MLB: Ranking the 5 Best Starting Rotations in the NL

Austin FoxCorrespondent IIMay 24, 2012

MLB: Ranking the 5 Best Starting Rotations in the NL

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    As usual, pitching is once again dominating the National League. Starting pitchers are continuously putting up sparkling numbers seemingly every night.

    Which teams have the best rotations, though?

    Here's a look at the five best rotations in the NL, based solely on how those starters have pitched this year without taking into account past accomplishments.

5. Philadelphia Phillies

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    Starting 5:

    Cole Hamels (6-1, 2.48)
    Cliff Lee (0-2, 2.66)
    Roy Halladay (4-4, 3.58)
    Joe Blanton (4-4, 3.74)
    Kyle Kendrick (0-4, 5.23)

    With the arms the Phillies have in their rotation, it's hard to imagine how they wind up fifth on this list.

    Well, there's a simple explanation. Kyle Kendrick has been surprisingly bad this year after posting an ERA barely above 3.00 last season. Kendrick's ERA currently sits at 5.23.

    I don't think it's fair to say that Roy Halladay has been a "problem," but he certainly hasn't pitched the way he's pitched in the past. His ERA currently sits at 3.58, which isn't bad, but definitely isn't "Halladay-like."

    Cliff Lee has missed some time, which has also hurt this rotation, but he's been great when healthy.

    Without a doubt, Cole Hamels has been the brightest, most consistent part of this rotation. Hamels is 6-1 with a 2.48 ERA.

    On a bit of a surprising note, Joe Blanton has been pretty good. He's been hit hard recently but still has a solid ERA of 3.74.

    The Phillies' rotation has not lived up to expectations this season. With that being said, they still have one of the best group of pitchers in the game. It's pretty impressive when this group can be considered a disappointment, yet still be one of the best rotations around.

4. St. Louis Cardinals

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    Starting 5:

    Lance Lynn (6-1, 2.31)
    Jake Westbrook (4-3, 2.41)
    Kyle Lohse (5-1, 2.91)
    Jaime Garcia (3-2, 3.55)
    Adam Wainwright (3-5, 4.78)

    It is somewhat surprising that the Cardinals make this list, especially when Chris Carpenter hasn't thrown a single pitch this year. However, plenty of guys have stepped up in his absence.

    For example, where in the world did Jake Westbrook and Lance Lynn learn to pitch like this? Lynn showed flashes last season, but I never would have guessed he would become this dominant so quickly.

    Westbrook is a huge surprise as well. After pitching pretty poorly last season, he's been absolutely dominant so far with an ERA of 2.41.

    Kyle Lohse is picking up right where he left off last season, as he looks just as good, if not better than last year.

    Jaime Garcia has been a little inconsistent; a bit more is probably expected out of him, but it's still hard to complain with his 3.55 ERA.

    Shockingly, Adam Wainwright has been the weak link of this rotation. Whether it's still lingering effects from his injury, you'd suspect it's only a matter of time until he figures things out.

    When Adam Wainwright is the worst man in your rotation, you're in pretty good shape.

3. San Francisco Giants

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    Starting 5:

    Ryan Vogelsong (2-2, 2.27)
    Madison Bumgarner (5-3, 2.85)
    Matt Cain (4-2, 2.94)
    Barry Zito (3-1, 3.00)
    Tim Lincecum (2-4, 6.04)

    The Giants seemingly always have one of the best rotations in the game, and this year is no different. What's so impressive, though, is that they are this high on the list even with Tim Lincecum's struggles.

    Ryan Vogelsong was arguably the most underrated pitcher in the majors last year, and he's picking up right where he left off. Even with a microscopic 2.27 ERA, he just continues to be ignored by the media.

    The exact same can be said for Matt Cain. Over the last few years, Cain may have established himself as the most underrated pitcher in the game. Even in Lincecum's dominant years, you could debate that Cain was just as good as Tim was.

    The main reason seems to be he doesn't get the wins to show for it, but that's obviously not his fault.

    Barry Zito looks resurgent as well and is probably pitching as well as he ever has in San Francisco.

    Without a doubt, Lincecum has been the worst pitcher in this rotation. He still has an ERA over 6.00, and we are now in late May.

    I think a big reason this rotation is so good every single year is because of the consistency. Lincecum, Cain and Zito have all been part of this group since 2007 or earlier. Young Madison Bumgarner has been dominant this year as well, and he looks to be the next mainstay in this rotation.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Starting 5:

    Ted Lilly (5-0, 1.79)
    Clayton Kershaw (4-1, 1.90)
    Chris Capuano (6-1, 2.25)
    Chad Billingsley (2-3, 3.91)
    Aaron Harang (3-2, 4.36)

    One of the main reasons the Dodgers have the best record in the majors is because of their dominant starting pitching.

    Yes, we knew Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley would be good, but the dominance of guys like Ted Lilly and Chris Capuano has been pretty surprising.

    Even at 36 years old, Lilly is still dominating hitters. He is 5-0 with a 1.79 ERA.

    Chris Capuano was supposed to be an afterthought when they signed him in the offseason, as he was very mediocre last year with the Mets. However, he, too, has been unbelievable, with a 6-1 record and a 2.25 ERA.

    As mentioned, Kershaw is up to his usual ways, posting a 1.90 ERA so far. How impressive is it when he can post an ERA under 2.00 and have it not be that surprising?

    Aaron Harang has been about as expected so far, which is very average.

    Lilly and Capuano obviously won't be this dominant all season, but as long as they can be solid, it's hard to imagine the Dodgers not winning this division.

1. Washington Nationals

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    Starting 5:

    Gio Gonzalez (6-1, 1.98)
    Stephen Strasburg (4-1, 2.21)
    Jordan Zimmermann (3-4, 2.47)
    Edwin Jackson (1-1, 3.31)
    Ross Detwiler (3-3, 3.65)

    The Nationals are a hot and trendy pick right now for this award, and I'd have to agree. The numbers back this up; regardless of statistics, the Nationals have the best rotation in the NL and probably in all of baseball.

    Stephen Strasburg gets all the attention, but there are plenty of other great pitchers on this staff.

    You could even make the case that Gio Gonzalez has been better than Strasburg this year. He is 6-1, has a 1.98 ERA and leads the majors in strikeouts. He is looking like the best offseason acquisition of any team so far.

    As long as he is pitching alongside Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann will continue to be overshadowed. This is one of the best young pitchers in the game, yet he gets no attention. It's probably because he doesn't have the wins to show for it, but who cares when he has a brilliant 2.47 ERA.

    Ross Detwiler had been lights out up until his last few starts; with that being said, he still does have a solid ERA of 3.65.

    Edwin Jackson has probably been the weakest part of the rotation, but he still has been solid.

    Some of these Nationals starters will eventually cool off, but it will be interesting to see how and when they do. Regardless, this rotation has re-energized baseball in Washington D.C.

    If these boys can stay in the race, it would really make for a fun summer.