Ranking The AL East Position By Position: Starting Pitching

It’s fair to say that the AL East is the hardest division to pitch in. Apart from the Rays, every team has a very hard-hitting offense and has for several years, even the formerly cellar-dwelling Orioles. However, some teams in this division have managed to piece together very strong pitching rotations and some big acquisitions have been added this offseason.

Oct. 2, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher R.A. Dickey (43) throws during the second inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

1. Toronto Blue Jays: It’s impossible to tell how things will turn out in the season, but on paper, the Toronto Blue Jays have one hell of a pitching rotation. Their pitching struggled mightily in 2012, so what do they do? All they did was trade for 2012′s NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey (20-6, 2.73 in 2012), flame-throwing Josh Johnson (8-14, 3.81 in 2012), and the soft-tossing but consistently good Mark Buehrle (13-13, 3.74). Two of their starters from last year look to remain in the rotation– Brandon Morrow (10-7, 2.96) and Ricky Romero (9-14, 5.77), who is coming off a major down year. If this staff lives up to their potential, the Blue Jays will be near unstoppable in 2013.

Sep 14, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher David Price (14) pitches during the first inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

2. Tampa Bay Rays: Even though the Rays never have a great rotation on paper, they always outdo themselves. They do have AL Cy Young winner David Price (20-5, 2.56) and young phenoms Jeremy Hellickson (10-11, 3.10) and Matt Moore (11-11, 3.81) heading the rotation. Beyond them, however, there are plenty of question marks for the Rays. These question marks are ones any team would love to have though– like which top prospect will be the fourth and fifth starters in the rotation. If I had to guess, I would say Alex Cobb (11-9, 4.03 in 23 starts) and Chris Archer (1-3, 4.60 in 6 appearances). Even if this rotation doesn’t look top notch, mark my words, they will be.

Oct 12, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia throws a pitch in the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles during game five of the 2012 ALDS at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

3. New York Yankees: Like the Rays, the Yankees also have a strong top three to their rotation and then question marks. However, the question marks following those three pitchers are not nearly so optimistic as the Rays’. Still, they do have a very strong top three headlined by C.C. Sabathia (15-6, 3.38), Hiroki Kuroda (16-11, 3.32), and Andy Pettitte (5-4, 2.87 in 12 starts), who at age 40 is not even a sure thing anymore. Beyond the aging stars, they have a couple of young question marks in Ivan Nova (12-8, 5.02) and Michael Pineda (coming off Tommy John Surgery). If Nova and Pineda can get back to their 2011 levels, where they put up 3.70 and 3.74 ERA’s respectively, the Yankees should have a solid rotation. However, if they can’t, then the Yankees will be in a tough place come 2013.

October 3, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Ryan Dempster (46) pitches the ball against the Oakland Athletics during the first inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

4. Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox’ rotation is a very curious case. If they perform up to potential and stay healthy, they could be one of the best quintets in the league. If not, however, they could be what they were last year, when they ranked 12th in the American League as a unit. They have made some changes this offseason, namely signing Ryan Dempster (12-8, 3.38) to a two year deal to replace a black hole in the rotation filled primarily by Aaron Cook in 2012. Their front two pitchers, Jon Lester (9-14, 4.82) and Clay Buchholz (11-8, 4.56) getting back to pre-2012 levels will be a huge first step for the Red Sox. Beyond them, hopefully the strikeout master Felix Doubront‘s development at age 25 will continue and John Lackey will return nicely from Tommy John Surgery. Overall, though, the Red Sox’ season should hinge on the performance of Lester and Buchholz.

October 3, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Chris Tillman (30) throws a pitch in the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

5. Baltimore Orioles: All told, it was kind of amazing how the Orioles were a playoff contender in 2012 given the shoddy shape of their rotation. Everyone in the rotation besides Jake Arrieta (3-9, 6.20) performed above expectations, and it’s not easy to say they’ll do so again. Longtime journeyman Jason Hammel (8-6, 3.43) was very effective before going down with injury, Japanese import Wei-Yin Chen (12-11, 4.02) was very good, and aging prospects Chris Tillman (9-3, 2.93) and Miguel Gonzalez (9-4, 3.25) came up to the majors and performed brilliantly. Tillman and maybe Gonzalez have the stuff to get by, but I wouldn’t count on any of the others having sustained success in the AL East.

Topics: AL East

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  • http://www.facebook.com/david.trigaux David Trigaux

    This article is simply ridiculous

    1. The Jays rotation isn’t as fearsome as listed when Johnson can’t stay healthy, and Romero/Morrow have been trending downward. They are better than the Sox and Orioles, but not the Rays or Yankess.
    2. The Rays section leaves out Jeff Niemann, who is quite talented, and will be the 5th starter barring an injury.
    3. The Yankee section also leaves out Phil Hughes, the probable fifth starter. Recent reports have Pineda out til August at the best. Furthermore, this section also ignores the injury potential of Pettitte, Sabathia, and Hughes.
    4. The Orioles section assumes that Chen, a veteran of many years in Japan with a proven track record of success, is a fluke.
    5. The question of depth is ignored, as injuries are commonplace, and only the Reds avoided having any starter miss significant time last year. In this regard, the Jays are paper thin, having traded away all prospects close to the majors, the Yankees have David Phelps and…?, the Sox have a few up and coming arms, the Rays have Odorizzi, Archer and Colome, as major league ready prospects, plus Fausto Carmona/Roberto Hernandez in the bullpen, and the Orioles have tons of arms of approximately equal value
    The bottom line is that the Rays have a better rotation, followed by as much as I hate to say it, the Yankees, then the Jays, Sox, and Orioles.

    • Kurt

      haha Morrow trending downward? If he didn’t get hurt, he would have been in cy young voting last year. He has been getting better basically every year since transitioning to an everyday starter. He honestly may have some of the best stuff of the entire group. The blue jays are 100% better than the yankees, maybe the rays are a toss up. And as for Rickey, yes last year was bad, but he had a lingering injury that was bothering him most of the year and it was cleaned up in the offseason. Again, every year before this he was just getting better. It would not be a stretch to call him a #2 pitcher in most rotations. The blue jays rotation is much better than you give it credit for. Oh, and if anyone does go down, they have J.A Happ waiting starting in triple A, just someone who has been pitching as a starter consistently in the big leagues for three years now. He took a demotion because of the acquisition of Dickey. And as for if Johnson goes down? I still take Dickey, Morrow, Buehrle, Romero, and Happ over the Yankees rotation. Oh, and Hutchison, and someone named Kyle Drabek will be coming back from injury mid season. To say that there is zero depth is mistaken. From 1-5 the blue jays have the deepest rotation in baseball right now, maybe not the #1, but it certainly is the deepest in my opinion.

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