AL rotation rankings
Angels, Red Sox lead the pack; Rays will surprise
Posted: Friday December 21, 2007 1:27PM; Updated: Friday December 21, 2007 1:27PM
It's hard not to look at even the best American League starting rotations and see question marks where you'd prefer exclamation points.
When the top staff in the league can't even find five experienced arms, when the second-best rotation will hold its breath to see if a 41-year-old has another solid year, and when perhaps the best staff in the entire league by season's end could be ... gasp ... Tampa Bay, you can be sure no team is going to be completely satisfied with its starting pitching.
Recently, I offered a general method for ranking which National League pitching staffs were best prepared to handle the 162-game season, when five pitchers are never enough. We're going to try the same thing now with the AL, using the same point system:
0 points: below-average pitcher
Note: The most weight was given to the 2007 season, but a three-year period was studied. Players were ranked in part by using such stats as ERA+, K/9, BB/9, H/9, HR/9, scouting reports and health history. Again, the ranking system isn't as much about precision then it is about providing an overview of the quality and depth of a team's starting rotation. (Thanks again to the online community that assisted with the research; a multitude of opinions can only help.)
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (17 points)
Elite (4 points): John Lackey
Comment: The Angels have a starting staff that most teams envy, even the Red Sox, who bounced Los Angeles from the playoffs last October. Lackey is an underrated ace, while Weaver, Saunders, Santana and Moseley -- all 26 or under -- are at crucial stages in their development. The 21-year-old Adenhart could get called upon in the second half.
Boston Red Sox (16 points)
Elite (4): Josh Beckett
Comment: Beckett gets elite status thanks to a fine 2007 season and extraordinary postseason, but as recently as 2006 he was below average, so consistency is a concern. He enters 2008 as a perfectly valid ace on a top-notch staff. Buchholz and Lester should ease any concerns over the aging Schilling and Wakefield.
Cleveland Indians (16 points)
Elite (4): C.C. Sabathia
Comment: Cy Young-winner Sabathia leads a deep staff that is not without its question marks. Carmona, Lee, and Sowers don't have a long track record of success, and the rest of the rotation doesn't strike out many batters. The up-and-comers have a long way to go to prove themselves, making this group vulnerable to disappointment.
Tampa Bay Rays (14 points)
Elite (4): Scott Kazmir
Comment: Tampa Bay has a significant stash of noteworthy young pitchers, and there's no reason to think some can't start contributing this year, especially Garza, whom they acquired from the Twins in an offseason trade.
Toronto Blue Jays (14 points)
Elite (4): Roy Halladay
Comment: This rotation gets overshadowed in the AL East by the star power in New York and Boston, but all five spots here are solid. Will Halladay -- who yielded more than a hit an inning in 2007 for the first time since an injury-shortened 2004 -- fall into from the elite category by the end of this year?
Minnesota Twins (13 points)
Elite (4): Johan Santana
Comment: Liriano's successful return from injury, especially if he resembles his dominant rookie self of 2006, would give the Twins a worthy front four. And there's a little help on the way as well from the kids. But all bets are off until the Santana trade talk is resolved.