The trade deadline has come and gone. All that is left is possibly waiver wire trades that could include someone like Cliff Lee being dealt but major moves have been made before the four o’clock deadline today. With David Price headed to the Tigers and Jon Lester headed to the A’s, playoff contending teams have bolstered their rotations to make a strong push to propel their teams forward into the race for October baseball. If the playoffs started today, there would be some top notch rotations in competition. Here is my list of the top five rotations if the playoffs started today.
(Note: Because of the tight race for the National League Wild Card spots, I have included the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates in my scope of teams to choose from. The * indicates that they’ve been newly acquired through trade.)
5. Washington Nationals
Stephen Strasburg – (7-9) 3.55 ERA
Jordan Zimmerman – (6-5) 3.17 ERA
Doug Fister – (10-2) 2.69 ERA
Gio Gonzalez – (6-6) 3.56 ERA
Tanner Roark – (11-6) 2.74 ERA
In the playoffs, teams like to go with the four man rotation. The Nationals will have a tough decision when deciding on that fourth starter. Roark has pitched really well but is a young guy. Gonzalez hasn’t pitched up to his talent but is a veteran in the league. Do you go with the numbers or the experience?
4. St. Louis Cardinals
Adam Wainwright (13-5) 1.92 ERA
Lance Lynn (11-8) 2.98 ERA
*John Lackey (11-7) 3.60 ERA
*Justin Masterson (4-6) 5.51 ERA
Shelby Miller (7-8) 4.20 ERA
(Michael Wacha (5-5) 2.79 ERA)
With the new additions, the Cardinals rotation has definitely gotten interesting. Wacha is currently on the DL but if all goes the way the Cardinals hope, Wacha might be able to return to the rotation in September. If he is able to return, the Cardinals would definitely need to be higher in this list. I would imagine it would be a playoff rotation consisting of Wainwright, Lynn, Lackey and Wacha with Wacha being second or third in the rotation.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
Clayton Kershaw (12-2) 1.76 ERA
Zack Greinke (12-6) 2.65 ERA
Hyun-Jin Ryu (12-5) 3.44 ERA
Dan Haren (8-8) 4.49 ERA
Josh Beckett (6-5) 2.74 ERA
If this was a normal world, this would be the top rotation in the league. They have a great ace in Kershaw who is arguably the best pitcher in baseball partnered with a solid number two starter in Greinke who could easily be a number one on some other teams in the league. Ryu is a solid number three starter and if followed by two veterans who are past their prime but are still effective. I mean, Beckett threw a no hitter this year against the Phillies. Experience mixed with top notch talent makes for an awesome rotation for the playoffs but the next two teams are just plan ridiculous. As I said, in a normal baseball world, this would be a top two rotation.
2. Detroit Tigers
Max Scherzer (13-3) 3.27 ERA
*David Price (11-8) 3.11 ERA
Justin Verlander (9-9) 4.79 ERA
Anibal Sanchez (7-5) 3.57 ERA
Rick Porcello (12-5) 3.24 ERA
This rotation has three aces with Scherzer, Price and Verlander. Verlander has had a surprising off year but time will tell if he can bring some clutch performances in the playoffs. In the playoffs, Verlander is (7-5) with a 3.28 ERA. This rotation is going to be very dangerous in the playoffs no matter who the fourth starter is.
1. Oakland Athletics
*Jon Lester (10-7) 2.52 ERA
*Jeff Samardzija (4-8) 2.92 ERA
*Jason Hammel (8-9) 3.87 ERA
Sonny Gray (13-3) 2.65 ERA
Scott Kazmir (12-3) 2.37 ERA
Jesse Chavez (8-7) 3.44 ERA
I have no idea what they are going to do with Chavez, but I can’t imagine the rotation for the playoffs not being Lester, Samardzija, Gray and then Kazmir to round it out. With that rotation, every starter for them would have a sub three ERA. That’s the reason I have them at number one. If you’d match them against the Tigers, I’d take the A’s based on the fact that Lester has already beaten the Tigers lineup in the playoffs before, Gray is a better pitcher this year than Verlander is and I’d give Kazmir the advantage over Sanchez or Porcello. Samardzija hasn’t pitched in the playoffs before so I’m uncertain about how he’d handle it so I give the advantage there to Price. Price is (2-2) with a 3.69 ERA against the A’s in his career and Samardzija has never faced the dangerous Tiger lineup. It’s a very close call but I’m giving it to the A’s.