This day has been marked on our calendars for five long months, but the start of the 2014 MLB season is finally upon us. Technically 2 have been played already in Australia but unless you stayed up until 3 in the morning, tonight marks the return of Major League Baseball.
The Yankees are scheduled to open up on the road in Houston on Tuesday so us Yankees fans have to be a little more patient than other fans bases. In order to help us get to first pitch on Tuesday night at 7:10pm Eastern time, I will post series of three articles previewing and comparing the starting rotations, bullpens and lineups of all five AL East teams.
What better way to start things off by looking at the starting rotations of the five teams in the division?
Since the Red Sox won the World Series this past fall, it has been a newsworthy off-season for all teams in the division. New arms have been added to rotations, rookies and young talent getting their names called, as some veterans are looking to bounce back from shaking 2013 campaigns.
We all know about the Yankees adding Masahiro Tanaka and finally having Michael Pineda healthy. The Orioles went out and picked up Ubaldo Jimenez and Bud Norris to plug into their rotation, while the Rays have more youth injected with Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi. Both the Red Sox and Blue Jays will be counting on veterans to lead their staff in the likes of R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle for Toronto and Jon Lester, Jake Peavy and John Lackey for the defending champions in Boston.
Letâ€™s take a look at what each teamâ€™s rotations look like heading into Opening Day.
- Chris Tillman (16-7, 3.71 ERA)
- Ubaldo Jimenez (13-9, 3.30 ERA) *With Cleveland
- Mike Gonzalez (11-8, 3.78 ERA)
- Bud Norris (7-13, 4.65 ERA) *With Houston
- Wei-Yin Chen (7-7, 4.07 ERA)
The Orioles head into the 2014 season with a number of questions regarding their rotation. Is Tillman a true ace? Can Jimenez return to his 2010 form (19-8, 2.88 ERA)? Will the veteran Norris last a full season? These arenâ€™t the questions you want to be facing when leading into a season in a tough division. While the answers to these questions remain to be seen, the expectations for the rotation arenâ€™t as high as you might expect. Baltimore boasts a good line-up, as we will go through in tomorrowâ€™s post, so keeping the game close is all the starters need to do. We remember two years ago when the Orioles made their run to the playoffs, the team had an unbelievable record of 29-9 in one-run games. If the pitching staff can keep games close the offense will be given the opportunity to win the games with the bats. If injuries and poor performance rule then it could be another long season for the Oâ€™s.
- Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75 ERA)
- John Lackey (10-13, 3.52 ERA)
- Felix Doubront (11-6, 4.32 ERA)
- Jake Peavy (12-5, 4.17 ERA) * With Chicago & Boston
- Clay Buchholz (12-1, 1.74 ERA)
The defending World Series Champions had a perfect storm with their pitching once the post-season rolled around. Surprise performances from Lackey and Peavy propelled the Red Sox to their third ring in the last nine seasons. This staff is by far the most veteran group in the division top to bottom. Lester is the leader and clear ace for the Sox, as he will look to set the pace for the team again in 2014. Buchholz started the season in dominant fashion before an injury took him out of the lineup and rehabbing before joining the team late in the season. For the most part injuries were kind to the Boston rotation in 2013, but with the age and number of innings pitched deep into the season last year, will they be lucky again? If health isnâ€™t an issue and Lackey pitches how he did in October, Boston will be in position to repeat on AL East champs. If not, this team may see a fall from grace.
New York Yankees:
- CC Sabathia (14-13, 4.78 ERA)
- Hiroki Kuroda (11-13, 3.31 ERA)
- Ivan Nova (9-6, 3.10 ERA)
- Masahiro Tanaka (24-0, 1.27 ERA) *With Tohoku Rakuten
- Michael Pineda (9-10, 3.74 ERA) *2011 with Seattle
Can we all agree that 2013 wasnâ€™t a good year for any starter in Pinstripes? Okay, good now we can look ahead to this year. The Yankees have set themselves up for what looks to be an all-around solid pitching rotation. They spent millions on Japanese ace, Tanaka and finally have Pineda healthy. I have seen/read/heard a lot of grumbling about how much the team is paying Tanaka to be the number 4 guy. Honestly, if he wins 15 or more games, does it matter what rotation slot he is in? To have a guy with the talent that Tanaka possesses in your 4th slot gives a rotation tons of depth, not to mention Pineda as the number 5. It has been a fantastic spring for the Yankees starters that should give fans hope heading into the season. Sabathia looks to have found a groove, even with his slimmer frame. Kuroda has shown he has bounced back from the rough end of the season last year. Nova seems to have matured and has a glowing confidence that could shoot him into stardom. Tanaka ended spring with a 10-strikeout performance and Pinedaâ€™s slider looks electric. There has been a ton to like this spring, but will this last into the season all the way to October?
- David Price (10-8, 3.33 ERA)
- Alex Cobb (11-3, 2.76 ERA)
- Matt Moore (17-4, 3.29 ERA)
- Chris Archer (9-7, 3.22 ERA)
- Jake Odorizzi (9-6, 3.33 ERA) *With Durham AAA
The Rays boast one of the most youthful and talented starting rotations in all of baseball. Led by All-Star David Price, the Rays always seems to have pitching stock piled in their minor league system. Over the years Tampa has traded proven vets such as Scott Kazmir and Matt Garza only to replace them with more talent. This year both Cobb and Moore look to build on impressive 2013 campaigns as Archer looks to establish his role as a full-time major league starter. Another impressive dynamic of the Tampa rotation is the balance between righty and lefty starters. Both Price and Moore are southpaws as Cobb, Archer and Odorizzi throw from the right side. This will create matchup issues for opposing managers as they try establishing everyday lineups. Rays Manager Joe Maddon always does a great job managing his young pitchers both in game and throughout the season. Pitching for Tampa has been the backbone since their revival, and that should be no different in 2014. Two years ago the Rays were the only team in the majors to have 5 starting pitchers with 10 or more wins. I would be surprised if that doesnâ€™t happen again this year with the talent they have.
- R.A. Dickey (14-13, 4.21 ERA)
- Drew Hutchinson (0-4, 4.84 ERA) *In minors (AA level)
- Mark Buehrle (12-10, 4.15 ERA)
- Brandon Morrow (2-3, 5.63 ERA)
- Dustin McGowan (0-0, 2.45 ERA)
The Blue Jays have an interesting mix of starting pitchers from veteran Mark Buehrle to former NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey to unproven arms in Drew Hutchinson and Dustin McGowan. Out of the five AL East teams, the Blue Jays starters have the lowest combined expectations from their fan base. It was a disappointing 2013 for Toronto after they acquired many new faces and spent a lot of money to do so. Because of their poor results, not much is expected from the Jays this coming season- at least in terms of their pitching. While Dickey and Buehrle both have decorated resumes, their best may be in the rear-view mirror. Hutchinson and McGowan could be out of the rotation before long, especially once J.A. Happ comes back from his stint on the DL. The Yankees will find out early about the Toronto staff as the teams play in the second series of the season.
After taking a hard look at what each team is relying for their starting rotations to start the 2014 season, based on proven results and projections I would rank the staffs as following:
- Tampa Bay
- New York
Leave a comment below on how you would rank the starting rotations in the AL East heading into the 2014 season.
Make sure to be on the look out for the next post in this series on the bullpens in the division.