When your No. 3 starter is your No. 1 (or vice versa)

Rob Tringali

This spring's obsession: Opening Day starters. Yesterday I outlined a scale for measuring our surprise upon the announcement of a team's Opening Day starter, on a scale from 1 to 3. Now I'm thinking the scale should be 0 to 4, with 0 being Justin Verlander and 4 being ... well, Luke Hochevar comes to mind, for some reason. You know, some guy who entered spring training just trying to win any sort of rotation slot at all. But most guys are going to be in the 1 to 3 range.

Anyway, earlier this week Kirk Gibson anointed Ian Kennedy as the Diamondbacks' No. 1 starter, which I'll rate at 1.53 on the O.D.S. Surprise Scale (ODSSS). Details, from Bob McManaman (via AZCentral.com):

"If everything goes right, Ian’s going to start on Opening Day," Gibson said Monday before his team’s Cactus League game in Surprise against the Royals.

"He’s been great for us. I don’t know why we’d change that."

--snip--

Kennedy was a Cy Young Award contender in 2011, going 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA in 222 innings. Last year, he struggled with his consistency and finished 15-12 with a 4.02 ERA in 208 1/3 innings.

"Anyway you look at it, he threw 200 innings for us," Gibson said. "He was reliable. He was dedicated. He did it the Diamondback way. He’s certainly done nothing to lose the position."

I'm not sure how Kennedy "struggled with his consistency". He pitched roughly the same number of innings, with roughly the same walk and strikeout rates. Fundamentally, the only real difference in Kennedy's performance was that he gave up nine more home runs last year; 19 in 2011, then 28 in 2012. Does that account for all of the increase in his ERA, from 2.88 to 4.02?

Well, no. Other differences: his BABiP allowed went from .270 (well below average) to .302 (slightly above average).

Essentially, Kennedy's ERA in 2012 is much closer to his true abilities than his ERA in 2011, when he was lucky in two or three different ways. Two truths: Wade Miley pitched a lot better than Ian Kennedy last season, and Kennedy's getting the Opening Day nod mostly because he's been around longer.

Which is to say, this move is more about chemistry than performance. Which doesn't bother me. It's not like saving Miley for the Diamondbacks' second game is going to hurt the club's playoff chances. Or rather, their third game:

Gibson said Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley and Brandon McCarthy are slotted in to follow Kennedy, in that order.

You might easily argue that ordering the rotation purely in terms of single-game quality would go something like this:

1. Miley
2. McCarthy
3. Kennedy
4. Cahill

Again, though, none of this really matters. What matters is having good starting pitchers, and the Diamondbacks have four of them. Along with whoever wins the fifth slot (who might be really good too).

For in-depth everything about the Diamondbacks, please visit SB Nation's AZ Snakepit.

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