August 12, 2022

AL East Positional Analysis And Ranking: Starting Rotation (No. 3 Starter)

February 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

I am in the midst of a series examining the relative strengths and weaknesses of the teams in the AL East, on a position-by-position basis. The players at each position are being ranked in relation to their peers within the division, with each team being assigned points based on where their player ranks in comparison to the other players.

Today, the series continues with a look at the No. 3 starters in each rotation.

The best player will earn 10 points for his team, with the remaining players being assigned points as follows: 7-5-3-1.

At the end of the process, I will accumulate all of the points for each team and create a divisional power ranking.

Analysis / Ranking:


Here are the 2010 statistics for each of the five projected starters entering the 2011 season. The chart presents the five basic stats used in fantasy baseball, plus ERA+ and Runs Above Replacement (RAR). The rankings contained herein are based on these stats, plus projections as to what the upcoming year may have in store.


1. Jeremy Hellickson, TB

Hellickson was the top pitching prospect in baseball for most of last season. After going 12-3, with a 2.45 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, he earned a promotion from Triple-A Durham to Tampa.

His indoctrination to the major leagues could not have gone better. In his first four games, all starts, he registered three wins. After those outings, he was moved into the bullpen to manage his innings pitched. Overall, in ten big league outings, he went 4-0, with a 3.47 ERA and 1.10 WHIP.

His repertoire includes five pitches, all of which he throws consistently for strikes. His best pitch is a plus-plus changeup. With the Rays, he held opposing hitters to a .232 average and posted a 4.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His hit rate last year was about average, though his strand rate (78%) was a bit high and will probably adjust downward in 2011.

For fantasy owners: Hellickson, 23, is an elite pitcher in the making. The Rays traded RHP Matt Garza to the Cubs in order to make room for him in the starting rotation. He will almost certainly experience growing pains during the next year or two as he gets accustomed to life in the big leagues. This will be a period during which the Rays will transition to a younger and less expensive team, as they introduce Hellickson, Jake McGee, Matt Moore, Desmond Jennings, et al, onto the major league roster. I expect Hellickson will win 12 or 13 games this season, with a sub-4.00 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP.

2. Josh Beckett, BOS

Beckett suffered from back problems for most of last season. The injury kept him out of action for more than two months and hampered his effectiveness throughout the campaign and, when he was able to pitch, the physical issues cost him speed and the location on his fastball… that, in turn, caused him to have a greater reliance on his cutter.

The lack of location directly contributed to a less-than-desirable hit rate (35%) and an extremely poor strand rate (65%).

The sum total of his struggles is that he won fewer games than at any time in his career (except 2001, when he made only four late-season starts) and posted the worst ERA and WHIP of his career.

For fantasy owners: Beckett should be watched closely during spring training. In spite of his physical woes and related performance issues, he had flashes of brilliance. He managed to record 8.2 K / 9 IP and compiled a K/BB ratio of 2.6-to-1. If he is fully-recovered from his back issues, he should turn out to be a draft-day bargain. Count on 14 wins, a 4.00 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP, but don’t be surprised if he wins more a posts an ERA closer to 3.75 (+/-).

3. Brett Cecil, TOR

For the second straight year, Cecil got off to a fantastic start but faded down the stretch. He won 9 games and posted a 3.90 ERA in the first half, but then posted just 6 wins and compiled a 4.64 ERA after the all-star break.

Overall, Cecil made nice progress last year. He showed an increased ability to induce ground balls. He lowered his walk rate by nearly a walk per game while sustaining his strikeout rate at 6.1 K / 9 IP. Both his hit rate and strand rate were lower than would be expected by a factor of 3-4%… if they both revert to expected rates the increases should largely offset one another.

For fantasy owners: I suspect the southpaw will benefit from the arrival of John Farrell. At just 24 years old, there is room for growth here. He struck out more than eight batters per game in New Hampshire (Double-A) back in 2008. If he eventually proves capable of increasing his K-rate while lowering his walk rate further, he could become a consistent 15-game winner.

4. A J Burnett, NYY

At 34 years of age, Burnett is in a headlong regression that many pundits suggest may be irreversible. While I am not sure I believe it is irreversible, I am among those who believe he will never again post the kind of numbers he did from 2004-2007.

Burnett’s peripherals are in a nosedive. Last year, he posted a career-high ERA and WHIP, and a review of his stats demonstrate that both stats are in a prolonged free-fall – but they are not alone. His strikeout-rate and strikeout-to-walk ratio are likewise in an accelerated decline… his K-rate has fallen from 9.6/9 IP (2007) to 7/9 IP (2010) and his K-BB ratio has dropped from 3.0 (2006) to 1.9 (2010).

Most tellingly, Burnett has lost two-and-a-half mph off his fastball over the last few years, while his changeup has gained two-and-a-half mph – leaving the difference between the two pitches at less than 5 mph. (Data is available at This is problematic for any big league pitcher – let alone one who will have to face AL East lineups at least 18 – 20 times in the upcoming season.

For fantasy owners: Burnett is someone who should be avoided in mixed league formats… although he may still be useful in AL-only formats (if he is used judiciously). While last year’s hit rate was a middle-of-the-road 32%, his strand rate was just 67%. If his strand rate reverts back to a 73-74% rate, as I believe it will, then I expect his ERA to drop somewhere in the vicinity of 0.60-0.75 rpg. With an ERA in the mid-4’s he should be able to win 12-14 games.

5. Jake Arrieta, BAL

While Hellickson made a seamless transition to The Show, Arrieta had tremendous difficulty in his first experience against big league competition. And that isn’t the worst of it… his peripherals indicate the Orioles can expect more of the same – or worse – in the 2011 season.

He posted a 4.66 ERA and a 1.53 ERA while compiling an unsustainable hit rate (28%) and a slightly-above-average strand rate (75%). Assuming those numbers revert to their norms, Arrieta’s ERA should increase to 5.00+ in 2011, with a WHIP of more than 1.60.

And it is not like his numbers were adversely impacted by his BABIP (which was just ,289 last year).

One of the primary keys to his success in the upcoming season will be whether he is able to improve his strikeout-to-walk ratio (which was a shade over 1.0 last year) – his BB-rate was 4.3/9 IP while his K-rate was 4.7/9 IP. Historically, he has walked too many batters so any improvement here may have to come from an improvement in his K-rate (which was 7.6+ during his minor league career).

For fantasy owners: In my opinion, Arrieta had good, but not great, numbers coming up through the Orioles minor league system… and it must be said that those numbers were often created or sustained by unrealistic peripherals (he compiled a .237 BABIP last year in Triple-A). He issues too many walks and he won’t record enough strikeouts in the big leagues to offset the number of base runners he allows. If you are in a keeper league AND have a deep reserve roster AND you like the guy, draft him and leave him on your reserve team… otherwise, avoid him in all fantasy formats.

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