep into games. Watch for that this coming season. The other factor to consider is what a full season from Alek Manoah could look like. We’ll look at his projected numbers in a bit, but Toronto only got half a season from him. If his sophomore year is anything like what we saw last year, look out.
Simply put, the Orioles rotation screams “rebuild”. This is not really a surprise, of course. But, to be fair to them, the arms in the table above have better numbers in AAA, which most of them have quite a bit of innings from last year. So, there is likely upside to be found. That said, John Means could be dealt this offseason, which would be a significant loss to this group. Need we say more?
The Rays have a very interesting group of starters. They’re mostly young with high upside. You may note that most of their starters are young and put up rather nice WAR totals in small samples. For example, Rasmussen put up 1.4 fWAR in just 76 innings. I would expect this rotation, backed by a talented bullpen to take steps forward next year. They’ll be quite a challenge for division rivals. The addition of Kluber is interesting. It adds a veteran presence, but comes with health risks. The Rays will certainly have weighed the risks and they wouldn’t make a stupid signing, so they must see the upside to this. Regardless, the rotation doesn’t look as intimidating as it should when you look at just their 2021 numbers. Perhaps, their projections are more favourable. We’ll see in a bit.
The Red Sox may have a better rotation than we might have thought. But, with a potential full season from Chris Sale and Tanner Houck taking a step forward, their 2021 numbers could look even better. A very important question they have to answer is whether Eovaldi can repeat his 2021 showing. He put up the highest WAR total of any pitcher in this discussion. It will be interesting to see how 2022 plays out.
The Yankees will once again count on Cole to lead their charge. And, why not. He finished (a distant) 2nd in Cy Young voting in 2021 and is being paid to carry the load. So, he should. The real focus here is Luis Severino, who has all the talent in the world, but cannot be depended on to stay healthy long enough to live up to said talent. His 2021 numbers above are skewed by him only having 6 innings form whichc to draw, but they do highlight what he brings to the mound when healthy. With so much time left and as much up in the air this offseason, the Yankees very well may not be starting the 2022 season with this group.
The Blue Jays are projected for 12.6 fWAR from their rotation. They are hopeful that Steamer is correct and Manoah is going to improve in his second season. What is interesting is that the projections for Ryu in 2022 are basically the same as what he put up in 2021. Would we be happy with a repeat of 2021 Ryu? There were starts that we’d probably like to forget, but on the whole, it is a solid season for a guy who looks to be a #3 starter. If rumours of Toronto’s interest in Yusei Kikuchi are true, then their team fWAR goes from 12.6 to 13.9.
The Orioles are projected to see a grand total of 6 fWAR from their starting rotation. Should they end up trading Means, they’ll lose about half of that. I mean, what else is there to say except it’ll be a long season for fans of the Baltimore Orioles…and they still have 5 full months to get through before it even starts.
The Rays are a fascinating group. Their projected 7.4 fWAR total doesn’t exactly bode well for a defense of their 2021 AL East title. The WAR total would give them the 4th highest projection in the division, ahead of only Baltimore. Think about that. Yet, we know the perennial magic Tampa Bay seems to have when it comes to getting the most out of their players. Their rotation is a high upside group that will strike out their share of hitters. And, the Rays will have their bullpen to pick right up where the starter leaves off. So, on paper, this rotation doesn’t impress, but I’ll go out on a limb and say they will perform better than these projections.
The Red Sox rotation is projected to slot right in behind Toronto with 12.5 fWAR, but it will need to depend heavily on Chris Sale and his projected 3.6 fWAR. Can they expect Eovaldi to repeat his 2021 showing? Steamer doesn’t think that’s going to happen, so he’s tabbed to see lower numbers. Can Tanner Houck take a step forward? He has the makings of an up and coming starter, but at 25, it’s time for him to show it. This could be a scary group for the Blue Jays to compete against, if everything goes Boston’s way. But, that might be a big IF.
If you take Gerrit Cole out of the Yankees’ rotation, they look rather pedestrian with Luis Severino and his questionable health and some young, albeit talented arms. New York’s rotation does have a high ceiling, but they’re putting a lot of eggs in a very young basket. Of course, Cole isn’t taken out of their rotation and is expected to see the highest fWAR total (5.4) of any pitcher in this discussion. He’s a safe bet to have another Cy Young caliber season, assuming health and sustained rebounding from the crackdown on sticky substances. The projected fWAR total for this group is 12.6, the same as Toronto’s (assuming Kikuchi isn’t included in the discussion), but when you look at the two groups, Toronto’s looks more likely to live up to expectations since they have fewer question marks.
As of the time of writing, the Toronto Blue Jays are projected to have the more dependable, higher achieving group of 5. Boston and New York have the arms to challenge for this distinction, but they will have what looks to be a more difficult time of it. Toronto has put its money into its rotation. They’re paying for more talent and certainty. As of right now (before December even starts), they may have assembled the better rotation in the AL East. That said, they are not head and shoulders above the rest of the division, so it will be an exciting season watching this unfold.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.