Ranking the Top 10 MLB Lineups and Pitching Rotations Right Now

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystMay 23, 2022

Ranking the Top 10 MLB Lineups and Pitching Rotations Right Now

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    Los Angeles' Shohei Ohtani
    Los Angeles' Shohei OhtaniAlex Gallardo/Associated Press

    As we move into the second quarter of the 2022 MLB season, which team has the best collection of hitters, and which starting rotation has been most impressive?

    We've ranked the top 10 of each for this tandem countdown.

    There's no particular statistic or set of stats that we're focusing on for either the lineups or the rotations. For hitters, slugging might appear to outweigh on-base percentage in one spot and then vice versa the next. With pitchers, the main selling point may oscillate from K/9 to ERA to home runs allowed and then back again. But what we're really looking for in both cases is which chains have the fewest weak links.

    Viewed from a slightly different angle, if you were drafting both a lineup and a starting rotation to carry you to victory in a best-of-seven series, who would sit atop that draft board?

    It should come as no surprise that the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros rank top-five in both categories. You'll also find both halves of the New York Mets, Milwaukee Brewers, San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Angels and Philadelphia Phillies in the top 10. Take out Philadelphia and those been arguably the seven best teams in the majors.

    Unless otherwise noted, statistics are current through the start of play Sunday.

No. 10: Phillies Bats; Angels Arms

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    Philadelphia's Bryce Harper
    Philadelphia's Bryce HarperChris Szagola/Associated Press

    No. 10 Batting Lineup: Philadelphia Phillies

    It is continually dumbfounding that the Phillies have not had a winning record since the opening week of the season, because both their lineup and their starting rotation landed in our top 10.

    As far as the bats are concerned, the UCL injury has done nothing to slow down 2021 NL MVP Bryce Harper, as he was leading the NL in slugging percentage Saturday morning. It's Kyle Schwarber who is leading the team in home runs, though, after mashing his 10th dinger Saturday night.

    Schwarber, Harper, Nick Castellanos, Rhys Hoskins and Jean Segura each has at least five home runs and 15 RBI. Throw in Alec Bohm hitting roughly .290 in the 2-hole and J.T. Realmuto as a normally great hitting catcher who is out to a bit of a slow start by his standards and there is minimal rest for the wicked when facing the Phillies.


    No. 10 Starting Rotation: Los Angeles Angels

    Might be underselling the Angels a bit at No. 10, especially in the aftermath of Michael Lorenzen's six shutout innings Saturday night. But prior to that performance, the Angels starters ranked outside the top 20 in the majors in both walks per nine innings and strikeouts per walk.

    Still, this is a strong rotation in which the weakest link as far as ERA is concerned is Reid Detmers at 4.15. And he threw a no-hitter a couple of weeks ago.

    Shohei Ohtani is pitching so well that he'd probably be an All-Star even if he wasn't also an excellent hitter. Patrick Sandoval has been great, not allowing a home run yet this season. And offseason pickups Lorenzen and Noah Syndergaard have each been solid.

No. 9: Rockies Bats; Phillies Arms

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    Colorado's C.J. Cron
    Colorado's C.J. CronDavid Zalubowski/Associated Press

    No. 9 Batting Lineup: Colorado Rockies

    Did you know the Colorado Rockies have the best batting average in the majors? And by a substantial margin?

    They entered play Sunday hitting .265 as a team, while their next-closest challenger was the Mets at .254.

    The Rockies rarely draw walks, though, and they have been caught stealing more times (eight) than they have successfully stolen a bag (seven). Aside from C.J. Cron, there's not much slugging, either. So, even with that great team batting average, their overall run total isn't anything special.

    They've been scoring much better as of late, though, with 57 runs scored in their past eight games. It's just too bad they finally figured out how to score right as their pitching staff started to fall apart at the seams. Four times in the past 10 days, they scored at least six in a loss.


    No. 9 Starting Rotation: Philadelphia Phillies

    As far as ERA (3.89) and record (11-16) are concerned, it has been a rough year for the Phillies rotation. But their five main starters have kept walks to a minimum, they've frequently pitched deep into games and they all have a respectable strikeout rate.

    They've just been unlucky thus far this season in terms of balls in play finding holes in the defense.

    Zack Wheeler and Zach Eflin have been especially snake-bitten, each boasting a K/BB rate north of 4.0 while allowing a combined total of three home runs in 68.2 innings of work. And yet, they have a combined ERA of 3.67 and both have a losing record. They deserve better, and the Phillies remain a major buy-low candidate because of that poor luck factor.

No. 8: Brewers Bats; Giants Arms

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    MIlwaukee's Rowdy Tellez
    MIlwaukee's Rowdy TellezMorry Gash/Associated Press

    No. 8 Batting Lineup: Milwaukee Brewers

    The Brewers have dudes who can mash a baseball. No doubt about that. Rowdy Tellez, Willy Adames and Hunter Renfroe each already has nine home runs, and Christian Yelich is capable of many more than his current tally of five. And with that collection of sluggers, Milwaukee is leading the NL with 54 home runs to date.

    However, both batting average and on-base percentage leave something to be desired, pretty much across the board with this lineup. Only Lorenzo Cain is batting below .200, but the top marks among the 10 team leaders in plate appearances are Renfroe's .268 batting average and Omar Narvaez's .352 OBP. And neither of those team leaders ranks top-50 in the majors in said category.

    As a result, 31 of Milwaukee's 54 home runs have been of the solo shot variety. Though at least this team has fared well with runners in scoring position, batting .276 on the year.


    No. 8 Starting Rotation: San Francisco Giants

    The Giants would've easily ranked in the top five a week ago, but it has been tough sledding as of late, with 41 runs allowed in the span of five games against the St. Louis Cardinals, Rockies and San Diego Padres.

    Even with that fall from grace, the overall numbers have been solid, especially if we look at Fielder Independent Pitching (FIP) as opposed to ERA. FIP tells us that Carlos Rodon and his 13.0 K/9 rate should have an ERA of 1.62, not 3.49. Similarly, Alex Cobb should be sitting at 2.66, not 5.61. In fact, each of San Francisco's five current starters has a FIP below 3.65, which was not true for any other rotation as of Saturday morning.

    If and when that luck ever turns in their favor, watch out, because the Giants already have a winning record and one of the better run differentials in the majors.

No. 7: Giants Bats; Blue Jays Arms

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    Toronto's Kevin Gausman
    Toronto's Kevin GausmanFrank Franklin II/Associated Press

    No. 7 Batting Lineup: San Francisco Giants

    What the Giants lack in star power, they make up for with a deep stable of contributors.

    Save for Tommy La Stella, who just made his season debut less than a week ago, they don't have a single player slugging better than .500. But 15 different Giants have already homered, and seemingly everyone has an on-base percentage in the .300s.

    As a result, they are averaging better than five runs per game and look like a safe bet to make it back-to-back years in the playoffs for the first time since 2002-03.


    No. 7 Starting Rotation: Toronto Blue Jays

    For as much as the Toronto Blue Jays are paying for Kevin Gausman, Hyun Jin Ryu, Yusei Kikuchi and Jose Berrios, the seventh-best rotation is a sizable letdown. I will say, though, that the gap between No. 7 and No. 3 is almost negligible. So, Toronto could quickly surge into the top 10 percent now that Ryu is back from a month on the IL and already looking formidable.

    The one-two punch of Gausman and Alek Manoah atop the rotation has been sensational. The former has 57 strikeouts against just three walks and ranks among the still-early favorites to win the AL Cy Young. The latter has a 1.62 ERA, a 0.88 WHIP and quite the knack for quality starts. Both will be no-brainer All-Stars if they can keep this up for another month.

    Kikuchi has been solid, too. It's really just a couple of bad starts from Berrios and mediocre stuff from Ross Stripling in lieu of Ryu holding the Blue Jays back. Wouldn't be shocking if they jumped all the way to No. 1 if we run this back again at the midpoint of the season.

No. 6: Cardinals Bats; Mets Arms

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    St. Louis' Nolan Arenado
    St. Louis' Nolan ArenadoReed Hoffmann/Associated Press

    No. 6 Batting Lineup: St. Louis Cardinals

    Going into this exercise, I didn't appreciate how well the Cardinals have been hitting this season, as it has often felt like Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt and a bunch of minor characters. And in a similar situation with Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer, the San Diego Padres didn't even land in our top 10.

    But while the Cardinals have been nothing special as far as home runs are concerned, they rank among the best in the majors in batting average, doubles and stolen bases. The red birds have scored at least 10 runs on five occasions, including a recent 15-6 shellacking of Carlos Rodon and the San Francisco Giants.

    This is with both Tyler O'Neill and Dylan Carlson woefully underachieving compared to how well they played in 2021. If those guys ever heat back up, St. Louis vs. Milwaukee is going to be one heck of a fun race for the NL Central crown.


    No. 6 Starting Rotation: New York Mets

    It's at this point when we absolutely must reiterate the "right now" in the headline.

    The full-strength Mets led by Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom and breakout star Tylor Megill would have ranked top-three for sure, and very likely No. 1. But with all three of those guys currently unavailable, the cobbled together rotation of Carlos Carrasco, Chris Bassitt, Taijuan Walker, Trevor Williams and probably David Peterson is considerably less intimidating.

    All the same, New York's year-to-date numbers by starting pitchers look great. Guys are routinely working into at least the sixth or seventh inning, which is always a plus for keeping the bullpen fresh. Even without deGrom, the K/BB ratio has been hovering around the 4.0 mark. And one of the biggest reasons the Mets haven't suffered back-to-back losses since the first week of the season is because consecutive duds from this rotation simply doesn't happen. 

No. 5: Mets Bats; Astros Arms

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    New York's Pete Alonso
    New York's Pete AlonsoAdam Hunger/Associated Press

    No. 5 Batting Lineup: New York Mets

    Similar to the Cardinals at No. 6, it's a two-man show in Queens as far as home runs are concerned, with Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor leading that charge.

    But the Mets have done a most excellent job of creating and capitalizing on opportunities to manufacture runs.

    Of the 10 team leaders in plate appearances, nine have an OBP north of .300. Brandon Nimmo, Mark Canha and Jeff McNeil have all been major contributors in that department. And that near-constant state of baserunners has paved the way for the Mets to score multiple runs in 40 of 42 games played.


    No. 5 Starting Rotation: Houston Astros

    When your team goes 13 consecutive games without allowing more than three runs, got to at least rank in the top five, right?

    That hot streak has since come to an end with the Nationals scoring 13 in one game and the Red Sox scoring 15 in a three-game series. But for a while there, Justin Verlander and Co. were out of control. The 39-year-old who had pitched in just one game in the previous two seasons combined has had Cy Young-worthy stuff thus far and has been flanked quite effectively by Framber Valdez and Luis Garcia.

    The Astros did recently lose Jake Odorizzi to the IL, though, and Jose Urquidy has struggled to the tune of a 4.81 ERA. At least Cristian Javier has been mostly solid as a spot starter, but the Odorizzi and Urquidy situations coupled with the uncertainty of when Lance McCullers Jr. (forearm) will be able to make his 2022 debut may leave the Astros searching for an arm or two before the trade deadline.

No. 4: Dodgers Bats; Padres Arms

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    San Diego's Sean Manaea
    San Diego's Sean ManaeaBrynn Anderson/Associated Press

    No. 4 Batting Lineup: Los Angeles Dodgers

    The frightening thing about the Dodgers ranking No. 4 is there is no question they have underachieved at the plate. Max Muncy's power has completely vanished. Cody Bellinger looks lost for a third consecutive season. Justin Turner is hitting about as well as you'd expect a 37-year-old to hit. And while Trea Turner is heating up over the past two weeks, he's still nowhere close to his ceiling.

    Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts are the only regulars with an OPS north of .800, which is a bit shocking, given how much this team is paying for hitters.

    And yet, the Dodgers are leading the majors in both runs scored and on-base percentage, thanks in large part to a high walk rate (11 percent). Routinely taking four balls isn't as entertaining as routinely hitting four-baggers, but it gets the job done when you've got a lineup full of guys who can capitalize with runners in scoring position.


    No. 4 Starting Rotation: San Diego Padres

    If guys can stay healthy, it's going to be very interesting to see how the Padres "deal with" having an excess of quality options.

    Blake Snell just made his season debut Wednesday, at which point he joined a rotation where each of Joe Musgrove, Sean Manaea, MacKenzie Gore, Mike Clevinger, Yu Darvish and Nick Martinez had made at least three starts with an ERA below 4.04. It looks as though Gore and Martinez are now going to serve as long relievers, which is quite the luxury to add to what was already a solid bullpen.

    If Snell is able to regain his 2020 or even his 2018 Cy Young-winning form, we could end up with an NL West race every bit as good as last year's extravaganza between the 107-win Giants and 106-win Dodgers.

No. 3: Yankees Bats; Dodgers Arms

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    Los Angeles' Walker Buehler
    Los Angeles' Walker BuehlerMatt York/Associated Press

    No. 3 Batting Lineup: New York Yankees

    The Yankees do need to sand down a couple of rough spots, most notably center fielder Aaron Hicks and catcher Kyle Higashioka. Joey Gallo has also been a train wreck when batting with runners on base.

    But at nearly 5.0 runs per game with Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton mashing everything in sight lately, it'd be hard to justify putting the Yankees lineup any lower than this.

    Beyond that dynamic duo, Anthony Rizzo has 10 home runsthough has slowed down considerably since a blistering hot start. And while the trio of Josh Donaldson, Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu isn't nearly as terrifying as Judge and Stanton, all three are well-established hitters who will hurt you if you make a mistake.


    No. 3 Starting Rotation: Los Angeles Dodgers

    Like the Mets, it's the current stockpile of stars on the IL (or currently serving a two-year suspension) that keeps the Dodgers from landing at No. 1. Dustin May and Danny Duffy have been out all season. Andrew Heaney made two starts before hitting the shelf, and Clayton Kershaw turned that injured trio into an injured quartet two weeks ago.

    But still, what a job this rotation has done, leading the majors (by a wide margin) with a cumulative 2.63 ERA. Walker Buehler is on the very short list of pitchers with a complete-game shutout in 2022 and has been solid in seven of eight starts overall. Julio Urias remains one of the best, most underrated pitchers in the game today. And despite an elevated walk rate, Tony Gonsolin has one of the best ERAs in the majors at 1.64.

    It's not the starting five the Dodgers had in mind when they put this roster together, but if you had to pick one rotation to ride with in a best-of-seven series tomorrow, this would be a solid choice.

No. 2: Astros Bats; Brewers Arms

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    Houston's Yordan Alvarez
    Houston's Yordan AlvarezNick Wass/Associated Press

    No. 2 Batting Lineup: Houston Astros

    It took a little while for the Astros to heat up. They were shutout twice within their first 12 games and averaged just 3.29 runs during their 6-8 start to the campaign.

    But with the exception of the starting catcherbe it Martin Maldonado or Jason Castroroutinely making outs, this lineup has been a densely populated minefield for opposing pitchers over the past month.

    Yordan Alvarez is leading the way in the home run department with a dozen of them, but everyone is a threat to go yard, with 11 Astros already boasting multiple home runs. Both Kyle Tucker and Jose Altuve have been on a tear, last year's AL batting champ Yuli Gurriel has rebounded from a slow start, and it's only a matter of time before Alex Bregman gets rolling and potentially pushes this lineup to No. 1.


    No. 2 Starting Rotation: Milwaukee Brewers

    The most remarkable part about Milwaukee pitching so well to start the season is that two-time All-Star Brandon Woodruff has gotten out to a rough start with a 4.76 ERA.

    But Woodruff is still racking up K's in bunches (11.2 per 9IP), and the rest of the starting rotation has picked up his slack. No surprise to see 2021 NL Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes thriving, but it's almost unfair how dominant Freddy Peralta and Eric Lauer have been, each averaging better than 12 strikeouts per 9.0 innings pitched. And though he did have a couple of duds against Cincinnati earlier this month, Adrian Houser has been one heck of a fifth starter with a 3.22 ERA.

    They'll need to get the home runs (1.03 per 9IP) under control a bit, but the Brewers starters are leading the majors in strikeouts (10.6 per 9IP) by a wide margin. (With both Devin Williams and Josh Hader throwing haymakers out of the bullpen, no less.)

No. 1: Angels Bats; Yankees Arms

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    New York's Gerrit Cole
    New York's Gerrit ColeNam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    No. 1 Batting Lineup: Los Angeles Angels

    The middle infield has been a black hole with both Tyler Wade and Andrew Velazquez slugging around .300 and rarely driving anyone in.

    However, the Angels have otherwise been heavenly at the dish.

    Taylor Ward just refuses to regress to the mean, still leading the majors in each of batting average, on-base percentage and slugging as of Sunday morning. And he's merely one of the tough outs in this lineup.

    There's also three-time AL MVP Mike Trout batting .310 with 11 home runs, 2021 AL MVP Shohei Ohtani heating up after a slow start and Jared Walsh building on his 2021 breakout campaign with eight home runs already this season. Anthony Rendon is also finally hitting well as of late, and for the sixth-most feared bat in the order, Brandon Marsh (.267 AVG, 4 HR, 23 RBI, 3 SB) is pretty doggone good.


    No. 1 Starting Rotation: New York Yankees

    Hey, remember when Gerrit Cole struggled through his first three starts and we all sounded the alarm?

    That was fun, right?

    Well, Cole has reeled off five consecutive quality starts since then, dropping his ERA down to 2.89 and his WHIP to 1.08. But it's Nestor Cortes who would be getting some AL Cy Young votes if the season ended today, with his 1.80 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 11.2 K/9 rate. Mr. Mustache has been sensational.

    What landed New York at No. 1, though, is the lack of a night off for opposing teams. Cole and Cortes have been the aces, but Luis Severino, Jordan Montgomery and Jameson Taillon have been kings in their own right, each boasting a sub-3.70 ERA in seven-plus starts. The quintet is collectively averaging better than four strikeouts per walk and last allowed four or more earned runs in a start on April 26.