The Sports Daily > Monkey with a Halo
Do the Angels have a “World Series” rotation?

If there is one major question mark about the 2013 Angels it is if their rotation is good enough.  Either that or when the hell are they going to finally stop playing "Buttercup"?  But that is another topic for another time.

The most common refrain from fans and analysts alike is that the Weaver-Wilson-Hanson-Vargas-Blanton rotation simply isn't a "World Series rotation."  Of course that only begs a further question, which is what exactly is a "World Series rotation?"  Some of you are probably like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart and you "know it when you see it."  Of course, Justice Potter was talking about hardcore porn, but we are talking about a rotation and we have the benefit of quantifiable advanced statistics, which porn doesn't… or at least I hope it doesn't.

The best way I can figure to determine a World Series rotation is by looking at, oh, I don't know, past World Series rotations and what their regular season cumulative WAR was.  Since I didn't have any other ideas, I went ahead and did just that for every World Series winning team in the Wold Card era.

Team Rotation fWAR
1996 Yankees 15.1
1997 Marlins 13.4
1998 Yankees 19.3
1999 Yankees 15.7
2000 Yankees 12.4
2001 Diamondbacks 21.1
2002 Angels 15.2
2003 Marlins 18.2
2004 Red Sox 22.4
2005 White Sox 19.5
2006 Cardinals 6.1
2007 Red Sox 19.4
2008 Phillies 9.9
2009 Yankees 16.2
2010 Giants 13.9
2011 Cardinals 13.2
2012 Giants 12.3

On average, the fWAR for a World Series rotation is 15.5, but obviously there is quite a range with a low of 6.1 and a high of 22.4.  To put that 6.1 fWAR in perspective, keep in mind that the 2012 Astros rotation had a 6.4 fWAR, which was the 25th best mark in the majors.  That 22.4 fWAR would've been the best mark in the majors last season by nearly two full wins.  Already it is pretty clear that a team can win a World Series with either a lousy rotation or an elite one.  But what does that mean for the 2013 Angels?

Well, if you look strictly at how their projected rotation performed last season, their fWAR would be 9.8 (Weaver (3.0) + Wilson (2.5) + Blanton (2.5) + Hanson (1.0) + Vargas (0.8)).  That's probably a little low though since it does not account for the fWAR contributions from spot starters.  Maybe that adds another half win or so, either way, it wouldn't not great as only two of the seventeen championship teams had a fWAR under 12.3.

Personally, I think the 2012 numbers are the worst case scenario for the Angels, or at least close to it.  Let's use instead a three-year average of fWAR for each pitcher which would put the rotation at 15 wins (Weaver (4.7) + Wilson (4.5) + Blanton (1.6) + Hanson (2.4) + Vargas (1.8), again without including win values for the spot starters) and right smack dab in the sweet spot of past World Series winners.

But I will be honest, I don't trust the three-year average either since Weaver, Wilson, Hanson and Blanton all seem to be trending downwards.  So for a more accurate projection, we can turn to ZiPS which pegs the Halos at 13 wins (Weaver (4.9) + Wilson (3.6) + Blanton (0.8) + Hanson (2.2) + Vargas (1.5)).  That's definitely towards the lower end of the World Series spectrum.

The obvious caveat here is that the best team doesn't always win the World Series, so there are plenty of much better rotations that would have been considered World Series caliber but never won the whole thing.  Of course, that might actually be more of a point in the Angels' favor than anything.  If the last few years has taught us anything, it is that the post-season is pretty much a crapshoot, especially with the new one-game Wild Card series.  So asking if the Angels' rotation is good enough to win a World Series is sort of misleading.  The real question should be whether or not the Angel rotation is good enough to qualify for the playoffs so that they can have their roll of the dice at winning the whole damn thing.  Based on the evidence, it looks like the Halo rotation should be "good enough" as long as nothing crazy happens in terms of injuries or major fall-offs in effectiveness, though if they are going to qualify, it will clearly be on the strength of their lineup as not even the rosiest of projections is going to get this group of arms into the 19+ win territory of some the recent champs.  To make a long answer short(ish), yes, the Angels rotation is a "World Series" rotation provided that their lineup is a "World Series" lineup.