Oh, ESPN, how you write the stupidest things sometimes. David Schoenfield recently ranked his top five rotations in baseball. What were his five, you ask? Well, here is the list:
That’s right, the Rays don’t crack his top five. He does say he can’t believe he is leaving them off, but he does, saying this:
"(A.) The Rays play in a pitcher-friendly ballpark; (B.) They have one of the best defenses in the majors to help out; (C.) Hellickson lived off an impossible-to-repeat BABIP of .224, the lowest average a starter has allowed since 1988; (D.) Shields was awesome with a 2.82 ERA, but he’s also one season removed from leading the AL in hits and home runs allowed."
I hate to point out to him, but A and B are what makes the rotation good. A good defense is a big piece in having a good pitching staff. You can’t have a good pitching staff if you are making a lot of errors. You can’t rank a rotation and knock the Rays because they have a pitcher friendly ballpark or good defense. That’s all part of the equation.
The Rays have one of the youngest rotations in baseball, but all could be one or two starters on other teams. What other rotations can say that? The Angels could say that with their top four, but who the heck is Jerome Williams? Their five spot is very shaky, unlike the Rays.
Also, who says Shields can’t repeat his performance from last season? Shields has one of the best work ethics you will ever see. He took his bad 2010 campaign to heart, and I know he won’t let it happen again. He still allows a lot of home runs, but he knows how to get out of jams like nobody else on the team. Hellickson is still very young and getting better. He won’t come close to his BABIP from last season, but his strikeout to walk ratio will improve, leading him to a better season in 2012.
If I were ranking the top five rotations in baseball, here is my list:
The Angels have a big question at five, but their top four are very good and more established than the Rays. I give them a slight edge for that reason alone.
I gave my reasons above as to why the Rays are second. They are young but still very good. They have one of the best one through five rotations in baseball and have only got better since last year.
The Phillies are still very good and I agree with Schoenfield that they should be in the top five, but they regressed a little from last year. They lost Oswalt, who was a big piece when healthy. I put them behind the Rays only because Joe Blanton and Kyle Kendrick are not sure things at five. The Rays are more solid top to bottom, so that is why I place the Rays second.
The Braves have a very good rotation, albeit young, so that is why they crack my top five. Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, and Jair Jurrjens have all been very good in recent seasons and anchor this rotation. Plus, with Brandon Beachy and guys like Mike Minor and Julio Teheran to fill out the five, they could be very good this year. Their four and five spots are very young, but they have a ton of potential. Plus, they have a large amount of depth if somebody struggles or gets injured. Schoenfield knocks them down due to injury, but for me I would keep them in the five assuming they will be healthy. If they aren’t, they have depth, as I mentioned.
The Yankees have gotten a lot better by adding Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda, but their fifth spot is very much so up in the air, and they pitch in the biggest hitter’s haven in baseball. They will give up a lot of runs just because of the fact that they are in Yankee Stadium. That is not a huge deal to me because they have a great offense, but their fifth spot is very weak, with AJ Burnett, Phil Highes, and Freddy Garcia fighting for their spot. Like the Angels and Phillies, one through four is very good, but I have the Yankees five because they have the most questionable five spot.
The biggest problem I have with David Schoenfield’s top five rotation rankings is he gives weak reasons for leaving teams out. Leave the Rays out due to good defense and a pitcher’s park? Leave the Braves out due to injury? You have to look at the big picture when making these rankings, looking at the potential. The Rays have one of the greatest potentials in baseball, plus they are ready to make a splash now. If we look at the Rays rotation at the end of the season, I’m sure that they will be right there at the top.