Ranking the Washington Nationals Rotation Among the N.L.

Kenny DeJohnAnalyst IIIDecember 25, 2012

Ranking the Washington Nationals Rotation Among the N.L.

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    The National League contains some of the strongest pitching rotations all of Major League Baseball,  and the Washington Nationals rank right there amongst the game's best.

    Last year, the Nationals staff finished first in the National League with a WAR of 18.1 (via FanGraphs). That was without a full season of Stephen Strasburg and also without a single starter reaching 200 innings pitched.

    Throw Dan Haren into the mix this season (in place of Edwin Jackson), and you've got yourself a ridiculous starting rotation.

    They'll face competition from some other staffs for the title of "best in the National League," though.

    As it's clear that the Nationals are at worst a top-five rotation, there's no need to rank teams any lower than that. This slideshow will focus on the creme de la creme—the best five rotations in the National League.

5. Cincinnati Reds

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    Not many expected a ton from the Cincinnati Reds rotation last season. Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos were believed to be the only two guarantees out of the group.

    Who would have thought that Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey would have provided 200-plus innings of sub-4.00 ERA ball?

    Mike Leake wasn't all that bad as the No. 5 starter either, winning eight games with a 4.58 ERA in 179 innings.

    There are even rumors that Aroldis Chapman will be joining the rotation next season. That makes the 2013 Reds even scarier than they were in 2012.

    Cueto and Latos are one of the best one-two punches in the game today, and Chapman could easily make them one of the better trios in the majors, if he can translate his success as the closer to a starting role.

    The Reds have a fantastic rotation that can only get better, and big things should be expected of them in the upcoming season.

4. St. Louis Cardinals

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    The St. Louis Cardinals may not be bringing back Kyle Lohse and his sparkling 2.86 ERA and 16-3 record next season, but they're well-equipped to handle the loss.

    Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter (when both are healthy) are easily one of the top one-two punches in the National League. Each has Cy Young stuff and the ability to dominate each outing. Both look to be healthy coming into next season, so the Cardinals should be pleased.

    Behind them is left-handed Jaime Garcia, veteran Jake Westbrook and breakout star Lance Lynn.

    Garcia made just 20 starts last season, but won 13 games each of the previous two seasons with ERAs of 2.70 and 3.56, respectively.

    Westbrook won 13 games with a 3.97 ERA last season, allowing a career-low 0.6 HR/9.

    Lynn won 18 games as a replacement for Carpenter in 2012 and will look to continue improving over another full season in the rotation.

    Oh yeah, and top pitching prospect Shelby Miller is eagerly waiting for his chance to contribute to the major league rotation.

    Given their depth and overall potential, the Cardinals have to be considered one of the National League's top rotations.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers

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    The Los Angeles Dodgers made arguably the biggest splash of the offseason, signing Zack Greinke to a megadeal to pair him with left-handed ace Clayton Kershaw atop the rotation.

    Even with Kershaw and Greinke heading their staff, the Dodgers can't be ranked higher than No. 3 in my mind. After their dual aces, there's just too many question marks.

    First of all, they have six more pitchers to fill three more spots. That's NEVER a bad thing, but it'll be interesting to see which of six—Hyun-Jin Ryu, Chad Billingsley, Josh Beckett, Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang and Ted Lilly—earn spots.

    Ryu is a complete question mark, Billingsley is terribly inconsistent, Beckett is coming off a bad 2012, Capuano's 2012 may have been a fluke, Aaron Harang is a No. 5 starter at this point in his career and Lilly has problems staying healthy.

    With this many guys, I'm sure the Dodgers will be able to find three capable candidates. That being said, the fact that there's uncertainty surrounding who's in and who's out should concern Dodger fans just a little.

    There's no doubting the fact that the Dodgers have the potential to field one of the top rotations in the majors, but for now, it's No. 3 in the National League for me.

2. San Francisco Giants

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    The defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants won last season with an inconsistent Tim Lincecum and the second-half resurrection of Barry Zito.

    Imagine if Lincecum can get back to his winnings ways and if Zito can continue his resurgence in 2013—talk about scary.

    Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner headline the strong rotation, and Bumgarner is on his way to establishing himself as the no-questions ace of the staff.

    He won 16 games with a 3.37 ERA in 2012, striking out 191 in 208.1 innings.

    Mr. Perfection (Cain) is a sensational No. 2 starter, posting ERAs of 3.14 or lower each of the past four seasons and recording six straight seasons of 200-plus innings pitched.

    Ryan Vogelsong is the unsung hero of the group. He has been great the past two seasons, recording 13 and 14 wins, respectively. He's provided ERAs under 3.50 in each season as well as 175-plus innings pitched.

    Lincecum is actually the wild card here. If he can get back to his two-time Cy Young-winning ways, then the Giants have a legitimate shot at the No. 1 spot in the National League—which I'm sure you all know who now occupies that spot.

1. Washington Nationals

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    The addition of Dan Haren and the overall depth of this rotation makes the Washington Nationals the easiest choice for No. 1.

    Stephen Strasburg is the unquestioned ace and will likely dominate in 2013. In just 159.1 innings last season, he struck out 197 and won 15 games. Just imagine what he can do with an entire season's worth of work under his belt.

    Gio Gonzalez is the No. 2 starter, and he finished third in the National League Cy Young voting this past season. I guess 21 wins and a 2.89 ERA will do that for you.

    Jordan Zimmermann has the potential to be just as effective as the two pitchers in front of him, albeit without the clear dominance they possess. He won't strike a ton of guys out, but he gets outs and trusts his defense (which is a very good one, by the way). Look for Zimmermann to have a good chance at picking up 18 wins next season.

    Haren at No. 4 is what makes this rotation so special. He may be coming off a down season, but his veteran presence and transition back to the National League will be fantastic for the Nationals rotation.

    Ross Detwiler rounds out the starting staff, and he could be the No. 3 guy on some other teams. He posted a 3.40 ERA in 164.1 innings last season and will only get better with time.

    Look for the starting rotation of the Nationals to propel them all the way through the regular season and deep into the postseason in 2013.