Oct 14, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez throws a pitch against the New York Yankees in the 1st inning during game two of the 2012 ALCS at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Nobody can really deny the importance of starting pitching in baseball. Of course, offense and defense play important roles in a team’s success as well, but a good starting five can give a team a chance every day. There is no doubt that with the signing of Anibal Sanchez, Detroit can put a starting five out there that on most days will give the Tigers a chance to win. It’s a rotation so strong, that it appears inevitable that either Rick Porcello or Drew Smyly will become a valuable trade chip to help the club improve elsewhere. The question I now ask though is, is the Tigers rotation the best in the American League?
I certainly don’t want to go through all of the information team by team. It’s pretty clear from a cursory look, there are teams that can be eliminated from the discussion quickly. Amongst them are all of the Tigers Central Division rivals. There isn’t one team in the Central that is even relatively close, with the exception of the Chicago White Sox, and in there rotation there is too many question marks. Can Chris Sale repeat his performance? Will John Danks bounce back from injury? Can Jake Peavy stay healthy? Is Carlos Quintana the real deal?
To look forward to 2013 rotations, I took a look back. While ERA is often a rudimentary statistic these days, it still does give us an idea of how many runs pitchers are responsible for, sans some elements of luck and quality of defenders behind them. In 2012, Tampa led all American League rotations in ERA with a tremendous 3.34 ERA. The Tigers finished second in the league at 3.76, and Oakland finished 3rd in the league 3.80. The Mariners, Angels, and Yankees finished 4th, 5th, and 6th respectively, all of them having very solid rotations.
This off-season there has been some substantial moves made, and some of them to the rotations. The Angels for instance have lost Dan Haren and Zack Greinke and replaced them with Joe Blanton and Tommy Hanson. The Blue Jays made a monster trade to acquire a couple pitchers and are on the verge of acquiring the N.L. Cy Young winner in R.A. Dickey. Heck, even the Royals traded for James Shields from Tampa, no doubt weakening the Rays rotation a little bit.
Below, are some of the American League’s best rotations.
Tampa still has a quality rotation. The top three of reigning Cy Young winner David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, and Matt Moore is as talented as just about anyone’s. They even have depth as well. Alex Cobb, Jeff Niemann, Jake Odorizzi, Chris Archer, and Alex Colome all could contribute if anyone should suffer injury, and the Rays might not even miss a beat.
Oakland was the surprise team of the A.L. last year, and it was largely based on the backs of their starting pitchers. Jarrod Parker was a top pitching prospect a few years ago in the Diamondbacks organization, and he showed why last year. At one point, the A’s were starting all rookies down the stretch, and the fact that they performed bodes well for their future. Tom Milone, Dan Straily, A.J. Griffin, and Brett Anderson round out a young and talented A’s rotation.
Toronto improved the look of it’s rotation drastically, completing a huge off-season trade with the Miami Marlins. Part of that deal brought the Jays rotation veterans Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle. Buehrle is still plugging along, and will be a solid addition to the back of their rotation. Johnson, however, owns front line stuff, and if he can stay healthy, will likely anchor a real good rotation. Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow are talented pitchers in their own right, and as mentioned before it seems the Jays could be adding R.A. Dickey almost any minute now. If Dickey comes aboard, this rotation will rival anyone’s.
The Yankees have an interesting rotation. C.C. Sabathia is of course one of best starters in all of baseball, and Hiroki Kuroda continues to be a vastly underrated pitcher. Andy Pettite is somewhat of a wild card, and he performed well in his return to baseball. Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes continue to be a bit erratic, but Hughes has gotten better, and Nova still has quality stuff. Add to that the ultimate wild card in the talented Michael Pineda, and the Yankees could once again be near the top in pitching in the American League.
Texas’ rotation is in a little bit of trouble, but there is some talent there. Matt Harrison is underrated. Alexi Ogando returns to the rotation in 2013. Texas is always expecting a Derek Holland breakout, and he does show flashes from time to time. Guys like Martin Perez and Justin Grimm have good potential, but the real anchor might be Yu Darvish. While Darvish had his share of poor games, he did show a major league quality pitch mix, and at times looked dominant. With a little more experience, I suspect Darvish will improve.
Jared Weaver is a perennial Cy Young candidate. Number two starter C.J. Wilson is more than adequate. The Angels’ rotation success is likely to depend on Tommy Hanson and his ability to adjust to the American League and regain his stuff that he had prior to injury. Garrett Richards represents a youth with talent, and Joe Blanton is the epitome of a decent 5th starter.
Overall, Detroit’s rotation stacks up nicely against all of these. There are two teams in particular that catch my eye as being on par with Detroit. First is Tampa, and the second is Toronto. I do believe that Oakland has itself an opportunity to be the best, but I believe their home park helps their numbers, and at this point, their lack of experience doesn’t allow for us to make an accurate judgement of their true talents at this point. They could all have sophomore slumps.
Tampa is right on par with Detroit. Nobody is as good as Justin Verlander right now, but David Price is close. Detroit probably has the edge in the 2-4 slots in the rotation, but it is rather slight in my opinion. Hellickson could be a very similar pitcher to Doug Fister, and Matt Moore has every opportunity to be as good as Max Scherzer. Anibal Sanchez is a little bit better than Jeff Niemann at this point, as Niemann seems to have trouble staying healthy. The factor that evens things with Detroit for Tampa is that the Rays have tremendous depth in case of injury, and the Tigers just don’t. Since injuries to pitchers occur quite frequently, this of course levels things.
Toronto, if it acquires Dickey, has three top of the rotation candidates in Dickey, Johnson, and even Brandon Morrow. Morrow was on his way to a fantastic season last year before being bit by the injury bug. Having Ricky Romero as your 3rd or 4th best starter isn’t a bad thing. Add to that the veteran presence of Buehrle at the back of the rotation, and that is quite a starting five. There is some depth there as well. Kyle Drabek appeared to be getting better, and Drew Hutchinson and Sean Nolin are on the brink of contributing as well.
So there you have it…some of the best rotations around. The Tigers probably have the top four, but when you consider depth, it evens out a bit.
What do you all think?