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.
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”.
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?