On Wednesday, Matthew Pouliot of NBC Sports' Hardball talk took a moment to rank the rotations across Major League Baseball. Somewhat disappointingly, Pouliot concluded that the Royals ranked 22nd in the league and according to his Rotoworld Player Projections would compile a 3.94 ERA over 940 innings pitched. You can view the full list here.
For reference, last season the Royals rotation ranked 12th in baseball with a 3.87 ERA, as well as 4th with 986.2 innings pitched. The issue for the Royals is that much of this rotation success stems from a defense that was one of, if not the best in all of baseball. When we look at Fielding Independent Pitching, the Royals rotation ranking falls to 21st at 4.12 in 2013.
If you give NBC Sports the benefit of the doubt that writer Pouliot has taken into consideration the Royals defensive prowess and is wise enough to not include that in the Royals ranking, then a ranking in the low 20s shouldn't come as a huge surprise to Royals fans. Especially, when you remember that the average sports fan is going to immediately knock the staff for the trade out of Ervin Santana for Jason Vargas.
Ultimately, the success of this rotation will depend on what the Royals get from Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura in 2014. If those two starters can be what many in the organization expect them to be, then this rotation will have no problem posting a better FIP than the one posted by the 2013 version. If those to are duds in 2014, then the Royals will be thankful to have the consistency of Jason Vargas and Bruce Chen on their staff.
At this point, the Royals have six guys who would be deserving of rotation spots to open the season. There is the dependable front end guy (James Shields), the dependable innings eaters (Vargas, Chen, and Jeremy Guthrie), and there are the high upside wild cards (Duffy and Ventura). It is a good blend of options and with Zimmer also on the way, there is even more upside that could reach Kansas City by season's end.
I definitely wouldn't be against a Royals move for another starter (A.J. Burnett or Ervin Santana), and I definitely think the rotation upgrades could have been handled in different measures in the offseason. However, if last year's rotation was strong enough to get the Royals to 86 wins, I see no reason why this rotation couldn't hold course. Obviously, for the Royals to get to the next level, the real key will be improvement on the offensive side of things.
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