If you're a fan of pitching, 2011 represents an especially exciting time for mound enthusiasts across the American League West.
The pitching-laden division boasts the four lowest team ERAs in the AL, and each team is loaded with talented arms, especially within the ranks of their starting rotations.
Not only are there great starters populating each staff throughout the West, but the vast majority of the regular starting pitchers in the division are under 30 years of age. This unique scenario ensures that there will be talented hurlers plying their trade within the division for several years to come.
In Anaheim, only Dan Haren (30) and Joel Pineiro (32) have crossed the threshold into their fourth decade on earth. The Rangers have only C.J. Wilson (30) and Colby Lewis (31) beyond 30, and Seattle only has Erik Bedard (32). Amazingly, not a single pitcher to have started a game for the 2011 Oakland Athletics is older than 27. The future of pitching in the West appears bright, indeed,
While several of the names are familiar, with Jered Weaver, Felix Hernandez, and Trevor Cahill headlining the crop of talented youthful hurlers, several other thrilling new arms have emerged early in 2011.
Two of the most exciting young starters to burst onto the scene this season are Texas's Alexi Ogando and Seattle's Michael Pineda. Though Ogando debuted last season as a member of the Rangers' bullpen, he is in the midst of his first year as a starting pitcher at any professional level. Pineda, a 22-year-old rookie, has seized his opportunity with both hands, and has provided the Mariners with a co-ace to complement 2010 Cy Young Award-winner, Felix Hernandez.
Both right-handers have met early success while already becoming integral members of their respective team's pitching staff. The 27-year-old Ogando was victorious in his first seven decisions of the season, and has pitched at least six innings in 12 of his 14 starts in 2011.
Pineda has been similarly dominant, also winning seven games so far, and peppering his name across leader boards in nearly every pitching category. Like Ogando, he has also been a friend of his bullpen, only failing to go at least six innings in two of 14 starts. Though they may just be forging their own reputations throughout the league, each hurler has become as close to a "sure thing" as possible for their managers.
Each of the emerging right-handers looks to have a bright future ahead of him, but which pitching star might shine the brightest? Let's take a look at some varying factors to see if we can determine which talented hurler will be better five years from now.