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The folks over at The Sporting News have noticed the nice little starting rotation the Jays have assembled. The current issue of TSN magazine boasts a two-page spread entitled "Focus on A.L.Rotations" that, among other things, ranks the league from 1-14. Let's take a look at some of the highlights of that story, which has the Jay quintet ranked fourth (you guessed that from the headline, right?), nestled between the #3 Angels and the #5 Tigers ...

Interesting tidbits:

  • Of the "Top 5 Starters" ranked in a sidebar item, Toronto's Doctor, Mr. Halladay, holds the #2 spot, behind only Johan Santana. Santana is the only one of the Top Five listed not in a rotation ranked among the league's four best -- the Twins are #8.
  • After Santana and Halladay, it's Beckett, Sabathia and Lackey, with Bedard, Carmona, Felix Hernandez, Verlander and Wang earning essentially "honorable mention" status. Of those 10, only Cleveland, your #1 ranked rotation,  has more than one. Question: anyone missing?
  • TSN pegs the Jay rotation as Halladay, Burnett, McGowan, Marcum and Litsch. Question: does that sound right to you?
  • The AL overall ranked as follows:
  1. CLE
  2. BOS
  3. LAA
  4. TOR
  5. DET
  6. NYY
  7. SEA
  8. MIN
  9. CHW
  10. TAM
  11. OAK
  12. KCR
  13. BAL
  14. TEX
How's that list look to everyone?

There is a separate two-page ranking for the NL, with -- no surprise -- the Webb-Haren-Unit D-Backs coming out on top, just ahead of the Peavy-Young-Maddux Padres; the "Scott Olsen is our ace" Marlins bear the brunt of holding up the league from the bottom of the list, just behind the Nats. It's weird to see the Braves squarely in the middle of the pack at #8, but that seems about right.

Additional thoughts? Comments? Complaints? Suggested revisions?

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Mike Green - Wednesday, January 16 2008 @ 09:17 PM EST (#178994) #
Tampa's rotation is way too low.  They weren't bad last year, but looked worse than they were because of poor defensive and bullpen support.  With the additions of Garza and Niemann, they stand to be significantly better.  I also like Boston's rotation better than Cleveland's 1-5. 

As for the home guys, if they put Janssen in the rotation behind Halladay, Burnett, McGowan and Marcum as they ought to, I think that they have the best rotation in the league by a small margin over Boston, LAA and Cleveland. 

ANationalAcrobat - Wednesday, January 16 2008 @ 09:28 PM EST (#178995) #
Cleveland is too high on this list. Sabathia ought to well again though I don't expect Carmona to be one of the top starters in the league next season, and after him they have Paul Byrd, Jake Westbrook, and Aaron Laffey. They may not be middle of the pack, but #1?
HollywoodHartman - Wednesday, January 16 2008 @ 09:49 PM EST (#178997) #
If Liriano is healthy then I'd move the Twins in front on the Yanks. And add me to the "underrated Rays rotation" bandwagon.
ANationalAcrobat - Wednesday, January 16 2008 @ 10:08 PM EST (#178998) #
After Santana and Halladay, it's Beckett, Sabathia and Lackey, with Bedard, Carmona, Felix Hernandez, Verlander and Wang earning essentially "honorable mention" status. Of those 10, NO team has more than one. Question: anyone missing?

A simple correction, Mick: that list has two Indians.

SheldonL - Wednesday, January 16 2008 @ 10:27 PM EST (#179000) #
I think the top 5 are about right: the only thing I'd do is bump Boston down to 5(then the Jays are 3rd).
I think Minnesota has a chance to crack the top five. Santana, Liriano, Bonser, Baker and Slowey are exciting if for nothing else but the potential in that staff!

Cleveland's justified at number one because they've got the best 1-2 punch in the league and guys like Westbrook and Byrd are good backend they've got some wildcards in Cliff Lee and jeremy Sowers.
Beat out by a hair for first should be LAA. They've got perhaps the next best 1-2 punch in Escobar and Lackey. Then they've got Weaver and Garland both of whom are legit number 2 guys on most teams. Ervin Santana's a wild card there too.

But there's no way Toronto's staff is worse than Boston's. Halladay stacks up to Beckett; Burnett is on par with Matsuzaka(who will surely improve by a mile this year); I think McGowan's better or atleast as good as Schilling. Then they've got 2 of Wakefield/Lester/Buchholz in the 4 and 5 spots. Well, Wakefield as put in only 2 good seasons in the last 5 years. A no-hitter in 3 major league starts does not a major league starter make! Lester's record leaves much to be desired. I'm not saying they will never be good pitchers; it's just not gonna happen overnight...they'll take their lumps.
But our 4 and 5 guys Marcum and Litsch are each far more accomplished than either Buchholz or Lester. I think we've got the better rotation.
Mick Doherty - Wednesday, January 16 2008 @ 10:30 PM EST (#179001) #
Thanks, ANA, good catch. I have corrected the error.
TamRa - Thursday, January 17 2008 @ 12:40 AM EST (#179004) #
  1. LAA - the gap between 1 and 2 is tiny
  2. TOR - Better than Boston if for no other reason than age
  3. BOS - Schil and Wake are time bombs, Lester and yes Bucholz are still speculation
  4. CLV - Westbrook and Lee were very bad lat year
  5. DET - Bonderman and Willis are question marks - if they do well 5 is too low
  6. MIN - assumes Liriano is healthy and Santana not dealt
  7. NYY - I think we've seen more results from NY's young three than any of Tampa's unproven pitchers
  8. TAM - nice top 3, followed by unproven pitchers
  9. SEA - one potential great and a bunch of #4 and 5 pitchers
  10. CHW - would be higher than Seattle if contrares was even average last year
  11. OAK - who can say how healthy Harden will be?
  12. KCR - if Harden is hurt, might be better than Oakland
  13. BAL - Will drop to last place if they deal Bedard
  14. TEX - Millwood and a bunch of fringy guys.
owen - Thursday, January 17 2008 @ 02:13 AM EST (#179006) #
Boston obviously has a strong rotation.  There are ways to criticize Schilling and Dice-K but all in all, most teams would be happy with them in the top 3rd of a rotation.  But I have to echo those who are not so convinced that Buchholz and Lester deserve all the praise they are getting.

In particular, I am skeptical about Jon Lester.  I don't want to sound crass, but I think that a lot of the media excitement surrounding this guy comes from his battle with cancer.  He deserves tons of credit for battling through that and getting back to a major league level - it's a great story.  However, he has already thrown quite a few innings without getting great results.  He walks too many guys, and he gives up too many hits.  Not the best combo.  But talk about his rightly inspirational story, and throw his name into rumors about a Santana deal, and suddenly he maybe sounds like a better prospect than he really is.

Buchholz I am more optimistic about.  If only because of the no-hitter.  Sure, it was just one game, but off the top of my head, can I think of some other highly touted young pitchers who have thrown no-nos very early in their careers?  Anibal Sanchez notwithstanding, I think of Beckett and Burnett right away, and then I think of close calls from Halladay and McGowan.  Maybe that doesn't mean anything, but at the least I can understand why New Englanders are excited about him.

owen - Thursday, January 17 2008 @ 02:25 AM EST (#179007) #

Also, of course, let's take TSN's work with a grain of salt here. 
Gerry's Fraley's comment on the Jays rotation?

"Halladay, Burnett and McGowan are ground-ball machines and will be big winners if new SS David Eckstein improves a mediocre infield defense." [my italics]

Marc Hulet - Thursday, January 17 2008 @ 09:30 AM EST (#179010) #
Cleveland is overrated with Carmona coming off one good season; Lee and Sowers were bad last year and Byrd is nearing the end of his career. Westbrook wasn’t overly great last year either and is a No. 4 guy for me. So they really lack a No. 3 starter.

Boston has nice depth, which gives them an edge… although Schilling is close to being done, as is Wakefield.

Los Angeles might be No. 1 for me… I love Lackey as a big, durable No. 1 with Escobar and Garland as solid veterans filling out the upper half. Weaver is an excellent No. 4 and then you have either Santana or Saunders to count on.

Toronto lacks depth. They have four starters that are good. Marcum may not be quite as good as last year but he should still be above-average for a fourth starter. Litsch may or may not be ready and then you’re looking at Chacin or moving Janssen to the rotation, which I think will be a huge mistake.

Detroit is probably No. 2 for me. Both Bonderman and Verlander are solid No. 2 starters and Kenny Rogers has the guile to succeed even at his advancing age. Nate Robertson and Dontrelle Willis are good No. 4 and No. 5 guys and they’re both left-handed. Detroit has three left-handed starters and two power righties… It doesn’t get much better than that.

New York is overrated: Surprise. Wang slipped a bit last year… Pettitte and Mussina are sliding and the three youngsters are unproven.

Seattle is OK with Hernandez and Silva. Batista, Washburn and Ramirez are not that great and I doubt Morrow will have any type of success in the rotation with his lack of control.

parrot11 - Thursday, January 17 2008 @ 02:14 PM EST (#179018) #

I think that #4 is about right. My top 8 would have been:

  1. Boston
  2. LAA
  3. Detroit
  4. Toronto
  5. Cleveland
  6. Minny
  7. NY
  8. Tampa Bay (although initially they may struggle)

Tampa Bay may be the surprise pick here, but I think that once they get Price, McGee, and Niemann called up they be quite diificult to beat.

scottt - Thursday, January 17 2008 @ 05:20 PM EST (#179033) #
I just can't think of Dontrelle Willis as a 5th pitcher. I think he deserved the Cy Young in 2005 with one more victory than Carpenter (22) and a lower ERA (2.63).

His 10-15, 5.17 record last year wasn't very good, but lefties were just hitting .123 against him.

I predict he'll do great in a new league until batters get used to his high kick delivery.

Can't wait for spring training.

ChicagoJaysFan - Thursday, January 17 2008 @ 06:07 PM EST (#179034) #
Dontrelle isn't the pitcher he once was.  His K/BB is steadily getting worse (from 3.1 in 2005 to 1.9 in 2006 to 1.7 last year), his HR/9 is steadily getting worse (.42 in '05, .85 in '06, 1.3 in '07), and his K/BF has steadily gotten worse (.177 in '05, .164 in '06, and .155 in '07).  He's not the pitcher he was in that Cy Young year. 

For perspective, overall Shaun Marcum had better ratios last year than Willis (2.5 K/BB, 1.5 HR/9, and .185 K/BF) - I was not expecting that at all when I started typing this.  When you consider that they're both the same age, and Marcum is treated as a solid back of the rotation starter, I think you have to say that Willis is no better.

The control and HR/9 aspect really seems to be what's hurting Willis the most (his hits are also skyrocketing, but the Marlins defense is getting worse, so I'll give him a bye there).  Sometimes pitchers just lose it - maybe Willis is one of those guys.
Mylegacy - Thursday, January 17 2008 @ 08:10 PM EST (#179038) #

I was just slumming over at Baseball America and read their "31st" prospect team. Actually, they listed 41 guys that "just missed" their respective teams top 30.

Interestingly, there were three (3) Jays; Joel Collins (C), Luis Perez (LHP) and Brad Emaus (3B) - NOW - if our system is so poor how come 3 of the 41 guys are Jays when there are 30 teams? Methinks, our system is deeper than many give it credit for.

Mike Green - Thursday, January 17 2008 @ 08:33 PM EST (#179041) #
The blurb on Collins in BA made me smile.  One of the key elements in his offensive game is the ability to reach base by the walk and the HBP.  If you combine that with power, you've got a nice offensive combination whether or not he hits .270. 

Catchers typically have a different development curve than other hitters.  They rarely start out as high average hitters, with the occasional exceptional Joe Mauer proving the rule. 

Jonathan - Thursday, January 17 2008 @ 08:37 PM EST (#179042) #

I was just slumming over at Baseball America and read their "31st" prospect team. Actually, they listed 41 guys that "just missed" their respective teams top 30.

Interestingly, there were three (3) Jays; Joel Collins (C), Luis Perez (LHP) and Brad Emaus (3B) - NOW - if our system is so poor how come 3 of the 41 guys are Jays when there are 30 teams? Methinks, our system is deeper than many give it credit for.

I think it's more a matter of our system being relatively bare at the higher levels.  This is a result of the movement of recent players in the system (Janssen, Adams, Hill, McGowan, Marcum, Thighpen, Bush, Jackson) and the drafting strategy deployed early in the JP regim (college picks, low ceiling).  The lower part of the minor league system is fruitful as JP has had more space to go for high potential (often being high school) players....but getting to them is going to be the wait.  At least we have guys signed until 2010.

ramone - Thursday, January 17 2008 @ 08:48 PM EST (#179043) #

Just curious if anyone has any info on Emaus and Perez, these are two prospect I know very little about.  Also what level are the projected to start at next year.


ramone - Thursday, January 17 2008 @ 08:53 PM EST (#179044) #
My apologies, I was writing the reply to mylegacy's post on this and did not see the link provided by the follow up post that gives a pretty good scouting report on both of these guys.
Mylegacy - Thursday, January 17 2008 @ 10:28 PM EST (#179048) #

To those that speculate that I have no life - I'm about to prove it.

I was comparing our 2008 10 hitters (Stairs/Johnson in LF giving us the extra guy) - looking at their 2007 production to see how it compared to their Career stats. Doing this I project that in 2008: 2 having the same(ish) year they had in 07; 2 down a bit from 07, 2 up a bit from 07, 0 down a lot from 07, and 4 up a lot from their 07 production. 

Stairs: (07) 289/368/549 - (Career) 267/359/488 - Comment: (Will be) "Down a bit" (in 08 from his 07 stats)

Johnson: (07) 236/305/320 - (Career) 281/342/410 - Comment: "Up a lot"

Wells: (07) 245/304/402 - (Career) 281/331/478 - Comment: "Up a lot"

Rios: (07) 297/354/498 - (Career) 288/338/453 - Comment: "Up a bit"

Rolen: (07) 265/331/298 - (Career) 283/372/507 - Comment: "Up a lot"

Eckstein: (07) 309/356/382 - (Career) 286/351/362 - Comment: "Same{ish}"

Hill: (07) 291/333/459 - (Career) 287/341/415 - Comment: "Up a bit"

Overbay: (07) 240/315/391 - (Career) 284/362/454 - Comment: "Up a lot"

Zaun: (07) 242/341/411 - (Career) 252/344/388 - Comment: "Down a bit"

Thomas: (07) 277/377/480 - (Career) 303/421/561 - Comment: "Same{ish}"

Disclaimer: "Up a bit", "Down a bit", etc., etc., are real "baseball concepts" that only the top "Sabermetricians" use, and then, only in correspondence to others of their ilk. 

The bottom line: 6 UP - 2 DOWN. I told you I had no real life.

China fan - Thursday, January 17 2008 @ 11:59 PM EST (#179060) #

    I think it's reasonable to expect improvements from Wells, Overbay, Rolen and Johnson this year.  The offence overall should be somewhat stronger this year.   But  keep in mind that the pitching could be worse.  Marcum and McGowan and Litsch,  in particular, could suffer setbacks as the league adjusts to them. 

     And there will be injuries somewhere in the lineup, as there always is.  Ricciardi likes to give the impression that a raft of injuries is some freakish Act of God that nobody could have anticipated, but they always happen.  Then it becomes a matter of team depth, system depth, and the acquisition of replacements. 

   As everyone has already said, the Jays have a chance in 2008 if everything goes their way.  I like the analogy of the Chicago White Sox of a couple years ago.  But it's not enough to assume that a rebound by Wells and Overbay, for example, would put the Jays over the top.  The Jays need a lot of things to go their way. 

Anders - Friday, January 18 2008 @ 02:03 PM EST (#179096) #
While I doubt this level of analysis was factored in, the Jays (tied) for the AL lead in Defensive Efficiency Rating last year, meaning they converted more balls into outs than every other AL team but the Red Sox. Defense is obviously a large part of pitching, and the Jays defense promises to be as good if not better than last year, but the Jays defense is one of the reasons  their pitchers look pretty good. Extra credit to the Jays for assembling a ground ball staff and a great infield defense, I guess.

For my money the Angels, Jays and Red Sox have pretty even rotations, with the Jays potentially being strongest 1-4. I dont see the Indians with the best rotation - they just dont have the depth 1-5.

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