Thursday, January 30, 2014

Where do the Reds rank among the top rotations in the National League?


It's been the key ingredient of successful baseball teams since the dawn of the sport's creation. Without good pitching, teams usually end up on the wrong side of the scoreboard more times than not.

The logic behind building a strong pitching staff is not unfathomable. Teams who boast good pitching limit runs scored by opposing teams, thus making the amount of runs needed to win much lower.

Over the past two seasons, few National League franchises have been better at preventing runs than the Cincinnati Reds. They allowed the fourth-fewest runs in 2013 on the heels of allowing the least amount of runs to cross the dish in 2012. It's true that a bulk of this success can be attributed to Cincinnati's elite bullpen. But the starting rotation deserves much of the credit, as well.

As we approach the beginning of the 2014 season, it appears the Reds will once again be among the best pitching staffs in the league, with the emphasis for the sake of this article being on their starting rotation. Losing Bronson Arroyo will be a tough pill to swallow, but southpaw Tony Cingrani seems to be more than capable of filling Arroyo's shoes. Additionally, Mat Latos, Mike Leake, and Homer Bailey add legitimacy to the rotation, with a presumably healthy Johnny Cueto destined to stay injury-free in order to round out the starting five.

So, thinking about the outlook of the team's pitching got me wondering, where exactly do the Reds belong in the order of best rotations in the National League? A brief scan of the web revealed that many have high expectations for Cincy's rotation, while others are rather bearish in their prognostications. With these in mind, here is how I would rank the top (projected) starting rotations in the league:

5) Pittsburgh Pirates: Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Edinson Volquez, Wandy Rodriguez

4) Washington Nationals: Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman, Doug Fister, Ross Detwiler

3) Cincinnati Reds: Mat Latos, Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, Mike Leake, Tony Cingrani

2) Los Angeles Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dan Haren, Josh Beckett

1) St. Louis Cardinals: Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly

My apologies to the Atlanta Braves who just missed the cut.

A few quick notes...

+ I think Pittsburgh will once again have a strong rotation. But (most likely) losing a productive veteran starter like A.J. Burnett is going to be tough to replace.

+ Fister will be a nice addition to an already talented Washington rotation. But can these guys stay healthy long enough to reach their full potential?

+ Is there a better 1-2 punch in the league than Kershaw-Greinke? That's debatable, I guess. But their rotation is stacked with veterans, with pitchers like Chad Billingsley waiting in the wings in case something goes awry.

+ It's not easy proclaiming a division rival having the best starting five. But it is what it is. St. Louis has an ungodly amount of young pitching at its disposal and they are only going to improve with experience.

So, there you have it. I believe the Reds possess the third-best starting rotation in the National League, trailing only the Dodgers and Cardinals, who not surprisingly, finished 1-2 in team ERA last season. Do you agree with my ranking? If not, what do you think the top five should look like?

Photo Credit: SB Nation

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