NL East Rotations

Currently constructed, we know that the Mets starting rotation does not compare favorably to the best of the National League. That said, we won’t worry right now about how they might match up in a short series with the Diamondbacks (Brandon Webb, Danny Haren), Padres (Jake Peavy, Chris Young), or other teams with strong one-two punches. Instead, we’ll take a look at how the NL East is looking at the moment.

1. John Smoltz | 2. Tim Hudson | 3. Tom Glavine
4. Chuck James | 5. Mike Hampton / Jair Jurrjens.

Ouch. The Smoltz / Hudson tandem is right up there with Webb / Haren, Peavy / Young, Penny / Lowe, and just about any other one-two in the league. Further, they have Glavine in the three hole — disheartening to us since he was more or less the Mets’ #1 last year. Their #4, Chuck James, is no slouch either — he’s a work in progress who might be ready to break out much the way John Maine did last season. If Hampton can stay healthy, he’s a fine #5, and if he doesn’t, Jurrjens is supposedly ahead of Mike Pelfrey. Yes, the Braves will have some troubles with their bullpen, but we’re focusing on the impact of the starters here — and Atlanta has, potentially, the toughest one through five the Mets will see from anyone. At the same time, they’re relying heavily on Smoltz and Glavine — two rapidly aging hurlers — to keep up their pace. If one or both falter, Hudson has one of his “off” years, Hampton remains a lost cause, and Jurrjens doesn’t live up to the advance billing … well, it could be a long year for Bobby Cox.

1. Cole Hamels | 2. Brett Myers | 3. Kyle Kendrick
4. Jamie Moyer | 5. Adam Eaton

Once again, a tough one-two “punch” (pun intended) in Hamels / Myers. Now we know why the Mets are so hot on Johan Santana’s tail — the thought of a reconstructed Pedro Martinez and always ailing El Duque may not strike fear in batters’ hearts the way opposing aces might. Luckily, there isn’t much after Myers — and there’s no guarantee Myers will produce the way everyone thinks. After all, his best years thus far are less impressive than what John Maine and Oliver Perez accomplished in 2007; while he has a world of talent, he has yet to make the most of it. Similarly, Hamels is incredibly gifted, but needs to prove he can hang around for 200 innings to reach elite status. Kendrick was a sleeper last year, and might be exposed in 2008 after only 20 MLB starts in ’07. Moyer doesn’t scare anyone, but still managed 14 wins, 26 decisions, and 200 innings — he’s fine as a #4 or #5. Eaton is the worst starting pitcher in baseball, and could be even worse in 2008.

Florida Marlins
1. Scott Olsen | 2. Sergio Mitre | 3. Andrew Miller
4. Rick Vandenhurk | 5. Ricky Nolasco

On the surface, the exit of D-Train makes the Marlins rotation seem extremely vulnerable; any team that has loose cannon Scott Olsen as an ace would appear to be in big trouble. However, looking at the rotation as a whole, you see two things: impressive raw talent and promising youth. Both Olsen and Nolasco have the kind of skill / brain combination that make scouts simultaneously drool and pound their head against the wall. Mitre is misplaced as a #2 but should fit in nicely at the back end when the others advance — or he’ll be out of a job if Anibal Sanchez can get healthy. Miller is the stud of the group, but hopefully two to three years away from domination. And before you judge Vandenhurk to be the next Adam Eaton, understand that he is 23 years old and was a catcher in the Netherlands until 2002. To move as quickly as he has says quite a bit about his athleticism and future. Overall, the Marlins are not a team to fear, but their pitching staff will have significant, talent-driven “ups” to go with the “downs”.

Washington Nationals
1. Shawn Hill | 2. Jason Bergmann | 3. John Patterson?
4. Matt Chico | 5. Tim Redding / Tyler Clippard

I don’t care how many outfielders they have — this team is going to lose a lot of games. Hill, Bergmann, and Patterson all have injury issues, and the rest of the rotation is downright scary. Now it makes sense as to acquiring Lastings Milledge and Elijah Dukes to go with holdovers Austin Kearns and Wily Mo Pena — they’ll need at least four flycatchers patrolling the outfield pasture with these characters chucking from the hill. The only question is whether they’ll sacrifice an infielder to get the extra guy out there or try to put one over on the umpires.

Our New York Mets
1. Pedro Martinez | 2. El Duque | 3. John Maine
4. Oliver Perez | 5. Mike Pelfrey

It’s funny that everyone has El Duque pegged for the bullpen after establishing himself as the Mets’ best starter least season. True, he pitched less than 150 innings and had only 14 decisions, but he was the pitching version of Moises Alou — when healthy, he was tough to beat. We’ll pray that Pedro’s new shoulder can handle a full season. If Maine and Perez do what they did last year, I’ll be ecstatic — and there’s a chance one or both will be even better. Pelfrey — or Phil Humber or Kevin Mulvey — needs to make the next step and grab the #5 spot. In short, this is a rotation of four #3 starters and a scared kid rounding out the the back end. On the one hand, Maine could be the best #3 starter and Perez could be the best #4 in baseball. On the other hand, there’s a good chance the Mets will be overmatched in nearly every series that pits each team’s #1 and #2 head-to-head. Who knows — maybe Pedro will come all the way back and be a magician. But I’d rest a lot easier if he didn’t have to be the ace.


Yes, there’s more to a pitching staff than the starting rotation … the bullpen, for example. But it’s too early to guess as to what each team’s relief corps will look like (ask me in, say, July), and this is meaningless, preliminary banter to get us warmed up for the day that pitchers and catchers report. Seriously though, don’t we all look at the starting pitching matchup when trying to figure out which team is going to win? Of course … and there’s something to be said for the mental effect on hitters when they know a particular pitcher is beginning the game on the mound — for better or worse. The 162-game season is broken up into dozens of 3-game series (with a few 4- and 2-gamers mixed in), and when we predict wins or losses, most of our prognosis is based on the starters. So this exercise gives us an overview of what we’ll probably be seeing dozens of times in 2008.

What do you think? How do the Mets’ starters match up?

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. isuzudude January 16, 2008 at 9:26 am
    I would say your projections are pretty accurate, Joe. The Marlins and Nationals rotations could include a few different names as mentioned, but in the scope of things we really only need to concern ourselves with the Mets, Phillies, and Braves. I think it’s important to keep in mind that games aren’t won on paper, and no matter how tough the 1-2 punch of Smoltz/Hudson looks, or how weak the back end of the Phillies’ staff appears, anything can happen over the course of 162 games. So though our only way of determining NL East favorites is to compare players head-to-head at this point, it’s also not a rock solid way of predicting the best team of the division. It’s fun to look over and discuss, don’t get me wrong. I just don’t want the anxious among us to immediately throw up their hands in defeat in January because the Mets don’t appear to have enough starting pitching to be successful without acquiring another big arm.
  2. skibolton January 16, 2008 at 9:59 am
    While the mets starters may not have the best 1-2 punch in the NL east, I think that the team’s defense and bullpen depth is something that should at least even things out between the division. While wagner has the occasional melt down in the 9th, I don’t think soriano or lidge would be considered as good a closer. I definately would take the rest of the mets pen as a whole over the phillies or definately the braves. I definately prefer the mets defense to either the phils or braves. Because of that, I’d guess it is more likely to see maine and perez with 15+ wins than guys like kendrick and james. I also like pelfrey’s chances of having a real good season if he just relaxes. I think pedro had a nice influence on him at the end of the year. Glavine liked to pick at the corners, and when pelfrey was doing that at the start of the season, he got killed. During the two stretches he had pedro around last year (spring training and then september), he looked very good. I think pelfrey pitches more like pedro than glavine, and will really benefit from having him around. I personally won’t be as concerned if we don’t get santana or bedard, I think that by mid-season guys like martinez, gomez, guerra, and niese will have had a chance to develop more value as chips. I think it’s safe to assume that at least the O’s and A’s will be out of the hunt by then…Quite probably the Twins and Blue Jays as well. If the tigers, sox and yankees start hot, and the indians don’t, sabathia could be available as well. I have to think that the mets could get better value by waiting until mid-season. I’d love to have johan, but I think the team’s pitching depth is easily good enough to have them in contention on july 31. 1-5 depth is much more important right now than worrying about a short series in october.
  3. isuzudude January 16, 2008 at 10:32 am
    I agree with all, skibo. Nice to see you writing again. I particularly like the Pelfrey/Pedro synopsis and the fact that the Mets may indeed be better off waiting until mid-season to pull off a trade instead of now to allow their prospects more time to gain value, and for teams like the Twins and Blue Jays, with Johan and Burnett, to get more desperate to unload their soon-to-be free agents.
  4. joe January 16, 2008 at 10:48 am
    Ski, I second the motion — good point on the Pelfrey relationships with Pedro and Glavine. It’s too bad Pelf doesn’t hang out with Brandon Webb or Josh Beckett in the winter to soak up some wisdom.

    Isuzu, I agree that games aren’t won on paper … I wrote this partially for myself, to get a broad idea of where the Mets’ pitching stands right now in relation to others in the NL East. The supposed urgency to get an ace — particularly the recent comments by Willie Randolph on the SNY Hot Stove Report — motivated me to investigate why the Mets and others feel Johan Santana is so important an acquisition.

    Even after seeing the other teams with 1-2 punches, I still like the Mets’ rotation. Although they appear to be aceless, I don’t see too many teams with a #3 and a #4 with the ability of Maine and Perez — even if you say one of them is our #2, I think El Duque is better than most #3s. So maybe in a short series, the Mets could be overmatched, but every three out of four, and four out of five, games — over the long haul — I’m liking the Mets’ chances. (Did that make any sense?)

  5. skibolton January 16, 2008 at 10:54 am
    Sorry, I haven’t checked in in a while…I didn’t take my laptop on vacation with me.