MLB teams made a plethora of huge offseason moves to bolster their starting staffs. In many cases it was the rich getting richer, as the Dodgers, Yankees and Padres loaded up at the expense of teams like the Cubs, Rangers and Reds. But in other cases it was just huge young arms finally getting a chance to ascend to ace recognition.
As you consider which teams might have the right recipes to play into late October, remember that the Rays’ rotation was ranked fourth and the Dodgers’ starters were rated sixth at the outset of last year’s shortened season. Depth in the rotation is very important to sustained success, so exercises like this can be very helpful in determining futures wagers.
I’ve put together a ranking of teams’ combined starting pitcher power ratings based on the same numbers I use to generate the daily ratings on VSiN.com. They are taken from my individual pitcher ratings and the length of their typical starts. I’ve also used the depth charts offered by ESPN.com as a guide for determining a Nos. 1-6 rotation order for each team. Naturally, the pitchers at the top would figure to get the most starts and innings. But for the purposes of this exercise, I have treated all but the No. 6 pitchers equally in an effort to focus on depth as the most important factor.
My power rankings are built exclusively for betting markets, meaning I tend to price the pitchers based more on how the betting markets perceive them than their actual stats. So I put more emphasis on pitchers whose talent and arsenal command more respect from those setting the odds. A pitcher with a big arm who can overpower hitters with multiple dominant pitches is rated higher in my system than those who rely on craft and perhaps good fortune to manage games. This line of thinking best reflects the markets that baseball bettors face daily.
You’ll want to evaluate more closely some specific study highlights if you hope to find value in the season win totals, divisional odds or World Series prices. For instance:
— For the second straight season, the defending champion is the team with the best starting pitching depth in MLB, according to my numbers. Last year it was the Nationals, but they wound up suffering several key injuries and missed the postseason. I don’t figure that will be the case for the Dodgers, whose lineup is arguably the best in baseball as well. After adding Trevor Bauer to the mix in 2021, this pitching staff is elite.
— The Padres are No. 2 in my rankings, but also No. 2 in their own division, the NL West. For 2021, San Diego added Yu Darvish, who comes off an unbelievably strong season with the Cubs, and Blake Snell, who helped the Rays get to the World Series.
— Besides the Bauer and Darvish acquisitions, perhaps the biggest pitching splash was made by the Yankees, who added former Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber. The Yankees also figure to get a boost from the return of Jameson Taillon, who missed much of 2019 and opted out of 2020 after Tommy John surgery. He had a couple of big seasons for the Pirates before the injury. Not coincidentally, New York checks in at No. 3.
— The other New York rotation might wind up being the best of all, as it boasts the No. 1 pitcher in baseball in Jacob deGrom. He is joined by newcomers Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker as well as the return of Marcus Stroman, the makings of a formidable foursome. Should Noah Syndergaard return around midseason in top form, the Mets will clearly be a team to consider as a postseason threat.
— The loss of Justin Verlander after an elbow injury last year leaves the Astros ranked eighth. This is a low point for the franchise dating back at least five years. However, Verlander hopes to return at some point in 2021 and would provide a late-season lift if he does. In his absence, look for continued development from guys like Cristian Javier, Jose Urquidy and Framber Valdez.
— The White Sox have a rotation capable of ascending this list by the time the season is complete. With Lance Lynn joining the rotation after a trade with the Rangers, the core group of Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel and Lynn is as good as anyone’s. Add the potential of Dylan Cease and the re-establishment of Michael Kopech as an elite arm and things could be interesting on the South Side this summer.
— Washington started the 2020 season as the defending champion and ranked No. 1 on this list. For 2021, the Nationals check in at No. 11. Perhaps time is catching up to Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, who have been nasty and dominant for the last decade. The lone addition to the rotation is also well past his best years, the aging Jon Lester.
— The NL Central’s starting pitching is ranked much lower than usual. Milwaukee is the highest-rated club at No. 12, but usual top-rated teams like the Cardinals, Reds and Cubs have seen their staffs decimated in recent years. The Cards and Reds could be good, but great would be a stretch. Cincinnati lost Bauer, and the Cubs lost Darvish. Both were studs in their rotations a year ago.
— Some trendy teams disappointed besides the Reds last season. Arizona added Madison Bumgarner to the top of the rotation and looked to have the makings of one of the best staffs in the league. He never returned to form, nor did Robbie Ray. The latter was traded. Now the Diamondbacks are a bottom-half rotation. Same goes for Texas, which started the 2020 season with a top three of Kluber, Lynn and Mike Minor. All three are gone, leaving the starting staff a work in progress.
— Toronto’s completely rebuilt rotation was also a disappointment in 2020. With Hyun Jin Ryu as the ace, perhaps a full season can help build the rest of the group. Big years from Tanner Roark, Ross Stripling or Ray could provide the Blue Jays the assist their potent young lineup needs.
— With the already diminished Chris Sale expected to be out for most or all of 2021, the Red Sox’s rotation checks in at No. 25. Only five teams are worse, and after a first weekend in which they scored just five runs in three losses to the Orioles, the Red Sox need much more to even be competitive.
— The bottom two teams are in the National League, as Colorado at No. 29 and Pittsburgh at No. 30 round out the list. Most of these teams’ best options from recent years are pitching for other franchises now.
Here are MLB’s 30 teams ranked in order of their combined starting pitcher power ratings, according to my numbers.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
Average starter power rank: 33.1
Average start length: 5.21 innings (13th)
Analysis: The addition of Trevor Bauer, and essentially David Price too after he opted out of 2020, gives this staff virtually no weak spot. The Dodgers will be spot-starting pitchers like Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin, who would be front-line studs on other teams.
2. San Diego Padres
Average starter power rank: 30.3
Average start length: 4.97 innings (22nd)
Analysis: If Yu Darvish has anywhere near the season he did in 2020, this team won’t miss a beat from the Mike Clevinger injury. Blake Snell gives San Diego a solid left-hander to mix things up as well. This franchise will be putting a stud on the hill every night.
3. New York Yankees
Average starter power rank: 21.5
Average start length: 5.22 innings (12th)
Analysis: Gerrit Cole is the top-line starter, no doubt. Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon give this rotation even more star power. Have to wonder, though, whether this is another Yankees mistake to count on two guys to re-establish their best days.
4. New York Mets
Average Starter power rank: 20.1
Average start length: 5.35 innings (6th)
Analysis: Jacob deGrom will once again carry the Mets and is probably the best starter in the game. The Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker additions look very good on paper, but is 90+ wins a little overzealous considering the rotation has just one automatic star?
5. Atlanta Braves
Average starter power rank: 19.3
Average start length: 5.2 innings (14th)
Analysis: Charlie Morton might be one of the more underrated pickups for any rotation this season, as he boasts a long run of success and postseason experience. He joins a rotation that has solid young arms like Ian Anderson and Max Fried. But how this staff fares depends a lot on how the return of Mike Soroka plays out.
6. Cleveland Indians
Average starter power rank: 18.9
Average start length: 5.64 innings (1st)
Analysis: Shane Bieber was unhittable for most of the shortened 2020 season until the playoffs. Triston McKenzie, Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale are ready to establish themselves in rotation spots that have been opened by studs’ departures in recent years.
7. Philadelphia Phillies
Average starter power rank: 18.9
Average start length: 5.32 innings (8th)
Analysis: Matt Moore is the addition to the rotation and gives the Phillies their only prominent lefty. Spencer Howard, the franchise’s top prospect, could make things interesting if he gets a shot in 2021.
8. Houston Astros
Average starter power rank: 17.4
Average start length: 5.25 innings (10th)
Analysis: Losing Justin Verlander is a killer, and he’s not expected back until September if at all. But the franchise faces no shortage of live arms. Keep an eye on Josh James when he returns from hip surgery.
9. Chicago White Sox
Average starter power rank: 17.2
Average start length: 5.52 innings (2nd)
Analysis: Huge potential from this group with the addition of Lance Lynn. Can Michael Kopech regain the promise he once showed if he joins the rotation? Can Dylan Cease gain better command?
10. Minnesota Twins
Average starter power rank: 16.4
Average start length: 5.48 innings (3rd)
Analysis: Good potential exists in the Twins’ rotation with the addition of J.A. Happ and assuming Randy Dobnak gets his fair share of starting opportunities.
11. Washington Nationals
Average starter power rank: 14.2
Average start length: 5.42 innings (5th)
Analysis: An aging staff that has had trouble staying healthy. Jon Lester doesn’t add much at this point. The Nats need full seasons from Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin to get back to the postseason.
12. Milwaukee Brewers
Average starter power rank: 13.9
Average start length: 4.74 innings (27th)
Analysis: Solid 1-2 with Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes. Who joins them as contributors? Essentially, this team just needs some table-setters beyond those two to get it to the elite bullpen.
13. Miami Marlins
Average starter power rank: 12.6
Average start length: 5.33 innings (7th of 30)
Analysis: Sandy Alcantara, Sixto Sanchez and Pablo Lopez give the Marlins a nice threesome to build on. Trevor Rogers holds the key to this rotation’s success, though. He is a big young lefty capable of dominating hitters.
14. Cincinnati Reds
Average starter power rank: 12.4
Average start length: 4.89 innings (23rd)
Analysis: The loss of Trevor Bauer took a big bite out of this team’s potential after an underwhelming 2020 campaign. Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo are decent but not at Bauer’s level. Wade Miley is the only southpaw.
15. Los Angeles Angels
Average starter power rank: 11.5
Average start length: 5.12 innings (18th)
Analysis: I am probably among the few who thinks this rotation has plenty of upside. Dylan Bundy and Griffin Canning are potential ace material, and Shohei Ohtani is filthy if he can stay healthy. The addition of Jose Quintana could be bigger than the Angels are getting credit for.
16. St. Louis Cardinals
Average starter power rank: 10.5
Average start length: 5.3 innings (9th)
Analysis: Jack Flaherty had a disappointing 2020 campaign, and that is as much a reason as any for the perceived decline of the Cards’ rotation. Adam Wainwright and Carlos Martinez no longer stoke fear either. If this is like other seasons, however, St. Louis will hit it big with a surprise performer, likely Kwang Hyun Kim.
17. Oakland Athletics
Average starter power rank: 9.3
Average start length: 5.2 innings (15th)
Analysis: Other than Chris Bassitt, the entire A’s starting staff seemingly took a big step backward in 2020. Perhaps a full schedule will help this team restore some of its lost luster.
18. Arizona Diamondbacks
Average starter power rank: 9.3
Average start length: 5.19 innings (17th)
Analysis: Madison Bumgarner was a bust for Arizona in 2020, as was Luke Weaver. They are still around. Robbie Ray also flopped but was shipped out. The only bright spot that emerged for the Diamondbacks a year ago was Zac Gallen. As a third-year major-leaguer, he is now this franchise’s best option. That’s concerning.
19. Seattle Mariners
Average starter power rank: 8.5
Average start length: 5.1 innings (19th)
Analysis: The Mariners have a couple of nice lefties at the top of the rotation in Marco Gonzales and James Paxton. No other team does. But the rest of the rotation lacks much except good potential.
20. Chicago Cubs
Average starter power rank: 8.2
Average start length: 5.2 innings (16th)
Analysis: The Cubs’ rotation has been decimated so much that Kyle Hendricks is now the top dog. I like my pitchers with big arms to overpower hitters with multiple dominant pitches. That isn’t Hendricks. It was Yu Darvish last season. He is gone. So is Jose Quintana.
21. Tampa Bay Rays
Average starter power rank: 7.8
Average start length: 4.7 innings (28th)
Analysis: The Rays had a top-four staff at the outset of last season. The top two on that staff, Charlie Morton and Blake Snell, are gone. Hard to see this team making a repeat run to the World Series with Tyler Glasnow essentially on an island.
22. Toronto Blue Jays
Average starter power rank: 7.3
Average start length: 4.83 innings (26th)
Analysis: Hyun Jin Ryu is a solid top-line starter, but the rest of this bunch is a collection of castoffs. Pitching potential doesn’t match the lineup in this case.
23. San Francisco Giants
Average starter power rank: 5.5
Average start length: 4.85 innings (25th)
Analysis: Kevin Gausman is the highest-rated starter on this staff. Enough said.
24. Kansas City Royals
Average starter power rank: 4
Average start length: 5.45 innings (4th)
Analysis: Mike Minor is a nice addition to the top of the Royals’ rotation, and Brad Keller had a tremendous 2020 campaign. Not sure it can be repeated, though. Brady Singer, Jakob Junis and Danny Duffy are capable of mowing down hitters when they’re on. But that hasn’t been as often as Royals fans have liked.
25. Boston Red Sox
Average starter power rank: 2.7
Average start length: 5.07 innings (20th)
Analysis: It’s kind of sad seeing how badly the Red Sox’s rotation has deteriorated. Eduardo Rodriguez provides some hope after missing 2020 following a solid ’19 campaign. Can Garrett Richards find his pre-2018 form?
26. Detroit Tigers
Average starter power rank: 2.7
Average start length: 4.49 innings (29th)
Analysis: Matt Boyd and Spencer Turnbull have had flashes of greatness. Not enough to anchor a solid MLB rotation, though.
27. Baltimore Orioles
Average starter power rank: -1.5
Average start length: 4.89 innings (24th)
Analysis: Crafty John Means is the highest-rated starter on this staff after a 4.53 ERA in 2020. Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer have shown the potential to strike out a lot of hitters.
28. Texas Rangers
Average starter power rank: -2
Average start length: 5.04 innings (21st)
Analysis: The Rangers’ staff has been ravaged. Losing Mike Minor, Corey Kluber and Lance Lynn will obviously have an impact.
29. Colorado Rockies
Average starter power rank: -2
Average start length: 5.24 innings (11th)
Analysis: Not real sure what happened to the Rockies’ staff. The top options — German Marquez, Kyle Freeland and Jon Gray — have performed hugely for the franchise in the past.
30. Pittsburgh Pirates
Average starter power rank: -3
Average start length: 4.45 innings (30th)
Analysis: This franchise has produced some great pitchers in recent years, such as Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow. None of the current group appears to have that pedigree at this point, but who knows?