No. 5: Easy. The Mets. Their ace has had a hell of a career. Makes a mountain of money. But he hasn’t pitched in two years. He has not made 30 starts since 2008. Chances of him doing so this year are about the same as Duane from Forest Park being the next Fed chairman. The No. 2 starter probably wouldn’t make the Braves’ rotation. One-time elite prospect Mike Pelfrey is really tall. Say that for him. His career WHIP is worse than Rick Mahler’s. Next up is Jon Niese, the Capt. Mediocre of young southpaws. In his two full big league seasons, he’s 20-21 with a 4.31 ERA and a WHIP north of 1.4. The old knuckleballer R.A. Dickey might well be their best pitcher if Santana does not regain his health. Then bringing up the rear is yet another portrait in mediocrity, Dillon Gee. The Mets have the only truly bad rotation in the division.
No. 4: Tough call between the Natspos and Miami, but I’ll say the Dolph….um, Marlins. Josh Johnson’s health is at least as questionable as Strasburg’s. I think the Fish might have a smidge more reliable depth in their starting five, with Buehrle, Sanchez, Nolasco and the combustible Carlos Zambrano. But Washington’s top three of Strasburg, Zimmerman and Gio Gonzalez is younger, better and that staff has a higher upside than Miami’s. If Johnson is healthy, it’s a solid group. If not, it could be a struggle.
No. 3: D.C. Their top three could be formidable. But Strasburg and Zimmerman have both had serious arm injuries recently. After those two and Gonzalez, the quality falls off with Edwin Jackson, who has shown promise but topped out at as merely adequate, and John Lannan, who’s workmanlike. C.M. Wang is in the wings. He used to be good, but the last time he pitched more than a half season, 2007, Scott Thorman was the Braves’ opening-day first baseman and a house was considered a good investment.
No. 2: Our Boys. Huddy has been excellent the past two seasons. Beachy looks like he might be ready to pitch deeper and become a superb fourth starter. Health is obviously a question for Hanson and Jurrjens. The Braves lack a true ace the likes of Halladay or (if healthy) J. Johnson. But the quality goes deep. With bad injury luck, the Nats or even Marlins could surpass our starting staff. But If JJ and Tommy make 30 starts each and Beachy progresses, this group will be as good as any in the league except for …..
No. 1: The Phils. It’s a tired song, but it’s true. Halladay, Lee and Hamels–forgive me, Lord — are as imposing as prime Glavine, Maddux and Smoltz. Lat season, all three Phillies pitched more than 215 innings, had ERAs under 2.80 and posted WHIPs under 1.05. They have three No. 1 starters, plain and simple. Vance Worley was good last year. Joe Blanton is average. When you have a clear-cut advantage three of every five games, your fourth and fifth guys can be average.