Wednesday, February 4, 2015


We're getting close to spring training, right? (Even as--especially as--blizzards pound the American landscape east of the Mississippi.) So we can start writing "series" just like the overdetermined media folks do. (OK, we will refrain from the overdetermined "ask a stupid transparent leading question and make it the god-damned-mega-overdetermined-title-of-our-goddamned-stupid-article" ploy. We'll just use a lot more parentheses...)

And what better place to start a "series" than with our long-time, long-term semi-nebulous concept of the "blue collar" starting rotation. Sounds good, n'est-ce pas? It's got that "throwback" feel to it (even if no one can quite remember just what "blue collar" was supposed to mean).

So, goddamn it, we are here to define it at last. (And--goddamn it--we're damned if we do and god-damned damned if we don't.)

A "blue collar" starting rotation is one where a team has no starting pitcher with 20 or more GS in a season with an ERA+ of 120 or higher.

What we're interested in determining is as follows: 1) how many of them are there, and 2) how often do they occur on teams that make the post-season.

So we have (at right) a chart that shows the team data for this over the past ten years (2005-14).

When we break out those numbers, we find that 35% of all teams have what we call "blue collar" starting rotations. (42% of all teams have one pitcher with an ERA+ equal/greater to 120; 17% have two; 6% have three or more.)

Of those, 25 (or 20%) are playoff teams. We've identified most of these in the chart with a red zero. (Alas--goddamn it--we missed a few.) The most recent such team--the 2014 World Champion San Francisco Giants. The team they replaced as world champs--the 2013 Boston Red Sox--also had a "blue collar" starting rotation.

As you might expect, the more pitchers with a 120+ ERA that a team has, the more likely it is that they'll be in the post-season. 24% of all teams with one pitcher in the "white collar" (120+ ERA+) category make the playoffs' 43% of all teams with two pitchers in that same performance region wind up in the post-season. And 71% of teams with three or more 120+ ERA starters don't go home when the regular season ends.

Now, of course, some pitching rotations are more "blue collar" than others. We'll discuss that--and a bit more--in our next installment.