American League Postseason Preview: Starting Pitchers

After reviewing the bullpens of the presumptive AL playoff field yesterday I thought it’d be interesting to take a look at the individual and cumulative numbers for the pitchers from each American League postseason team that will likely be under consideration for starts.

It’s obviously too soon to know exactly which pitchers and in what order each manager will opt to go with, so I’ve included what I presume to be each team’s top five starters (sorted by FIP), with the caveat that each team will likely be going with four-man rotations, so the overall totals will end up being somewhat different from what we see here (the yellow highlights represents the best numbers in a given statistical category of the four teams). For example, barring an emergency, it seems highly unlikely that someone like Ivan Nova will be making a start in the postseason, but I’ve included him anyway so each team has five starters for comparison’s sake.

Based on these numbers, the Twins’ prospective starters look like a pretty imposing bunch, leading the four teams in BB/9, K/BB, HR/9, WHIP, ERA, FIP, E-F and xFIP. Yikes.

The Rays’ starters lead in K/9 and LOB%, while the Yankees’s fivesome leads in BAA and BABIP. The Rangers’ starters don’t lead the four teams in any of these categories, though they also have Cliff Lee.

Here’s a list of these 20 starters sorted by fWAR and including their overall AL ranking among the top qualified pitchers. I’ve also included bWAR for discussion purposes, although it’s tricky to compare the two because Baseball Reference’s WAR list includes relievers as well, not to mention arrives at its numbers through what would appear to be a completely different methodology:

AL Starter bWAR fWAR
Cliff Lee 4.2 (10th) 6.5 (1st)
Francisco Liriano 4.8 (5th) 6.3 (2nd)
CC Sabathia 5.4 (1st) 4.4 (8th)
C.J. Wilson 4.6 (9th) 4.2 (10th)
David Price 4.7 (6th) 4.0 (12th)
Colby Lewis 2.9 (25th) 3.7 (14th)
Carl Pavano 4.7 (7th) 3.2 (18th)
Scott Baker 2.0 (41st) 2.3 (27th)
Kevin Slowey 2.0 (40th) 2.3 (28th)
James Shields -0.5 (266th) 2.2 (31st)
Brian Duensing 3.8 (15th) 2.0
Andy Pettitte 3.7 (17th) 1.9
Phil Hughes 2.2 (36th) 1.9 (34th)
Matt Garza 1.6 (47th) 1.4 (37th)
A.J. Burnett 0.4 (122nd) 1.2 (39th)
Scott Feldman -1.2 (288th) 1.0
Tommy Hunter 1.9 (43rd) 1.0
Jeff Niemann 0.9 (79th) 0.8 (41st)
Wade Davis 1.4 (59th) 0.7 (42nd)
Ivan Nova 0.6 (97th) 0.4

What does this table tell us? For one, Fangraphs’ WAR and B-Ref’s’ WAR clearly don’t agree with each other at all. fWAR has Lee and Liriano so far ahead of the rest of the field, while bWAR has them 5th and 10th overall, respectively.

Here are the teams’ starters’ WAR totals by system. Remember, the above table showed Lee’s cumulative season WARs. His bWAR with Texas is 1.4 and his fWAR with Texas is 2.6:

Rays
bWAR: 8.1
fWAR: 9.1

Rangers
bWAR: 9.6
fWAR: 12.5

Twins
bWAR: 17.3
fWAR: 16.0

Yankees
bWAR: 12.3
fWAR: 9.8

What do we have here? Even more disagreement. bWAR apparently hates James Shields, which in theory is good news for Yankee fans tonight.

However, both systems agree that the Twins’ group of starting pitchers have accumulated the most WAR. Though this doesn’t necessarily correlate to the rate stats we cited above, it is somewhat noteworthy that the Twins’ starters lead in most of the aforementioned categories and have the highest WAR total.

Interestingly, if you average the two systems, the Rays somewhat surprisingly come out worst, with an 8.6. The Yankees and Rangers are in an exact dead heat, at 11.1 apiece, and the Twins would be at 16.7. I suppose this is somewhat encouraging news for those who are nervous about a potential Yankees-Rays ALCS match-up, although someone will have to get past the mighty Twins first.