MLB Predictions: Teams With Pitching Issues
by Trevor Whenham - 3/25/2011
Starting pitching is almost always an issue for at least 15 or 20 teams in the major leagues. Most teams go into the spring with hopes that they have a solution in place. As Spring Training progresses, though, it can become clear that some teams aren’t nearly as set and established as they hoped to be. I’ve been watching a lot of Spring Training action this year. As I have done so there are some teams that have shown to have pitching issues. I could pick on the Yankees, but that’s too easy. Instead, here are three teams that don’t seem to be nearly as set on the mound as they thought or hoped they would be.
Texas Rangers - The Rangers came into the spring with a lot of questions regarding their rotation, and they haven’t done much to address those in my eyes.
The rotation now seems to be set with the decision to keep Neftali Feliz as the closer. That seems like an odd decision given how he had been doing in the spring, but the lack of a viable closing option was probably the final straw. That leaves a rotation that requires many leaps of faith.
C.J Wilson was one of the bigger surprises in the league last year, but he certainly doesn’t seem like a top-of-the-rotation guy, and there is no guarantee he can capture lightning again.
Colby Lewis is a No. 2 starter who would be a very good No. 4 starter, but second in the rotation seems too high.
Beyond that there are young arms that may or may not be ready. Matt Harrison was a once hot prospect who has cooled off significantly. Tommy Hunter is coming off a very nice year, but he’s only 24 so there is no guarantee he can duplicate it. Derek Holland is another former top prospect, but he has battled injuries and needs to prove he can step up to the major league level.
Those three could be good, or even very good, but there is no guarantee any of them will. It’s also a concern that Michael Kirkman, perhaps the most exciting prospect of all for the team, wasn’t able to crack the rotation.
Brandon Webb’s addition was intriguing for this team, but a recent setback in his recovery makes it likely that he’s even further off than it seemed.
All in all, this spring has not done enough to convince me that the rotation is good enough to take pressure off the offense, and that’s a concern when the AL West is much tougher than it was last year.
St. Louis Cardinals - The spotlight was on the Cardinals’ rotation early on when they lost Adam Wainwright, their likely opening day starter, to an elbow injury. That meant that they needed the rest of the rotation to step up. So far that’s not happening.
Jaime Garcia, who was so brilliant last year, just hasn’t been good this year. In fact, he’s been lousy. Tony La Russa says he’s not right, and that’s an understatement -- he was torched for 14 hits and 10 runs in four innings by the Mets on Thursday to drop to 1-3 in the spring.
Chris Carpenter has struggled with a groin injury that forced him to miss two weeks of spring action and now obviously has him behind schedule. Jake Westbrook has made a solid career for himself based on a very impressive sink on his pitches. There’s just one problem -- so far this year his pitches aren’t sinking.
There have been some bright spots -- Kyle Lohse has had a great spring, and Kyle McClellan has made a great transition from reliever to starter so far. That’s not enough to carry the rotation, though, and this team s a long way from good enough to accomplish anything without very good pitching.
Arizona Diamondbacks - I have watched the Diamondbacks play live three times this year. You can certainly call them an exciting team to watch. There’s an unfortunate reason for that, though -- they pitch so badly that you are sure to see runs scored.
The rotation is basically a collection of guys that other teams didn’t want. Joe Saunders -- who I watched get annihilated last time out -- was given up on by the Angels. Armando Gallaraga didn’t figure into Colorado’s plans. Zach Duke wasn’t good enough for the Pirates. Ian Kennedy -- and you know how sketchy this rotation is if Ian Kennedy is your Opening Day starter -- was deemed expendable by the Yankees. Aaron Heilman hasn’t started for anyone since 2005. Daniel Hudson went from prized White Sox prospect to being traded away for the just serviceable Edwin Jackson at the trade deadline last year.
What’s amazing is that outside of Heilman, who was relieving for the Diamondbacks all of last year, this is the first spring training with the team for each of those pitchers. This is a totally and utterly overhauled rotation.
The problem is that it just isn’t a good one. New manager Kirk Gibson has been impressive in talking the talk this spring in an attempt to pass on some of the hustle that made him such a good player. That’s not going to be enough to save this rotation, though.
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