In a league that sports pitchers like Scott Kazmir, Jon Lester, Chin Ming Wang, Andy Pettite, Dice-K, Roy Halladay and Jared Weaver the arms of the American League Central Division often get over-looked.
In the recent past, you could have included Johan Santana and C.C. Sabathia in that list but now they have moved on to the National League. What does this leave the AL Central?
A lot of great arms! And here is my run down of the best arms in the AL Central, my AL Central All Start Starting Rotation, if you will.
No. 1 Starter: Cliff Lee, Cleveland Indians, 22-3, 2.54, 223.1IP, 170K
I will put it in writing, right here, right now. Cliff Lee should be the American League Cy Young Award Winner for 2008. No questions asked. If the Indians had won the AL Central you would say that Cliff led them to the total winning 22 games on the way to the crown. But they didn't win the division. As a matter of fact the offensively challenged Indians finished in third place at a mediocre 81-81.
One more point of interest is that Lee only started 31 games, the fewest on my list, and won 22 of them. So the question is, how good was Cliff Lee in 2008? He was C.C. Sabathia good...Johan Santana good and better than anyone else in my previous list. Period.
No. 2 Starter: Zack Greinke, Kansas City Royals, 13-10, 3.47, 202.1IP, 183K
This may seem controversial to put someone with a 13-10 record as my No.2 starter. But I'll defend Greinke to the grave. He won 13 games, posted a fantastic 3.47 over 200+ innings and fanned a division best (tie) 183 batters. His K/9 ratio was the best in the division among it's regular starters and managed all this on a team that only won 75 games. How good would he be on a team that scored some runs?
No. 3 Starter: Mark Buehrle, Chicago White Sox, 15-12, 3.79, 218.2IP, 140K
This was a bit more difficult call than Lee or Greinke. Lee's numbers speak for themselves, while Buehrle's require some real comparison to the rest of my list.
I slot him No.3 for two key reasons: He threw 218 innings and his ERA was 3.79 over those innings. He is the type of starter that not only eats innings, but does so with quality and consistency. By way of comparison, Javier Vazquez threw more innings than Buehrle but sported an ERA approaching five.
No. 4 Starter: Gavin Floyd, Chicago White Sox, 17-8, 3.84, 206.1IP, 145K
Wow, if I were the Phillies I would be kicking myself for trading Floyd. He had such promise but just couldn't put it together. Until now. Floyd's breakout season couldn't have come at a better time for the White Sox. Why is a 17 game winner so low on my list? Largely because if you put Greinke on the White Sox he would have won 17-18 and if you put Floyd on the Royals I see him as a .500 pitcher.
He logged some serious innings and did have an ERA below four, but not by much. And without the White Sox offense, I don't see him as an elite pitcher. But this was a great season for him, so you can't leave him off the list!
No. 5 Starter: Gil Meche, Kansas City Royals, 14-11, 3.98, 210.1, 183K
Meche's numbers were very good. You can't argue with that. He logged 210+ innings, struck out 183 batters and won 14 games on a fourth place team. He was a solid performer all year for the offensively challenged Royals.
I went back and forth about him either sitting at No.4 or No.5 but his slightly higher ERA and three less wins dropped him below Floyd. I'd rather have someone keep people off the bases than strike them out.
Nick Blackburn, Minnesota Twins
Javier Vazquez, Chicago White Sox
Armando Gallaraga, Detroit Tigers (This kid is going to be GOOD)
So there it is, my starting rotation taken completely from the American League Central. It is formidable and sports some great arms. The thing I find interesting about looking at the stats is that it is not simply a list of No.1 starters from each team. No one from Minnesota or Detroit made the list and the Twins finished with 88 wins and one game behind the White Sox.