2015 Cleveland Indians’ Rotation is Strong and Cost-Effective

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The Cleveland Indians Boast a Cost-Effective and Stellar Rotation

The Cleveland Indians starting rotation last year pitched spectacularly. Despite, or perhaps because of, the collapse of former staff ace Justin Masterson, the young rotation struck out a Major League leading 8.92 batters per nine innings, nearly a half batter more than the next best team. The rotation also had the second best FIP and xFIP, third best fWAR, and second most strikeouts per walk in the MLB.

And who were the teams that surpassed the Tribe in these categories? The Los Angeles Dodgers, Detroit Tigers, and Washington Nationals. These three teams spent the first, fifth, and ninth most on pitching in the MLB last season, respectively, while the Indians spent the second least on pitching, ahead of only the lowly Miami Marlins. The achievements made by the 2014 starting rotation are impressive without looking at the money spent by each team. Only when you add in the financial figures do you truly begin to appreciate the brilliance of Cleveland’s Front Office.

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Below I have complied each AL Central team’s current Opening Day payroll for their five starting pitchers and their projected 2015 WAR (using Steamer projections). When selecting players, I used the starting pitchers guaranteed money next season, then the league minimum players with the highest projected WAR until I reached five starting pitchers. I didn’t do this with the Indians because Steamer projected Floyd and House to start significantly less than 30 games, likely due to 2014 being House’s rookie year and Floyd’s recent injuries. To counter this, I averaged the two WARs and weighted it to give create a T.J. Floyd (or Gavin House) that would pitch 30 games. As for T.J. Floyd’s salary, I just added the two together (so the Indians technically are paying for six starting pitchers instead of five, in the table). It’s not perfect, but it gives you an idea.

James Loney will make more money in 2015 than the entire Indians’ starting rotation. He is a fine player, but James Lonely has amassed 9.6 WAR over his nine-year career.  Next year’s rotation is projected to amass more than that, and this year’s already has.

James Loney will make more money in 2015 than the entire Indians’ starting rotation.

Considering that Steamer projects both Gavin Floyd and Trevor Bauer to struggle heavily (the two combine for a 0.8 WAR), it is a fair bet that the Indians will out-perform this projection. Even if Floyd and Bauer do not surpass Steamer’s projections, the Indians are paying much less per WAR than other teams. The Indians pay just over $780,000 for each WAR, while the Tigers pay an absurd $7 million.

Having a cost-effective starting rotation has and will allow the team extra flexibility. This flexibility is one reason why Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn’s contracts are not entirely debilitating. Paying $18.5 million a year for aging veterans would cripple most small-market teams, but the Indians have been able to remain competitive. Despite rumors of the Indians’ interest in James Shields, signing a player of his caliber is unnecessary.

It is quite impressive what the Front Office has built. Teams like the New York Yankees, Dodgers, and Philadelphia Phillies have spent heavily to build and preserve Championship caliber teams, while the Indians on the other hand have built from scratch. Even the division rival Tigers have doled out millions upon millions of dollars for an elusive World Series crown. Although success is not guaranteed in 2015, it is a safe bet that the Tribe’s cost-effective rotation will lead the team into a meaningful September and hopefully October.

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