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Pirates Have Best Rotation In Baseball

The title for the best rotation in baseball right now goes to the Pirates, with a 3.02 ERA in 113.3 innings and 18 starts.  Not coincidentally, the Bucs have the lowest team BABIP at .259.  Previous BABIP leaders: .290 for the Rays in '08, .295 for the Cubs in '07, and .287 for the Padres in '06.

Let's take a closer look at the pitchers and see what's sustainable.

  • Paul Maholm - 2.03 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 26.6 innings.  Maholm also had an excellent spring.  But his K rate is dangerously low (3.38 per nine), and his .256 BABIP and 0.0% HR per flyball rates are unsustainable.  His control has improved, but his groundball rate has slipped from 53.6% to 46.5%.  Mahom's xFIP: 5.16.  He is a sell candidate.
  • Zach Duke - 2.43 ERA, 1.11 WHIP.  Another guy with a worrisome K rate at just 4.85 per nine.  Still, that's better than last year and his control is excellent at 1.82 per nine.  Duke sports a .289 BABIP and 8.19 hits per nine innings, which I think will increase.  Still, with that kind of control his WHIP may remain helpful once the hits come back.  The 3.8% HR per flyball rate is not sustainable.  Groundballs are down from last year.  Duke has a 4.69 xFIP. 
  • Ross Ohlendorf - 3.24 ERA, 1.12 WHIP.  Since he has good stuff,  I figured Ohlendorf might be for real before I looked more closely.  It doesn't appear that way though - he's rocking a .267 BABIP and a 3.6 K/9.  On the plus side, I'm digging the control and the 51.9% groundball rate.  Ohlendorf has a 4.72 xFIP.  The Pirates should be happy with the progress on control and groundballs, but for fantasy baseball it's hard to predict a sub-4.00 ERA from here on out.
  • Ian Snell - 4.50 ERA, 1.73 WHIP.  The one guy without BABIP help needs it the most, given a 5.73 BB/9.  The .313 BABIP might come down and the 17.2% HR per flyball should.  But his Ks are down and the ugly control has been a problem for a while now.  His xFIP is 5.45.
  • Jeff Karstens - 3.60 ERA, 1.40 WHIP.  The team's fifth starter only has two starts, so we'll hold off on the analysis.

Bottom line: enjoy it while it lasts.  The numbers don't reveal any fantasy studs in the Pirates' rotation.

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