Game Starts - Can They Predict The Future?

Earlier today, there was a story in the Denver Post comparing the Rockies and Dodgers.  When it came to the starting pitchers, the writer gave the advantage to the Rockies

My post is not an attempt to revisit that opinion but instead since Eric Stephen mentioned this stat in the comments, I am going to spend some words talking about game starts.

As Eric mentioned, the top 5 starting pitchers for the Rockies had 155 game starts in 2009.  That number topped all of the 8 playoff teams; the Yankees led the AL playoff teams with 139 with the Twins and Phillies coming in the rear with 123.  The Angels and Dodgers had 127 and 126, respectively. 

In 2008, both the Rays and White Sox had 5 starters who combined for 150+ starts, last year, the Rays were down 16 and the White Sox, 23 starts.  And while both of those totals would still be within what the rest of the 2009 playoff teams put up, I do believe for small and mid-market teams, it is more important for them to get higher start totals from their 5 top starters than it is for teams with bigger budgets.  Often, those teams do not have the resources to put together a strong bullpen or go after another starter during the season.

Since 2004, 9 teams, including the 2009 Rockies, had 150+ starts by 5 starters, only 2 reached or surpassed that total the following year.   And if you want to expand this review,  from 2004-2008, 30 playoff teams have had 131+ starts by 5 starters, 8 of those teams were able to surpass that total the following season.

What does all this mean, first it shows you the fragility of pitchers, injuries will play havoc with your rotation and many of these teams went through that the following year, also high payrolls don't guarantee success in this area, the highest total for a Yankee playoff team since 2004 is what they did last year, 139 starts.  After the Red Sox had 157 starts by five starters in 2004 and in 2007, they reached 141 starts, the last two years has seen a continued decline to 125 starts.

I have not mentioned anything about effectiveness in this discussion because from what I can tell, it really doesn't matter.  There is a certain value of having someone who can throw every 5th day (Jon Garland pitched on 2 White Sox staffs that had 150+ starts from their top 5 pitchers).

If the Dodgers surpass 140 starts from their first 5 starters, I predict they will win the division.   That would probably mean 30+ starts for Kershaw, Billingsley, Kuroda and Padilla, and I think that would be enough to win the NL West.  I think they can win without this happening but I'd like to see them try to do that.

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