In what has been the most active offseason in recent memory, a number of MLB teams have made dramatic changes in reshaping their rosters. These reshuffled rosters have shone some light on each organization’s respective philosophy with regard to roster construction, and it has become clear that there are some teams that simply value pitching and defense more than a potent and explosive offensive lineup. These varied philosophies will be put to the test when the 2015 season finally begins, but before it does, a look at the best rotations in all of baseball can be helpful in determining which teams will be contenders and which ones will have an area of weakness when it comes to the players who take the mound each game.
There have been a lot of starting pitching changes, with big-name free agents signing long-term, high-value deals with new teams, trades helping to reshape rotations, and prospects being potentially called up to bolster a team’s starting pitching depth. In ranking the top ten rotations in all of baseball, it is important to weigh each rotation’s recent performance along with the likelihood that they will repeat that performance in 2015. Furthermore, the defense that plays behind each pitcher matters, as the players in the field play a vitally important role in terms of run prevention. A strong rotation can only mask a weak defense so much, so an above-average defensive team will certainly help a rotation in improving their overall ranking.
The age and injury histories of the pitchers that make up each rotation also plays a role in the rankings, as will the available starting pitching depth that each team has at its disposal in the event of an injury. The only significant unknown at this point in the offseason is the team for which James Shields will pitch in 2015, as he is the only starting pitcher remaining – barring any trades – that could be considered a difference-maker in terms of the overall rankings.
10 New York Yankees
This may be something of a surprise, but the Yankees rotation was a lot better than the results indicated a year ago. During a season in which four out of five starters went down with injury, the Yankees were still able to post an xFIP (expected fielder-independent pitching) of 3.47, which was good for fourth-best in the majors in 2014. The Yankees have added Nathan Eovaldi to the mix, a young, high-upside pitcher with a good opportunity for a breakout season in 2015. With the talented Michael Pineda back and Ivan Nova set to return at midseason, there is hope for this rotation yet.
9 San Diego Padres
8 Detroit Tigers
7 New York Mets
6 Cleveland Indians
5 Chicago White Sox
4 St. Louis Cardinals
3 Seattle Mariners
2 Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have what is likely the most talented rotation in all of baseball, but there are some obvious concerns about the durability of those talented members of the pitching staff at the back-end of the rotation. Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke are bona-fide aces and there is no reason to expect anything but excellence from either of them. Hyun-Jin Ryu has been quietly among the best starters in baseball and is very likely a candidate for most underrated. Those three starters helped the Dodgers to lead all of MLB in xFIP in 2014 while finishing second in ERA. That is quite impressive considering the pitchers who filled out the rest of the rotation throughout the 2014 season.
1 Washington Nationals
Even before the Nats added Max Scherzer to their rotation, it was very likely that the Washington franchise could have easily laid claim as the top rotation in all of baseball. This is a rotation that led the league in ERA a year ago, and now that they have added the top free-agent pitcher on a 7-year, $210 million deal, the rotation could be even better. It’s fun to consider the fact that Tanner Roark, who was excellent in 2014 while going 15-10 with a 2.85 ERA, will probably be relegated to a bullpen role, and Gio Gonzalez will be manning the fifth spot in the rotation. Of course, this all presumes that the Nationals do not move one of their pitchers before the season begins, as there have already been rumors that Jordan Zimmermann and even Stephen Strasburg are available via trade.
The Nats are excellent from top to bottom, and they can also withstand any injury to a starter with the depth that they now have at their disposal. It is clear that this is a team that is built to win right now, and this pitching staff may very well be one of the very best ever assembled. It has already been compared to the Braves rotation that dominated the 90s, and is probably the best rotation since the group the Phillies rolled out in the 2011 season. With this group of starters, anything short of a trip to the World Series will certainly seem like a major disappointment.
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