Ranking the American League East Starting Rotations Entering 2013

Dave Grotz@@dgrotzBOSContributor IIJanuary 3, 2013

Ranking the American League East Starting Rotations Entering 2013

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    Last season, the American League East featured arguably the best and worst starting rotations in all of baseball.

    While Tampa Bay’s rotation posted a league-best 3.34 ERA, Boston’s starting pitchers cumulatively posted a 5.19 ERA, which ranked 27th in the majors.

    On top of that, not only did the 2012 AL Cy Young winner pitch in the AL East, but the 2012 NL Cy Young winner was traded to an AL East team this offseason.

    Both David Price and R.A. Dickey will be pitching in the same division this upcoming season.

    Dickey isn’t the only starter added to the AL East this offseason. The Blue Jays also traded for Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle. The Red Sox signed Ryan Dempster, as well.

    While the Yankees did not add any new faces to their rotation this offseason, the team is still waiting for Michael Pineda to make his debut in pinstripes.

    The following slides will rank the five starting rotations in the AL East entering the 2013 season. The teams’ staffs will be ranked by how the starting pitchers performed in 2012, who they added in the offseason and how their starters should fare in 2013.

5. Baltimore Orioles

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    1. LHP Wei-Yin Chen

    2. RHP Jason Hammel

    3. RHP Miguel Gonzalez

    4. RHP Chris Tillman

    5. LHP Zach Britton

    The Orioles used 12 different starting pitchers in 2012 and had seven pitchers start between 11 and 20 games. Only rookie Wei-Yin Chen contributed more than 20 starts and 150.0 innings for the team last season.

    However, the Orioles’ top four starting pitchers combined posted an impressive 3.53 ERA in 2012.

    Chen posted a 12-11 record over 32 starts with a 4.02 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. Prior to the All-Star break, the 27-year-old native of Taiwan had a 7-5 record and 3.93 ERA in his first MLB season.

    Jason Hammel had an 8-6 record with a 3.43 ERA and 1.24 WHIP over 20 starts. The 30-year-old had a 3-3 record and 3.06 ERA in nine starts against AL East teams.

    Miguel Gonzalez posted a 9-4 record, 3.25 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and .235 BAA last season. In his lone postseason start, the 28-year-old rookie allowed just five hits, one earned run and no walks while striking out eight over 7.0 innings at Yankee Stadium.

    Lastly, Chris Tillman statistically had the best season of the four, posting an impressive 9-3 record, 2.93 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and .207 BAA. The 24-year-old blossomed in his fourth season and posted an incredible 2.79 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and .182 AVG at home.

    The Orioles have a solid core of four pitchers, but Hammel, Gonzalez and Tillman combined for just 309.1 innings pitched in 2012.

    In addition to the lack of experienced starting pitchers, the team does not have a solid No. 5 pitcher entering 2013.

    The void could be filled with in-roster players like Tommy Hunter, Jake Arrieta or Brian Matusz—all of whom struggled in 2012.

    The Orioles could also sign a veteran free agent.

    Baltimore has been recently linked to Joe Saunders and Kyle Lohse, according to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Lohse pitched very well in 2011 and 2012 and posted a 30-11 record and 3.11 ERA between the two seasons. However, the Orioles would have to give up a draft pick for the former Cardinal, so Saunders currently looks like the better option.

    If the Orioles sign a veteran starter and their top four pitchers have solid seasons again, the underrated rotation could be one of the best in AL East in 2013.

    But without signing Saunders or Lohse, the Orioles’ starting rotation currently ranks at the bottom of the AL East.

4. Boston Red Sox

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    1. LHP Jon Lester

    2. RHP Clay Buchholz

    3. RHP Ryan Dempster

    4. RHP John Lackey

    5. LHP Felix Doubront

    The Red Sox starting pitching statistically ranked among the league’s worst in 2012.

    Boston’s starters posted a 48-72 record with a 5.19 ERA, 1.42 WHIP and .272 BAA. They also allowed 535 earned runs and 135 home runs last season.

    On the bright side for the recently struggling team, Aaron Cook, Daniel Bard and Daisuke Matsuzaka won’t be regularly making starts for Boston again in 2013.

    The Red Sox starting rotation is full of potential and former stars, and therefore it isn’t ranked last in the AL East. In fact, the rotation has the potential and talent to be the best in the division.

    Jon Lester posted a 9-14 record, 4.82 ERA, 1.38 WHIP and .273 BAA with 166 strikeouts in 2012. But from 2008 to 2011, the southpaw posted a 65-32 record with a 3.33 EA and 1.24 WHIP, while averaging 196 strikeouts per season.

    Clay Buchholz also disappointed in 2012, posting an 11-8 record with a 4.56 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and .263 BAA. This is the same pitcher who posted a 17-7 record, 2.33 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 2010 at just 26 years old.

    The two former aces need to bounce back and pitch like No. 1 and No. 2 aces again in order for the Red Sox to have a chance to reclaim the throne or even make the playoffs.

    But, the Red Sox also have major questions with their next three starting pitchers.

    Newly signed Ryan Dempster had a 12-8 record, 3.38 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and .237 BAA in 2012. However, in his first career AL stint, the 35-year-old posted a 5.09 ERA and 1.43 WHIP with the Rangers last season.

    The Red Sox will also get John Lackey back for the 2013 season, who missed all of 2012 with Tommy John surgery. The 34-year-old has not pitched since Sept. 25, 2011 and has struggled since coming to the Red Sox. The former Angel has a 26-23 record, 5.26 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in his first two seasons with Boston.

    Felix Doubront also struggled last year in his first full season. The 25-year-old southpaw showed flashes of dominance, but he finished with an 11-10 record, 4.86 ERA and 1.45 WHIP.

    The Red Sox should benefit from bringing back former pitching coach John Farrell, whom Lester and Buchholz thrived under.

    However, the team’s starting pitchers struggled in 2012, and its rotation still has major question marks entering the 2013 season.

    Boston’s rotation ranks in the bottom half of the division entering 2013, but it has the potential to be one of the best in the American League again if most of its starting pitchers bounce back.

3. New York Yankees

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    1. LHP CC Sabathia

    2. RHP Hiroki Kuroda

    3. LHP Andy Pettitte

    4. RHP Ivan Nova

    5. RHP Phil Hughes

    The Yankees will return all five of their core 2012 starters for the 2013 season.

    One of them is among the best pitchers in baseball.

    CC Sabathia had another great season in 2012. The six-time All-Star and consistent Cy Young candidate posted a 15-6 record with a 3.38 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, .238 BAA and 197 strikeouts. For the sixth straight season, Sabathia logged at least 200.0 innings.

    New York re-filled the No. 2 and No.3 spots in the rotation by re-signing veterans Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte to one-year deals.

    Kuroda led the team in innings pitched (219.2) and games started (33) in 2012. On top of that, the soon-to-be 38-year-old posted a 16-11 record, 3.32 ERA and 1.17 WHIP.

    Pettitte also pitched well in his half-season with the Yankees. The 40-year-old and five-time World Series champion had a 5-4 record with a 2.87 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and .232 BAA over 12 starts.

    The Yankees have a solid top three, but the bottom half of the rotation has questionable starters.

    Ivan Nova followed up his breakout 2011 season with a sub-par 2012. After a 16-4 record and 3.70 ERA in 2011, the soon-to-be 26-year-old posted a 12-8 record and 5.02 ERA in 2012. While his strikeout total jumped up from 98 to 153, his home runs allowed total also skyrocketed from 13 to 28.

    Phil Hughes also had a sub-par season in 2012. The 26-year-old posted a 16-13 record with a 4.23 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. The once highly touted prospect also allowed 35 homers, a total which trailed only Ervin Santana’s mark of 39 last season.

    On the bright side for Yankee fans, Michael Pineda will likely return in the second half of the season, according to ESPN New York.

    Remember him? Michael Pineda?

    He's the young phenom for whom the Yankees traded their top prospect, Jesus Montero. Pineda is the same pitcher who posted a 3.74 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and struck out 173 batters in 2011 at just 22 years old.

    Last season, the Yankees' starting pitching ranked sixth in the American League and second in the division with a 4.05 ERA.

    The Yankees' current starting rotation won’t blow teams away, but it’s top-heavy enough to compete with the best teams in baseball.

    Having CC Sabathia always helps too.

2. Toronto Blue Jays

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    1. RHP R.A. Dickey

    2. RHP Josh Johnson

    3. LHP Mark Buehrle

    4. RHP Brandon Morrow

    5. LHP Ricky Romero

    The Blue Jays went from having one of the worst starting rotations in baseball to having one of the best because of its aggressive moves this offseason.

    Following two trades, Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow went from the team’s top two pitchers to the bottom two pitchers on the staff.

    The Blue Jays traded for 2012 Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey. The 38-year-old knuckleballer posted a 20-6 record, 2.73 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, .226 BAA and struck out 230 batters with the Mets.

    On top of adding an ace in his prime, the Blue Jays also traded for Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle.

    Johnson posted an 8-14 record, 3.81 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and .252 BAA in 2012. From 2009 to 2011, the former Marlins ace had a 29-14 record with an incredible 2.76 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 8.6 K/9.

    Buehrle posted a 13-13 record, 3.74 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and .258 BAA in 2012 with the Marlins, as well. The long-time White Sox has pitched at least 200.0 innings in each of the last 12 seasons. He’s also finished with an ERA lower than 4.00 in five of the last six seasons.

    Toronto addressed its weakness at starting pitching this offseason by adding three new starters. However, its former top two pitchers--Morrow and Romero--are still great options in the rotation.

    Morrow had a breakout season in 2012. The 28-year-old posted a 10-7 record with a 2.96 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, .214 BAA and 7.8 K/9. Prior to 2012, only once in the previous five years did Morrow record an ERA less than 4.00.

    On the other hand, Romero followed his 2011 breakout season with a disappointing year. The 28-year-old recorded career-worst numbers in wins, losses, ERA and WHIP in 2012. After having a 15-11 record, 2.92 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 2011, Romero posted a 9-14 record, 5.77 ERA and 1.67 WHIP the following year.

    The Blue Jays could have one of the best and most complete rotations in baseball in 2013. Dickey and Johnson are elite pitchers, and all five of Toronto's starting pitchers are front-of-the-rotation material.

    However, none of the new additions have proved dominant against American League East competition just yet. The next rotation has done that.

1. Tampa Bay Rays

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    1. LHP David Price

    2. RHP Jeremy Hellickson

    3. LHP Matt Moore

    4. RHP Jeff Niemann

    5. RHP Alex Cobb

    Despite trading away its number two starter, James Shields, Tampa Bay has the best rotation in the AL East entering 2013.

    The team had four other pitchers record at least 20 starts last season, and none posted an ERA greater than 4.00.

    The Rays’ starting rotation was also statistically the best in baseball last season. The staff led the MLB with a 3.34 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and .237 BAA. They ranked second with 900 strikeouts too.

    Oh, and the Rays also had the 2012 AL Cy Young winner.

    Three-time All-Star David Price posted a 20-5 record with a 2.56 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, .226 BAA and 205 strikeouts last season. The 27-year-old southpaw is in the prime of his career and has a career 61-31 record, 3.16 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 8.3 K/9.

    What makes the Rays so special is that they have two other young pitchers who could put up close to Price-like numbers in 2013.

    Jeremy Hellickson posted a 10-11 record, 3.10 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 2012. The soon-to-be 26-year-old has a career 3.06 ERA and 1.19 WHIP.

    Matt Moore posted an 11-11 record with a 3.81 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and 175 strikeouts in his first full season. The 23-year-old also recorded a 3.01 ERA and .220 BAA over 14 starts after the All-Star break.

    Moore is one of the best and most promising prospects in all of baseball, and Hellickson is on the brink of a Cy Young-caliber season, as well.

    The Rays also have the best rotation because their top three pitchers are complemented by solid No. 4 and No. 5 pitchers.

    Jeff Niemann made the most of his eight starts in 2012. The soon-to-be 30-year-old had a 2-3 record, 3.08 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. The former first-round draft pick also has a career 40-26 record and 4.08 ERA.

    Alex Cobb is another young, promising pitcher on the Rays roster.  The 25-year-old is one of five pitchers who made at least 20 starts with the team in 2012. He posted an 11-9 record with a 4.03 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. However, in 14 starts after the All-Star break, Cobb turned it on and had a 7-4 record with a 3.40 ERA.

    The Rays' starting rotation is stacked with young stars who have already proven they can pitch against AL East competition. Although Niemann only made eight starts in 2012, all five pitchers statistically pitched well last season and had low ERAs.

    The Rays have three dominant young studs at the top of their rotation with two solid No. 4 and No. 5 options. The Rays have the best rotation in the AL East and one of the best in all of baseball heading into 2013.

    Which rotation do you think is the best in the AL East? Feel free to leave your opinions below.