With the onslaught of offensive outputs and high-scoring games dominating the league last season, the MLB is hoping that pitching staffs can overcome their obvious disadvantage and bring the game back down to a feasible level that sees more teams having to be more tactical and technical in their game management. While sending players up to the plate just to mash the ball out of the ballpark is always a fun concept (especially for those fans in the outfield bleachers), it takes away from the game planning aspect that has made the game that much interesting for all fans.
With the new ways that managers are rolling out their pitching staffs to control the game more instead of letting the game come to them, staffs are much more fluid in structure and usage situations. Openers are being implemented by certain staffs (I see you Milwaukee and Tampa Bay) to throw the opposing team off their game planning by balancing the lineup card back in their favor while throwing any sort of a game plan for how to handle the pitcher out the window too.
Each team has its own pitcher that holds down the staff as an ace, but not all aces are meant to hold down a pitching staff. A piece is only as good as its surrounding members, and while certain aces will be called upon to carry the staff due to lacking depth, there are ways around teams facing these issues.
Here are the best starting rotations per division for the 2019 MLB season.
Cleveland Indians – Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger, Shane Bieber
Even with a staff member sharing the name of a Canadian pop star, the Cleveland Indians starting pitching staff is one that people actually like. With mainstays like Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer acting as the team’s one-two punch, this team is set up to again have one of the league’s better staffs.
Carrasco has been with the team for a while and is a solid middle guy, Clevinger is coming into his own with the team and Bieber is the wildcard for this team, as he currently is the fifth starter but has the intangibles to eventually be looked at as more than that for this team.
The Indians were rumored to be putting Kluber on the trade block to cut salary but to still remain competitive, but he has stayed in town and will remain there as the team’s resident ace. Bauer has ace potential and could take over in the event of a trade, but look for both Kluber and Bauer to continue to carry this team pitching-wise for the foreseeable future.
As a side note, Bauer was pulled after seven innings of no-hit baseball on Thursday night’s game, so Bauer is well on his way to having another great year for the Indians.
Boston Red Sox – Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Nathan Eovaldi, Eduardo Rodriguez
With the New York Yankees facing major injury concerns with both Luis Severino and C.C. Sabathia, there is no true competition to the Boston Red Sox in the American League East for their starting rotation. Chris Sale and David Price are the household names, Rick Porcello has been a great investment, Nathan Eovaldi is coming off a resurgent postseason pitching performance and Eduardo Rodriguez is one of the league’s best fifth guys in the rotation.
There really is not much that needs to be said about this group, as their names and statistics speak for themselves. Provided health remains solid for all five members, this is the most important group of players on this team that can help them return to the World Series.
Houston Astros – Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Wade Miley, Brad Peacock, Collin McHugh
Continuing the trend of divisional favorites who have the best starting rotations, the Houston Astros again boast their division’s best rotation, even with the loss of Dallas Keuchel, who for some reason still remains unsigned. Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole alone are big enough names to make people tune in, but it is the other three guys that should make you interested instead.
Wade Miley is coming off a career-saving year with the Milwaukee Brewers, who signed a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite last offseason. Thrust into the rotation due to injuries, Miley was one of the team’s most consistent pitchers, relying on location and a cutter to hide his low-speed numbers on his pitches.
Both Brad Peacock and Collin McHugh have been with this Astros team for a while now, and they are great under the radar picks for their assimilation to the team’s culture alone. Both players are not going to wow you when they toe up the rubber, but both will be consistent out getters on a team that does not have the strongest bullpen.
Milwaukee Brewers – Jhoulys Chacin, Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta, Corbin Burnes, Zach Davies
Admittedly a difficult decision to make between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Chicago Cubs, going with the Brewers is a decision built mostly on potential rather than proven results.
The Cubs, who currently are dealing with Yu Darvish rust, combined with an ineffective Cole Hamels, are struggling to get their footing early on this year. Darvish has struggled mightily to start off the year, including walking seven in less than three innings of work in his most recent start.
The Brewers are bringing three pitchers into their rotation who were featured in their bullpen a good chunk of 2018, which is a difficult transition to make.
Postseason hero Brandon Woodruff, who went deep off of Clayton Kershaw in the NLCS, is the most experienced pitcher who is new to the rotation. He had a dominant postseason pitching out of the pen, which has carried over into 2019 so far.
Freddy Peralta began his MLB career by throwing a no-hitter through 6+ innings on Mother’s Day in Colorado, striking out 13 Rockies on his way to a very memorable first-career start. His potential, coupled with Corbin Burnes’ shutdown performance out of the pen last season, gives the Brewers hope they can build from within and not have to spend big-time money on starters.
Washington Nationals – Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, Anibal Sanchez, Jeremy Hellickson
Investing heavily in their starting rotation yet again, the Washington Nationals beat out the New York Mets for the National League East’s best starting rotation. The three-headed monster of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin is very hard to beat, and both Anibal Sanchez and Jeremy Hellickson are no slouches either.
Having this much money tied up in starting pitching is key for a team that just lost its franchise-altering outfielder named Bryce Harper, who left for divisional foe Philadelphia Phillies. Knowing somewhat how to slow him down, they doubled down on pitching, hoping that is enough to subdue Harper whenever the two teams face off.
Los Angeles Dodgers – Hyun-Jin Ryu, Ross Stripling, Kenta Maeda, Walker Buehler, Julio Urias
Even with constant injuries plaguing Kershaw, the Los Angeles Dodgers boast the NL West’s best starting rotation, as Hyun-Jin Ryu and Walker Buehler become the best two arms in that five-some.
Ross Stripling is a wildcard, as his performance has been a bit wave-like over his career. Kenta Maeda has been a mainstay for this team but is not suited to take over big-pressure situations quite yet, and Julio Urias is trying to find his footing on the major-league level with his power arm and left-handed prowess. This team has the tools but would look a ton better if Kershaw could remain healthy for a season.