In October, pitching is worth gold.
So where are each of the teams through to the postseason this year in terms of their pitching corps? Good question, right? Here the ranking.
* EFE + statistics are up to Saturday
Rankings in MLB: first in EFE (3.01), EFE + (136) and WHIP (1.10), third in K / BB (3.29)
Balance: This isn’t exactly the pitching staff we envisioned for the Dodgers at the start of the season, but even so, the Blues’ rotation finished with the best ERA in the majors, as expected. With Clayton Kershaw likely due to arm problems, Max Scherzer, Walker Buehler and Mexico’s Julio César Urías make up a fearsome 1-2-3 in the Los Angeles rotation. The bullpen is full of experience with Kenley Jansen, Blake Treinen, Joe Kelly, David Price and Corey Knebel, and Phil Bickford has been a revelation.
Rankings in MLB: third in EFE (3.50) and EFE + (124), fourth in WHIP (1.18), ninth in K / BB (3.01)
Balance: Rights Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta make up one of the most fearsome trios this postseason. All three had ERAs below 3.00, with Burnes a solid candidate for the NL Cy Young. Milwaukee has one of the best closer in the game in Josh Hader, but they’re just as capable of getting the job done in middle innings with arms like Brent Suter, Brad Boxberger and Hunter Strickland. Even with the loss of their setter Devin Williams after breaking his pitching hand, this staff looks pretty solid.
Rankings in MLB: first in K / BB (3.43), second in EFE (3.24), EFE + (127) and WHIP (1.15)
Balance: The Giants pitching staff is a lot like their lineup. It’s not full of stars, but it is full of players who get the job done. Retaining Kevin Gausman and adding Anthony DeSclafani has been huge for the rotation, as has the reveal of young Logan Webb. Left-hander Jake McGee has been one of the most trusted closer in all of baseball this year. Tyler Rogers, Jarlin Garcia, Jose Alvarez, Zack Littell and Dominic Leone have all been solid options from the bullpen.
Rankings in MLB: fourths in K / BB (3.27) and EFE + (117), fifths in WHIP (1.20) and EFE (3.73)
Balance: The White Sox had one of the top two raises in strikeout percentage in MLB this season and also one of the 10 steepest drops in walk rate. Lance Lynn brought quite a pedigree to a rotation in which Lucas Giolito has been reliable, Carlos Rodón has turned his career around and Dylan Cease has taken a step forward (although Rodón’s problems with his throwing arm down the stretch) make it a question mark). The bullpen led by Liam Hendriks is quite deep, but veteran Craig Kimbrel’s performance has cast doubt on South Chicago.
Rankings in MLB: second in K / BB (3.39), third in WHIP (1.17), fourth in EFE (3.67), 11th in EFE + (107)
Balance: Blake Snell and Charlie Morton are gone, Tyler Glasnow is hurt, and despite that, the Rays always seem to find a way to win. Once again it will be fascinating to see how manager Kevin Cash employs his pitchers, especially with such a young and inexperienced rotation that includes three rookies (Shane McClanahan, Colombian Luis Patiño and Shane Baz, who debuted in September) and the sophomore pitcher (Drew Rasmussen). The relay has also undergone quite a few changes compared to last year and is now led by all-star Andrew Kittredge.
Rankings in MLB: sixth in EFE (3.74) and EFE + (114), fifth in WHIP (1.20) and K / BB (3.19)
Balance: Giving the ball to Gerrit Cole is easy, but after that the Yankees have run into quite a few challenges, including a shoulder problem that cost veteran Corey Kluber three months and an erratic season from right-hander Jameson Taillon on his return. from his second operation Tommy John. Regardless, Jordan Montgomery has been a fairly reliable second starter, and Cuban-American Nestor Cortes Jr. has unexpectedly come forward with quality innings. Nicaraguan Jonathan Loáisiga’s shoulder injury was a serious blow to the bullpen and put a lot of pressure on Cuban closer Aroldis Chapman and right-hander Chad Green. But Loáisiga returned in the last week, and Luis Severino has become an interesting weapon in relief, as have Michael King and Clay Holmes.
Rankings in MLB: seventh in EFE (3.76) and WHIP (1.23), fifth in ERA + (115), 17th in K / BB (2.65)
Balance: Although Zack Greinke has not been at the level we know him, the Astros have managed to put together a solid rotation. Framber Valdez and Lance McCullers Jr. have both had excellent years, and Rookie of the Year Award nominee Luis Garcia has been a key arm. Mexico’s José Urquidy is also a solid option for October. The bullpen raises an even bigger question. Despite the acquisition of Kendall Graveman on the trade deadline, the Astros have continued to have stretches in which they have struggled to build a bridge to closer to Ryan Pressly.
Rankings in MLB: 7th in EFE + (113), 8th in EFE (3.88), 10th in WHIP (1.24), 13th in K / BB (2.75)
Balance: Atlanta has dealt with plenty of injuries and inconsistency within its rotation, but Max Fried and Charlie Morton have come to stabilize the top of the starting five. If Ian Anderson can straighten the boat a little and pitch like he did for the Braves last October, that will greatly improve his chances of advancing. The bullpen has been an area of much doubt as deadline acquisition Richard Rodriguez has looked prone to home runs and Will Smith’s walk rate has soared.
Rankings in MLB: 12th in EFE (3.98), 17th in WHIP (1.30), 20th in EFE + (98), 30th in K / BB (2.01)
Balance: Plagued by injuries basically from day one of spring training, the Cardinals were never able to put together the rotation they envisioned. But in the second half, the return of Miles Mikolas and trade acquisitions of lefties JA Happ and Jon Lester solidified the rotation behind the eternal Adam Wainwright. Jack Flaherty is a big question mark after a lost season with shoulder and side injuries. A bullpen in which Alex Reyes and others have compiled the worst walk rate in MLB has unexpectedly improved after the additions of Luis Garcia and TJ McFarland. Somehow, the Cardinals have put together one of the most effective pitching staffs in all of baseball in the second half, aided by the best defense in the game when it comes to above-average outs.
Rankings in MLB: 9th in EFE + (111), 12th in K / BB (2.80), 15th in EFE (4.26), 23rd in WHIP (1.38)
Balance: Boston was extremely careful and extremely patient with rotation ace Chris Sale on his return from Operation Tommy John, and that approach has paid quite a bit of dividends down the stretch. Sale has looked like his best years since his return in August. The left-hander is joined by right-hander Nathan Eovaldi to form a great duo with October experience at the top of the rotation. But with the talented rookie Tanner Houck moved to the bullpen to control his workload, the rotation has doubts from there. The bullpen is operating without defined roles, as the performance of Matt Barnes and Adam Ottavino has declined considerably in the second half.