The Boston Red Sox added a marque piece to their starting rotation this off-season, but is it enough to call them the best pitching staff in the AL?
The Red Sox have been the talk of the off-season, and rightfully so. Reeling in a big fish like Chris Sale, arguably the best pitcher in the American League, is a move that demands attention.
Sale joins a pitching staff that features the reigning AL Cy Young award winner. They also have the 2012 Cy Young winner an organization deemed talented enough to warrant a $30 million salary. Settling into the bottom of the rotation are a knuckleballer coming off a breakout year and (likely) a 23-year old left-hander who showed flashes of brilliance last season.
That is very good.
Is a rotation’s track record of multiple Cy Young’s and 12 all-star appearances between them enough to already proclaim it as the best in the American League?
There are two ways to evaluate a pitching staff.
A.) Predict how they are going to pitch based on how much people say ‘oooh’ or ‘ahh’ after their name is heard.
B.) Look at the numbers.
In 2016, Toronto Blue Jays starting pitchers were statistically better than every other team in the AL, including that great Cleveland Indians staff. Here are some of the categories they led the league in.
ERA, WHIP, innings pitched, total runs and earned runs, AVG, OBP, SLG, and ground ball outs.
They finished second in hits allowed, one behind (Cleveland), and home runs against, two behind (Houston).
Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ, Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, R.A. Dickey, and Francisco Liriano combined to make the best group of starters in the American League last season — because that’s what the numbers say.
To determine just how good the revamped Red Sox rotation can be, it is only fair to compare their statistics from last season to the best rotation in baseball.
Here’s how the projected 2017 Blue Jays (Sanchez, Happ, Estrada, Stroman, Liriano) and Red Sox (Sale, Price, Porcello, Wright, Rodriguez) starting pitchers stack up against each other, based on their combined individual stats from last season.
IP: TOR – 930 | BOS – 942.4
ERA: TOR – 3.74 | BOS – 3.70
WHIP: TOR – 1.246 | BOS – 1.156
SO/9: TOR – 8 | BOS – 8.3
BB/9: TOR – 3.24 | BOS – 2.36
HR/9: TOR – 1.04 | BOS – 1.04
WAR: TOR – 14.3 | BOS – 15.5
If the current Boston-five were together last year, they would surpass the American-League leading Blue Jays in all of these major pitching categories. A couple of factors that may have mildly skewed the data were Liriano’s tough start to the season in Pittsburgh and Rodriguez’s 100 innings pitched, which were an outlier.
It’s all hypothetical of course, but the numbers show how dominant both of these AL East rotations could be, and how valuable Sale really is — catapulting the Sox up multiple statistical categories single-handedly.
As always, there are still many questions that lie ahead for both teams.
Can Porcello repeat his dream season? Can Price continue to deliver 230+ innings? Was Steven Wright a one hit wonder?
Will Stroman rebound and show he is a top-of-the-rotation starter? Which Liriano will the Blue Jays get? Can Happ repeat those numbers?
The same questions pop up every year with different names attached, but one thing is for sure, the Blue Jays and Red Sox have the best rotations in the American League.