Pitching wins championships.
We hear it all the time. And, guess what?
It has some merit.
With the signing of Zack Greinke this offseason, the Los Angeles Dodgers has one of the best 1-2 punches in Major League Baseball. Greinke and Clayton Kershaw can be dominant enough to take the Dodgers deep in the postseason this year.
But how does the entire rotation stack up against rotations from the last decade?
***All stats taken from ESPN.com and www.baseball-reference.com
It is not often you see two Cy Young winners (former, current or future) on the same staff.
The Cleveland Indians took it a step further and ended up getting rid of a Cy Young winner in two consecutive seasons. But, not before they both did some damage in 2007.
CC Sabathia was the AL Cy Young winner in 2007 when he headed the Indians staff. He was everything a Cy Young winner should be, racking up 19 wins in the process.
Tagging along for 19 wins of his own was Roberto Hernandez (the artist formerly known as Fausto Carmona). Carmona went from being 1-10 with an ERA over 5.00 in 2006 to being 19-8 and a 200-inning workhorse in 2007.
Crafty Paul Byrd (his given first name IS Crafty, right?) was a 15-game winner, flapping arms, knee-high socks and all.
Jake Westbrook was the No. 4 starter and was mediocre.
But, lo and behold, Mr. Cliff Lee had a poor 2007 season before he erupted on the scene to win the Cy Young in 2008 with Cleveland.
This rotation was great at the top with CC and Carmona, although Carmona was unable to sustain any of that success in the years after. This was a rotation built for the postseason but was eliminated in the ALCS by the eventual world champion Boston Red Sox.
What could have been for this Cleveland rotation...
Much like the Indians of '07, the Dodgers certainly have a dominant 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation.
Clayton Kershaw is one of the top pitchers in all of baseball and, at 25 years old by Opening Day, has not even entered his prime yet. He already has one Cy Young to his credit and will be in the running for years to come.
Zack Greinke, despite acquiring his own money press this offseason to print his own money courtesy of the Dodgers, rightfully slots in as the No. 2 starter. Greinke will earn the most on the staff. But his personality and repertoire profile better as second-fiddle to Kershaw.
From there, the Dodgers will slot Josh Beckett into the No. 3 spot.
What can the Dodgers expect from Beckett, though? Are they getting the Beckett that had a 5.23 ERA in 21 starts with the Boston Red Sox in 2012 or the one that had a 2.93 ERA in seven starts with the Dodgers last season?
Is Los Angeles getting the Beckett that had a 2.89 ERA in 2011 or the one that had 5.78 ERA in 2010?
Whether the Dodgers get Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde will go a long way in determining how this rotation shakes out.
The other wild card is Korean left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu. The 25-year-old was 98-52 with a 2.80 ERA in seven seasons in Korea. If he adjusts well to the American game, he could be a really good No. 4 starter.
Rounding out the rotation will most likely either be Aaron Harang or Chris Capuano, whoever does not get traded before the season starts. Both have the capability to win 10 or more games, which is all that can be asked of a No. 5 starter.
This rotation has a great top end, what could be a really good middle and a solid back end. But, if it wants to be remembered as one of the best rotations of the last decade, the Dodgers starters will need to prove their worth on the mound this season.
These guys have not even thrown a pitch as a unit, either? You betcha.
After some offseason moves, the rotation consists of Dickey, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero.
The top three in that rotation were all acquired this offseason.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos traded for Dickey, the National League Cy Young winner after a 20-win season with the New York Mets.
From Miami, the Blue Jays got Johnson, an ace when healthy, and Buehrle, an above-average pitcher who also is an innings-eater.
Toronto returns Morrow, who had a 2.96 ERA in 2012 and has earned double-digit win totals in each of the last three seasons. Romero, despite an atrocious 2012 (9-14, 5.77 ERA) had 15 wins the year before and was a top of the rotation guy who can now settle into the No. 5 slot in the rotation.
As the Blue Jays go for it in 2013, their pitching will be a strong point for them, with depth from the top to the bottom of the rotation.
The 2005 Houston Astros made it to the World Series, which provides a bonus when figuring out these rankings.
The names on this staff are impressive: Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, Brandon Backe and Wandy Rodriguez.
But, more context is needed to explain this rotation.
Oswalt, by all accounts, was the ace. At just 27 years old, Oswalt was a 20-game winner with a sub-3.00 ERA and 241.2 innings. This was Oswalt in his prime.
Pettitte was still only 33 years old and had a 2.39 ERA as a No. 2 starter.
Clemens was not washed up by any means, but was getting by more on his name at this point in his career. Or so we thought.
He was 42 years old during this season. But, this was before he was only pitching in the second half of the season on a yearly basis.
Clemens threw over 200 innings, recorded 13 wins and pitched to the tune of a 1.87 ERA. Not too shabby for the No. 3 man in the rotation.
Backe has the least memorable name of the bunch and was nothing spectacular. But, he still found a way to notch 10 wins.
And Wandy was just a rookie in the 2005 season. He, too, won 10 games.
As a staff, these five guys won 70 games and were only cut down by the buzz saw that was another starting staff that will appear later on this list.
Remember when I mentioned the part about earning bonus points for achieving postseason success?
Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!
The Chicago White Sox starting staff in 2005 won 72 games as a unit. A one-through-five of Mark Buehrle, Freddy Garcia, Jon Garland, Jose Contreras and Orlando Hernandez is about as balanced of a rotation as you will find.
All five starters were in the No. 2-No. 4 pitcher range. None were really good enough to be called an ace. But, then again...none were bad enough to be labeled a back-of-the-rotation guy, either.
The top four starters all reached double-digits in wins, with Garland's 18 wins leading the way. And El Duque? Well, he had nine wins.
But, what made this rotation one to remember was its postseason success.
In 12 postseason games en route to a World Series title, a starting pitcher went at least seven innings 11 times.
In a world of pitching matchups and quick hooks in the playoffs, Ozzie Guillen's staff bucked the trend and gave Chicago a strong outing nearly every time in the postseason.
The best pitching staff Moneyball could buy.
This staff was fronted by a fearsome threesome of Tim Hudson (27 years old), Mark Mulder (25) and Barry Zito (25).
The trio combined for 45 wins, while Ted Lilly picked up 12 more as the No. 4 starter and 21-year-old Rich Harden was flame-throwing his way through 13 starts in his rookie campaign.
The trio of Hudson, Mulder and Zito were together for five years, with their best season coming in 2001 when they were perhaps a Derek Jeter right-place-at-the-right-time back-handed flip to home to nail Jeremy Giambi at the plate away from making a deep run in the postseason.
But, it's hard enough to put together a staff like that for one season. Billy Beane was able to go a half decade with three aces on a staff, all at affordable dollars.
All good things must come to an end, though. And all three pitchers eventually went their respective ways.
The New York Yankees rotation in 2003 was a little long in the tooth, but long on success as well.
Mike Mussina was merely a young pup at 34 years old in 2003. He headed a staff that also wielded 40-year-olds David Wells and Roger Clemens and 31-year-old Andy Pettitte.
That foursome combined for 70 wins, with Pettitte tallying 21 on his own from the No. 4 spot in the rotation. All four logged over 200 innings.
This Yankees team was upset in the World Series by the Florida Marlins after Aaron Boone lifted one down the left-field in the ALCS to top the Boston Red Sox in seven games.
It was the preeminent staff in baseball that season, and with good reason. The four starting pitchers listed above won a total of 1,106 games in their Major League careers.
Ah yes...the bloody sock.
A magical year, a magical rotation for the Boston Red Sox to break The Curse.
Curt Schilling and his hosiery formed one of the best 1-2 punches in recent memory, joining Pedro Martinez for the best duo perhaps since Schilling teamed up with Randy Johnson in 2001 to help the Arizona Diamondbacks claim a World Series.
Schilling had 21 wins and an ERA plus of 148, meaning he was about 1 1/2 times as good as the average pitcher that season. Pedro got 16 wins, threw 217 innings and struck out more than a batter an inning in what was the final season of his great run in Beantown.
But, as good as Schilling and Martinez were at the top, Boston's starting staff was five deep. Tim Wakefield, Derek Lowe and Bronson Arroyo all reached double-digit wins during the regular season. Lowe separated himself in the postseason, allowing just one run in six innings in Game 7 of the ALCS against the New York Yankees and going seven shutout innings in the World Series-clinching Game 4 against the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Red Sox had a rotation that was above-average from top to bottom. They had to use every bit of that talent to pull off the greatest comeback in sports history and etch their names in the annals of baseball history.
Much like the Chicago White Sox staff of 2005, the 2010 San Francisco Giants starting staff was the linchpin of a World Series champion.
But, unlike that Chicago staff, San Francisco's staff largely remains intact as we turn our eyes towards the 2013 season.
In the regular season, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito, Jonathan Sanchez, and Madison Bumgarner combined for 58 wins, with Lincecum leading the staff with 16 wins.
The postseason was where the rotation shined, compiling a 2.33 ERA. And while impressive, a staff ERA that low was NEEDED because the Giants played a brand of baseball known as torture.
Torture ball was the result of a mediocre offense incapable of producing many runs and a fan base that needed Tums on a nightly basis as their beloved Giants scraped by with one-run wins. The Giants offense was ninth in runs scored per game in the regular season, but second in team ERA.
In the postseason, 2010 the Giants were 9-2 in games decided by one or two runs.
Starting pitching is what won them games all season long, though, thanks to a starting staff that (outside of Zito) averaged 24 years of age.
Sanchez is no longer on the squad. Lincecum had a rough 2012 season. So did Zito. But Cain and Bumgarner still remain among the best in the league.
Back in 2010, San Francisco's rotation was not one to mess with.
Most teams have a hard enough time finding one ace to be atop their rotation. Get two aces on the same staff and you are set up be dominant. Three aces? Basically unheard of.
So imagine the look in the eyes of the Philadelphia Phillies opponents in 2011 when they trotted out FOUR aces in a five-man rotation.
Roy Halladay was in his second season with Philadelphia. Cole Hamels was a homegrown ace coming up through the Phillies' minor league system. Roy Oswalt had been traded to the Phillies at the trade deadline in 2010 to form a great trio.
But, the big shock came when general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. surprised the entire free agent market by landing Cliff Lee, who had just been a Philly in 2009 before being traded away.
So, with four guys that any team would take to lead their rotation, the Phillies plopped little-known Vance Worley into the No. 5 spot and watched him go 11-3 in his first full season.
The stats were superlative, as you can imagine. Seventy total wins. Halladay, Lee and Hamels all had sub-3.00 ERAs, threw over 200 innings, and had an average ERA plus of 153.
But, the real intimidation factor was when the Phillies could match or beat any other team's ace by throwing Halladay on the mound. Lee was easily better than anybody's No. 2 starter. Hamels was head and shoulders above any No. 3.
And, even though Oswalt battled through some injuries, he was going against guys like Dillon Gee (New York), Chris Volstad (Florida), Jason Marquis (Washington) and Brandon Beachy (Atlanta) before he blossomed. Not fair.
However, the Phillies fell short of expectations in 2011. With pitching like that, they were the favorites to win it all. But, they bowed out in five games in the NLDS to the St. Louis Cardinals.
It still doesn't take away from the absurd talent that was assembled in the rotation.
The Los Angeles Dodgers will have a rotation to be reckoned with.
We are not talking about one of the all-time great staffs like the Atlanta Braves of the early 90s with three sure-fire Hall of Famers (Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz) or the Baltimore Orioles of the 70s with four 20-game winners.
But, the names Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke will resonate throughout the league.
Josh Beckett and Hyun-Jin Ryu, if they come out on the positive side of their potential, will fortify the rotation and give it quality depth.
But, it will need to realize its potential on paper before we can call it the best staff in baseball next season, let alone the past decade.