Custom Search

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Breaking Down the NL East: Starting Pitching

Back in the 1980’s the NL East had some dominating pitching that mowed down opposing hitters. Steve Carlton began the decade for the Phils as one of the most intimidating southpaws in history and led into the phenomenon known as Doc Gooden. Gooden carried the Mets staff to a 1986 World Series Championship but was doomed due to his personal issues. The early 90’s saw the blossoming of the likes of Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Curt Schilling, and Pedro Martinez to name a few. Today, Johann Santana and Cole Hamels lead the pack with young pitchers like the Marlins’ Ricky Nolasco and Josh Johnson look to come into their own. On the opposite ends of the spectrum are Jamie Moyer and the now older Tom Glavine, both in the twilight of their careers, yet somehow remaining effective enough to remain in the league. I evaluated the starters on various categories, putting the heaviest weight on wins, ERA, and WHIP creating a “productivity” number. Here are my rankings for the National League East’s Starting Staffs.

First (Score 2.57): The New York Mets would probably be lost without their ace, Johan Santana (pictured) as the rest of the staff is made up of a prospect coming of age (Mike Pelfrey), an inconsistent pitcher who can be really good or really bad (Oliver Perez), a once promising starter who was hindered by injuries (John Maine), and a journeyman now in his 13th year and 7th team (Livian Hernandez). Santana ranked the highest of all of the starting pitchers in the division. He brings up the team’s average in nearly every category leading the pack with a productivity number of 5.5. If his team will hit behind him, he may be odds on favorite to win the NL Cy Young award.

Second (2.25): The Phillies of 2008 were extremely fortunate that their pitching remained in tact last year. Brett Myers was sent down to the minors midseason and returned a solid No. 2 behind Cole Hamels (pictured), who for some strange reason received no run support from the league’s most offensive team. The ageless wonder of Jamie Moyer pulled together 16 wins and Joe Blanton came to the Phils via Oakland and went 4-0 before having the postseason of his life. Kyle Kendrick will not be on the starting staff this year and is replaced by Chan Ho Park for found his competitive edge after being banished to the bullpen for the past several years. JA Happ, who will/should start the year in the pen may be counted on to start as well. Hamels finished second in the division with a score of 4.19 and Moyer slipped into the fifth spot in the NL East at 3.25.

Third (2.14): This is not the same Atlanta Braves pitching staff that won so many division titles, so many games, and now is left to fill spots with quality arms with guys who have names like Jurrjens and Kawakami. Derek Lowe (pictured) anchors this group and will have to win twenty games if the Braves are to be on the winning side of .500. Javier Vazquez has hoodwinked another team into thinking he can help them win, despite a career 127-129 record. Jurrjens had a decent year as a rookie. Now that teams have a book on him, we’ll see how well he does in 2009. Kawakami is a Japanese import and my guess is that he’ll be somewhere between Dice-K and Hideki Irabu. The all familiar name of Tom Glavine rounds out the rotation and as long as he can be effective, they’ll keep the 42 year old on the team. His season last year though (2-4, 5.54 ERA in 63 innings), wasn’t a good sign for things to come.
Fourth (1.56): There are no Josh Becketts, A.J. Burnetts, or Brad Pennys on this Florida Marlins team, Dontrelle Willis is even gone. Some might ask who’s left to pitch. Well, that’s a good question. Ricky Nolasco (pictured) is a big league pitcher for sure as he went 15-8 with a 3.52 ERA last year and is young enough to expect improvement. After Ricky, there’s Josh Johnson, Chris Volstad, Anibal Sanchez, and Andrew Miller. All young, all unproven. Given that the NL East is chock full of experienced hitters I’m unsure just how they’ll do. Marlins prospects seem to be unlimited in their ability to mature quicker than others, so maybe they’ll be ok. In reality, the offense will probably have to carry the load if Florida wants to finish even in fourth place in the division.
Fifth (1.06): The Washington Nationals’ pitching staff is hardly worth mentioning. That organization hasn’t had a decent pitcher since they were in Montreal. Now they’re going to throw John Lannan (pictured), Scott Olsen, Daniel Cabrera. They are decent, but I don’t know that they are anything other than fourth starters on much of the other staffs around the league. Then add Jordan (not Ryan) Zimmermann and Shairon (that’s a dude’s name) Martis and you are looking at a 100 loss season. Is baseball really back in the Nation’s capital? It is if you are counting the visiting team. I’m sorry D.C. fans for being harsh, but pitching is key in this game and the Nationals don’t have it.
All this of course is barring injuries which are key to the success or despair of any team. If Johan or Cole goes down, then the whole landscape changes. From top to bottom I think the Phillies have the best rotation and while the New York Mets don’t exactly have slouches, the staff will lead the Phils to their 3rd division title. Heaven forbid Mike Pelfrey be a bust for the Metropolitans, because if he is, or hits a sophomore snag, then everything will rest on Santana.
One more in the Breaking Down the NL East series….the bullpen.

No comments:

Post a Comment