Buster Olney wrote an article this morning naming the five best rotations in baseball. While the Rays weren’t in the top 5, they were around 9th depending on how you interpret his Others in the conversation list.
The first two choices, the Sox and the Yanks are hard to argue with. The Sox took a rotation that already had Josh Beckett, Jon Lester (my favorite pitcher in the AL), Dice K, Clay Bucholz and Tim Wakefield and added John Lackey. Barring injury, the deepest group 1-6. Another rotation that had a great 2009, only got stronger in 2010 as well in the New York Yankees. Add Javier Vasquez to CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Andy Pettitte and either Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes and you have the makings of another nasty 1-6.
3-5 is where I start to have a problem with Olney’s rankings.
White Sox – John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Freddy Garcia isn’t exactly the backend of the rotation that is striking fear in hitters. Danks and Floyd are both young, but both seem like 4.00 ERA guys to me with 10-12 wins in their system. Jake Peavy and Mark Buehrle are beasts, but they are more like Top 10 worthy, not number 3.
Angels – Without Lackey, this is not the same rotation to me. Joe Saunders is solid but Joel Pineiro should fall off once out of the tutelage of Dave Duncan, and Scott Kazmir has yet to put together a consistent season. I like this rotation, but not better than the Phillies, Giants or Rays.
Cardinals – Cardinals can probably sit in top 5, because they have arguably two of the 5 best pitchers in the NL in Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter. Kyle Loshe, Brad Penny and some other joker at the 5 spot is shaky at best, but once again, they have two of the best in the NL.
My number 3 would have been the Phillies. With Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, JA Happ, Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton, they bring all different kinds of stuff at you. If Happ can improve, and Halladay dominates the NL even moreso than he dominated the AL (he will) this is the best team in the NL and the best staff as well.
My fourth spot goes to the Giants, with a chance for them to be as good as any staff in the league. Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, just like the Cardinals are as good as any 1, 2 in the NL. Round them out with Barry Zito who had a rejuvenated 2009 and Jonathan Sanchez who is a strikeout machine and the potential dominance that many predict for Madison Bumgarner and you have the chance for a lethal rotation. Once again, if Zito has a 2010 like his 2009 second half, and Bumgarner is as good as advertised, this might be the best rotation in the game.
I will leave the Cards at 5 because of their 1, 2.
The Rays have a chance to be in this top 5 by the end of the season though. James Shields, Matt Garza, David Price, Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis and potentially Jeremy Hellickson is as good as a young rotation as there has been in baseball in ages. The key to the Rays ending with a top 5 caliber rotation is the development of Garza, Davis and Price. Price regressed in 2009 and will need to show a 3rd pitch to avoid ending up in bullpen. Hellicksons’ stuff is too nasty to be left out of the rotation for very long.