By Josh Flagner
To kick off my More Than a Fan National League East season preview series, I’ve decided to do something a little different. It’s an executive decision, if you will. I even went and put on a tie for this paragraph so I would seem extra official.
Instead of writing about a different team every week – I can’t possibly do it any better than the season previews that Lisa, Ryan, Stephanie, Dom, Mark, Deb, and Matt have already done – I’m going to pick out a position group and look at how that group stacks up in comparison to the rest of the division.
This week’s group is the arguably the most important group on the field; the starting rotations. It’s a little early for every rotation spot to be locked in, but being a little early never hurt anything.
The Braves are relying on 36-year-old Tim Hudson to anchor a very young rotation. Hudson has 13 seasons in the big leagues, Jurrjens, Hanson, Beachy, and Minor have 12 seasons experience combined. There’s no doubt that Hudson’s last two seasons have been two of his best, but 443 innings in the last two seasons might just be too much for him to fight off as the grind really starts to set in. His 16-9 162 game average is borderline fantastic for a 36-year-old, but Hudson would fit much better as a middle of the rotation veteran presence than having to win 20 games as an ace.
The Braves rotation is all about youth after Hudson. If two of the young guys can continue their development this season, the Braves might be a scary team in October and September.
Ace Josh Johnson was lights out in 2011 before shoulder problems put him on the shelf after the Marlins got off to a 24-16 start. If Johnson stays healthy, the addition of veteran workhorse Mark Buehrle should put Miami’s rotation in a position to go toe-to-toe with the Phillies starting five. Johnson, Buehrle, and Ricky Nolasco could all win 15 or 16 games, which would take a lot of pressure off of new Miami Manager Ozzie Guillen.
Carlos Zambrano is another addition to the Marlins staff, and as far as I’m concerned, there’s only two acceptable outcomes to the Zambrano acquisition: He either wins 13 games against back of the rotation opponents or he throws a bat through the fish tank behind home plate after an ejection. You get one guess which outcome I’m rooting for.
New York Mets
The New York Madoffs have the rockiest rot… What? OH! METS. The Mets have the rockiest rotation heading into 2012. Johan Santana is obviously the key to the Mets season, but he has to stay healthy. Santana missed all of 2011 after having surgery to repair his shoulder. This rotation may not be the worst in baseball, but it’s definitely the worst in the NL East.
Mike Pelfry is wildly inconsistent from season to season, Jonathon Niese is a .500 pitcher, R.A. Dickey is 37 but has only started full seasons twice in his career, and Dillon Gee is trading on potential.
When your top three pitchers go 50-23, you’ve got a career average 12 game winner in the fourth spot, and the guy bringing up the rear is a 24-year-old who already has an 11-win season under his belt, you’re going to win A LOT of games.
Halladay, Hamels, and Lee all received Cy Young Award votes in 2011, and that’s going to happen again.
The rest of the pitchers in the NL East have got to feel like Jan Brady when she famously complained about her sister. Strasburg, Strasburg, Strasburg!
If Strasburg is as good as advertised, this rotation is young and has a ton of potential. Wang has six seasons in the bigs, and that’s good enough to make him the most tenured pitcher in the rotation. With all five starters boasting 4 or under ERA, the Nationals staff is a dark horse candidate to be one of the best in the National League.
Phillies are the class of the division, but the Marlins and Nationals can step up in 2012.