The best pitcher in the game leads the best rotation in the game.
Now that the trading deadline has come and gone, it's time to take a look at how the contenders stack up against one another.
In October the importance of strong starting pitching becomes even more significant, which makes it a good place to start,
The way that these rankings are compiled is a formula that gives the most importance to a team's top guy, because that's the guy that will see the most starts in a playoff series. Then the formula weighs the second and third guys before giving minimal value to a fourth starter.
Obviously a team with a strong top two guys will have rank high, but the highest ranked teams are going to be the most balanced throughout the rotation.
Karstens projects as the Pirates postseason ace.
1.Jeff Karstens, RHP
2.Paul Maholm, LHP
3.James McDonald, RHP
4.Charlie Morton, RHP
The Pirates rotation has over-achieved all year, a big reason that they are enjoying their best season since the days of Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla, but they aren't likely to continue to pitch above their heads come October.
The twenty-eight year old Karstens has gone 8-6 with a 3.05 ERA, but just doesn't miss many bats as evidence by a strikeout per nine inning rate(K/9) of 4.9. Considering his best full season saw him go 3-10 with a 4.92 ERA last year, he's not a guy to count on to anchor your postseason rotation.
Maholm, the team's only left handed starter, has at least had some success previously, going 9-9 with a 3.71 ERA with the Pirates in 2008. He's sitting with a 6-11 record this year, although his 3.27 ERA suggests that he's been a bit unlucky with run support. Just like Karstens, he's not a guy that misses many bats as evidence by his K/9 rate of 5.6.
McDonald is the young guy at twenty-six years old, and he's the one guy the Pirates have with the ability to miss bats(7.6 K/9). He's also the only starter with potential to improve upon his numbers next year, assuming he cuts down on his fairly high walk total(54), after going 7-5 with a 4.23 ERA. He's actually pitching better than his numbers lately, going 2-1 with a 3.42 ERA over his last four starts.
Morton is a guy with some potential, but up until going 8-6 with a 3.80 ERA this year, he hasn't been able find the same success he had in the minor leagues. His strikeout rate isn't very strong at 5.6 and his walk rate is pretty high at 3.9, he isn't exactly an ideal guy to pitch against a good lineup.
The Pirates also have 2011 all star Kevin Correia, but despite his 12-9 record his 4.71 ERA and low strikeout rate of 4.6 suggest that he's a guy that had a lucky half season. You may ask why I left the lone all star off my projected playoff rotation—it's because teams have figured him out since the all star break, as he has a 9.00 ERA in his four starts since.
Johnny Cueto is looking like a Cy Young contender this year, but can he keep it up?
1.Johnny Cueto, RHP
2.Mike Leake, RHP
3.Bronson Arroyo, RHP
4.Homer Bailey, RHP
The Reds rotation lacks star power at the top and has holes throughout the rest of it, which is why they made efforts to acquire Ubaldo Jimenez and James Shields at the trading deadline. Despite their high-scoring lineup, the rotation is likely to keep them out of the postseason all together.
Despite not missing many bats(5.5 K/9), Johnny Cueto has been dominant this year by going 7-4 with a 1.72 ERA. Cueto is not really a true ace, but he is still a very good pitcher with some past success on his record as he went 12-7 with a 3.64 ERA last year. In a more normal year, he's probably somewhere between the guy he is this year and the guy he was last year.
Mike Leake started out very good last year before becoming hittable in the second half. Despite being sent to the minors earlier this year and arrested for shoplifting, Leake has been better across the board this year.
He's currently 9-7 with a 3.92 ERA, and his Fielder Independent Pitching(FIP) stats show that this improvement is for real. Leake isn't a true number two starter, but as a number three starter he isn't too out of place in that role.
The thirty-four year old Arroyo has finally seen his age catch up to him. After going 17-10 with a 3.88 ERA last year, he seems to have lost his ability over-night as he's 7-9 with a 5.45 ERA. He's also given up a National League leading thirty homers this year, making him a guy you'd rather drop from your postseason rotation.
Bailey has had his moments this year, but he's been inconsistent and had to battle injury. He's 6-5 with a 4.30 ERA and a K/9 rate of 5.9, which is surprisingly low considering his stuff and past results. His season can be broken down into two halves, his five May starts when he went 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA, and his five July starts where he went 2-3 with a 5.64 ERA.
The Reds also have left handers Dontrelle Willis(0-1, 3.41 in 5 starts) and Travis Wood(5-5, 5.11) and right hander Edinson Volquez(5-4, 5.93), but each of them come with plenty of questions. Wood and Volquez have each struggled to pitch up to past results, and are both currently in the minor leagues, while Willis hasn't been the same pitcher we saw when he pitched in Florida due to being over-worked at a young age.
If Liriano returns to his 2010 form, the Twins rotation will get a needed boost.
1.Carl Pavano, RHP
2.Scott Baker, RHP
3.Francisco Liriano, LHP
4.Brian Duensing, LHP
The Twins rotation doesn't have star power, but it is filled with middle of the rotation types of arms—something that appears to be an organizational philosophy based on the types of players targeted through free agency and the draft. They could have really used a big arm at the deadline, but there weren't any major arms available without a huge asking price.
Pavano is the veteran presence, so despite being 6-8 with a 4.90 ERA, he's the most likely to front a postseason rotation—especially considering he has a career 2.51 ERA in the playoffs over 32.1 innings. The thirty-five year old's age has caught up with him this year, as he went 17-10 with a 3.75 ERA just last year, and this year's K/9 rate is a career low 3.7.
Baker is having a career year this season with his 8-6 record and 3.01 ERA with all of his peripheral numbers are improved. Baker's FIP shows that his improvement hasn't been just luck, but he isn't a true number two especially in a playoff rotation.
Liriano's only 7-9 with a 5.03 ERA, but those numbers don't tell the whole story as he started the year 1-4 with a 9.13 ERA. This is the same guy that went 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA and two hundred one strikeouts just last year, so we know that he could improve.
Duensing is the Twins fourth best starter this year at 8-9 with a 4.50 ERA, numbers that would be better, if he didn't get knocked around during May(0-4, 8.76 ERA). Duensing isn't going to be anything better than a fourth starter, but he's solid in that role.
The Twins only other real option is right hander Nick Blackburn, who has gone 7-9 with a 4.58 ERA. Top prospect Kyle Gibson could have been another option, however he was just sent to the disabled list with arm issues that could require Tommy John surgery.
CC could win the Cy Young this year.
1.CC Sabathia, LHP
2.AJ Burnett, RHP
3.Bartolo Colon, RHP
4.Freddy Garcia, RHP
The Yankees rotation is basically an ace and three guys that are thirty-four or older. Preseason this rotation looked better, but since Phil Hughes started struggling the Yankees have been trying to patch holes. It's a bit surprising the team didn't make a deadline deal, however they still have time to make one.
Sabathia is enjoying his best year in pinstripes, as he's 16-5 with a 2.55 ERA. The big left hander is on pace to win more than twenty games and lead the American League in wins for a third consecutive season. If there is any question, it's his postseason success(7-4, 4.66 ERA in thirteen starts).
Burnett has improved upon his 2010 numbers, but still comes in at 8-9 with a 4.54 ERA. The thirty-four year old hasn't had a sub-4.00 ERA since 2007 with Toronto. He isn't a number two starter by any means, but he isn't awful.
The thirty-eight year old Colon has come back from the dead this year. After not pitching in the majors since 2009 and not making twenty appearances since winning the Cy Young Award in 2005, Colon is 8-6 with a 3.33 ERA in twenty games with his highest K/9 rate(7.9) since 2001.
Based on his age and past injury issues, it's tough to really count on him being able to keep this up for the next three months-but you could have said the same thing at the beginning of the season.
Garcia is another older pitcher that's past his prime who has flashed his old form again. He's 10-7 with a 3.22 ERA, his best season since 2005. Like Colon, it's tough to count on him continuing to pitch this well, but he's only the Yankees fourth starter.
The Yankees do have other internal options, with the hope Phil Hughes returns to form. After hitting rock bottom in April with a 13.94 ERA in three starts, he's been a little better in his five starts since returning(2-2, 4.29 ERA). Rookie Ivan Nova is 10-4 with a 3.84 ERA, but the Yankees may not be totally sold on him as evidence by his demotion to the minors(he was since brought back) when Phil Hughes returned.
Lefty Manny Banuelos is a promising prospect, but he isn't ready for a postseason rotation spot, as he just made his Triple-A debut last week.
Trading for Jimenez significantly helps the Tribe's rotation
1.Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP
2.Justin Masterson, RHP
3.Josh Tomlin, RHP
4.Carlos Carrasco, RHP
The Indians were actually ranked sixteenth prior to the deadline, but the move to acquire Ubaldo Jimenez was big for them. Now they have a solid number one and two starter instead of just a below-average number one starter(Justin Masterson). There are concerns at the bottom of the rotation, but even that's improved with the Jimenez deal bumping everyone down a notch in the rotation.
Jimenez isn't the same guy he was last year(19-8, 2.88 ERA) due to a dip in velocity as well as struggles with control, but he was having a solid season with the Rockies at 6-9 with a 4.64 ERA. Even though he's switching leagues, he should still be able to improve upon the numbers he posted in Colorado now that he no longer calls Coors Field his home.
Masterson has broken out this year, going 9-7 with a 2.63 ERA. It's a bit surprising to some, but he's always been a guy with a fairly high ceiling and is still only twenty-six. Some still question if it's sustainable, but his FIP isn't too far off his ERA-which is a good sign. He isn't a number one starter, but he's capable of being a number two starter in a playoff rotation.
Tomlin is 11-5 with a 4.16 ERA despite not missing many bats(4.8 K/9), partly because his control has been excellent this year with an American League leading BB/9 rate of 1.0. Tomlin's 2010 saw him go 6-4 with a 4.56 ERA in his first taste of major league action, so this improvement isn't too surprising.
Carrasco is 8-9 with a 4.55 ERA, but the twenty-four year old has been streaky all year. After ERA's near 5.00 in both April and May, Carrasco went 4-2 with a 1.90 ERA in six June starts before an awful July where he went 0-5 with a 9.13 ERA. It's a question which guy we see down the stretch, but he's a young guy with potential.
The other option Cleveland has is Fausto Carmona, who despite some signs of improvement lately, is only 5-11 with a 5.31 ERA. It's easy to see the potential in this young rotation. Jimenez is the oldest of the projected playoff starters at only twenty-seven, but their year may not be until next year unless Carrasco improves or Jimenez finds his 2010 form.
Buehrle leads a Sox rotation that lacks the necessary pieces to make a run at the World Series.
1.Mark Buehrle, LHP
2.John Danks, LHP
3.Gavin Floyd, RHP
4.Philip Humber, RHP
The trade of Edwin Jackson(7-7, 3.92 ERA) as part of the three team deal sending Colby Rasmus to Toronto definitely hurts the Sox rotation, but they had to move someone due to the fact that they have six healthy starters. The Sox don't have a true ace and they are weak with their third starter, so despite no true holes they aren't highly ranked.
Buehrle may not strikeout many batters(career 5.1 K/9), but he's 9-5 with a 3.04 ERA. He's been pretty consistent throughout his career as well, as he is only one win away from his eleventh straight ten win season. His career 4.11 postseason ERA isn't too far off his regular season 3.80 mark. His only draw back is that he isn't a legitimate number one starter.
Danks is 4-9 with a 3.90 ERA, but since his weak start to the year he's 4-1 with a 1.70 ERA in his last seven starts. Danks is a solid, consistent pitcher who's still only twenty-six and has room to improve upon his already strong career numbers,
Floyd is 9-10 with a 4.56 ERA, numbers a little down from his career averages. Floyd is one of the game's most inconsistent starters, capable of throwing a big game in one start and getting blasted in his next, He's more of a number four starter, but you can do worse than a guy capable of coming up big in any start.
Humber has come from no where to end up having a breakout year. He's sitting at 8-8 with a 3.56 ERA despite never having made more than one start in a season in the bigs before. His FIP is a near match to his ERA, so there isn't a reason to believe that he can't continue to have success.
The Sox only other option is Jake Peavey, who at 4-5 with a 5.13 ERA, is only a shell of his former self. Besides Peavey and the now-departed Jackson, these four starters are the only ones to make a start for the Sox this year.
Ogando's had little trouble moving into the starting rotation this year.
1.CJ Wilson, LHP
2.Alexi Ogando, RHP
3.Matt Harrison, LHP
4.Colby Lewis, RHP
The Rangers have a very solid rotation one through five, but their lack on a big time star at the top could come back to bite them when they have to match up against another team's ace. The guys at the back of their rotation have the ability to come up big at times, so there aren't any weak spots in their rotation.
A converted reliever, Wilson has successfully transitioned into a strong number two starter. He's 10-5 on the year with a 3.35 ERA, but he's not a true ace. Although he's improved his walks(he's dropped his BB/9 from 4.1 in 2010 to 3.1 this year), he still gives up too many free passes.
Ogando is also a converted reliever, although he's only in his first year in a starting role in the majors so he may run out of gas between now and October. He's 11-5 with a 2.88 ERA and has been tough to hit, as he's only given up one hundred six in one hundred thirty-one and a third innings. He's already thrown fifty-three more innings this year than his total in 2010 between the majors, minors, and postseason, so expect the Rangers to skip a few of his starts down the stretch.
The twenty-five year old Harrison is a former top prospect acquired from Atlanta in the infamous Mark Texiera deal, but he's only started to pitch up to the hype this season.
Coming into this year his best season was last year when he went 3-2 with a 4.71 ERA making only six of his thirty-seven appearances as starts. He's 9-8 with a 3.08 ERA and doesn't miss many bats as evidence of his 5.7 K/9, so it remains to be seen if he can keep pitching at this level,
Lewis is yet another pitcher that's been moved into the rotation from the bullpen, although his move came after spending some time pitching in Japan. Although Lewis hasn't been as good as he was last year, his 10-8 record and 4.14 ERA are solid for a fourth starter.
If Ogando tires or Harrison slows down, the Rangers have promising twenty-four year old left hander Derek Holland available to go. Holland is a former big prospect that's finally got an extended look in the majors, and he's had his moments going 10-4 with a 4.35 ERA while throwing four complete game shutouts.
Kennedy has broken out this year.
1.Ian Kennedy, RHP
2.Daniel Hudson, RHP
3.Joe Saunders, LHP
4.Jason Marquis, RHP
The Diamondbacks move to acquire Jason Marquis at the trading deadline was only enough to move them up from eleventh, but moving Josh Collmenter out of the projected rotation will help come playoff time. The top two are both good young pitchers and the guys at the bottom have had solid years to date.
Kennedy, the former top Yankees prospect, emerged last year before really breaking out this year. At 13-3 with a 3.13 ERA and 7.7 K/9 rate, it's easy to say he was robbed by not being named an all star. He may not be a true number one guy at the moment, but the twenty-six year old seems to be growing into the role.
Hudson was stolen from the White Sox last year, and although he couldn't pitch the way he did to end last year(7-1, 1.69 ERA in eleven starts) it's not like many guys can pitch at that level. The twenty-four year old's first full season in the majors has gone well, as he's 11-7 with a 3.67 ERA. He's more of a number three starter at this time, but is still improving as he learns.
Saunders is having his best season since winning seventeen games in 2008. At 8-9 with a 3.67 ERA, he's an inning eating left hander that doesn't miss too many bats(5.0 K/9). Saunders isn't the type that's going to win many games for you, but he also isn't going to lose many either.
After going 8-5 with a 3.95 ERA in twenty starts for Washington, Marquis was Arizona's upgrade at the back end of the rotation. Marquis is a solid, but not special fourth starter having one of his best seasons in his career.
The only other option for the Diamondbacks is twenty-five year old right hander Josh Collmenter. Although he's 6-7 with a 3.58 ERA, he's been hit pretty hard during his last five starts.
The loss of Wainwright really hurts the Cardinals rotation.
1.Chris Carpenter, RHP
2.Jaime Garcia, LHP
3.Edwin Jackson, RHP
4.Kyle Lohse, RHP
The acquisition of Edwin Jackson was enough to bring the Cardinals up from a rank of thirteenth, as before the deal they had a strong top two then a bunch of fifth starters they were trying to plug in. The loss of Adam Wainwright before the season really hurts the depth of the rotation.
Carpenter's age has finally caught up to him, as the thirty-six year old is 7-8 with a 3.75 ERA. He's more of a number two starter at this time, but his veteran presence means he isn't a bad choice to throw out there to lead a postseason rotation.
Garcia has been the Cardinals best pitcher this year at 10-5 with a 3.22 ERA. The twenty-four year old is untested in the postseason, but he still looks like a very strong number two starter. Garcia is a very promising pitcher with the potential to be an ace in the future.
Jackson went 7-7 with a 3.92 ERA in Chicago before the White Sox sent him to St. Louis in return for Colby Rasmus. Although he's struggled in his time in the National League, Jackson is still a proven solid middle of the rotation arm.
Lohse is 9-7 with a 3.45 ERA, but has been pitching above his career averages. Lohse is nothing more than a back end of the rotation arm, so it's tough to count on him to continue pitching this well.
The Cardinals other options are weak options that don't have much chance of surpassing Lohse. Kyle McClellan is 9-6 with a 4.14 ERA in his first year in the rotation after being moved from the bullpen. Jake Westbrook is a veteran proven to be a decent fifth starter at this point in his career, and is 9-5 with a 4.83 ERA this year.
Greinke looks to be rounding back into his old form.
1.Zack Greinke, RHP
2.Yovani Gallardo, RHP
3.Shaun Marcum, RHP
4.Randy Wolf, LHP
The Brewers top three are all strong and despite the fact that none is pitching like a true ace this year, are all capable of being interchanged. Wolf provides a veteran presence at the back of the rotation. At least the Brewers have a trio of pitchers capable of beating any team at any time.
Greinke is 9-4 with a 4.41 ERA, but due to shaking off some rust from a preseason injury the numbers are a bit inflated by some early struggles. He is 2-1 with a 1.40 ERA over his last four starts, looking more like the pitcher we saw in Kansas City in 2009.
Gallardo is 13-7 with a 3.56 ERA, but hasn't been pitching up to his high standards this year. He too was hit hard early, but like Greinke he has been better than the numbers suggest lately.
Marcum cost the Brewers top prospect Brett Lawrie, but at 10-3 with a 3.58 ERA the Brewers seem to have gotten their moneys worth. Marcum is more of a number two starter than a number three, so the Brewers have an advantage over most of their competition.
Wolf is 8-8 with a 3.61 ERA this year and the thirty-four year old is a solid veteran presence for a strong rotation. Don't expect him to strike out too many batters, but he's not going to hurt you either.
The Brewers other option is inconsistent twenty-nine year old lefty Chris Narveson, who is 8-6 with a 4.49 ERA on the year, but he's hard to put out there in the playoffs because he's very hittable and issues too many walks.
Verlander is the current leader for the Cy Young Award.
1.Justin Verlander, RHP
2.Max Scherzer, RHP
3.Doug Fister, RHP
4.Brad Penny, RHP
The trade that brought Doug Fister to the Tigers moved them up from a number ten ranking, although there are still plenty of questions that remain. The back end of the rotation still has some issues and the lack of a lefty starter could still come back to hurt them.
Verlander has been among the best pitchers in the game this year, going 16-5 with a 2.30 ERA with four complete games and two shutouts. Verlander is a legit ace and there are no questions here.
Scherzer's pitched below expectations this year going 11-6 with a 4.23 ERA, but he has the potential to be much better. To be a legitimate number two starter, he will need to be a little less hittable and bring his strikeout rate back to his normal career average.
Fister doesn't strikeout many batters(5.2 K/9), but he has been successful going 4-12 with a 3.29 ERA in large part due to pitching for Seattle's awful offense. Fister is for real, as he does have a 3.79 career ERA in his sixty-one games.
Penny is 7-9 with a 4.92 ERA, but he's been very hittable and his strikeout rate is awful(3.9). Replacing Penny in the rotation would be huge, but his veteran presence would be a likely upgrade over the twenty-two year old Rick Porcello.
Porcello is Detroit's other real option, and the young right hander is 11-6 with a 4.49 ERA but seems likely to be dropped from the postseason rotation in favor of Penny due to his veteran presence. The Tigers other options are Phil Coke, a twenty-eight year old left hander who has proven to be better in relief, and Jacob Turner, a twenty year old who has made one start above Double-A.
Shields is in the middle of a career year.
1.James Shields, RHP
2.David Price, LHP
3.Jeremy Hellickson, RHP
4.Jeff Niemann, RHP
The Rays rotation is strong at the top, despite the fact that their star(Price) has had a down year in part because a pair of others have stepped up. In addition to their projected rotation, the Rays have three other options they could replace Niemann with if needed.
Shields has picked up the slack for Price, going 10-9 with a 2.95 ERA including seven complete games and three shutouts. Those numbers are great for any pitcher, let alone one in the tough American League East Division. Shields is having a career year and the only reason he isn't getting more attention for the Cy Young Award is the amazing year that Detroit's Justin Verlander is having.
Price is 9-20 with a 3.77 ERA, but the twenty-five year old has taken a step back after finishing second in the Cy Young Award voting last year after going 19-6 with a 2.72 ERA. Still, those numbers are very solid and we know that he could return to the dominant pitcher we saw last year.
Hellickson is the other Rays pitcher to step up this year, as the twenty-four year old rookie is 10-7 with a 3.15 ERA. Hellickson was the top pitching prospect in the game heading into the season, so it's not like his big year is coming from no where. As a number three starter he won't likely be receiving too much pressure.
Niemann is 6-4 with a 3.58 ERA, but has stepped up his game recently after going 3-0 with a 1.06 ERA in five July starts. Niemann isn't the worst you can do for a number four starter, but the Rays have a better option available.
The Rays other options include twenty-five year old Wade Davis(8-7, 4.55 ERA) and twenty-three year old rookie Alex Cobb(3-2, 3.42 ERA in nine starts), but neither of these right handers are going to supplant Niemann.
The guy who could take Niemann's spot is Matt Moore, the game's best pitching prospect who was recently promoted to Triple-A. The only reason Moore isn't in Tampa now is because the Rays are slow to move their pitching prospects, so they haven't made any exceptions with Moore—just like last year with Jeremy Hellickson.
If he gets the call, he could be a real weapon as a fourth starter because he's major league ready.
Hanson gives the Braves a future ace.
1.Tim Hudson, RHP
2.Tommy Hanson, RHP
3.Jair Jurrjens, RHP
4.Brandon Beachy, RHP
The Braves main weakness in their rotation is the fact that they don't have a left handed starter. However there are some other questions. The first is the health of Jurrjens, who was just sent to the disabled list with a sprained knee. Then the fact that Hudson isn't a true ace, but is likely to see that role because he's the veteran with a long resume of postseason experience.
Hudson isn't a true ace any longer, but he was during his days leading the Oakland A's staff. The thirty-five year old still has enough left in the tank to be at 11-7 with a 3.22 ERA. His veteran leadership and postseason experience(3.46 ERA in ten games) make him likely to lead this young staff.
Hanson is a true ace in the making, as the twenty-four old is 11-7 with a 3.60 ERA. He's not there yet, but he does make a good number two starter at this point in his young career.
Jurrjens is 12-4 with a 2.63 ERA, numbers that are actually inflated because has been hit a bit hard since the all star break due to the fact that he's been trying to pitch through his knee injury. The Braves pitching depth will allow them to let him fully heal before returning to game action.
Beachy has been strong as a rookie, going 5-2 with a 3.49 ERA with strong peripheral numbers. Beachy was just moved from the bullpen to the rotation last year, so there is a chance that he runs out of gas at some point between now and October.
The Braves other options start with thirty-eight year old left hander Derek Lowe(6-10, 4.86 ERA) but include Julio Teheran, one of the top five prospects in the game today, as well as twenty-three year old lefty Mike Minor(1-2, 4.59 ERA in six starts). Lowe is the first option if Jurrjens has health issues, so due to the Braves coaching philosophy it's unlikely we see Minor or Teheran in October.
Beckett has bounced back from an awful 2010.
1.Josh Beckett, RHP
2.Jon Lester, LHP
3.Erik Bedard, LHP
4.John Lackey, RHP
The season-ending injury to Clay Buchholz knocked the Red Sox out of the number one ranking, but the move to acquire Erik Bedard at the trading deadline does strengthen the back end of the rotation. At least the Sox have possibly the game's best one-two combination of starters.
Beckett not only returned to form after a terrible 2010, but he's actually been better than his usual self with a 9-4 record and 2.20 ERA. Beckett isn't just a true ace, but he also comes with a long history of postseason success.
Lester is good enough to be a number one starter for almost any other team, and his record of 11-5 and 3.23 ERA prove that. He and Beckett make up for the faults of the rest of the rotation.
Bedard, who went 4-7 with a 3.45 ERA with Seattle prior to the trade at the deadline, is a solid number three starter when healthy. The issue with that is that he's hardly ever fully healthy and he's continued to have injury issues this year. The Red Sox ranking counts on him being healthy.
Lackey has not been good this year, as he's just 10-8 with a 6.14 ERA. What he does have going for him is the fact that he used to be the guy leading the Angels rotation and has some postseason success on his resume. He will have to work hard to keep this spot, but he's the best option the Sox have right now.
The other options include forty-four year old knuckleballer Tim Wakefield(6-4, 4.99 ERA) and twenty-six year old lefty Andrew Miller(4-1, 5.44 in nine games), but both have plenty of questions. Wakefield isn't a consistent option and Miller is experienced and comes with a very high walk rate(5.7 BB/9). This is where the injuries to Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka really hurt.
Weaver gives the Angels a true ace.
1.Jered Weaver, RHP
2.Dan Haren, RHP
3.Ervin Santana, RHP
4.Joel Pineiro, RHP
The Angels may not have a lefty in their rotation and questions remain with the last spot in the rotation, but their top two guys are as good as any other team's in the American League other than maybe Boston's. It is possible the Angels make a small move this month to get a left hander at the back end of the rotation, but their current group is very formidable.
Weaver's been nothing short of dominant this year, going 14-5 with an amazing 1.78 ERA. Weaver doesn't put many on base, as evidence of his hits per nine inning rate(6.5 H/9) and walk rate(2.0 BB/9), It's pretty hard to score runs when you can't get on base.
Haren is a very strong number two guy, and could pass as a number one for plenty of other teams. His 12-6 record and 2.81 ERA show a lot, but it's the lack of base runners he's given up(7.5 H/9, 1.3 BB/9) that show how good he's really been this year. He's the best number two starter in the American League other than maybe Jon Lester.
Santana doesn't get much attention, but he's been very solid number three starter for three of the past four years. He's 8-8 with a career best 3.21 ERA, but he's been around that mark before(3.49 in 2008) so it's not like he can't continue to pitch at this pace.
At 5-6 with a 5.31 ERA Joel Pineiro is very hittable(11.8 H/9), so it wouldn't surprise anyone if the Angels made a move to bring in a slightly more dependable veteran. Pineiro is capable of a big game every so often, but he's not a guy you want to give the ball to in October.
The Angels only other internal option is twenty-one year old rookie Tyler Chatwood. Despite his 6-8 record and 4.10 ERA he's been getting lucky and is due to see the results turn around due to a very high walk rate(4.3 BB/9) and hit rate(9.5 H/9).
Lincecum leads a Giants staff that's even better than last season's group.
1.Tim Lincecum, RHP
2.Matt Cain, RHP
3.Madison Bumgarner, LHP
4.Ryan Vogelsong, RHP
As good as the Giants rotation was last year, they have actually been better this year despite the injury to Jonathan Sanchez. The reason for this is because Ryan Vogelsong has came from no where to put together an all star season.
Lincecum is the leader of the staff and one of the best pitchers in the game. He's only 10-9 with a 2.69 ERA, but those numbers would easily be better if he received more run support from the Giants offense. He's a big game pitcher with a career postseason ERA of 2.43.
The twenty-six year old Cain is an excellent number two starter, as he's 9-8 with a 3.00 ERA on the year. Like Lincecum, he steps up his game on the big stage-his ERA in three postseason starts(21.1 innings) last year was 0.00.
Bumgarner's numbers are a bit down from last year's rookie season, but the twenty-one year old lefty is still 6-11 with a 3.71 ERA. His FIP along with improvement in his peripheral numbers from last year suggest that he's ready to start producing better numbers. He's a solid number three starter and one of the keys to the rotation as the only lefty in the projected postseason rotation.
Vogelsong's last major league start before this year was back in 2004 and his last appearance was in 2006, and in each of those seasons his ERA was above 6.00. So the fact that he's 9-1 with a National League leading 2.19 ERA is a total shock to everyone. As long as he continues to pitch at this level, the Giants rotation is loaded with a big time fourth starter.
If Vogelsong comes back down to Earth the Giants still have Sanchez, who is 4-6 with a 4.10 ERA this year, down from last year's 13-9 record and 3.07 ERA. He was solid in his four postseason starts last year, so the Giants have a very strong alternative. If they decide that they need another lefty, thirty-three year old Barry Zito is available, but his 3-4 record and 5.62 ERA show that he's at the end of the line.
Hamels would be the ace for almost any other team.
1.Roy Halladay, RHP
2.Cole Hamels, LHP
3.Cliff Lee, LHP
4.Roy Oswalt, RHP
The Phillies have a luxury that no one else in the game does—three legitimate aces. Throw in a former ace that's still got a little bit left in the tank and a rookie that''s been putting up big numbers, and you get easily the game's best rotation.
Halladay is baseball's best pitcher, and his stats do nothing to show otherwise. He's 14-8 with a 2.55 ERA and has already thrown six complete games this season. The thirty-four year old two time Cy Young Award winner had a 2.45 ERA in three postseason starts last year, the first of his fourteen year career.
Hamels is 13-6 with a 2.53 ERA and the only reason he isn't a number one starter is because of the presence of Halladay. He and Halladay are easily the best one-two combination of starters in the game. Like Halladay, he's also been strong in the postseason with a 3.45 ERA in twelve career starts.
Lee is yet another pitcher that would be an ace for almost any other team. He hasn't been as dominant as he was in his first time in Philly, but at 11-7 with a 2.96 ERA it's hard to argue that he hasn't been as good as advertised.
Oswalt used to be an ace back in his days with the Astros, but these days the thirty-three year old is more of a strong number three starter. He's 4-7 with a 3.84 ERA this year, but has had to battle injuries so other guys have gotten the chance to prove their worth. If healthy Oswalt is possibly the best fourth starter in the game, and his postseason success(3.45 career ERA) means that you don't lose much when the big three aren't on the mound.
The guy Oswalt's injury has opened the door for is twenty-three year old rookie Vance Worley. At 8-1 with a 2.35 ERA it will be hard to leave Worley off a postseason rotation, but the Phillies rotation is one of the few that can afford to do that. Twenty-six year old Kyle Kendrick is having a career year at 6-5 with a 3.19 ERA, and veteran number four starter Joe Blanton(1-2, 5.50 ERA) is yet another option.