It is never too early for a little baseball talk. Given that, I am going to rank every MLB team’s 5 man Pitching Rotation. Some teams might have a dominate ace, but a poor three through 5 (Mariners), and others might not have had an All Star from their rotation, but depth one through five (Reds). But I am trying to be as fair by balancing the complete rotation one through five in my opinion.
1.) Chicago White Sox
Jake Peavy-Out until around Memorial Day
2.) Oakland Athletics 3.) Tampa Bay Rays
Trevor Cahill David Price
Dallas Braden Wade Davis
Gio Gonzalez James Shields
Brett Anderson Jeff Niemann
Brandon McCarthy Jeremy Hellickson
4.) Boston Red Sox 5.) Los Angeles Angels
Jon Lester Jered Weaver
Josh Beckett Dan Haren
Clay Buchholz Ervin Santana
John Lackey Joel Pineiro
Daisuke Matsuzaka/Tim Wakefield Scott Kazmir
6.) Detroit Tigers 7) New York Yankees
Justin Verlander CC Sabathia
Max Scherzer Phil Hughes
Rick Porcello A.J. Burnett
Phil Coke Ivan Nova
Brad Penny Garcia/Colon/Mitre/Chamberlain/Betances/Prior?
8.) Minnesota Twins 9.) Texas Rangers
Francisco Liriano C.J. Wilson
Carl Pavano Colby Lewis
Brian Duensing Brandon Webb
Nick Blackburn Derek Holland
Scott Baker Scott Feldman
10.) Toronto Blue Jays 11.) Seattle Mariners
Brandon Morrow Felix Hernandez
Ricky Romero Jason Vargas
Kyle Drabek Erik Bedard
Dustin McGowan Doug Fister
Marc Rzepczynski Michael Pineda
12.) Cleveland Indians 13.) Baltimore Orioles
Fausto Carmona Jeremy Guthrie
Justin Masterson Brian Matusz
Mitch Talbot Jake Arrieta
Carlos Carrasco Brad Bergesen
David Huff Chris Tillman
14.) Kansas City Royals
So why is Chicago my number one rotation and why is Boston my number three? Especially since most people are in fact choosing Boston as having the best AL rotation! Here is why. Jon Lester may have my preseason Cy Young Prediction, but after that they can be extremely up and down at times. Clay Buchholz has very good stuff, but he is still very young and I highly doubt he will repeat his 2.33 ERA. He will still be very good and one of the better number twos in the AL, but I see his numbers slightly decreasing.
Josh Beckett is also a lot more like A.J. Burnett than people give him credit for. Both when they get in trouble become throwers rather than pitchers. When they do this they just start firing the cheese to the catcher and become highly predictable to the hitters, they also start losing their movement and control. Beckett is still better than Burnett, but at the same time when Beckett gets in trouble he becomes very similar to his former teammate.
I also think John Lackey’s best days are behind him and I expect him to stay fairly close to his production of last year (14-11, 4.40 ERA). He will still be able to get up and have a big day, but I believe him, Beckett, and Matsuzaka bring more of a name factor than they will production at this point in their careers. Matsuzaka walks too many batters to be consistent enough, which just adds to how exceptional his ERA and W-L record was in 2009. But eventually free passes will come back to bite you in the butt. Tim Wakefield will be a serviceable spot starter like he has been, at worst, throughout his major league career.
But when I look at the White Sox rotation I see a very good top five. Mark Buerle is a pitcher that any team would love to have, with his combination of pitching smarts and durability. Also the fans like the days he pitches on hot July afternoons with how fast he gets the job done. John Danks has surpassed Buehrle as the team’s ace. These top two lefties are good, but probably not as good as that of Boston.
But her is the difference. I see Edwin Jackson, Gavin Floyd, and Jake Peavy being a much better three-four-five than that of Boston. Peavy will be out until about Memorial Day, so the fifth spot will be up for grabs during Spring Training. But he should be back for most of the season, if everything goes according to plan. He will not be his old self that people remember him from in San Diego. But I still think he will be able to pitch to about the 3.70 ERA area, give or take a little either way.
Oakland gets the nod over Boston too. Their pitching rotation is probably the most underrated in the Major League. Their 3.56 ERA led the AL in 2010. This is 0.22 better than the second place Tampa Bay Rays. I believe the Rays will be able to, repeat a very good pitching year as well, even without Garza. They got the Cubs hitting and pitching minor league players in return for him as well. The Rays might take a step backward as a whole this year, but they show promise to return back to their dominate self in 2012.
Just a few days ago Andy Pettitte announced his retirement. Many people think this makes their pitching staff a huge weakness. But while I still do not believe it is a strength, it really is not that bad. CC Sabathia is a top tier MLB starter and I do not expect that to change in 2011. Phil Hughes really could be a future Cy Young winner at the two spot.
After that is where the staff gets a little sketchy. In 2010, A.J. Burnett became the first pitcher in Yankee history with 15 losses and an ERA above 5.00. He did have a horrendous, he takes pride in his play and should come in ready to play in 2011. He still has arguably the best curve ball in the Majors when he is on and throwing strikes to get ahead early. That is his major problem, because a 1-0 and 0-1 count have a totally different approach to hitters and he is pitching on the defense instead of the attack to much. I expect him to go about 13-9 with a ERA around the 4.50 area in 2011.
Ivan Nova is still unproven but I do not doubt his stuff and composure. He looked like a veteran during his 7 starts in 2010, composure wise. He appears to be a solid middle of the rotation pitcher down the road. But in 2011 I would see him as a very solid number 5. But as of today it appears that he will be a number 4. This is a little worrisome that the number four starter is so inexperienced.
Also the biggest story of the 2010-2011 winter was the “Where will Cliff Lee go” story. The Yankees were thought to be the favorite, but after he left over $20 million on the table to go to Philadelphia the Yankees have been criticized for putting all their eggs into one basket. This is somewhat true to a point. With the retirement Pettitte, the Yankees are currently without a certain starter at the fifth spot in the rotation. Possibilities include: Sergio Mitre, Joba Chamberlain, Bartolo Colon, Mark Prior, prospect Betances, but the favorite as of now appears to be Freddy Garcia. Garcia pitched a decent 2010 with the White Sox, but I do not see him as a long term fix.
The Yankees will probably use Garcia until the trade deadline where they will probably go after another pitcher, if they can stay in the playoff race. Some not-huge name players I see them going after could include: Fausto Carmona, Armando Galarraga, Scott Kazmir, Joe Blanton, Livan Hernandez, Carlos Zambrano, Brett Myers, Ross Ohlendorf, Aaron Harang, Barry Zito.
The Indians should probably be out of the race so they might shop Carmona. Same thing about Arizona with Galarraga and Livan Hernandez.. Kazmir and Zito are on good teams, but both have underperformed their current contracts. The Yankees could take on their salaries, while the Angels and Giants replace them with less money, and similar production. Joe Blanton could be the odd man out in Philadelphia if Kendrick takes the fifth starters spot. This would put him on the block.
Aaron Harang could be a small risk player to trade for from San Diego. Brett Myers’ might be the only reason Houston has to trade him at this point. They should fall out of the race, but they could hang around the NL Central. He also just signed an extension. Ross Ohlendorf, former Yankee, had a 1-11 record in Pittsburgh in 2010, but received poor run support. His 4.07 ERA should equiv late to a better record on a better team. He finished the year with a 2.68 ERA in 2010 in his last 11 starts as well.
Zambrano has worn out his welcome in Chicago as well. Many people fail to realize how strong he finished the year too. He will probably be on the block if Chicago is out of the race. Maybe someone could get a bargain for his talent, because of his baggage.
Stay tuned for my NL Rotation rankings within the next couple days.