The blog Metsrospectus had a cool post linked in the FanShots this week. It investigated where R.A. Dickey's 2011 performance would place him in every other MLB team's rotation. It reminded of a post I had run the last few years, which aimed to quantify what makes a #1 through #5 starting pitcher. The first paragraph here describing the imperfect methodology is pulled from last year's post.
When describing starting pitchers, people often say things like "he's an ace" or "he's a #4 pitcher". A pet peeve of mine is the lazy labeling of a pitcher to a certain rotation spot, based mostly on a subjective feeling. Poll a group of baseball fans about this topic and you will likely receive a vast array of opinions. My take, which is similar to the ones shared in this post and this post, is that if a pitcher is in the top 1/5 of starters in his league, then he should be called a #1 starter. The next 1/5 are #2's, the next 1/5 are #3's, etc. I pulled some statistics from FanGraphs to devise a way of classifying National League starters based on their 2011 performance.
A total of 15,547 innings were thrown by 147 different NL starters this season. I put together spreadsheets with all of the pitchers, their innings pitched, and their fielding independent pitching (FIP) and ERA. Click here for the FIP spreadsheet and click here for the ERA spreadsheet. I created 5 groups of 3,109 innings each by dividing 15,547 total innings by 5. Beginning with the pitcher who boasts the best FIP/ERA, I summed innings until reaching 3,109 to determine #1 pitchers. I did the same all the way through the bottom spot on the list. Got it? Standard caveats apply here: the numbers aren't park adjusted, multiple years of data would probably yield more meaningful results, etc. Here are the FIP results, showing pitcher classification, the number of pitchers that fit that classification, and the corresponding FIP range:
Of the #1 pitchers, only 10 threw 150+ innings. Here is how the Mets' starters fared:
Now for the ERA results:
And here is how the Mets' starters stack up: