The human arm was never meant to throw any object over 70 mph… it certainly wasn’t meant to do it over, and over, and over again 30-80 times a year for 10+ years.
Unfortunately for that theory grown men have been doing it for over 100 years in this little game we like to call baseball. And without pitching your chances of doing anything remotely impressive during the season will be as slim as Tim Lincecum.
Pitching is the most important part of the game of baseball. Teams with good pitching do better than teams without it. Sure you could score a lot of runs, win some games and it could be a bunch of fun. However, more than likely if you don’t have a decent two or three starters or a semi-decent bullpen then your season is over by the time the NFL heads into training camp (assuming of course that we have an NFL season this year.).
The old adage that good pitching beats good hitting is as solid as defense wins championships. Look at last year’s World Series for example; the Rangers for 11 years have been a team predicated on mashing the ball out of the yard and they do so at a great rate with Josh Hamilton and company. Yet after getting by Tampa Bay and the Yankees they had the pleasure of facing the best young staff in the Majors and they got smoked. Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner shut them down and brought home San Fran’s first baseball title and first pro sports title since Steve Young and the 95 49ers.
Before that the threesome of C.C. Sabathia, Andy Pettite and A.J. Burnett limited the Philadelphia Phillies potent offense in 2009, and the Phillies did it to Tampa before that.
The Rangers, Phillies and Rays were all teams that scored a lot of runs and did it at a great rate. However, once Cole Hamels, C.C. and Lincecum started to locate, their runs were over.
How important is pitching? Teams trade away the farm for it and stockpile it as if a nuclear strike were happening and the only supplies you could use were toilet paper, water and a left-handed flame thrower.
The Angels were so desperate to make a run at the AL West last year that they traded a young gun in Joe Saunders for a proven ace in Dan Haren. The Red Sox shelled out 80 million dollars for John Lackey who is at best a number 3 starter. The Mets gave up 4 major leaguers and cash for Johan Santana. The Yankees wouldn’t get Santana because it would’ve meant parting with Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy. The pitching market is like the drug market, its risky and more times than not you’ll get burned, but you got something good you feel on top of the world.
Pitching means everything. If St. Louis would’ve lost Colby Rasmus for the season you figure that Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols could step up. But losing Adam Wainwright knocks you out of the race for NL Central because he’s an ace on most teams but he’s your number 2 guy.
How have the Giants been able to overcome their offensive deficiencies and Barry Zito’s horrendous 7 year/$126 million dollar signing? Because, their front four have been spectacular and their bullpen was just as good.
Why didn’t the Padres win the NL West last year? Because they rode Mat Latos and had no other pitchers to back him up (that and their offense was terrible but Latos and the pen covered their tails until the last month of the year.).
It’s all due to pitching. As great as Albert Pujols is, Carpenter and Wainwright won that title in 2006. Ryan Howard is a stud, but the 08 Series belonged to Hamels. You can go back to the 90’s and the Twins, Jays and Marlins. Do they win those titles without Jack Morris, Dave Stewart and Livan Hernandez pitching lights out? Nope.
Which brings us to 2011 of course. The perennial favorites to win this year’s title are the Phillies. Why? Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels (and Joe Blanton.). That front four might be the best looking rotation in the history of the game on paper. 3 Cy Young’s, 2 rings and a lot of heat.
Philly’s acquisition of Lee made them the favorites for this year even as the Giants were still getting their names etched into their World Series trophy. Never mind that Chase Utley is banged up, and Ryan Howard has no protection in the lineup, if they score 2-3 runs a game then they’re fine.
Same for San Francisco, Atlanta and Oakland, yes the Oakland A’s have one of baseball’s best staffs with Dallas
Braden, Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson at the top of the rotation. Combine them with a bullpen featuring Andrew Bailey and Brian Fuentes and the A’s could make a series run at the Rangers for the top spot out west.
So who really has the best staff in baseball this year and could go for it all in October? Well as always you have to start from the bottom and work your way up, so…
30. PITTSBURGH PIRATES (last year pitching rank 30th)
ROTATION: Kevin Correia, Paul Maholm, Ross Ohlendorf, Charlie Morton, James McDonald
James McDonald has a lot of hype and rightfully so after a pretty impressive second half last year. Unfortunately he and the Pirates are staring at another year in the NL Central basement.
29. KANSAS CITY ROYALS (LY: 29th)
ROTATION: Luke Hochevar, Jeff Francis, Kyle Davies, Bruce Chen
They traded away Zach Greinke and only have a 4-man rotation to start with. They have a boatload of talent in the minor leagues and they may be getting a lot of playing time this year.
28. CLEVELAND INDIANS (LY: 23RD)
ROTATION: Fausto Carmona, Carlos Carrasco, Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin, Mitch Talbot
Carmona rebounded from a rough 2009 with a decent 2010. However he’s going to need to do a lot more with this young and very raw rotation.
27. BALTIMORE ORIOLES (LY: 27TH)
ROTATION: Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Brad Bergesen, Chris Tillman.
The Orioles added Vladimir Guerrero and Mark Reynolds to their lineup, which means we’ll be seeing lots of 6,7 run games for the O’s. the downside is that they won’t be wins with a bad pen and an iffy rotation.
(side note: can we all be in agreement that Guthrie is not a number one starter? The O’s have been trotting him out there as such but he’s never won more than 11 games and has never finished over .500. just hand the reigns over to Brian Matusz and call it a day.
26. NEW YORK METS (LY: 7TH)
ROTATION: Mike Pelfrey, Jonathan Niese, R.A. Dickey, Chris Young, Chris Capuano
So, who here thinks Pelfrey and Dickey can replicate there seasons from last year, Niese can become a decent two before Santana returns and that Chris Young is finally healthy? Yeah me neither.
25. SAN DIEGO PADRES (2ND)
ROTATION: Mat Latos (DL), Tim Stauffer, Clayton Richard, Aaron Harang, Dustin Moseley.
Who steps up in this rotation in Latos’s absence. Matter of fact who steps up when he’s back? While you like Richard as a number two after a pretty good campaign last year you have to be concerned that Stauffer and Moseley started 11 games total last year and that Harang has always been an up and down pitcher.
24. TORONTO BLUE JAYS (LY: 23RD)
ROTATION: Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil, Kyle Drabek, Jesse Litsch.
Youth, youth, youth. Drabek has been a hot commodity since he was first mentioned in the Halladay talks in 2009. Brett Cecil was a beast going 15-7 with a 4.22 ERA and Morrow and Romero have amazing stuff. If they can put it all together they’ll be really good, but an questionable bullpen with Octavio Dotel and Jon Rauch leaves room for improvement.
23. WASHINGTON NATIONALS (LY:19TH)
ROTATION: LIVAN HERNANDEZ, JOHN LANNAN, JASON MARQUIS, JORDAN ZIMMERMAN, TOM GORZELANNY
I really like the arms in Washington even without Stephen Strasburg until next year. Zimmerman could be a stud and a viable number two and Livan is a consistent, innings eater who will fill in nicely as the ace of the staff until Strasburg heals from Tommy John surgery.
Also in case you haven’t noticed, the Nats have done some nice retooling in their lineup by adding Jayson Werth and I think this is the year that Ian Desmond breaks through at the top of the order. The Nats wont be in the playoff mix but they’ll be intriguing to watch.
22. HOUSTON ASTROS (LY:17TH)
ROTATION: Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez, J.A. Happ, Bud Norris, Nelson Figueroa
What I like: the front 3 of Myers, Rodriguez and Happ will give teams fits. I always liked Happ when he was a Phillie and he has a chance to be a top of the rotation guy in Houston.
What I don’t like: everything else. Figueroa as a starter? Norris who only relies on one pitch? And don’t get me started on Carlos Lee… lets just move on.
21. CHICAGO CUBS (LY:21)
ROTATION: Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Carlos Zambrano, Randy Wells, Andrew Cashner
Garza and Zambrano, two head cases in the same rotation… 103 and counting.
20. ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (LY:5TH)
ROTATION: Carpenter, Jake Westbrook, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse, Kyle McClellan
With Wainwright this is a top 10 rotation, without him they fall out of the NL Central race. Sad to say but unless Westbrook has a career year this is a wait til next year scenario.
(also, who would’ve thought that with all of the Pujols banter this offseason that Wainwright’s injury would be the ultimate doom to their year? Internally Pujols has to love this, because lets say he goes .340/45/140 and the Cardinals make the playoffs with a shoddy pitching staff. How does he not get his 30 mil a year deal?)
19. ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS (28TH)
ROTATION: Ian Kennedy, Joe Saunders, Daniel Hudson, Barry Enright, Armando Gallaraga
Have you noticed that in the last year the D’Backs have fleeced the Yankees for Kennedy, the Angels for Saunders, the White Sox for Hudson who all looked better in ‘Zona than they did in their previous locations, and were able to suck the Orioles into Mark Reynolds? If Gallaraga goes 14-9 with a sub 4 ERA the Tigers will be kicking themselves in the teeth.
18. DETROIT TIGERS (LY:25TH)
ROTATION: Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello, Brad Penny, Phil Coke
The “Yeah, but…” rotation of the decade. Scherzer and Porcello are young arms with experience, but can they be top of the rotation guys? Brad Penny has shown flashes, but his struggles in the last two years have outshined those flashes. Phil Coke… look he’s an ex-Yankee and I like him, but a starter… no.
17. NEW YORK YANKEES (LY:15TH)
ROTATION: Sabathia, Burnett, Phil Hughes, Freddy Garcia, Ivan Nova
You didn’t misread that, I have my Yankees at the bottom half of the Majors for pitching and overall this year.
You may think I’m crazy, nuts, going overboard even. The fact is that this team aint making the playoffs. Starting rotation, too many questions. Jeter leading off… not gonna work. Mark Teixeira trying to have a fast start, not gonna happen.
There are too many grey areas with this team to have faith in them. Will they win close to 90 games? Sure, why not? But contend? No way. For the first time in 15 Yankees fans will have to settle for wait til next year.
(and you can erase that top paragraph if Nova pitches as well as I think he will and this Manny Banuelos kid comes up and starts lighting it up in June. I’m realistic about this team, but I have lots of hope.)
16. TEXAS RANGERS (LY: 10TH)
ROTATION: C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando
Their best starter is also their best reliever. Their biggest mistake for this season is not starting Neftali Perez out of the gate. If Holland can figure it out finally and Lewis and Wilson recapture that postseason magic then they’ll be fine. However, it’s going to be hard when you’re not sneaking up on anyone and you’re no longer the underdog.
15. FLORIDA MARLINS (LY: 16TH)
ROTATION: Josh Johnson, Javier Vazquez, Ricky Nolasco, Chris Volstad, Anibal Sanchez
I’ve wanted to pick the Marlins to win this division for years. And right when they unload Uggla who hindered them defensively, pick up Vazquez who is a remarkably better National League pitcher than he is an American Leaguer, and have and awesome rotation that’s finally healthy, the Phillies get Lee and the Braves staff returns to its mid-90’s form. Good grief.
14. LOS ANGELES DODGERS (LY: 13TH)
ROTATION: Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilli, Hiroki Kuroda, Jon Garland
Five innings eaters with good stuff takes you a long way. Except when Jonathan Broxton is your closer. If Broxton were Heath Bell then the Dodgers would be in the top 10 and contending for the World Series. But that’s not the case.
(by the way, this maybe Matt Kemp’s last season to get his head out of his rear and become the player he should become. Mr. Hollywood should be a .320/30/100 guy right now and should be the face of this team, but his bouts with laziness and love of the limelight are hindering him. One more year of this and its bye-bye la-la land for Kemp.)
13. SEATTLE MARINERS (LY: 9TH)
ROTATION: Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas, Doug Fister, Erik Bedard, Michael Pineda
King Felix meet Michael Pineda. Take him under your wing and lead him into good habits and guide him to his American League rookie of the year award. Then say bye to him when you’re traded after this season.
12. COLORADO ROCKIES (LY: 20TH)
ROTATION: Ubaldo Jimenez, Jorge De La Rosa, Jason Hammel, Jhoulys Chacin, Esmil Rogers
Troy Tulowitzky could win MVP, Carlos Gonzalez could win the Triple Crown, the Rockies could make the World Series… and none of this will happen unless Jimenez slaps some consistency into De La Rosa and he becomes a reliable number two.
11. ANAHEIM ANGELS (LY: 14TH)
ROTATION: Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana, Scott Kazmir, Joel Piniero (DL)
I couldn’t tell you why, but I am not particularly thrilled with this Angels team. They have a great rotation, decent closer and a lineup that can produce 800 runs. But I just feel that this team is missing a piece. Maybe a speedster, a great reliever, something. Stay tuned.
10. MILWAUKEE BREWERS (LY: 26TH)
ROTATION: Yovani Gallardo, Zach Greinke (DL), Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf, Chris Narveson
As long as Greinke stays away from a basketball court this team will be dangerous. Prince Fielder in a contract year with Ryan Braun and Corey Hart will score a ton of runs, and Gallardo is the happiest man in baseball that he finally has some help in the rotation.
9. MINNESOTA TWINS (LY: 11TH)
ROTATION: Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano, Brian Duensing, Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker
More important for the Twins is that Joe Nathan returns after Tommy John surgery. More importantly Justin Morneau returns from a season ending concussion. As long as they don’t play the Yankees late in the year then they’re a AL contender.
(did you know the Yankees were taking a look at reacquiring Pavano this off-season? I want to know who smacked Cashman first after hearing that possibility a Steinbrenner or Jeter?)
8. CINCINNATI REDS (LY: 12TH)
ROTATION: Edinson Volquez, Jonny Cueto (DL) Bronson Arroyo, Travis Wood, Mike Leake
Was last year a fluke? Hardly. They get Volquez at 100% and Aroldis Chapman for a whole year. Not to mention Joey Votto and Jay Bruce leading a highly potent offense. Only one question, who’s arm will Dusty blow out first? (I joke, I joke.)
7. BOSTON RED SOX (LY: 22ND)
ROTATION: Jon Lester, John Lackey, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, Daisuke Matzsuzaka
The Red Sox can win the World Series if:
- Josh Beckett’s back holds up
- John Lackey proves he’s worth 80 million
- Clay Buchholz proves last year was a glimpse into a promising future
- They find someone to take Dice-K’s dead weight
- Adrian Gonzalez is the real deal
- Carl Crawford doesn’t descend into an oblivion
- And if Daniel Bard becomes their closer and Jonathan Papelbon becomes Kansas City’s closer
6. CHICAGO WHITE SOX (LY: 18TH)
ROTATION: Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, John Danks, Jake Peavy (DL), Edwin Jackson
I’m risking my sanity again on betting that the ChiSox wont blow up into a gelatinous mess and that Peavy regains his mojo along with Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko bopping home runs at will. I give it 3 months.
5. OAKLAND A’S (LY: 5TH)
ROTATION: Trevor Cahill, Dallas Braden, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, Brandon McCarthy
I’d like to call this one the pick that will drive my buddy Scully up a wall. I’m putting a lot of faith into a team that will score like the Nashville Predators and is relying on Josh Willingham to do the offense’s heavy lifting.
But this rotation is a dream. Cahill was a dark horse Cy Young candidate last year, Braden is coming into his own after pitching a perfect game last year and Anderson is an innings eater with great stuff. It’s a less fragile version of the staff that they had in the early 90’s and one that can carry them to the ALCS. I really believe that.
4. TAMPA BAY RAYS (LY: 8TH)
ROTATION: David Price, James Shields, Wade Davis, Jeremy Hellickson, Jeff Niemann
Risky pick that will drive Scully mad number two. But really, who’s going to hit that rotation? The Rays have more pitching than North Korea has nukes. One problem, their closer is Kyle Farnsworth…
And with that I’ll lead into this, I like the pickups of Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon. Why? Because this team needed plate discipline and guys that could take pitches. This team strikes out so much that it’s mind-boggling. For all of their talent none of these guys can practice any patience. Now with Damon and Ramirez they get guys that can work counts, draw walks and extend at bats that will wear down pitchers.
3. ATLANTA BRAVES (LY: 3RD)
ROTATION: Derek Lowe, Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, Brandon Beachy
The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Braves are back to their stellar pitching ways with Hudson, Lowe and Hanson who might be a dark horse for the Cy Young.
What’s different is the guy in the dugout. For the first time since the 80’s Bobby Cox is not managing the Braves. Fredi Gonzalez takes over for one of the game’s winningest managers and the Braves most memorable personality.
What he leaves behind is a team that could be a World Series contender if things fall into place. Besides the starters the lineup gets a huge boost with the acquisition of Dan Uggla and Jason Heyward looks to improve on an impressive rookie season.
But the key is the rotation and bullpen, Jurrjens and Hanson are improving everyday and Hudson, though not an ace, is a quality start every time he goes out. However, if Lowe cant pitch consistently the Braves wont make it to September. Lowe is this staff’s most important cog because of his experience and ability to make enough pitches to extend his starts into the sixth and seventh innings. If he can’t do that then the bullpen will have a hard time closing games out even with Scott Linebrink and George Sherrill bringing the heat.
As Lowe goes, this team goes.
2. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS (LY: 1ST)
ROTATION: Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Sanchez, Bumgarner, Zito
Best staff and bullpen in the game period. You cant, and wont score runs on them. Even with Brian Wilson on the shelf for a month Sergio Romo will be able to hold it down until he returns.
The concern is can they stand the heat being the defending champs? They have to deal with every team’s best shot all year long and have to consistently score runs, which is something that they struggled with last year.
However, the offense has more pop this year with Buster Posey playing a full season and Pablo Sandoval dropping 40 pounds. (plus Brandon Belt coming up sooner than later, write that down.).
Plus, this is the freaking Giants. They’re the most loose, free spirited team in the league. They got this.
1. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES (LY: 6TH)
ROTATION: Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Oswalt, Blanton
No Utley, no Lidge, no problem. The scariest rotation since the mid-90’s Braves. Have fun National League.
So with Philly as the number one pitching staff in the league then you’re thinking that I’m picking them to win the World Series… well not exactly.
They’ll make the Series, but Boston will win it. Why? Even with all of those concerns you feel like Boston will put it together. Beckett will be healthy, Buchholz will have a great follow up season and Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford will be spectacular. They tried the whole defense and pitching thing last year but decided to make their line up manlier and it will pay off.
The have enough pitching and their guys can pitch when it counts. I like the Phillies but I wonder if Hamels is all the way back mentally and how will Halladay pitch in big game situations because against the Giants last year it wasn’t well.
The Sox have those type of guys and they’re on a mission. After an abysmal 2010 the Sox are going for broke and don’t be surprised if they come up all roses.
Wow, I picked the Red Sox to win it all, I feel dirty.
You’re probably wondering, “wait a minute, if they don’t have the best pitchers how can they have the best team after your argument.” Because sometime it’s not how much pitching you have, but the right pitching. That’s baseball for ya.
AL EAST- RED SOX
AL CENTRAL- WHITE SOX
AL WEST- A’S
AL WILDCARD- RAYS
NL EAST- PHILLIES
NL CENTRAL- BREWERS
NL WEST- GIANTS
NL WILDCARD- BRAVES
ALCS- RED SOX- A’S
NLCS- PHILLIES- GIANTS
WORLD SERIES- RED SOX- PHILLIES
NL MVP- PRINCE FIELDER
NL CY YOUNG- ROY HALLADAY
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR- BRANDON BELT
NL MANAGER OF THE YEAR- RON ROENICKE
AL MVP- EVAN LONGORIA
AL CY YOUNG- JON LESTER
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR- MICHAEL PINEDA
AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR- BOB GEREN