A top-notch pitching rotation is arguably the biggest factor in helping a team win the World Series. Having two to three high-quality starters, including at least one All-Star caliber pitcher, can help boost a team deep into October for a chance to play in the Fall Classic.
There are several teams that not only have that coveted All-Star hurler, but also have depth and confidence to go along with talent. Here are the top 5 starting pitching rotations heading into the 2019 season.
5) St. Louis Cardinals
While the Cardinals projected starting rotation may not have any household names like the rest of the teams on this list, the Red Birds may have found their new ace in the 30-year-old Miles Mikolas. “The Lizard King” finished 2018 with a 2.83 ERA including 146 strikeouts in 32 games. The right-hander was also selected for his first ever All-Star appearance last year. To go along with Mikolas, St. Louis still has 2x All-Star Carlos Martinez who posted a 3.11 ERA. Adding a healthy Michael Wacha as well as a young but promising righty in Jack Flaherty, the Cardinals are poised to have a youthful yet deep starting rotation this season.
4) Boston Red Sox
When the head of your pitching rotation starts with a 7x consecutive All-Star, a perennial Cy Young candidate, and someone who has thrown over 200 strikeouts in the last 6 seasons, your team is already off to a good start. Add to that two former Cy Young winners in David Price and Rick Porcello, and a rejuvenated and motivated crunch time pitcher in Nathan Eovaldi, the Boston Red Sox have an absolutely loaded pitching rotation.
With superstar Chris Sale at the helm of Boston’s starting staff, the Red Sox are primed to repeat as AL East winners, despite the rival Yankees offseason additions. Now with a retuned and refined David Price, who got his groove back during Boston’s World Series run last season, the Red Sox pitching rotation has the postseason repertoire and the confidence to make it back-to-back World Series appearances.
3) Cleveland Indians
Assuming the Cleveland Indians decide to hold on to core of their pitching rotation, they will have four starters who each threw over 200 strikeouts in 2018. Starting off with a 2x Cy Young Award winner in Corey Kluber, the Indians starting pitching shows true depth after Kluber. The always controversial Trevor Bauer boasted a career best 2.21 ERA as well as punching out a career-high 221 batters last season. While Carlos Carrasco may be the weakest link in that rotation, despite also throwing a career high 231 strikeouts with a sub-3.40 ERA, Cleveland also has 28-year-old hard throwing righty in Mike Clevinger who posted a 3.02 ERA with over 200 strikeouts. It will be interesting to see if Cleveland decides to off-load some of its top pitching talent before the 2019 trade deadline, however, it’s clear Cleveland will start 2019 with one of the best pitching rotations in MLB.
2) Houston Astros
The Houston Astros will have three starting pitchers who all finished the 2018 season with sub-2.90 ERAs. The ‘Stros acquired Wade Miley during the offseason who had a career year in Milwaukee last season. Miley, while hampered by injuries, came back strong off the DL and posted a career best 2.57 ERA. Gerrit Cole, who was traded to Houston back in January of 2018, threw over 200 innings for the Astros while punching out 276 batters and posted 2.88 ERA, his best since 2015. Not to mention Houston’s number one starter in Justin Verlander. Verlander was a 2018 All-Star while boasting a 2.52 ERA and a career high 290 strikeouts. If the Astros can get back some of that 2017 swagger–with Carlos Correa looking for a bounce back year—Houston’s top-notch pitching staff will no doubt be a huge part in trying to dethrone the AL Champion Boston Red Sox.
1) Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers are coming off of two disappointing Octobers While many teams and fans would love the idea back-to-back World Series appearances, Dodger fans have had to drive away from Chavez Ravine with the opposing team celebrating and popping World Series champagne on their home field. While many media members assumed the Dodgers would load up on free-agent superstars like Bryce Harper, it seems as though the Dodgers are content with keeping their young core together to go along with one of the best and clearly the deepest starting pitching rotation in baseball.
L.A.’s young flame thrower, Walker Buehler, had a true coming out season last year. The 24-year-old finished his rookie campaign with a 2.62 ERA and accrued over 150 strikeouts. To go along with one of the best leftys of all-time in Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers pitching staff is young and deep. Southpaws Rich Hill and Hyun Jin Ryu, when healthy, are two incredible pitchers. After returning from a major groin injury, Ryu finished with a sub-2.00 ERA. Add to that Ross Stripling, who was L.A.’s best pitcher for a stretch, posted a 3.02 ERA with over 136 strikeouts in 122 innings pitched. If the Dodgers pitching staff can stay healthy, which has proved to be a major issue the last couple of years, Los Angeles could find themselves once again in the Fall Classic.