Red Sox: Where starting rotation ranks among AL playoff teams

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 1: Chris Sale
BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 1: Chris Sale /
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SEATTLE, WA – SEPTEMBER 24: Starter Corey Kluber (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA – SEPTEMBER 24: Starter Corey Kluber (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images) /

Cleveland Indians

Playoff Rotation: Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger

Cleveland’s rotation is first in the league with a 3.52 ERA, .241 batting average against, 10.08 K/9 and 23.1 fWAR.

Kluber’s dominant second half may have pushed him ahead of Sale in the Cy Young race. While he tossed fewer innings and finished a distant second in strikeouts to the Red Sox ace, Kluber still overtook the league lead with a 2.25 ERA and 0.87 WHIP.

Carrasco shared a piece of the league lead with Kluber in wins with 18, while ranking sixth with a 3.29 ERA and fifth with 226 strikeouts. His 4.91 K/BB ratio ranked behind only Kluber and Sale, who were in their own stratosphere.

Boston and Houston both have a pair of aces leading their rotation but it’s hard to put either team’s duo ahead of the combination of Kluber and Carrasco.

Bauer’s overall numbers aren’t all that impressive but he was a completely different pitcher in the second half, posting a 10-2 record and 3.01 ERA over his final 15 appearances. His 10.0 K/9 rate places him right behind Carrasco for sixth in the league. If he continues pitching at this level into the postseason, Bauer essentially gives Cleveland a third ace.

Clevinger’s 3.11 ERA may fool us into thinking Cleveland has a fourth ace but his 4.05 xFIP suggests otherwise.  His 4.4 BB/9 rate is the main reason to doubt his shiny ERA. His 10.1 K/9 would actually put him just ahead of Bauer if he had enough innings to qualify, so if he’s the worst pitcher in Cleveland’s rotation then they are in pretty good shape.

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Cleveland has the best combination of stud pitchers to lead their rotation and solid options to back them up. They can use arguably the best pitcher in baseball at least twice in a series and still feel confident trotting any of their other starters out to the mound in games when Kluber isn’t available.