Highly Rated to Underrated: The Atlanta Braves' Starting Rotation

Benjamin upchurchContributor IIApril 2, 2010

NEW YORK - AUGUST 20:  Kenshin Kawakami #11 of the Atlanta Braves throws a pitch against the New York Mets on August 20, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

During the entire offseason, the Braves rotation has been touted as one of the most solid in baseball. In the past couple of weeks, though, they have been excluded from many top lists.

MLB.com picked the Phillies to have the top rotation in the NL East. The Boston Globe's Tony Massarotti picked the Cardinals, Phillies, and Giants over the Braves in the NL. These are just a couple of examples.

It has perplexed me how the Braves' impressive pitching could be ranked so low. How does a team with few problems over spring training go from tops to glossed over?

I'll admit that the Braves do not have the big names like other rotations in the majors. They also lack a left-handed pitcher. Losing Javier Vasquez after a career year is a strike against them as well. With the exception of Tommy Hanson, the Braves rotation is missing power.

So if that is what the Braves rotation doesn't have, what does it have?

This staff's one through five can go head-to-head with anybody in the league, including Roy Halladay. Kenshin Kawakami did that last season, getting a win in a pitching duel against the Doc himself.

A starting rotation for which everyone's ERA is below 4.00. Kawakami has the highest career ERA at 3.86.

The Braves starting rotation can easily have over 900 innings pitched. Jair Jurrjens and Derek Lowe have proven they can pitch over 200 innings in a season. Tim Hudson, Kawakami, and Hanson have the abilities to easily reach 180 innings without harming themselves.

Look for this rotation to have over 90 quality starts. Last season, the Braves led the majors with 99. Sure the team lost Vasquez, but with Hanson and Hudson for a full season, this number should stay the same.

Atlanta also has depth that can cover any injury, plus allow the starting five to rest when needed. Kris Medlen filled the role as an optional starter last year quite well. In fact, given his performance last season, Medlen would have been a shoo-in as a starter for the Giants, Phillies, and Cardinals. Prospect Mike Minor showed he's about ready to go this spring training as well.

Everyone is healthy. Hudson has already proved he can still pitch after returning from Tommy John surgery late last season. Jurrjens had inflammation in his shoulder—big deal. Every pitcher gets it from time to time. It will not cost you a large amount of time during a season.

Lastly, the Braves have the potential for four 15-game winners. Hudson and Lowe have done this even on off years. Jurrjens has flirted around the number twice. Hanson won 11 games in 21 starts; based on this, he would have won 16 in 34 starts last season. Even Kawakami should get over 10.

No other team can make these claims. Every team in baseball would trade its big-named pitchers if it meant they would receive a rotation like this. So I'll ask again, how can you gloss over the Braves when it comes to the top rotations in MLB?