It's late February, and Spring Training is well underway. This also means that the experts are over-saturating us with predictions, projections, and rankings. So, naturally, I'm going to add my own lists.
I'm going to do it a little differently than simply ranking the top 10 based on best to worst, however. That's been done. I'm going to do more of a word-association type list, and the categories will change for each unit that we breakdown.
Today's list will deal with the starting pitching. I will be picking one team's rotation for each category. Here are the categories:
Most Injury Prone
Scariest For Hitters
Scariest For Fans
If They Lose Him...
Most AARP Members
Who Are These Guys?
This pick could raise some eyebrows...
But when you think of names like Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto, and Homer Bailey, you can't help to salivate at the possibilities.
A lot of that promise was reached last year with Volquez and Cueto , and Reds fans are still holding out hope on Bailey. These three along with Aaron Harang and Bronsyon Arroyo could form one of the best rotations in the league...IF that potential is reached.
Honorable Mention: Florida Marlins, Oakland A's
I thought about naming this the Carl Pavano/Mike Hampton category, but I didn't want to alienate Indians and Astros fans and crush their hopes...
But that won't stop me from picking one of their teams! The Astros rotation looks more like a list of patients than a list of pitchers.
Wandy Rodriguez has hit 30 starts only once in the last four seasons. Backe missed virtually all of 2006 and 2007. But those two pale in comparison to Mike Hampton. Hampton has made 25 starts...since 2005! He made 29 starts in 2004 alone.
I really feel sorry for Astros fans this year. They have a capable offense, but their rotation's health history inspires no confidence.
Honorable Mention - Los Angeles Dodgers
I should probably clarify this category a little bit. When I'm talking about scariest for hitters, I'm not talking about talent only, but rather the whole package; talent, appearance, lack of control, etc.
As I looked through each team, No one stood out more than the Giants did.
In terms of talent, there may not be a more talented pitcher on the planet than Tim Lincecum, who will threaten the vaunted 300 strikeout mark this season. Matt Cain has gotten the short end of the stick in his last two years in terms of run support; his wins and losses numbers should be better than they are.
But appearance? Who's scarier than Randy Johnson? The guy is as tall as a building, throws from about two feet away from first base, and still has decent velocity.
Lack of control? Barry Zito has been trying to find his control and location ever since he crossed the bay. I'm surprised more players haven't been hit in the head by that big, sweeping...and unbreaking curveball.
Honorable Mention - New York Yankees
This category is for the rotation that will cause the most heartaches, heartburn, and heart murmurs this season. And this one is an easy choice.
The Milwaukee Brewers are going to win and lose a of of games by scores like 11-10 this year. They lost C.C Sabathia and Ben Sheets without gaining much in return. In terms of talent, their best is Yovani Gallardo, and he's coming off of a serious knee injury from last year.
Pitchers like Dave Bush, Jeff Suppan, and Braden Looper will eat some innings, but they will also serve it up in the friendly confines of Miller Park.
Honorable Mention - Kansas City Royals
Self-explanatory here. This goes out to the rotation that has the most valuable pitcher due to the fact that they don't have anyone else that can carry the load.
This one really came down to two teams - Toronto (Roy Halladay) and Houston (Roy Oswalt). I'm giving the edge to Toronto in this one, because they play in a tougher division, hurting them more if their guy went down.
Of course, The Blue Jays wouldn't even be here if they were able to resign A.J. Burnett. But as it stands, Roy Halladay is as good as they come. He's extremely durable, and regularly completes games, allowing the bullpen to take nights off.
If he were to get hurt, the Blue Jays would easily fall from an 80 win team to a team that may not even win 70 games.
Honorable Mention - Houston Astros
I'm sure that this category explains itself, but for the young'uns reading this, this goes out to the rotation that is the oldest.
Finding this one was easy, I just needed to follow the smell of Bengay.
The Braves have four pitchers who will be 33 or older during the season; Javier Vazquez (33), Kenshin Kawakami (33), Derek Lowe (36), and the ancient one, Tom Glavine (43!). Tim Hudson is 34, but isn't expected to pitch until sometime in August. There's something to be said about having the most experience, but the Braves have taken it too far.
Honorable Mention - Houston Astros (there's a trend here...and it's not good)
This category went to the rotation that had the fewest recognizable names.
There were a few candidates here, but the A's take the prize. Their rotation consists of Justin Duchscherer, John Doe, Jon A. Doe, Johnny Doe, and that one guy.
Now, before the A's fans come out of the swamp (AKA the San Francisco Bay) and attempt to lynch me, this doesn't mean that these guys aren't any good. On the contrary, Duchscherer was an All-Star last year, and there's a lot of hope for other pups in the rotation. But really, does any casual baseball fan outside of the Bay know ANY of these guys? I'd bet against it.
Honorable Mention - Washington Nationals
Some clarification is needed here as well. I'm not saying that this is the best pitching staff (which is why the best has it's own slide). This is simply a statement that this team has a lot of starting pitching-good or bad.
The Tigers take this one pretty easily. Jim Leyland has the unenviable task of trying to decide on a rotation between the following pitchers: Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, Armando Galarraga, Edwin Jackson, Dontrelle Willis, Nate Robertson, Zach Miner, and Rick Porcello.
The first four are more or less locked in-barring disaster. The 5th spot comes down to the remaining four. Porcello has the most talent, but is most likely not ready. Willis and Robertson have the most experience, but are trying to regain form. Miner may be the safest, but does not wow anyone and would also make this rotation full of all right-handers.
Within the next month, someone may get traded.
Honorable Mention - Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees
There are so many question marks on a staff that pitches in a hitter's friendly park. It also doesn't help that the four teams in their division are all capable of being very strong offensively.
A frightening 76 combined games against the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, and Blue Jays? Orioles fans are already buying up all the Tums and Pepto-Bismol in Baltimore.
I'd go into more detail about this rotation, but it would just make the rest of you feel like I do towards Baltimore fans; sadness and sympathy.
Honorable Mention - Washington Nationals
Tough choices here, as there are a few teams that can make their case.
The Yankees come close with the additions of Sabathia and Burnett, but questions remain elsewhere in their rotation.
Tampa Bay got it done with pitching last year, and it would've been an easy choice had they not traded away Edwin Jackson and his 14 wins.
But when your ace has been a Cy Young candidate the last three years (Brandon Webb), your No. 2 had over 200 Ks last year (Dan Haren), your No. 3 has made 32 starts in seven straight seasons and has two 18 win seasons (Jon Garland), your No. 4 has not finished a year with and ERA over 5.00 since 2004 (Doug Davis), and your No. 5 could have the talent to be the future ace of the staff (Max Scherzer)...you have the best rotation in the league.
Honorable Mention - Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants