Is The Tampa Bay Rays Starting Rotation Best In American League?

Rays Starting Rotation Poised To Guide Rays Back To Post-Season

Barring injuries the Tampa Bay Rays starting rotation opening the 2014 season will include David Price, Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, Chris Archer, and Jake Odorizzi.

The 2013  rotation never 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.

Keys To Dominance:  David Price, Matt Moore, and Alex Cobb avoid injury while Chris Archer gets a full major league season under his belt.

Wild Card: Jake Odorizzi takes control of the fifth starter role and makes it a difficult decision when Jeremy Hellickson is ready to return from disabled list. 

Detroit Tigers:

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.

Over the winter the Tigers traded Doug Fister (14-9, 3.67 ERA, 208.2IP) and will attempt to replace him with southpaw Drew Smyly (6-0, 2.37 ERA, 63 games, 76 IP).

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. 

Oakland Athletics:

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.

In their place the A’s are going with Tommy Milone (12-9, 4.14 ERA, 156.1 IP) and converted relieve Jesse Chavez (2-4, 3.92 ERA, 35 games, 57.1 IP).

Keys To Dominance: Scott Kazmir takes another step toward resembling the pitcher he was in 2007-2008 with the Tampa Bay Rays and A.J. Griffin returns to form in early May. 

Wild Card: Sonny Gray develops into a top of the rotation pitcher like another lefty from Vanderbilt.

Boston Red Sox:

The Boston Red Sox rotation will be led by Jon Lester who will be followed by Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Felix Doubront, and Jake Peavy.

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:

The New York Yankees rotation will have several new faces on it but could be a formidable group if they can stay healthy. C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, and Ivan Nova return from the 2013 rotation.

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.

Keys To Dominance: Father Time has little affect on CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda. Masahiro Tanaka makes a seamless transition to Major League Baseball. 

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.

Honorable Mention:

Kansas City Royals -James ShieldsJason Vargas, Yordano Ventura, Jeremy Guthrie, and Bruce Chen.

Ervin Santana (9-10, 3.24 ERA, 211 IP) is gone from last years starting staff and the Royals look to get similar production from Jason Vargas (9-8, 4.02, 150 IP).

Keys To Dominance: Yordano Ventura takes the next step with his high powered arsenal and becomes a top of the rotation pitcher to compliment James Shields

Seattle Mariners

Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, and Erasmo Ramirez.

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.

Keys To Dominance: James Paxton & Taijuan Walker, like Yordano Ventura, makes the transition from prospect to relied upon dependable starter.  

 

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