Tag Archives: San Diego Padres

Top 5: Pitching Rotations – Revisited

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.

Even if the Four Aces have been reduced to three, the Phillies still have the best collection of starters in all of baseball.

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.

Jair Jurrjens has leads a Braves pitching staff that is 2nd in MLB in ERA, behind only the Phillies.

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.

Josh Beckett has looked rejuvenated this season and leads MLB in several statistical categories.

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.

Top 5: Pitching Rotations

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.

The Phillies boast a rotation that would make any team jealous. (photo from the4aces.net)

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!

Just look at their numbers from last season:

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.

Tim Lincecum anchors the rotation for the defending World Series champions.

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.

If Beckett and Lackey can bounce back, the Sox will be tough. (Image from CBS local/Credit: Dan Roche/CBS)

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.

Trevor Cahill and the Athletics could unseat the Rangers in the AL West. The A's certainly have the pitching.

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.

Clayton Kershaw is my early dark horse for the NL Cy Young. This kid is for real.

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.

The First Annual Rally Cap First Half Awards

Biggest SurpriseSan Diego Padres. At the halfway point of the season, the San Diego Padres have to be considered the biggest surprise in baseball. Over the winter there was speculation the Padres would trade hometown hero, Adrian Gonzalez in an effort to start yet another rebuilding phase. The Padres hung on to Gonzalez and are glad they did, as he leads the team in nearly every major offensive category. Led by pitching staff that ranks first in the majors in ERA and second in shutouts. The staff is, surprisingly, led by 22-year old Mat Latos. Latos has been a revelation in his first full season in the majors. Latos has posted a 2.45 ERA, is averaging 3.54 strikeouts per walk, and has compiled a 10-4 record. In addition to Latos, the Padres are getting solid seasons form Jon Garland, Clayton Richard, and Wade LeBlanc. Combine the great starting pitching with a pitcher-friendly park and a lights out bullpen (2.91 ERA and 25 saves) and you have the Padres going into the Break with the 2nd best record in the National League. Runner-up: Cincinnati Reds. The Red have not had a winning season since 2000 and find themselves 1 game up on the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central.

Biggest Disappointment Seattle Mariners. On the opposite end of the spectrum (and West Coast) from the Padres are the Seattle Mariners.  Seattle, finished 85-77 last season, and made moves to bolster their team over the offseason.  They signed Chone Figgins to a 4 year, $36 million contract in an effort to get better defensively at second base, but also in an effort to add more speed to the top of their order.  For their investment, the Mariners have gotten a .235 average, with 22 RBI, 24 SB and 9 errors from Figgins.  These numbers are far below Figgins’ career averages and clearly not worth the money they are spending.  If you compare Figgins with the man he essentially replaced (Adrian Beltre) the Mariners sure do look foolish.  Beltre is having a great season with the Red Sox and signed a 1-year contract worth $9 million (the same amount as Figgins for over twice the production).  In addition to Figgins, the Mariners traded for former Cy Young winner Cliff Lee (now shipped to Texas) and temperamental slugger Milton Bradley.  The pairing of Lee with Felix Hernandez was supposed to solidify the top of the rotation and Bradley was supposed to provide some pop in the middle of the order.  While Lee pitched exceptionally well, Bradley imploded (he’s hitting .210 with just 8 HR).   The Mariners clearly have given up on this season, shipping Lee to the Rangers for prospects.  It will be interesting to see if any other players are traded and how the Mariners play in the 2nd half.  Runner-up: Chicago Cubs. A year after finishing 5 games above .500, the Cubs (with the 3rd highest payroll in MLB) are 11 games under .500 going into the Break.

First Half NL Cy YoungJosh Johnson, Florida Marlins.  The race for the first half NL Cy Young was a close one, with at least 4 pitchers having legitimate cases for the award.  In the end, the award goes to the Marlins’ big right-hander.  Johnson has been nothing short of stellar this season, posting the lowest ERA in the majors (1.70).  Sure Ubaldo Jimenez has a more impressive record and excellent stats, Roy Halladay has a perfect game and more complete games than all but 2 teams, and Adam Wainwright has put up stellar numbers across the board.  Johnson has put up equally impressive numbers as the aforementioned trio.  He has averaged 9.07 strikeouts per 9 innings, has more strikeouts than innings pitched, and a strikeout to walk ratio of 4.39.  Johnson has not given up more than 4 runs in a game all season (and that game was the first of the year), and has walked only 28 batters in 122 innings.  Opponents are hitting just .203 against him.  His consistency, control, ability to make hitters swing and miss, and ERA make him my choice for the first half Cy Young.  Runners-up: Ubaldo Jimenez , Roy Halladay, Adam Wainwright

First Half AL Cy Young – David Price, Tampa Bay Rays.  The AL doesn’t have nearly as many dominant pitching performers as the National League.  The 2nd year man is my choice for the first half AL Cy Young.  Price leads the Rays’ pitching staff, which is 4th in the league in ERA and has led the Rays to the 2nd best record in the majors.  Price has pitched 2 complete games, 1 shutout, and has the lowest ERA in the AL.  In addition, he is tied for the AL lead with 12 wins and opponents are hitting just .223 against him.  Runners-up: Jon Lester, Felix Hernandez, C.C. Sabathia

First Half NL MVP – Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds.  It is truly amazing that Joey Votto had to wait for MLB’s Final Vote to make the All-Star game.  He has been awesome this season.  He’s hit 22 home runs, driven in 60 runs, has the highest OPS (1.011) in the National League, and is batting .314.  Through in 4 stolen bases and a .997 fielding percentage and Votto is deserving choice for first half MVP.  Runners-up: Albert Pujols, Adam Dunn

First Half AL MVP – Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers. This decision was the easiest of the awards.  Cabrera is pushing for the Triple Crown this season.  He leads the league with a .346 BA and 77 RBI, and is second in home runs with 22.  Cabrera also leads the league in OPS.  If Cabrera can keep up his current pace, he would become the first Triple Crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.  Runner-up: Josh Hamilton.  In virtually any other year, Hamilton would have a case to win the award.  Like Cabrera, he has a .346 batting average and 22 homers.  He has 64 RBI and an OPS of 1.015.

First Half NL Rookie of the Year – Jaime Garcia, St. Louis Cardinals.  The race for rookie of the year in the National League is between two pitchers.  My choice for the first half ROY is the Cardinals’ lefty.  He has posted an 8-4 record in 17 starts with a 2.17 ERA.  He has a strikeout ratio of 7.22 K/9 and has been the 2nd best pitcher on the Cards’ staff.  Runner-up: Mike Leake.  Leake has been the 2nd best pitcher for the Reds, which is made even more impressive by the fact that he never pitched in the minors.

First Half AL Rookie of the Year – Brennan Boesch, Detroit Tigers. The race in the AL is between two Detroit outfielders.  For me, the choice is Boesch.  Since being called up in late April, Boesch has been on fire.  He is 4th in the league in batting average, at .342.  He has hit 12 homer runs, driven in 49 runs, and his OPS is .990.  Runner-up: Austin Jackson.  If not for his teammate, Jackson would be the front-runner.  He’s batting .300, with 20 RBI and 14 SB.  He has been a catalyst at the top of the Tigers’ order and the clear prize in the trade that sent Curtis Granderson to the Yankees.

NL Manager of the First Half – Bud Black, San Diego Padres. See entry on the Padres as surprise team of the first half.

AL Manager of the First Half Ron Washington, Texas Rangers. Washington has rebounded nicely after a summer of turmoil in which it was revealed that he tested positive for cocaine during the 2009 season.  The Rangers are 4.5 games up in the AL West (the largest lead in the league) and look poised to make a run to their first playoff appearance since 1999.