Sunday, April 5, 2009

NL East Preview Week 9: Starting Pitching

It's Opening Day, time for baseball, and for the pitching staff rankings. There are too many player to list all the stats, and I'm making this a bit less in depth than my previous rankings.

The Phillies actually have the deepest rotation in the division, at least at the start of the season. There aren't too many holes or question marks, and should someone falter, a very capable JA Happ is waiting and ready to join the rotation. Led by World Series MVP Cole Hamels, they also have bulldog Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer, Joe Blanton and Chan Ho Park. Hamels is one of the more dominant pitchers in the game and features the second best change-up in MLB. Myers is in better shape and if he pitches anywhere near what he did after returning from the Minors, the team will be in great shape. Moyer just doesn't seem to want to go away, and will likely be baffling hitters when he's 80. Blanton emerged as a strong back of the rotation pitcher, and Park pitched himself into the fifth spot with a tremendous spring. The Phillies are very strong at the top of the rotation with Hamels, but what sets them apart from other teams is how deep and consistent they are at the back-end.

The Florida Marlins have a very strong rotation, and their top three can compete with just about any other rotation in baseball. Their biggest question mark lies in the back of the rotation with Annibal Sanchez and Andrew Miller. Ricky Nolasco, Josh Johnson and Chris Volstad fill out the top of the rotation, which is one of Florida's biggest strengths. Nolasco burst upon the scene last year, with a devastating curve ball. Johnson and Volstad are both big, power pitchers and should wreak havoc on opposing lineups this season. Sanchez struggled last season after coming back from an injury, and Miller has major control problems. If those two develop into stud pitchers as well, Florida could have the best rotation in the NL East.

Atlanta's revamped rotation looks strong heading into 2009. With Derek Lowe taking the ball tonight, ground balls are sure to ensue. Following him are Jair Jurrjens, Javier Vazquez and Kenshin Kawakami. Jurrjens was terrific last season, and Vazquez has been a workhorse for the White Sox for years. How Kawakami adjusts to American baseball remains to be seen, as does Atlanta's fifth starter. The top of the rotation is talented and set, but the Braves have some questions at the back-end.

The Mets have one of the game's most dominating pitchers in Johan Santana, but several inconsistent starts follow: Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez, John Maine and Livan Hernandez. 2-4 have all shown dominance for New York, and they've all struggled through stretches. Hernandez used to be an innings eater, but it's unlikely he will maintain his reputation as he's older and hasn't been pitching nearly as much.

The Nationals simply have a pretty bad rotation, even after adding a few new names. John Lannan is followed by Scott Olsen, Daniel Cabrera, Shairo Martis and Jordan Zimmerman. Another group of inconsistent pitchers; Zimmerman is supposed to be the real deal. He could be a star in the making, but it's a shame he's playing in Washington.

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