Inspired by a comment left on my preseason rankings, and a bit of revisionism over at good friend Black Label Tennis, I’ve decided to revisit and revise my MLB starting rotation rankings. With the MLB season nearly halfway over, here’s my take on the top 5 starting rotations.
1. Philadelphia Phillies - I had the Phillies in this spot to start the season, and at the halfway point, I don’t see a reason to change this ranking. As of writing, the Phillies have the best ERA in the league (3.05), the most complete games (9), and the best ERA+ (126). The Phillies have had 7 pitchers start at least 5 games this season, with only Joe Blanton posting an ERA above 4. Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels have been Cy Young worthy. Cliff Lee has had a few ups and downs, but has a 4 game winning streak during which he has given up just 1 earned run in 33 innings. Sure Roy Oswalt hasn’t pitched as well as many expected, but even in relatively poor form (for him), he has posted a 3.79 ERA with a 101 ERA+. Kyle Kendrick (4-4, 3.23 ERA, 119 ERA+) and Vance Worley (2-1, 2.83 ERA, 139 ERA+) have performed well filling in for Big Joe and Oswalt. The Phillies have the best record in baseball and the largest division lead. The only reason the Phillies don’t have more wins is due to an offense that is impotent at times. For a great explanation of just how good the Phillies have been, check out this post over at Crashburn Alley.
2. San Francisco Giants - This was a tough call, as San Francisco and my #3 ranked team, the Atlanta Braves, have both pitched extremely well. In the end, I decided to keep my preseason number 2 in place. Each of the San Francisco starters, except Barry Zito, who has started just 3 games (there’s always a black sheep), has an ERA of under 4. Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain are studs, and pitching like it. Journeyman, Ryan Vogelsong has been phenomenal in relief of Zito, posting a 1.86 ERA and a 200 ERA+ in 13 games (11 starts). Madison Bumgarner and Jonathan Sánchez have also pitched well. It will be interesting to see if Vogelsong can keep up his stellar performance.
3. Atlanta Braves - Though it pains me, as a Phillies fan, the Braves have earned this spot. After finishing with an honorable mention in the preseason rankings, the Braves jump all the way to #3 based on the fact that they have a 3.1o ERA and a 123 ERA+. Jair Jurrjens looks like the early Cy Young leader in the NL. He leads the National League in ERA (2.07) and ERA+ (183) and has bounced back from a subpar 2010 in a big way. Tommy Hanson has been nearly as good as Jurrjens, with a 2.48 ERA and 153 ERA+. Brandon Beachy has grabbed the 5th starting spot by posting a 3.22 ERA in 9 starts. Tim Hudson is having another good season, though not as good as last year. Derek Lowe is the weakest link in the rotation. Any team that can say that is in pretty good shape.
4. Oakland Athletics - The A’s keep their #4 spot and represent the first American League team to make the list. The A’s staff has been as good as advertised and have gotten contributions from 9 different starters. The worst of those 9, Graham Godfrey, has pitched 17 innings over three games with a 4.24 ERA. The best, Gio Gonzalez (2.59 ERA, 159 ERA+), has been CY Young caliber. Opening Day started, Trevor Cahill has struggled as times, but is following up his stellar 2010 with a 2011 that is nearly as good. Despite getting just three starts from Dallas Braden, he of the perfect game, the A’s have the lowest ERA in the AL. Not bad for a patchwork starting rotation.
5. Seattle Mariners - The final spot was a tough call. The San Diego Padres pushed hard for this spot. In the end, the Mariners (who weren’t even on my radar to begin the season) make it into the list because their rotation is the reason they sit just 1.5 games out of first place in the AL West. Twenty-two year-old rookie, Michael Pineda has been a revelation for the Mariners. One his way to a 2.45 ERA and 150 ERA+, Pineda has defeated the Phillies (6 innings, 1 ER) , pitched well against the Rangers and Yankees and given up more than 3 earned runs just twice in 15 starts. Felix Hernandez has been good, though not as good as we have come to expect (3.18 ERA). Erik Bedard seems to have found the Fountain of Youth in the Pacific Northwest, posting a 2.93 ERA in 14 starts. The other two Mariners’ starters, Doug Fister and Jason Vargas, both have sub-4 ERAs and 2 complete games a piece.
Dropped Out: The Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Red Sox and Dodgers both drop out of the list because due to lack of consistency from pitchers expected to perform.
Boston Red Sox - John Lackey has been dreadful for the Sox. Daisuke Matsuzaka is out for season and pitched poorly before undergoing Tommy John surgery. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are both pitching well, just not as well as last season. The lone bright spot for the Red Sox (at least in the starting rotation) is the return to form of Josh Beckett. Beckett leads the majors in ERA (1.86), ERA+ (217) , is second in WHIP (.924) , and has thrown a complete game.
Los Angeles Dodgers – Who could blame them if they were distracted. The team has been in turmoil since the offseason and just filed for bankruptcy. Clayton Kershaw has grown into the #1 starter many expected - 2.93 ERA, 9.87 K/9, 1.029 WHIP. He leads the league in strikeouts, and has posted back-to-back complete games in his last two starts. Hiroki Kuroda has ably filled the role of Kershaw’s sidekick (3.10 ERA), but he looks headed out of Chavez Ravine. The rest of the staff – Jon Garland, Ted Lilly and Chad Billingsley have all been disappointing.
Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment.