MLB Betting: The Best Rotations in Baseball
by Darin Zank - 5/1/2014
Good starting pitching can do so much for a team… and for baseball bettors. A collection of good starters eat up innings, keep teams in games, prevent bullpens from getting worn out, and most importantly to our discussion on this page, help bettors make money.
Most baseball bettors in the know are familiar with the best starting rotations. But some of that knowledge may be based on last season and projections for this current season. Now that we're a month into 2014, we can factor in injuries and some unexpected hot/cold starts, to get a little better read on just which teams really have the best starting pitching.
Here's our take on who's got the best starting rotations in baseball at the moment.
The Atlanta Braves had a pretty good rotation last year, but they lost Tim Hudson over the offseason. They then lost Kris Medlen, who was supposed to take over the No. 1 spot in the rotation, for the season to elbow surgery. Then they lost Brandon Beachy to elbow surgery. Then Mike Minor went on the DL with a sore shoulder. How the heck were the Braves going to overcome all of this?
Well, with help from newcomers Aaron Harang and Ervin Santana, plus good starts from Julio Teheran and Alex Wood, the Atlanta rotation has still been the best in baseball so far, leading the Majors in both rotation ERA and WHIP and ranking second in quality starts with 20 (through Tuesday).
Combine that rotation with one of the best bullpens in the business, and we see why the Braves are off, once again, to the early lead in the NL East. They've also trended toward "unders" this season by a 15-10 margin.
The Milwaukee Brewers' rotation was thought to be a weak point coming into this season. Yovani Gallardo had just posted the highest ERA of his career last year, and he wasn't really considered a staff ace. Kyle Lohse was a nice addition last year, but he's 34 years old and a No. 3 man at best. And the Brewers were going to rely on youngsters Marco Estrada and Wily Peralta to eat up a lot of innings.
Now, a month into the season, the Brewers' rotation has powered them to the best record in baseball. Gallardo, Lohse, Peralta and Estrada are a combined 11-3, each with ERAs under three. Together, Milwaukee starters lead the Majors in quality starts with 22, rank second in WHIP and third in ERA. The Brewers have also leaned toward the unders this season by a 17-11 spread.
The St. Louis Cardinals, at the moment, are the best team in baseball at developing their own pitching talent. Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller and Lance Lynn comprise the 1-through-4 spots in a rotation that ranks second in ERA, fourth in WHIP and seventh in quality starts. None of them have ever pitched for another MLB team.
Cardinal sticks are averaging only 3.6 runs per game. That fact, combined with their rotation, is the reason St. Louis has trended toward the unders by a 15-11 margin.
Also Among the Best
Oakland lost Jarrod Parker, then AJ Griffin, but with comeback candidate Scott Kazmir and converted reliever Jesse Chavez picking up the slack, the A's rotation ranks second in quality starts with 20, fifth in WHIP and sixth in ERA.
Cincinnati has been without Mat Latos all season, and the bullpen has struggled without Aroldis Chapman. But Johnny Cueto is off to a fine start, after missing most of last season, and Alfredo Simon and Tony Cingrani have pitched in to help the Reds rotation rank third in WHIP and fifth in both ERA and quality starts.
Kansas City, with young Yordano Ventura and newcomer Jason Vargas off to good starts, ranks in the top eight in our three rotation categories. And the Miami Marlins (don't laugh), with their top four starters all posting ERAs under three, rank ninth in all three categories.
"Where are the Nationals?," you might ask. Or the Dodgers, or the Tigers, or the Giants? Well, Stephen Strasburg owns an ERA of 4.24, and the Nats' No. 5 spot has been a disaster.
The Dodgers aren't on this list at the moment, but they will be when Clay Kershaw comes back.
Detroit also just misses this list for the moment, but that could change within a week or two.
Finally, San Francisco won a pair of World Series in recent seasons in large part thanks to a very nice starting rotation. And this offseason the Giants added Tim Hudson, who's off to an excellent start for his new employers. But Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong and Tim Lincecum have all been erratic early on, combining to go just four-for-15 on quality starts. And Cain was scratched from his last scheduled start after cutting his finger. The Giants still lead the NL West, but there may be cause for concern on the back end of their rotation.
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