Top 5 Starting Rotations in the MLB

With the season not too far away, we thought it would be nice to preview the 5 best rotations in baseball.


1. Tampa Bay Rays 

2. New York Yankees

3. San Francisco Giants

4. Chicago Cubs

5. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 


The AL Champion Rays’ rotation can be described in one word, Beast. Last season, they boasted a team ERA (bullpen included) of 3.82, which is pretty remarkable. The only loss from their rotation this offseason was Edwin Jackson who gave them a solid 14 wins and 183.3 innings; this "hole" should be more than filled with the fantastic David Price. The rotation starts off with James Shields, who will be 27 this coming season.. Last season he pitched an impressive 215 innings, with a 3.56 ERA, 1.153 WHIP, and a 4:1 K:BB ratio. Interestingly enough, he pitched the same number of innings the year before, with a 3.85 ERA a ridiculous 1.107 WHIP, and a 5.11:1 K:BB ratio. This young guy has been consistently effective over the last couple of years, and should only continue to put up impressive stats this season. Scott Kazmir, still only 24, is another one of the great pitchers in the Rays’ rotation. He has had his fair share of injury troubles, but when healthy he is dominant. Last season, he had an ERA of 3.49, 166 Ks, a WHIP of 1.267, and threw 152.3 innings. He tends to walk a few more guys than he should. He has shown great potential when he has been healthy, leading the AL in Ks in 2007 (239), and being voted onto the All-Star team in both 2005 and 2007. With his young age, he will only continue to get better and grow as a pitcher for the Rays. Matt Garza, their #3, is another young guy (24) who had an effective season for the Rays. He was brought over to the Rays along with Team MVP Jason Bartlett in the Delmon Young deal last offseason. In his first season with the Rays he had an ERA of 3.70, a WHIP of 1.240, and a K:BB ratio of 2.2, which could certainly be improved upon. Again remember, he is very young and will only continue to improve. Sonnanstine, the Rays #4, will be 26 next season and had a season very similar to Andy Pettitte. He had an ERA of 4.38, a WHIP of 1.288, and a 3.1 K:BB ratio. He picked up a good amount of innings in ‘08, throwing 193.3 in total. David Price is the only Rays’ starter who scares me. The 22 year old had great composure in the Playoffs last season and just made people look stupid. He did the best he could to justify the # 1 prospect tag he has been given. The Rays have the best rotation in major league baseball. Statistically they fare well in the ERA and WHIP categories, and with not one of their starters being older than 27, they have a promising future.


Next up, is our own New York Yankees. The Yankees made some serious improvements to their rotation this season, adding the best lefty in baseball,CC Sabathia, and the 08 strikeout leader, AJ Burnett. In doing so, they made their rotation younger (Sabathia is 27, Burnett is 32) and more effective. They lost Mike Mussina, who at 38 was coming off of a stellar 20-win season. Their rotation is clearly formidable. CC Sabathia is the team’s ace signing on with a 7 year $161mm contract. His ’08 season was spectacular, as he carried the Brewers into the playoffs. He was quite the workhorse, throwing 253 innings between the Indians and the Brewers. He sported a cool 2.70 ERA, with an insane 1.65 ERA in his 17 games with the Brewers (7 of which were complete games). His 251 Ks, 4.25 K:BB, and 1.115 WHIP made me water at the mouth. Hopefully, his workload over the past couple years won't hurt him this year or in the future. Burnett, another big free agent signing, had a very solid season for the Jays in ‘08. He hurled 221.3 innings with a 4.07 ERA (a little bit higher than we’d like). He had 231 Ks and a WHIP of 1.342. He is obviously a huge injury risk, but hopefully he can stay healthy in his first year in pinstripes. Burnett’s biggest strength is his electric stuff, as he pitches for power as well as movement. He could be the ace on almost any other team, but instead he’ll take the role of the #2 in the Bronx. Chien Ming Wang has been incredibly consistent in his time with the Yankees. In both 06 and 07, his ERA was under 4.00 and he totaled 19 wins both years. He was off to a great start last year as well before his season was cut short by a foot injury running the bases in Houston. He has been criticized for his lack of Ks, but Wang’s whole approach is to pitch to contact, as he is one of the best in the league at making batters hit the ball into the dirt. His consistency and nasty sinker will lead to another great year for the Yankees. Andy Pettitte sits at #4. He came up with the Yankees and has been a fan favorite for a long time. He is another workhorse, throwing 204 innings last season despite being hurt as the year wound down. He had a high ERA (4.54), but don’t fret, as that was the result of a weak second half while he was battling soreness in his shoulder. His WHIP was a bit high as well (1.412), and he had a 2.87 K:BB. Andy isn’t what he used to be, but he’s guy you still count on to take the ball every 5th day and pitch quality innings. The Lord Our Savior Joba Chamberlain will be the 5th starter for the Yanks. The 22 year old made the transition to starter for a limited time last season, before hamstring problem landed him on the DL, and pushed him to the ‘pen upon his return. His 2.60 ERA, 1.256 WHIP, and 3.02 K:BB impressed everyone. I'm very excited to see how he'll do in his first full season as starter. Another great thing about this Yankee rotation is the great depth we have. If a starter goes down, we won’t have to worry about sending Sidney Ponson or Darrell Rasner to the mound, instead we’ll see Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, or Alfredo Aceves. Beyond that, the Yanks’ have veteran insurance with Sergio Mitre (after he serves his 50 game suspension), Brett Tomko, and Dan Giese. The Yanks could easily be the best rotation in the league, but there is too much uncertainty with Sabathia’s workload the past two years, Burnett’s injury history, Wang coming off an injury and a half season, Pettitte’s age, and Joba’s lack of experience as a full time big league starter.


The Giants boast the 3rd best rotation in baseball. Their ace, Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, is dirty, unbelievable, and has already proved himself to be a superstar. The 24 year old had a 2.62 ERA, a 1.172 WHIP, 265 Ks (led league), in his Cy Young campaign. Not bad for a 24 year old. Matt Cain, their #2, had a 3.76 ERA, had 186 Ks, and a 1.364 WHIP. He is another guy that will give you a bunch of innings, with an average of 202 innings over the last 3 seasons. Future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, signed with San Fran this offseason, and will be 45 this year. Sure, he's old, but his stats were still impressive last season, with a 3.91 ERA, and 1.239 WHIP, and 173 Ks. His age could catch up with him though, and his constant back issues could pose a problem as well.. Barry Zito, who has done nothing but disappoint for the Giants, is the #4. He has struggled immensely in SF, posting a 5.15 ERA, 1.600 WHIP, and an abysmal 1.17 K:BB ratio last season. He was a fine pitcher across the bay in Oakland, even picking up a Cy Young in ’01, so he could still have a comeback in him. The #5 spot will go to Jonathan Sanchez, but Noah Lowry could still fight him for it. Sanchez, 25, throws a ton of Ks, with 157 in 158 innings last season. His ERA was high at 5.01, a result of a weak second half. He hasn’t been in the big leagues for long, so he could still break out. Lowry had a 3.92 ERA and a 1.551 WHIP in 07, but missed last season with an injury. He walked loads of batter in ’07, with just as many walks as K’s. That’s not a good sign. San Fran certainly has some question marks in Johnson, Zito, Sanchez, and Lowry, but with such a strong 1-2 combo, and tremendous potential from the others’ this rotation can destroy the NL West. When it comes down to it, it’s nice to have a rotation with 3 Cy Young winners.



The Chicago Cubs come in at #4. The Big Z (Carlos Zambrano), is their ace. He had a decent season last year with a WHIP of 1.293 and 3.91 ERA. His strikeout rates were down from previous seasons, as he only punched out 130 in ‘08. The highlight of his season was his impressive no-hitter. He has proven himself to be a force, and will certainly give the Cubbies lots of quality innings.He pitched over 200 innings each year from 03-07. His biggest flaw is his excessive number of walks. Ex-Yankee Ted Lilly is the #2. The lefty had an ERA of 4.09, 184 Ks, and a WHIP of 1.226. He had a bit of a down season, compared to his "usual stats", so it wouldn't be improbable to see a jump in his stats. Ryan Dempster, #3, had a great season for the Cubs last year. Until last season, he was used primarily as a reliever, but he showed that he can be a very successful starter. He threw 206.66 innings last year with an ERA of 2.96, a WHIP of 1.210, and 187 Ks. He signed a new four year deal with the Cubs this offseason. Typically, relievers-turned-starters have a tougher time their second year, as they fatigue earlier in the season.. Rich Harden, the #4, can be ridiculously dominant when healthy. He showed that last season with a 2.07 ERA and a filthy 1.061 WHIP while pitching for the A’s and Cubs. If he can stay healthy, a big IF, he will be a force in this tremendous Chicago rotation. Rounding out the rotation is Sean Marshall. The converted reliever had a 3.86 ERA and a 1.270 WHIP. He is still young, so there may be serious improvements ahead of him. This rotation will be dominant, but if they somehow manage to reignite talks for Padres’ ace Jake Peavy, and land him, I wouldn’t be surprised to see their first World Series Championship since 1908.


The Angels have the 5th best rotation in the league. Their #1, John Lackey, has shown dominancy for years and is entering his contract year. He had a 3..75 ERA, a 1.231 WHIP, and 3.25 K:BB last season. He was sidelined for a considerable amount of time with a strained tricep. Expect to see him continue to put up strong stats, and bring home some W’s. The youngErvin Santana (#2) had a breakout season for the Angels last year. His 3.49 ERA 214 Ks, and 1.119 WHIP impressed all of baseball. He has shown strengths before, so expect him to keep pitching well this season. #3 Joe Saunders had a great year in ‘08 with a 3.41 ERA, 1.212 WHIP, and a 17-7 record. We’ll see if Saunders can repeat what was the best season of his career so far. Jered Weaver had a less than stellar season for the Angels last year. At 25, he posted a 4.33 ERA, a 1.285 WHIP, and 2.8 K:BB ratio. Look for him to improve this year, now that he has some more big league experience. Rounding out their rotation should be Dustin Moseley who only started 10 games last season. He has great potential, and we’ll see if he can live up to it. This is clearly a talented rotation, but the Angels are relying heavily on repeat seasons from Santana and Saunders, and a bounce-back season for Weaver.


Honorable Mention- 

Boston Red Sox- The Sox have Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jon Lester, Tim Wakefield, John Smoltz, Clay Bucholz, and Brad Penny as viable candidates for the rotation. This could be a great rotation, but Dice-K is overrated, Wakefield is old, Bucholz is a question, and Smoltz and Penny are injury prone.

Florida Marlins- A strong young core could turn heads, but without being “proven” you can’t be sure of how effective they will be.


What do you guys think? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.

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