#Dbacks Josh Collmenter your opening day starter. De la Rosa, Hellickson, Webster, spring competition winner to follow, Stewart said.— Jack Magruder (@JackMagruder) December 13, 2014
Now, there appears to be some doubt as to whether Stewart was actually anointing Josh Collmenter - a very early pronouncement if so - or just listing off the likely rotation members. In some ways, it'd be great for Josh: he has been an absolute workhorse for the team over the past few seasons, bouncing between the bullpen and rotation as needed, doing whatever has been needed and, generally, doing it well. Over the period from 2011-2014: he has given us four consecutive years of an ERA+ better than 100 - Brad Ziegler and J.J. Putz are the only other D-backs with more than two such seasons, and that's with absolutely no minimum innings requirement.
So, a valuable member of the pitching staff, that's for sure. But he's hardly your prototypical Opening Day starter. I can't say for sure, but I would imagine few occupying that role in 2015, will have started the previous season as the long relief man in the bullpen. It says something about the rotation constructed by Towers that only Trevor Cahill seems to have much of a shot at surviving to 2015, and that's by no means a certainty. Wade Miley and Brandon McCarthy have been traded, Bronson Arroyo's elbow blew up, and Randall Delgado looks to have swapped spots with Collmenter.
While it's early days yet, here are the projected Opening Day starters for all 30 major-league teams, ranked by career ERA+. This is, of course, subject to change - one imagines, for example, whatever team signs James Shields will likely have him as their #1 guy. Though I was startled to discover that Shields actually has a worse career ERA+ (111) than Collmenter (114). Now, this is mostly due to Shields being mediocre early: through age 28, his ERA+ was 102. Over the past four years, Shields has been better, but even there the gap isn't perhaps as much as you'd think (124-114).
I've mostly used the #1 as currently given by MLB.com on their depth charts. The exception was Texas, where they had Nick Martinez instead of Yu Darvish, which seemed entirely wrong-headed to me. Even though Darvish is still rehabbing, reports indicate he should be their Opening Day guy. This is ordered by career ERA+: if you're looking for current form, I've also given the 2012-2014 ERA+ for each pitcher in brackets.
- Jose Fernandez, MIA: 172 (172)
- Clayton Kershaw, LAD: 151 (176)
- Chris Sale, CWS: 150 (148)
- Adam Wainwright, STL: 132 (123)
- Felix Hernandez, SEA: 130 (136)
- Yu Darvish, TEX: 127 (127)
- Sonny Gray, OAK: 126 (126)
- Cole Hamels, PHI: 125 (126)
- Yordano Ventura, KCR: 124 (124)
- Jered Weaver, ANA: 124 (115)
- Johnny Cueto, CIN: 123 (151)
- Justin Verlander, DET: 122 (118)
- Jon Lester, CHC: 121 (111)
- Stephen Strasburg, WAS: 120 (124)
- C.C. Sabathia, NYY: 120 (97)
- Alex Cobb, TBR: 118 (119)
- Julio Teheran, ATL: 117 (120)
- Madison Bumgarner, SFG: 116 (114)
- Josh Collmenter, ARI: 114 (113)
- Corey Kluber, CLE: 113 (114)
- Andrew Cashner, SDP: 109 (112)
- Clay Buchholz, BOS: 109 (97)
- R.A. Dickey, TOR: 104 (111)
- Gerrit Cole, PIT: 103 (103)
- Chris Tillman, BAL: 102 (116)
- Kyle Lohse, MIL: 99 (118)
- Jorge de la Rosa, COL: 99 (110)
- Phil Hughes, MIN: 98 (97)
- Scott Feldman, HOU: 97 (98)
- Jon Niese, NYM: 96 (104)
Couple of thoughts on the above list. Who'd have thought that Kershaw is not the "best" Opening Day starter? Of course, Fernandez doesn't have anything like as good a track record in terms of durability or sustained success, but when he's healthy, he has been every bit as good, just with a lot less fanfare. And despite Bumgarner's World Series heroics, the gap between him and Collmenter for our projected Opening Day match-up is close to none, whether you go by career ERA+ or over the past three seasons. All told, Collmenter's numbers stack up better than I expected: while he's no "ace", he's better than one-third of the pitchers other teams will be using.
There is some question as to whether he can live up to them. His FIP, generally regarded as a good indicator of future performance, has been between 0.24 and 0.42 higher than his ERA, every season of his career to date. This either indicates good luck, which would be not necessary sustainable, or he's one of those pitchers for whom FIP isn't particularly predictive. [See also Clayton Kershaw, who from 2009-2014 has pitched better than his FIP every year, by 0.28 overall and anywhere up to 0.56] If this regresses, it's going to be a tougher season for Collmenter, but if anyone can handle that, it's probably Josh.