Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Has Toronto Got the Best Starters in Baseball?
As a Yankee fan I am quite envious of the starting rotation the Blue Jay management has put together. Is it the best in baseball? Maybe. In this entry I am going to attempt a quick analysis of what will probably be the best rotations in both leagues.
First, the National League. The award for depth may go to the Los Angeles Dodgers. After all, they have Clayton Kershaw, 14-9, 2.53 and a 1.023 WHIP last year. They have Zack Greinke, who was 6-2, though it has now been three years since his great 2009 season. There is the possibility that Josh Beckett (7-14, 4.65) will have a comeback year. And, they still have Aaron Harang (10-10), Chris Carpenter (12-12), and Ted Lilly (5-1).
As a wild card, the Dodgers, who will have the biggest payroll ($225 million) in baseball history this year, have signed beefy left hander Hyun Jin Ryu (pronounced Ree-Yoo) to a beefy $62 million contract. Ryu led the Korean Baseball League (which has never sent a player directly to the majors) in strikeouts five of the last seven years and went 98-52 with a 2.80 ERA. GM Ned Colleti has never seen him pitch but, since Ryu's contract states that he cannot be sent to the minors, Colleti will have to be delighted with him.
The Cardinals were fourth in ERA in the Majors last year. They were second in FIP (fielding Independent Pitching), and fifth in adjusted (league and ballpark) FIP. They have Adam Wainwright (14-13, 3.14), Chris Carpenter, who was great in 2009 and 2010, and Jake Westbrook (13-11). But Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.86) is still an unsigned free agent. Without him their rotation lacks depth.
Better, in my view better are the Phillies with their big three of Roy Halladay, who is coming off an awful year (11-8, 4.49) but knows how to pitch, Cole Hamels (17-6, 3.05), and Cliff Lee (6-9, 3.16). They also have Kyle Kendrick (11-12, 3.90) and John Lannan, who was 4-1 in his only winning season.
Still better are the Braves. They have Tim Hudson (16-7, 3.62) as their horse. Kris Medlen was terrific down the stretch (9-0, 0.97 with a 0.80 WHIP) as was Mike Minor, who had a 2.21 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP from July 5th on. The Braves also have lefty Paul Maholm, Brandon Beachy coming off Tommy John surgery, and prospects Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran.
Perhaps the best in the NL are the Washington Nationals. Phenom Steven Strasburg was 15-5, 3.16 before they sat him down. Gio Gonzales was 21-8 (.724) and 2.89 but is looking at a 50-game suspension for his ties to the Biogenesis clinic. The Nats acquired Don Haren (right) who, since becoming a full-timer in 2005, has the fourth most wins, the second most strikeouts, the eighth best WHIP, and the second best strikeout-to-walk ratio in the game (according to ESPN). His numbers were way down last year though and he has had back and hip problems.
Washington also has Jordan Timmerman (12-8, 2.94) and Ross Detwiler (10-8, 3.20) and prospect Matt Purke. They did lose Edwin Jackson - but he was their worst starter last year (11-10, 4.03). Depending on how Haren does and what happens to Gio Gonzales, they could be the best in the National League and maybe the best overall.
As for the American League, even without James Shields (15-10, 3.52) the Tampa Bay rotation looks pretty good. They had the best ERA in the AL last year and still have Cy Young winner David Price (20-5, 2.57), Matt Moore, 2011 Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson, (10-11), and Alex Cobb (11-9, .403).
The Yankees top three of C.C. Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kurodi are solid, if the first two stay healthy. Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes are pretty good in the four and five slots, though Nova has proved more dependable than Hughes. Will Michael Pineda, for whom they gave up so much, achieve stardom? If so, the Yankees might have a top-notch rotation.
More likely to be great are Detroit's starters. You can pretty much count on Justin Verlander. They gave Anibal Sanchez (left) $80 million on the basis of a 3.77 ERA and a 7.6 WAR over the past two years. Max Scherzer led the majors in strikeouts per 9 innings and Doug Fister, in spite of an oblique injury, had a 3.10 ERA and a WAR of 9.1 over the last two seasons. Those four are all in the top 40 in fWAR in the majors.
Rick Porcello has been the subject of trade rumours (he would be higher than a fifth starter on most clubs). He did not have a stellar 2012. His ERA was 4.59, opponents hit .310, and his WHIP was a career-high 1.531. He still got a raise though. Say, is there a lot of money in baseball? Drew Smyly started last year as the Tigers' fifth starter and ended up 4-3, 3.99 with a 1.268 WHIP. Detroit's rotation is solid.
And that brings us to Toronto, where Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey (20-6, 2.73) will get the ball on Opening Day. The Jays got two specialist extra catchers to handle his knuckle ball - even though J.P. Arencibia wants to catch Dickey. Josh Johnson was just 8-14 last year but shone in 2009 (15-5) and 2010 (11-6). Mark Buehrle was 13-13 for Miami with a 3.74 ERA. Lifetime his ERA is 3.82, but that was in the NL, it could be closer to 4.00 in the American League.
The bonus for Toronto is that they have those three guys plus Brandon Morrow (10-7, 2.96) and Ricky Romero, who is bound to do a lot better than last year (9-14, 5.77) when there was so much pressure on him. The two have been making fun of the fact that (though former top line starters) they are now the best four and five guys around. They may well be.
In summary, I say that Washington has the best rotation in the senior circuit with the Phillies, Braves, and Dodgers battling for second. In the American I give the nod to the Blue Jays, with the Tigers, Rays, and Yankees vying for second. Who knows how things will go. Like Rick and John, I can't wait for the season to begin.