It seems to have become a truism for some fans that no baseball team can win consistently without a staff full of aces, or at least No 1s and No 2s (whatever those terms happen to mean to you). The thinking seems to be that you need a Philly style staff-of-aces to have the barest hope of any postseason success, let alone actually reaching the post-season in the first place.
I'm not sure I buy it.
Aces are nice and I'd love to have a stable of them on the Cubs, just like any other baseball fan, but I wouldn't go so far as to say they are required. In fact, we can all without thinking too hard start to name some very good baseball teams that had at most one really good pitcher.
And that got me thinking - just how bad can the rotation be?
Put together a five man rotation good enough to get into the postseason (by no objective metric - subjectivity only for now (although I do grade myself with fWAR)).
Let's lay the following ground rules. The team you are building a rotation for is:
1 - Top 5 in defense
2 - Top 5 in offense
3 - Has a Top 5 bullpen
4 - Not Colorado.
Badness here can be measured however you like (including by cheapness if you equate talent with salary).
I think with a good defensive, good offensive team, the starting staff needs to do two things: eat innings and not give up home runs. Not surprisingly, these are two things that very good pitchers do well. To make sure I kept to the not-so-good ones, though, I forced myself to only select pitchers with an ERA over 4.00. I also generally avoided highly touted prospects and, to some extent, formerly very good pitchers on a down year.
I went to fangraphs, used 2013 numbers, only considered pitchers who threw at least 180 innings, and looked over several sorts. Current results are below, in no particular order.
Kyle Kendrick - FIP 4.01. But, with 182 innings, a GB% of 49.4% and a HR/9 of 0.89 he fits what I'm looking for. fWAR was just 1.7.
Tim Lincecum - His FIP of 3.74 is much better than his ERA of 4.37, and I'm taking advantage. This does feel like cheating, though. Still, 197 innings, 45.3% GB rate and less than 1 HR/9. He makes the cut legitimately. His fWAR was 1.6.
Joe Saunders - His HR/9 is higher (1.23) but he did pitch 183 innings with a GB% of 51.2%. fWAR of 0.6.
Kevin Correa - 185.1 innings is a good start, but he makes the list because he only had a 2.19 BB/9. He might give the outfield defense a workout though. fWAR of 1.3.
Jeremy Guthrie - His 211 innings is nice, and his FIP suggests he was worse than his ERA projects. To be honest there isn't a lot here I like, but the 78.2% LOB rate is nice... assuming he wasn't just lucky all year. fWAR of 1.1.
And there is my initial staff. Could that rotation win? I don't think it would be awful. With a good defense and some big bats backing it up I think it could snag a Wild Card. Total fWAR is 6.3.
Who's got lower?