There is not much more important to baseball handicapping than the starting rotations. Good pitching can make a good team great, while sketchy pitching can rob any team of momentum. The betting public, fortunately, isn't always the best at evaluating how strong rotations really are. They can figure out the really good ones and the really bad ones, but they often underestimate those in between. As with all things in sports betting, if you can be smarter than the betting public then you have a better shot at making money over the long term than they do. As pitchers get ready to report for spring training, here is a look at three rotations that have a chance to be better than the public seems to be giving them credit for.
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Arizona Diamondbacks: The public won't have any issue evaluating the top of this rotation - Zack Greinke is a mega-stud and everyone knows it. Beyond that, though, they could easily underestimate. Shelby Miller gets plenty of attention after the Diamondbacks traded for him. Many will be turned off by his 6-17 record last year, but that's ridiculous. His 3.02 ERA and 1.25 WHIP are good indicators that his struggles last year were due to playing for a lousy team and had very little to do with him. He's a star waiting to shine. Patrick Corbin came back from Tommy John surgery last season, and will have the benefit of a full, healthy offseason heading into this year. He was used very gently in his 16-game return last year, but he will be ready for more of a workload now and should put up some very solid numbers. Robbie Ray was solid in his first year as a starter last year, and at just 24 years old we should see him take a step forward this year. The fifth spot will likely be some combination of Chase Anderson or Rubby De La Rosa. Both started last year and are decent options - and the rotation is upgraded just by the fact that the team won't likely need to have both of them as full-time starters. Add it all up and you have a rotation that has the capability to vault this team right back into the playoff hunt - and which could deliver some value when Greinke isn't on the mound early in the season.
Tampa Bay Rays: After being so competitive and feisty for so many years, the Rays seem content now to just be bland and underwhelming. It isn't going to thrill the fans, but then they weren't consistently coming to games when the team was good anyway. The one thing those fans shouldn't complain too much about, though, is the pitching staff. Chris Archer is an ace, and he's only 27 so he could get better. Alex Cobb is coming off of two very useful seasons and should be expected to be strong, too. Drew Smyly was excellent two years ago in a season split between Detroit and Tampa Bay, and he was strong in limited work last year, too. He is reliable, and potentially more than that. Jake Odorizzi took a big step forward last year in his second year as a full-time starter and could advance again this year. Erasmo Ramirez is yet another solid guy with decent numbers who is early in his career. And then there is Matt Moore, who has struggled with elbow woes and gone through elbow surgery but should be back and ready to go. So, the Rays have an ace in Archer and five guys behind him who wouldn't embarrass themselves and a second or third starter for most teams. That's a nice rotation - though if Moore comes back strong it seems likely that they could look to move a pitcher to add much-needed offense. Still, with this little of a dropoff between starters for a team that no one pays much attention to, there could be value to be had.
Toronto Blue Jays: The Jays got a lot of attention last year but then had a pretty lousy offseason overall. The public perception of the rotation especially took a hit in the winter. David Price left for big bucks, and Mark Buehrle may or may not have retired but has definitely moved on. The team didn't bring in big names - or close to it - to replace them. People are not going to have particularly high hopes for this rotation as a result, but it has a chance to be quite a bit better than people think - especially early on. Marcus Stroman is now the ace after the departure of Price. He was spectacular last year after returning late from an ACL injury suffered in spring training, and with a full offseason should be just as good this year. This is when he could officially become a superstar. Marco Estrada isn't flashy, but he is quietly very sound and will win a lot more than he loses. Last year he had an impressive 1.04 WHIP in 28 starts. Those two are a solid and easy-to-underrate top two. Behind them there are more questions but plenty of potential. R.A. Dickey is 41, but he shows no signs of slowing down and can be relied upon to do what he does - which works well enough for a team with offensive production like this one has. J.A. Happ is back in Toronto again after splitting last year between Seattle and Pittsburgh. He was outstanding in Pittsburgh and is usually solid - which again works better in Toronto than many places because of the bats. Jesse Chavez, who joined in the offseason from Oakland, hasn't overwhelmed in is two years as a starter and had bounced around forever as a reliever before that. This is a pitcher that the Jays have long coveted, though, so they obviously see something that they like about him. And then there is Aaron Sanchez, who was very good as the eighth inning man last year and has loads of potential as a starter. The Jays have had lousy luck with their rotation for the last decade. If they can get a break or two this year they have a chance to really surprise on the mound.
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