Cleveland's sneaky-good rotation
Detroit is the AL Central favorite, but the Indians have the arms to contend
Last year, the Cleveland Indians' starting pitchers gave up 540 runs -- the fourth-worst total in baseball. Their only notable rotation addition during the winter was Derek Lowe, whom the Atlanta Braves were desperate to get rid of after he posted a 5.05 ERA. And yet, despite the Indians' retaining most members who were part of the team's failure last year, advanced projection systems suggest that they could have one of the best rotations in the American League in 2012.
The fact that Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projections like Justin Masterson (204 IP, 3.31 FIP) shouldn't be much of a surprise, given that Masterson had a breakthrough season last year and doesn't turn 27 for another 10 days. Masterson's improvement of his command while maintaining his ground ball and strikeout abilities make him one of the game's best starting pitchers. For reference, Masterson's projection ranks him as essentially the equal of CC Sabathia (3.30 FIP) and slightly ahead of Dan Haren (3.36 FIP). So, although Masterson might not be widely recognized as a legitimate front-end starter, ZiPS expects him to remain one of the elite starters in the American League.
However, Masterson was terrific in 2011 and the Indians' rotation still struggled, so the expected improvement has to come from the Nos. 2-5 spots in the rotation. And this is where ZiPS shows that Cleveland will see drastic improvement.
To read the full story, plus gain access to all of ESPN Insider's daily MLB content, sign up today and become an Insider.
We see that you are not an ESPN Insider. Upgrade today and gain access to our exclusive coverage.
MORE MLB HEADLINES
- Oft-injured Prior retires, eyes front-office job
- Sources: Tigers close to deal with OF Davis
- Halladay retires after 1-day Blue Jays deal
- Trade talks for OF Kemp active, agent says
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
Future Power Rankings
Keith Law's top prospects
FeaturesMarch 30: Szymborski: AL standings | NL
March 29: BP: Four fading Phillies
March 27: Szymborski: Five non-flukes
March 26: Cameron: Top 500's underachievers
March 23: Cameron: Will Strasburg be the same?
March 22: BP: Smoak underrated by Safeco
March 21: Szymborski: The next Bautista
March 19: Cameron: Controlling Bryce's price
March 15: Goldstein: Prospects making waves
March 15: BP: Who's starting the wrong guy?
March 12: Cameron: Tribe's nasty rotation
March 10: Lindbergh: Sale a good bet to succeed