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.) Philadelphia Phillies
2.) San Francisco Giants 3.) Cincinnati Reds
Tim Lincecum Bronson Arroyo
Matt Cain Johnny Cueto
Jonathan Sanchez Edinson Volquez
Madison Bumgarner Travis Wood
Barry Zito Leake/Bailey/Chapman/LeCure/Maloney/Thompson
4.) St. Louis Cardinals 5.) Los Angeles Dodgers
Adam Wainwright Clayton Kershaw
Chris Carpenter Chad Billingsley
Jaime Garcia Ted Lilly
Jake Westbrook Hiroki Kuroda
Kyle Lohse Jon Garland/Vicente Padilla
6.) Milwaukee Brewers 7.) Chicago Cubs
Zack Greinke Carlos Zambrano
Yovani Gallardo Matt Garza
Shaun Marcum Ryan Dempster
Randy Wolf Randy Wells
Chris Narveson Carlos Silva/Andrew Cashner
8.) Florida Marlins 9.) Atlanta Braves
Josh Johnson Tim Hudson
Ricky Nolasco Tommy Hanson
Anibal Sanchez Derek Lowe
Javier Vazquez Jair Jurrjens
Chris Volstad Mike Minor/Brandon Beachy
10.) San Diego Padres 11.) Arizona Diamonbacks
Mat Latos Joe Saunders
Clayton Richard Daniel Hudson
Wade LeBlanc Ian Kennedy
Aaron Harang Zach Duke
Dustin Moseley/Tim Stauffer/Cory Luebke Barry Enright
12.) Colorado Rockies 13.) Pittsburgh Pirates
Ubaldo Jimenez Ross Ohlendorf
Jorge De La Rosa Paul Maholm
Jhoulys Chacin James McDonald
Aaron Cook Scott Olsen
Jason Hammel Kevin Correia/Jeff Karstens/Charlie Morton/Brad Lincoln
14.) New York Mets 15.) Houston Astros
Mike Pelfrey Brett Myers
R.A. Dickey Wandy Rodriguez
Jonathan Niese J.A. Happ
Chris Capuano Bud Norris
Dillon Gee/Oliver Perez Ryan Rowland-Smith/Nelson Figueroa/Jordan Lyles
16.) Washington Nationals
Ross Detwiler/Chien-Ming Wang/Luis Atilano/Craig Stammen/Tom Gorzelanny
The Phillies were a very easy pick as my number one best rotation in the National League. There is lots of talk that they might have the best rotation in the history of baseball. Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt would be a nice one-two combo if I offered it to you right? Well that is Philadelphia’s third and fourth pitcher in the rotation. Cliff Lee has some of the best all-time postseason statistics ever. Also in 2010 he had the second best strikeout per walk ratio in MLB history at 10.27 strikeouts per walk. I have yet to even mention the staff ace, Roy Halladay.
Halladay threw a no hitter against the Cincinnati Reds in the 2010 postseason. In Halladay’s first complete season in the National League he went 21-10 with a 2.44 ERA while throwing 250.2 innings, while never failing to get through 5.2 innings. The biggest question in the Phillies rotation is the dreaded choice between Kyle Kendrick and Joe Blanton. That right there shows you are in very good shape if it is coming down to them two for the final rotation spot.
San Francisco also has a very deep rotation. Tim Lincecum is a 2 time Cy-Young winner in his young but successful career. Lincecum is followed by Matt Cain in the rotation. Cain has a career 57-62 Win-Loss record but yet a 3.45 ERA. His win-loss is not a clear cut sign of how good he has been in his career. In Cain’s 170 career games started he has received little run support. San Francisco batters have only gotten him a career 3.8 runs/game. The major league average over that time is 4.7 runs/game.
After the Giants’ top two pitchers the rest of the rotation is filled out with Jonathan Sanchez, Madison Bumgarner, and Barry Zito. Sanchez might have led the majors free passes, but a the same time he allowed the least amount of hits per nine innings allowed. Sanchez already has a no-hitter to his name and Bumgarner pitched 111 innings in his rookie season. He was a crucial part of the Giants comeback to win the NL West. In September he had finished the regular season with a 1.13 ERA in his final five starts. Then pitched 20.2 innings with an ERA of 2.18 in the 2010 postseason.
Barry Zito also had a relatively good year too, although he seemed to fad in the 2nd half; his ERA in the second half of the season was almost a full run higher than his first half. He did not make the playoff roster but still Zito is a valuable commodity in baseball (maybe not to the contract he has). He probably will never gain back the Cy-Young winning stuff he had in the early 2000s, he is one of the most durable pitchers in the Majors. He goes out and eats eat innings. From 2001 through 2010 Zito never pitched less than 180 innings.
I have the Reds third. If five years ago you told me the Reds would have this much young pitching depth I would have thought you were crazy. The Reds are full of not just good pitching, but good young pitching. I believe the Reds could become the dominate team of the National League over, whatever you call this next decade. This is centered around all their young position and pitching players, who are already winning at a fairly young age.
The Brewers also acquired Zack Greinke which skyrocketed their ranking. I believe Greinke is the 2011 Cy Young favorite in the National League. They also have added Shaun Marcum to go along with Yovani Gallardo. This top three is very good. The Cubs also brought in Matt Garza; at the expense of their minor league hitting and pitching players of the year. The NL Central might have the best group of rotations in the Majors at the top, if you take away Houston and Pittsburgh.
I also look for the Padres to pitch and field their way into playoff contention this year even without Gonzalez. It might be hard, but I think this added pressure will help their pitchers pitch to a little higher level. The New York Mets are a complete mess right now. This does not exclude a horrendous pitching staff. After Mike Pelfrey they will be piecing a lot together and it should be a tough year.
But no team in the National League is worse off than the Washington Nationals right now, starting pitching wise. They do have a fairly decent bullpen on paper, but bullpen success is hard to predict on a team level. Their rotation just is in shambles without Stephen Strasburg. Even with Stephen Strasburg they would still be lower tier team in this ranking. But I find it hard to believe that they will not finish last place in the National League East this season behind their poor pitching staff.