These are heady days for baseball fans. Every team is undefeated, and hope springs eternal. With the first games of Spring Training set for Friday, it seemed like it was time to start blogging about baseball again.
A question that seems to be on every baseball fan’s mind is - who has the best starting pitching staff in baseball? Below is my humble attempt at answering that question. Let me know if you agree/disagree.
1. Philadelphia Phillies – While this might seem like a homer call, the Phillies have to be considered the best collection of starting pitching in the league. After pulling off one of the major surprises of the off-season by signing Cliff Lee, the Phillies have four legit #1 starters. The Phillies (on paper) have the best pitching rotation since the Braves of the early 1990s (Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Steve Avery). This is my initial reaction to the pitching staff – taken from my post Merry Cliffmas and Happy Halladays!:
Think about this, Lee, who won the Cy Young in the AL in 2008 joins a staff that includes: reigning Cy Young winner Roy Halladay; 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels; and 3-time All-Star Roy Oswalt. What other team can match that pitching depth? The answer – NONE!
I know that Lee, Hamels and Oswalt did not have great records, look at the other stats! Ridiculous. Also keep in mind that when Oswalt was with the Phillies he was 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA. The Phillies now have the best pitching staff in the league.
It doesn’t matter who takes the fifth starter spot (though I think it will be Joe Blanton), the Phillies have the most formidable starting rotation in baseball.
2. San Francisco Giants – As seen in last year’s NLCS, the Giants’ pitching staff can hang with the Phillies. Tim Lincecum, who struggled at times last season, found his form in the playoffs. Matt Cain made the Phillies’ offense look pedestrian. Jonathan Sanchez looks like he is ready to take the next step toward becoming an elite lefty. Madison Bumgarner developed over the course of the season and looks set for a big year. The only question mark is Barry Zito as the fifth starter, but if he even has an average year (10-14, 4.45 ERA in his time with the Giants) he will be a pretty decent 5th starter.
3. Boston Red Sox – Some might question the Red Sox being ranked this highly, especially after the poor performance last season of Josh Beckett, John Lackey and the enigma that is Daisuke Matsuzaka, but I believe that at least one of the aforementioned pitchers will rebound this year. If more than one can return to the form all have previously exhibited, the Red Sox will have a formidable rotation. Jon Lester (19-9, 3.25 ERA) and Clay Buchholz (17-7, 2.33 ERA), two guys I thought deserved more Cy Young consideration last season, anchor the rotation. Even if Beckett and Lackey turn in career average years – 15-10, 3.96 ERA for Becket & 15-10, 3.89 ERA for Lackey – the rotation should be good enough to win the AL East. Any positive contribution Dice-K can give will be an added bonus.
4. Oakland Athletics – This selection might surprise some, as the Athletics toil in obscurity in Oakland, but the A’s have a legit rotation. I think this excerpt from a post on pitching rotations sums up the A’s:
Check out these stats and compare them with any pitching staff in MLB: Brett Anderson 7-6 2.80 ERA 75 K’s, Trevor Cahill 18-8 2.97 ERA 118 K’s, Gio Gonzalez 15-9 3.23 ERA 171 K’s, Dallas Braden 11-14 3.50 ERA 113 K’s and a perfect game. Average age…25!! Oakland led the AL with a 3.56 era, 17 shutouts and held opponents to a .245 batting average. Question mark is 5th starter but they have many young guys to choose from in the minors and they also signed Rich Harden. If they can get any hitting they could be a team no one would like to play come October.
5. Los Angeles Dodgers – Four of the Dodgers’ starters finished last season with ERAs under 3.60. Not too shabby. Clayton Kershaw led the way with a 13-10 record and an ERA of 2.91 and will be just 23 at the start of the season. Forming the rest of the rotation behind Kershaw are Hiroki Kuroda (11-13, 3.39 ERA), Chad Billingsley (12-11, 3.57 ERA), Ted Lilly (7-4, 3.52 ERA w/ the Dodgers), and Jon Garland (14-12, 3.47 ERA w/ the San Diego Padres).
In making this list, several teams just missed the number 5 spot (I feel like the top 4 are pretty set). The St. Louis Cardinals would likely have made the top 5, but with concerns about the health of Adam Wainwright‘s elbow, the rotation is weakened. Some have been touting the Milwaukee Brewers with Zack Greinke joining Shaun Marcum and Yovani Gallardo at Miller Park. I think the Brewers have the beginnings of a very good rotation, but it remains to be seen how Greinke will adjust to the NL and whether Marcum is for real. A third team that many have in their top 5 are the Padres. Mat Latos and Clayton Richard are two studs at the top of the rotation but after the top 2 there are more questions than answers. Also, could Latos be in for a sophomore slump? Lastly, the Atlanta Braves are in the discussion as well, especially if Derek Lowe and Jair Jurrjens can rebound from subpar 2010 seasons. Looks like I could have found one more team and written a top 10.
Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment.