Is The Tampa Bay Rays Starting Rotation Best In American League?
Rays Starting Rotation Poised To Guide Rays Back To Post-Season
The 2013 rotationnever quite came together as injuries to David Price, Matt Moore, and Alex Cobb along with the ineffectiveness of Jeremy Hellickson and Roberto Hernandez led to the lowest number of innings pitched (8th in AL with 965.1 innings) by a Rays staff since logging 932.2 in 2007.
Hellickson (171.2 innings) and Hernandez (142.2) combined to make 55 of the teams starts, accounted for nearly a third of the total innings (314.1) logged by the starting rotation, and combined to post a record of 17-23 with a 5.13 ERA.
Despite the injuries and ineffectiveness of the duo of Hellickson and Hernandez the starting pitching staff still finished third in the American League in ERA (3.81) and fourth in FIP (3.89).
This certainly is an indication of the impressive arms that led the Rays as they once again won 90+ games and found themselves in the post-season.
The Tigers rotation remains the most formidable challenger to the Rays rotation as it returns reigning Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, two-time Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, and Rick Porcello.
Keys To Dominance: Justin Verlander returns to form of 2011/2012 (higher K & GB rates, lower walk rate)
Wild Card: Drew Smyly can make the transition from reliever to starter.
The Oakland Athletics allowed Bartolo Colon (18-6, 2.65 ERA, 190.1 IP) to hit the free agent market and he signed on with the New York Mets.
In order to replace Colon the A's signed left-hander Scott Kazmir (10-9, 4.04 ERA, 158IP) who spent last season with the Cleveland Indians.
Kazmir was to join A.J. Griffin, Jarrod Parker, Sonny Gray, and Dan Straily but Parker is going to miss the 2014 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery for a second time and Griffin will be out until mid-May with shoulder soreness.
Wild Card: Sonny Gray develops into a top of the rotation pitcher like another lefty from Vanderbilt.
Boston Red Sox:
Ryan Dempster (8-9, 4.57 ERA, 171.1 IP) gave the Red Sox additional depth in the rotation but he chose to take the 2014 season off to spend time with his family.
Keys To Dominance: Clay Buchholz stays healthy and fulfills the promise he showed in just 16 starts in 2013 (12-1, 1.74 ERA).
Wild Card: Jake Peavy remains healthy and productive and gives the Red Sox 200 innings.
New York Yankees:
Andy Pettite (11-11, 3.74 ERA, 185.1 IP) has retired (this time for real) and Phil Hughes (4-14, 5.19 ERA, 145.2 IP) departed signing with the Minnesota Twins as a free agent.
Over the winter the Yankees signed Masahiro Tanaka who pitched to a 24-0 record with a 1.27 ERA covering 212 innings with the Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Japan Professional Pacific League.
Filling out the Yankees rotation will be Michael Pineda who has missed the last two seasons with shoulder injuries. His last full season in the majors was back in 2011 with the Seattle Mariners when he went 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA covering 171 innings of work.
Wild Card: After waiting two years Michael Pineda returns to his 2011 form and provides the Yankees excellent production at the end of their rotation.
The M's rotation listed above will have to wait until May to come together as Iwakuma will start the year on the disabled list with a strained finger and Walker with a sore shoulder. Both pitchers are coming along in their rehab and are expected to make full recoveries.