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Grading the five best rotations in baseball

We’ve crossed the midway point, so let’s check in on the best rotations in baseball to see how they’re doing.

Houston Astros v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

With the season in full swing, we have officially passed the half-way point of the season. Given that we’re halfway through, I thought it would be prudent to dive into some of the best rotations in baseball and grade their performances so far. Having a better rotation gives any team a huge advantage in the postseason, so this will be a decent gauge on the capabilities of these teams should they make it in the fall.

5. Washington Nationals

28-30, 3.73 SIERA, 3.79 FIP, 3.69 xFIP, 8.0 fWAR, 25.2 K%, 7.8 BB%, 3.21 K/BB

Top Starters:

Max Scherzer 2.46 SIERA, 36.9 K%, 6.4 BB%

Stephen Strasburg 3.06 SIERA, 29.1 K%, 5.8 BB%

Gio Gonzalez 4.44 SIERA, 21.5 K%, 11.2 BB%

Tanner Roark 4.45 SIERA, 19.8 K%, 8.6 BB%

While statistically speaking the Nationals normally might not qualify for the top five, they’re missing one of the best pitchers in baseball in Stephen Strasburg. They have the Max Scherzer factor coming off back-to-back Cy Young winning seasons and a three-peat continues to increase in likelihood. Scherzer has easily taken over the title of Best Pitcher In Baseball. Given the tear Scherzer has been on for three consecutive seasons and the mad dog mentality he brings to the mound, you basically can count him as two starters. Add in Gio Gonzalez whose been extremely under-sold by the baseball community given how many seasons he’s put up above average numbers. Tanner Roark and Jeremy Hellickson can be provide meaningful contributions to the rotation given what they’ve done in the past. Look for the Nationals to use their rotation to their advantage if they make the postseason.

Grade: B-

4. Boston Red Sox

43-21, 3.67 SIERA, 3.68 FIP, 3.78 xFIP, 9.1 fWAR, 25.5 K%, 7.4 BB%, 3.45 K/BB

Top Starters:

Chris Sale 2.42 SIERA, 36.8 K%, 6.3 BB%

Rick Porcello 3.74 SIERA, 22.2 K%, 5.6 BB%

David Price 4.08 SIERA, 22.9 K%, 8.2 BB%

Eduardo Rodriguez 3.74 SIERA, 24.9 K%, 7.2 BB%

Boston has had consistently one of the best rotations in baseball for the last couple of seasons. Chris Sale is somehow improving upon the stellar 2017 season that enabled him to finish second in the Cy Young voting. David Price has started to find his groove after an injury that ravaged his 2017 season; he has been one of the best pitchers in baseball since his debut. Rick Porcello has reversed his horrendous 2017 season and looks more like 2016 form in which he was the AL Cy Young winner. Eduardo Rodriguez has had quite a few ups and downs since his debut in 2015, but looks to be finding a foothold in the middle of the rotation. Look for the Red Sox to use their three former (and possibly future) Cy Young winners to power them through the season and make a splash in the fall.

Grade B+

3. Cleveland Indians

44-23, 3.55 SIERA, 3.53 FIP, 3.58 xFIP, 11.4 fWAR, 24.9 K%, 5.8 BB%, 4.32 K/BB

Top Starters:

Corey Kluber 2.97 SIERA, 26.5 K%, 2.9 BB%

Trevor Bauer 3.04 SIERA, 31.3 K%, 7.4 BB%

Mike Clevinger 4.11 SIERA, 22.2 K%, 8.1 BB%

Carlos Carrasco 3.40 SIERA, 25.9 K%, 5.5 BB%

The Indians have a very solid rotation which has been aided by an explosive breakout from Trevor Bauer, who is now among the best pitchers in the American League. Corey Kluber is still being Corey Kluber and recent call-up Shane Bieber has thrived in his first five starts. Mike Clevinger has repeated almost everything about his solid 2017 season, although the strikeouts are lower he’s also dropped the walks significantly to improve his strikeout to walk ratio. The only one seemingly struggling for the Indians is Carlos Carrasco. A journeyman who has always put up good seasonal numbers, Carrasco’s struggles will likely fade as the season progresses giving the Indians the second best rotation in the American League.

Grade: B+

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

27-21, 3.39 SIERA, 3.27 FIP, 3.24 xFIP, 9.4 fWAR, 26 K%, 6.1 BB%, 4.29 K/BB

Top Starters:

Clayton Kershaw 3.23 SIERA, 25.7 K%, 4.7 BB%

Walker Buehler 3.08 SIERA, 26.7 K%, 5.5 BB%

Ross Stripling 2.65 SIERA, 28.9 K%, 2.6 BB%

Kenta Maeda 3.56 SIERA, 28.6 K%, 9.2 BB%

Alex Wood 3.62 SIERA, 21.8 K%, 4.2 BB%

The Dodgers, although beaten out by the Indians in some areas, have a much better rotation mainly because it’s a deeper one. We’ve seen that in their relatively successful climb back to second place in the division from fourth place in only a couple of weeks. They did that without one of the best pitchers in baseball in Clayton Kershaw. Both Ross Stripling and Walker Buehler have stepped up big time in order to fight for a playoff spot in a season that seemed to get away from them early on. With a rotation solidified with the return of Kershaw, look for the Dodgers to continue to cruise through the summer and likely make a deep postseason run behind one of the best rotations in baseball.

Grade: A-

1. Houston Astros

43-19, 3.31 SIERA, 3.21 FIP, 3.28 xFIP, 13.2 fWAR, 28.7 K%, 7.5 BB%, 3.82 K/BB

Top Starters:

Justin Verlander 2.97 SIERA, 31.8 K%, 5.0 BB%

Gerrit Cole 2.87 SIERA, 34.7 K%, 8.3 BB%

Charlie Morton 3.21 SIERA, 31.5 K%, 9.7 BB%

Lance McCullers 3.41 SIERA, 27.1 K%, 8.7 BB%

Dallas Keuchel 3.87 SIERA, 18.5 K%, 6.2 BB%

There’s no doubt the Astros have the best rotation in baseball, but not only that, they have the deepest rotation as well. They have a first ballot Hall of Famer in Justin Verlander, and two superstars in Gerrit Cole and Lance McCullers who are both still young. Charlie Morton had a veteran breakout year in 2016 and has been even better this year. It’s ironic that Dallas Keuchel has probably been the worst of the five this year, given that he won the Cy Young in 2015, but he’ll turn it around and fill up one of the deepest rotations in baseball history. With this rotation the Astros have to be favorites to repeat as World Series Champs.

Grade: A+

These five teams have built rotations that stack up among some of the best in years. With offenses looking for run production in more ways than previously before, such as the fly ball revolution, teams more than ever try to build super-rotations to ensure that should they make it to October, they have stacked the deck in their favor. With that, look for these five teams to ride the wave of their rotation which alone could be enough to punch a ticket to the postseason.


Ron Wolschleger is a pitchaholic and a Contributing Writer for Beyond the Box Score as well as Bless You Boys. You can follow him on Twitter at @FIPmyWHIP.