Ranking MLB’s Starting Rotations: 20-16

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30-26.

25-21.

20. Pittsburgh Pirates

  • 1)RHP Gerrit Cole
  • 24 years old: 11-5, 3.65 ERA, 138 IP, 127 H, 56 ER, 11 HR, 40 BB, 138 K, 1.21 WHIP, 9.00 K/9, 2.61 BB/9, 3.25 xFIP, 2.1 WAR, 1.55 GB/FB, .311BABIP
    • 49.2 percent ground balls, 2,197 pitches, 1,419 strikes.
    • 95.5 MPH FB (66.7), 83.7 MPHCRV (16.2), 86.5 MPH SL (12.1), 86.8 MPH CH (5.0)
      • Drafted first overall by Pittsburgh in 2011 out of UCLA, Cole has been highly touted coming up through the Pirates farm system. In three minor league seasons, he won 17 games, lost 11, and posted an excellent 2.45 ERA with 199 strikeouts in 222 1/3 innings. Since breaking into the majors in 2013, he’s gone 21-12 with a 3.45 ERA. He’s seen as the Pirates future and present ace – and rightfully so – he has the talent and numbers to warrant that claim, despite some injury troubles. Last season, he missed most of June, July, and August. Hopefully for the Pirates, he’s fully healthy in 2015, and if healthy, there’s no reason he can’t win 14-18 games – he’s got that kind of talent.
  • 2)RHP Vance Worley
  • 27 years old: 8-4, 2.85 ERA, 110.2 IP, 112 H, 35 ER, 9 HR, 22 BB, 79 K, 1.21 WHIP, 6.42 K/9, 1.79 BB/9, 3.54 xFIP, 1.4 WAR, 1.63 GB/FB, .299BABIP
    • 49.4 percent ground balls, 1,578 pitches, 1,071 strikes.
    • 89.5 MPH FB (68.3), 84.0 MPH CUT (22.2), 77.1 MPH CRV (8.2), 84.4 MPH CH (1.3)
    • Worley is a bit unpredictable. As a Phillie in 2011, he won 11 games, lost just three, and posted an excellent 3.01 ERA. After a 2012 season where he came back down to earth of sorts, going 6-9, he was traded to Minnesota, along with Trevor May, in a deal that sent outfielder Ben Revere to Philadelphia. In his one season as a Twin, he was terrible, with a 1-5 record and 7.21 ERA in ten starts. Last year, as a Pirate, he resembled 2011 Worley, with an 8-4 record and 2.85 ERA. In those two years, he’s a combined 19-7 with a 2.92 mark, while in 2012-13, he was 7-14 with a 5.00. Hopefully for the Pirates, Worley looks more like his 2011/14 version in 2015 and going forward.
  • 3)RHP Jeff Locke
  •  27 years old: 7-6, 3.91 ERA, 131.1 IP, 127 H, 57 ER, 16 HR, 40 BB, 89 K, 1.27 WHIP, 6.10 K/9, 2.74 BB/9, 3.90 xFIP, 0.1 WAR, 1.71 GB/FB, .278BABIP
    • 50.5 percent ground balls, 1,962 pitches, 1,264 strikes.
    • 90.5 MPH FB (62.0), 79.4 MPH CH (24.1), 77.6 MPH CRV (13.9)
    • Drafted in the second round by Atlanta in 2006, he was sent to Pittsburgh in 2009 in the deal that sent outfielder Nate McLouth to the Braves. Typically listed as one of the Pirates top prospects in preseason publications, he had small stints in 2011 and ’12 with Pittsburgh, going 1-6 with a 5.82 ERA. In the last two years, he’s been more steady at the big league level, with a 17-13 record and 3.69 ERA, even making the National League All Star Team in 2013. Despite making the All Star Game, a poor second half in which he posted an 8.15 ERA forced a demotion to Double A. He earned a spot on the big league roster the next June, where he was steady in 131 1/3 innings of work. Locke goes forward as an intriguing piece of Pittsburgh’s future. Hopefully for the Pirates, he can put it together and have a full, consistent season in 2015.
  • 4)RHP A.J. Burnett
  •  37 years old: 8-18, 4.59 ERA, 213.2 IP, 205 H, 109 ER, 20 HR, 96 BB, 190 K, 1.41 WHIP, 8.00 K/9, 4.04 BB/9, 3.95 xFIP, 1.0 WAR, 1.78 GB/FB, .302BABIP
    • 50.9 percent ground balls, 3,472 pitches, 2,114 strikes.
    • 91.7 MPH FB (59.4), 81.7 MPH CRV (33.5), 86.5 MPH CH (7.5)
    • With 155 wins, 404 starts, and 2,370 career strikeouts, Burnett is definitely the veteran of the staff. He’s bounced around the league quite a bit. He spent his first seven years as a Marlin, where he was up and down, occasionally injured, and finished his tenure with a 49-50 record and 3.73 ERA. He then signed a five-year, $55M deal with Toronto, which was seen as a big risk due to his injury history, and after three years, he opted out, and he signed a five-year, $82M deal with New York. In his six years combined with the teams, he was pedestrian, with a 72-61 record, 4.39 ERA, and only two seasons with ERA’s below four, leading the league in strikeouts just once, and wild pitches twice, walks once, and hit batsmen once. He’s spent the last three years with Pittsburgh (2012-13) and Philadelphia (2014), where he’s had some more success, with a 34-39 record and 3.83 ERA. He experienced much more success in Pittsburgh, where he went 26-21 with a 3.41 mark in two seasons, even leading the league in strikeouts per nine in his final season there. After an 18-loss season with Philadelphia, he signed a one-year, $8.5 million deal to return to Pittsburgh. The Pirates will hope he looks like the Burnett that pitched for them for two successful seasons, his best statistical seasons since his Marlin days, and not like the Burnett that led the league in losses last year. Either way, a stabilizing veteran is a good guy to have in the back-end.
  • 5)LHP Francisco Liriano
  • 31 years old: 7-10, 3.35 ERA, 162.1 IP, 130 H, 61 ER, 13 HR, 81 BB, 175 K, 1.30 WHIP, 9.70 K/9, 4.49 BB/9, 3.40 xFIP, 1.6 WAR, 2.03 GB/FB, .280BABIP
    • 54.4 percent ground balls, 2,714 pitches, 1,632 strikes.
    • 92.6 MPH FB (42.9), 85.3 MPH SL (31.8), 85.6 MPH CH (25.3)
    • Developed by the Giants and Twins, Liriano broke into the majors in 2006, often compared to then-teammate Johan Santana, and as a rookie, Liriano didn’t disappoint, with 12 wins and an outstanding 2.16 ERA. From 2007 to ’12, however, he took a step back, missing all of 2007 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and going 40-49 with a 4.75 ERA onward. He pitched for the White Sox in 2012, struggled, and was demoted to the bullpen. Liriano then signed a two-year deal with Pittsburgh, and like Burnett, it took a change of scenery for the veteran to get back on track. In the last two years in Pittsburgh, he’s been excellent, with a 23-18 record, 3.20 ERA, 338 strikeouts in 323 1/3 innings, and resembles old Liriano much more than the Liriano whose career was derailed by command issues and injuries.
  • Other possible contributors:
    • RHP Stolmy Pimentel: 2-1, 5.23 ERA, 32.2 IP
      • Minor leaguer went 45-50 with a 4.10 in eight minor league seasons.
      • 93 MPH FB, 86 MPH SPL, 87 MPH SL
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