Combining Value and Production, Cardinals' Rotation is Good, But the Tigers' is Better

Should we move on? - Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

With a solid young staff behind Adam Wainwright this season, the Cardinals' rotation is a good mix of production at decent prices. When surveying all of baseball, however, the Tigers is the best.

After Clayton Kershaw signed his extension, I explored the value the Cardinals would be getting out of their rotation compared to Kershaw. At the time, I thought it might be a good idea to compare all the rotations against each other for 2014. At the time, I put it off because I was writing about other things and it was going to take a lot of work. In the meantime, Wendy Thurm at Fangraphs dot com did a whole bunch of the work for me. Then, Beyond the Box Score dot com did a little more work with the cost of the win. Using the depth charts at fangraphs for starting pitching which include projected WAR for a rotation, my task became a lot easier.

Below you will find a graph showing rotation salary by team as well as its projected WAR.

The Tigers are expected to field the best rotation this season by a decent margin, with the Red Sox and Yankees following them and a group of eight including the Cardinals bunched together after the top three spots. The payrolls of each team vary wildly with production. The Marlins will spend next to nothing while the Phillies lead the majors with payroll around $80 million. Teams with staffs above $40 million are noted next to the team name in the previous graph. The next graph is fairly simple. I took the salary for the rotations and divided by their projected WAR. The results are below.

We see a host of small market teams paying the least per win for their pitching staffs while the Brewers and the big market teams paid the most for theirs. However, dollars per win is not the be all end all for putting a rotation together. Getting a bargain staff is fantastic, but winning on the field is paramount. Since others have already done the heavy lifting on gathering the information above, I decided to take the information a step further. I wanted to combine a team's ability to get value from its rotation with its expected production for the 2014 season.

To combine combine WAR and $/WAR, I found the average rotation WAR (11.87) and the average $/WAR (2.75). I made the averages for each 100. A small number is better for $/WAR so I reversed the numbers so that above 100 is above average for each one. Production in the field is better than $/WAR so I weighted it double and averaged the two scores. These scores are highly dependent on the WAR projections as they are used to make both components of the overall score. Moving a team up or down by a win would move a team a healthy amount. Here is the top ten:

Team WAR+ $/WAR+ Score+

Tigers 166 89 140

Indians 105 161 124

Rangers 118 130 122

Rays 110 144 122

Red Sox 139 87 122

Nationals 121 123 121

Athletics 97 165 120

Cardinals 118 125 120

Braves 95 159 117

Mariners 115 115 115

The Tigers get pretty average value from their pitchers, but because they are so phenomenal they lead the charge here. The Indians, Rays, A's and Braves find their way into the top ten through having average to somewhat above average staffs at great values while teams like Rangers, Nationals, and Cardinals do a little bit of both. The middle ten:

Team WAR+ $/WAR+ Score+

Marlins 75 188 113

Orioles 99 130 110

Yankees 137 55 110

Rockies 110 105 109

White Sox 90 126 102

Royals 93 117 101

Reds 97 94 96

Diamondbacks 91 104 95

Angels 94 89 93

Padres 80 119 93

The middle is a bit of a mixed bag. We mostly have teams that are a little mediocre who get decent value from their rotation, but the Marlins on one end and Yankees on the other show great disparity in building their staffs. The Yankees are likely to get good production and pay for it while the Marlins will not get great production (with apologies to Jose Fernandez), but are paying very little to do so.

The Bottom Ten:

Team WAR+ $/WAR+ Score+

Pirates 83 115 93

Cubs 83 93 87

Mets 70 118 86

Blue Jays 91 49 77

Dodgers 116 -4 76

Twins 76 72 75

Astros 51 107 70

Giants 96 16 69

Phillies 110 -26 64

Brewers 73 38 62

Let's get one thing out of the way. The Dodgers are here because they pay an astronomical amount for their rotation, but they do not care if they are on this list because they have an even more astronomical amount of money to spend. Even with that, if their rotation was projected as high as the Tigers, they would make the top half of this list. A bunch of these teams are simply bad and they are not getting great values for their rotation. The Blue Jays have spent a bunch of money, but are not expected to receive a good return on that investment. The Phillies rotation will be decent, but they have spent a ton to get it. As for the Brewers? They went to a really nice restaurant and ordered the milk steak and jelly beans.

These values will likely fluctuate as the season goes on. The Cardinals' rotation is set for a fairly conservative WAR of 14 which could easily be higher given the talented young arms the Cardinals have. It will be very difficult for the Tigers to reach their projections even with their fantastic rotation. None of these figures take into account future money owed or departures. The Tigers will either pay Max Scherzer an enormous sum or he will leave via free agency. In either instance, the Tigers will be getting less value from their rotation. It would not surprise me if the Cardinals are on top of this list at the end of the season. It would surprise me even less if the Cardinals were leading the way heading into 2015.

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