By Michael Model
Remember in 2014 when the last three AL Cy Young Award winners started three games in a row last season for the Tigers? After the Tigers traded for David Price, they had one of the best staffs in baseball history with Max Scherzer, David Price, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, and Robby Ray. However, Scherzer is gone and, like many other teams, their rotation has been mixed up. This offseason saw many premier starters like Jeff Samardzija and John Lester move to new cities. Here’s a list ranking the best against the best complete five-man rotations in the MLB.
- San Diego Padres
In 2014, the starters for the San Diego Padres allowed the fourth fewest runs per game: 3.56. There is no reason to believe that they can’t do it again. All of their starters are returning from last season — a season during which many of them missed a lot of time due to injury. For example, their ace Andrew Cashner only made 19 starts. Also, Odrisamer Despaigne only started 16 games. Nevertheless, these guys have a very young rotation, and the addition of consistent James Shields’s veteran leadership should help mentor the youth in Ross and Despaigne. Overall, with a new ace and a healthy old one, the Padres should be able to replicate their fourth best starter ERA from last season. Also, the flurry of offseason offensive additions should give the starters some more motivation to produce as they have October baseball in mind.
- Miami Marlins
New Marlins addition Dan Haren had a very productive 2014 season — in which he went 13-11 with a 4.02 ERA. Those numbers are not bad, especially when you consider that he is the fifth starter for the Marlins. The Marlins will be led by 2013 NL Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez, who went 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA in his rookie season. Fernandez missed most of last season due to Tommy John surgery, but is due to return this season. In his place, Henderson Alvarez took over last season. The all-star posted a 2.65 ERA while winning 12 games. The Marlins also acquired Mat Latos from the Reds this offseason. Although he missed half of last season, Latos has had 14 wins in two of his last three campaigns and has had an ERA under 3.50 in his last few seasons. Although only a one year rental, he should provide some extra depth to an already strong Marlins rotation. They also have young fireballer Jarred Cosart — who can help out at the fourth position, as the new and improved Marlins try for their first postseason appearance since they became the Miami Marlins.
- Tampa Bay Rays
In July of 2014 the Rays shipped their ace, David Price off to the Tigers in exchange for Nick Franklin and Drew Smyly. However, their rotation could very well be better now than it was prior to the deal. The Rays will be led by a troop of young starters — one of whom is Matt Moore, coming off of Tommy John surgery. In 2013, Moore was an all-star as he took the league by storm while posting 17 wins. Perhaps the better of the two, Alex Cobb has also been slightly injury prone. Cobb has yet to make over 30 starts in a season, but he has maintained a sub-3.00 ERA in each of the last two seasons. The Rays’s third starter is the 25 year old hard-thrower Chris Archer. Though his stats haven’t been exceptional, Archer mixes in a steady 95 mile per hour fastball with an 80 mile per hour slider. Jake Odorizzi is going to be the Rays’s fourth-starter. Odorizzi struck out over a batter an inning last season, but he has had some control problems. Finally, Drew Smyly has had success and a mid-three ERA, thus being a steady anchor for a young rotation with an extremely high upside.
- Los Angeles Dodgers
Last season, Clayton Kershaw had what could be considered the best season by a pitcher ever. Kershaw will once again anchor the Dodgers. He is coming off of five straight 200 strikeout seasons, and his second straight season with an ERA under two. Kershaw will be followed by Korean superstar Hyun-Jin Ryu. Ryu is coming off of two straight 14 win seasons with a sub-3.40 ERA. During his first season in the league, he had stretches in which he looked like the best starter in the game. Next, Zach Greinke will follow the pack as one of the premier three-starters in the league. He could even be the number one starter for many other teams across the nation. Greinke has quietly posted two straight 15 win seasons in his two seasons in LA with the Dodgers. In addition, he has kept opponents to under three runs per nine innings in those seasons. For the Dodgers, their top three is amongst the best in baseball. Their last two, Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson, have both shined at times. If McCarthy pitches like he did in New York, with an ERA under four, he could add some needed depth to the Dodger’s rotation in LA.
- Washington Nationals
Without question, the Washington Nationals have the best starting rotation in the MLB. Last season, the Nationals had the second best ERA by their starters, as they posted a 3.43 ERA. Each of their five projected starters for this season had an ERA under 3.40. Their ace for this season is, newly signed, Max Scherzer. Scherzer has led the AL in wins each of the last two seasons. He has also been an all-star and had 200-strikeouts in each of those seasons. Scherzer was also the AL Cy Young Award winner in 2013. Scherzer is followed by a dominant Jordan Zimmermann — who had a 2.66 ERA last season and was also twice an all-star in the last two seasons. Zimmerman is followed by former prospect Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg had a 3.14 ERA last season while striking out a league high 242 men in his best season to date. Doug Fister will also pitch every five days next season. He had a remarkable 2.44 ERA last season, en route to a 16 win season. Finally, the last starter for the team is Tanner Roark. In his first full season, Roark posted a 2.85 ERA for the Nationals on his way to a 15 win season. This low ERA is why this team is so dangerous. Everyone from top to bottom can shut down the opponent. In addition, if anyone gets hurt, they have two-time all-star Gio Gonzalez to fill the gap.