Thursday, May 22, 2008

Best Pitchers in the AL East?

I just posted this article on DRaysBay.com and it got added to the main article section, so I figured I'd should re-post it over here as well. I think it mostly got posted because it was an attempt to stop people from endlessly debating which pitcher is better, Sonnanstine or Jackson. I swear, arguments on DRaysBay can end up going in circles because some of the commenters refuse to accept the other point of view or at least concede some points. But anyway, here's the article:

To help distract us from more pointless Sonnanstine/Jackson debates, I figured I'd post something that's been on my mind for a little bit. After watching Kazmir pitch last night and seeing how well Shields has been pitching this year, I couldn't but think that we've got one of, if not the best, 1-2 punch in all of the AL East. Let's think about this...

Rays
#1: Scott Kazmir
#2: James Shields
This may seem weird to say after Kaz's really awesome performance last night, but if you ask me, I feel like Shields is quickly developing into our staff ace. He has already assumed a vocal team leadership role on this team, taught Percy and Kazmir his change-up, and has put up really impressive numbers so far this season. He's also had one of the most dominant outings from any (Devil) Ray pitcher, he's pitched multiple complete games already, he doesn't walk many batters, and he is much more economical with his pitches than Kazmir. Of course, Kaz looked much more economical last night and could be poised for a big break-out year himself. Thoughts? Opinions? Who will be our staff ace by the end of the year? Personally, as weird as it may sound, I currently feel more secure with Shields on the mound than Kazmir.

Boston
#1: Josh Beckett
#2: Dice-K
Beckett is just...well, awesome. But Dice-K is not the staff ace that Boston thought they were paying for when they put up that $50M posting fee. He had a 4+ ERA last year and although he currently has a 2.50 ERA this year, his K:BB ratio is screaming that his ERA is bound to rise soon. Heck, he's walked 8 hitters in one game this year, which is just absolutely ridiculous. Then again, Dice-K did have a much better K:BB ratio last year than he does this year, so that will probably improve some as well. This is up for debate (depending on how much you like Dice-K and how much you think Kaz and Shields will improve this year), but I personally say advantage Rays.

Orioles
#1: Jeremy Guthrie
#2: Daniel Cabrera
Okay....is this the year that young, chronically wild flamethrowers finally find the strikezone? So far, it's certainly looking good for Jackson and Cabrera. While I'm still not completely sold on either of them, they are certainly looking like they're making improvements and who knows? This could be the year these guys finally put it together and if so, watch out AL. However, despite all that, this duo still has nothing on Kaz and Shields. Too unproven and heck, who is Jeremy Guthrie?

Jays
#1: Roy Halladay
#2: AJ Burnett
Roy Halladay is probably one of the most underrated pitchers in the league, simply because he pitches in Canada and well, those Blue Jay never get any love. He's a model of consistency since he first broke into the league, almost always posting ERAs in the low 3s. Burnett, on the other hand, is brilliant when healthy, but he's certainly had a hard time with that since joining the Blue Jays. He has yet to get over 30 starts in one season with the Blue Jays and over the course of his career, he's only topped 30 starts in two seasons. However, he is a heck of a pitcher when healthy. This year he hasn't been that effective yet (4.79 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 49:27 K:BB), but I think he has too much talent not to turn it around as long as he's healthy. However, both Burnett and Halladay are currently 31 and most likely beyond their peak years. While they'll probably still be effective for some years, Shields is 26 and Kaz is 24, plus their both locked up by the Rays for years to come. I think that fact alone gives the advantage to the Rays.

Yankees
#1: Ching Ming-Wang
#2: Andy Pettite
Wang is a true ace, despite him not being a strikeout pitcher. However, the Yankee rotation ends there. Andy Pettite (36 years old) and Mike Mussina (39 years old) in slots 2 and 3? Sure, they're still decent pitchers, but nothing like how they were in their peaks. If the Yankees get Hughes back on the right track or switch Joba to the rotation, then maybe they'll be able to challenge Kaz and Shields. As of now, though, they simply don't have the depth. The Yankee rotation is just a mess at the moment.

Okay...so that was nowhere near a systematic analysis or anything, but I think if you look up the stats, they'll back up many of my conclusions. I was just feeling too lazy tonight to put a bunch of stats in. But anyway, thoughts? Which 1-2 punch do you think is the best this year? The best to build a franchise around? Also, because I'm really curious, who do you think is our staff ace...Shields or Kazmir?

2 comments:

Gregory said...

Beckett has been inconsistent and Dice K has been pretty much absent since May. Regardless of these disappointments the solid pitching performances from Masterson, Wakefield, and Lester will propel the Red Sox to their second consecutive AL Crown in '08. The Rays have shown some promise but I doubt they can continue their success for another 80 games.

Joe Cook said...

The Blue Jays have had incredible consistency from their pitching thus far in 2008. That is not the problem with that team. The job of a pitching staff is to give their team a chance to win, and Halladay and company have done that repeatedly. The team simply doesn't score.

Greg is right about the Sox. Beckett has been inconsistent and Dice K has been absent. Wakefield has been up and down, but that's to be expected from a knuckleballer. Masterson and Lester have been impressive, and I do believe the Sox will hold on to win the division.

The Orioles are a team I admittedly haven't followed, but their record is much better than I and many other people expected at this point in the season. Their pitching must be performing fairly well, but they have won a number of high-scoring affairs.

The Yankees are going to struggle in the long run due to the recent injury to Wang, which will keep him out until September. Chamberlain was impressive yesterday, so they hope that will continue, but it would be helpful to see him defeat a team of higher quality than the Pirates. Dan Geis [sp.?] has been solid in his appearences so far filling in, but soon it will show why it has taken him until beyond age 30 to reach the Majors. The offense is responsible for this team surviving the failures of Kennedy and Hughes.

I've been very impressed by the Rays. Edwin Jackson and Andy Sonnanstine have given surprisingly strong performances. Kazmir has been as-advertised (bringing great pain to me and all other Mets fans), and Shields is establishing himself as one of the best in the league. And Garza has given them solid returns on that trade. At the moment, my rankings of best starting rotations in the AL East would be:

1) Tampa Bay Rays
2) Toronto Blue Jays
3) Boston Red Sox
4) New York Yankees
5) Baltimore Orioles