Ferguson: Top rotation starters lead to success in MLB

Scott Ferguson
6/14/2013 12:06:07 PM
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Every contending team has a one-two punch of starting pitchers who lead the rotation and the team. Names like Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain, Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, I could go on and on.

Just check out the American League East. Boston's dynamic duo of Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester are a combined 15-3, with Buchholz, a Cy Young contender at (9-0) with a 1.71 ERA. The Red Sox as a team have put together a division leading 39 quality starts (at least 6 innings, allowing three runs or less) in 68 games. It's no wonder manager John Farrell's crew is in first place.
Baltimore Orioles pulled into second place in the Division Thursday night with a 13 inning, 5-4 win over the Red Sox. The Orioles one-two combo of Jason Hamel (7-4) and Chris Tillman (6-2), have 14 quality starts between them and the team has 31 in total.

The New York Yankees, who slipped to third behind the Orioles, actually have quality starts in more than half their games, 36 in total in 66 games. Hiroki Kuroda (6-5) 2.78 has nine, while C.C Sabathia (6-5) 4.07 has seven.

Tampa Bay Rays holding fourth, and getting by without their injured ace David Price, have 31 quality starts and arguably the best one-two punch of young pitchers in the Majors. Matt Moore is (8-2) with a 3.78 ERA with 13 quality starts, one for every start he's made, while Alex Cobb is (6-2) 2.95 with nine quality starts in 12 outings.

 All of this brings us to the Toronto Blue Jays and a big part of the reason, they're in last place in the East.

They have only 26 quality starts in 65 games. Their top two starters, R.A Dickey and Mark Buehrle, are a combined (7-12). Dickey (5-8) has an ERA of 5.11, while Buehrle at (2-4), is just marginally better at 5.06. The two starters have at least combined for 15 of the Jays 26 quality starts.

Even the lowly Houston Astros have more quality starts than the Jays at 28 and Bud Norris has more than either Dickey or Buehrle with nine.

Starting pitching isn't the Blue Jays only problem, but it is the most glaring.

 The other two division leaders actually have the most impressive pitching stats in this regard.

Oakland Athletics have 41 quality starts in 68 games, led by the ageless wonder Bartolo Colon, who holds a record of 8-2 with a 2.92 ERA and has 10 quality starts in 13 appearances.

Tommy Milone is (6-5) 3.69 with seven quality starts. The A's also have two other starters who go deep into games in Jarrod Parker who has nine quality starts and A.J Griffin who has eight.
Detroit Tigers though are the Kingpins as they have 45 quality starts in 64 games. Max Scherzer is (9-0) with a 3.19 ERA and nine quality starts, while Justin Verlander is (8-4) 3.41 with 10 quality starts.
 After a tremendous start under dire circumstances, the Yankees are starting to come back to the pack a bit. They've lost three in a row and have fallen a game behind the Orioles for the second Wild Card spot in the American League.

Their struggles largely boil down to a lack of hitting.

Before Robinson Cano homered Thursday, they had gone a stretch of five games without a round-tripper, their longest drought in more than five years.

Kevin Youkilis and Mark Teixeira are back from the disabled list but they are both struggling.

Teixeira is hitting .163 and Youkilis .229, while Vernon Wells a revelation the first couple of months, went 0 for 8 on Thursday with three strikeouts and is hitting just .229.

In fact Brett Gardner and Cano are the only two really hitting for the Yankees right now. When A-Rod and Jeter get back, they may have depth to trade for another bat or two. If they don't, they may yet live up to the predictions of those who said they would miss the post-season.
Another worrisome point for the Yankees, They are 23-10 against teams with sub-500 records, but only 14-19 vs. teams with winning records.
Athletics on the other hand are a team on a mission. They're won 21 of their last 26 and at 41-27 are off to their best start since 1990, a year they lost to the Reds in the World Series.

They have also won 11 in a row at home, and their closer, 35 year old Aussie born Grant Balfour, has saved 35 games in a row dating back to April 29th of last year.

Balfour is just five saves shy of Dennis Eckersley's all-time club record for consecutive saves.

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