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NL rotation rankings

D'backs, Dodgers stockpiling best arms for 2008

Posted: Thursday December 20, 2007 12:08PM; Updated: Thursday December 20, 2007 3:19PM
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With the addition of A's hurler Dan Haren this offseason, Arizona has the makings of one of the game's best rotations in 2008.
With the addition of A's hurler Dan Haren this offseason, Arizona has the makings of one of the game's best rotations in 2008.
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Try as they might, National League teams can't bulletproof their starting rotations.

By acquiring 2007 Oakland All-Star Danny Haren and '06 Japanese Central League ERA titlist Hiroki Kuroda in the past week, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers, respectively, showed their determination to develop an indomitable arsenal of starting pitchers. And yet, still there are no guarantees.

During the 2007 stretch run, I wrote about how hard it was for even contending teams to field a starting rotation that wasn't at least a partial embarrassment. Injuries were wiping out pitchers on virtually every team.

Well, here we are in December. Arms are healing across the country. Free agents have begun finding new homes. Top prospects are poised to ascend to the bigs. And still there aren't enough arms to go around, though the Diamondbacks and Dodgers are doing their best to corner the market.

The community at Dodger Thoughts helped assemble a list of virtually every potential starting pitcher on an N.L. roster. (We'll look at the American League later in the week.) To get a sense of which teams had the strongest rotations, I awarded each pitcher points based on the following categories (looking at three-year trends, with the most weight on the 2007 season):

• 0 points: below-average pitcher
• 1 point: mystery pitcher -- wildly inconsistent pitcher or above-average recent track record but with dubious health
• 1 point: young, up-and-coming minor-league pitcher with above-average potential in 2008
• 2 points: average to above-average pitcher
• 3 points: above-average pitcher
• 4 points: super above-average pitcher

Now, there are certain to be quibbles about the choices I made in assigning point values -- in fact, the entire point system is rather arbitrary. There's a built-in margin for error -- because of how difficult it is to predict future performance, even with the best projections. These are not meant to be scientific.

Instead, the rankings hopefully offer a general idea of which teams are -- pending the resolution of this winter's Hot Stove League -- best prepared to handle the starting pitching challenges of '08.

Here's how they look, team-by-team.

Arizona Diamondbacks (16 points)

• Super above-average (4): Brandon Webb
• Above-average (6): Danny Haren, Micah Owings
• Average to above-average (2): Doug Davis
• Mystery (1): Randy Johnson
• Up-and-coming (3): Yusmeiro Petit, Esmerling Vasquez, Max Scherzer
• Below-average (0): Edgar Gonzalez, Dustin Nippert

Comment: The acquisition Friday of Haren appeared to vault Arizona to the top. But even with the ex-Oakland hurler alongside the superb Webb (and the slugging Owings, whose hot hitting lifts him to the above-average category), the Diamondbacks won't intimidate you at the back end of the rotation -- at least until one of their prospects matures or Johnson shows he can stay healthy at age 44. Even a great group like this is fallible.

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