The Best Starting Rotations in the AL West

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Here it is, the long-awaited finale to my “Best Of” series.

I’ve taken you through the infield, the outfield, and the bullpen, giving my thoughts on the best players in the American league west. Now that the season has begun and we’ve been given a glimpse of each team’s starting pitchers I bring you the best starting rotations in the AL west.

The Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers have taken turns bashing each other’s heads in, ballooning the ERA of starters Yovani Gallardo, Ross Detwiler, and Kendall Graveman. Where do they rank in the best starting rotations in the AL west?

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1. Seattle Mariners — It’s hard not to rank the staff boasting Felix Hernandez at the top. He is the best pitcher in the AL, let alone the AL west. He posted career bests in walk rate, home run rate, BABIP, ERA, FIP, and xFIP. Oh and he’s just turned 29 two days ago. After him Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, J.A. Happ, and Taijuan Walker round out the Mariners staff. Projected Wins Above Replacement, courtesy of Fangraphs: 12.2

2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim — This staff has some quality youngsters, as well as established veterans, and they still aren’t a full strength. The Angels rotation was a big question mark entering 2014, but staff ace Garrett Richards emerged as one of the top starters in the AL, and when he returns from his knee injury their rotation will become that much scarier. Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, although in the decline of their careers, can still throw 200 mostly-effective innings, and 2014 rookie of the year runner-up Matt Shoemaker has been a revelation for this team. Wrapping up their starting five will be a collection of youngsters Andrew Heaney, Hector Santiago, and Nick Tropeano. Projected WAR: 10.8

3. Oakland Athletics — A’s fans will disagree with this ranking, as do I, but at this point projections are really all we have go on. The projections scream regression for staff ace Sonny Gray, veteran lefty Scott Kazmir, and youngsters Jesse Hahn and Drew Pomeranz. Gray’s declining strikeout rate and pitch-to-contact ways concern evaluators, but perhaps his near no-no on Opening Day did some work to silence the critics. Hahn and Kazmir were eclectic in their debuts, but rookie Kendall Graveman did not live up to the hype brought on by his dominant spring. Yesterday he was torched for 7 earned runs in 3.1 innings. However, the eternal optimist in me still believe good things are to come for Graveman and this start was just a small blip. Three of the four starters in the team’s current rotation project for ERAs over 4.00, but something tells me they’ll exceed expectations like always. Projected WAR: 7.8

4. Houston Astros — Following closely behind the A’s are the new-look Astros. Pitching hasn’t been a strength since the franchise went into full rebuild mode a few years ago, but their bullpen is rebuilt and their rotation features two of 2014’s breakout stars. Led by Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh this team should have a good chance to win at least twice a week. But the back-end is where they lack depth and talent. However, youngsters such as former-A’s Brad Peacock and Dan Straily have the chance to make an impact, as well as spring standout Asher Wojciechowski. Projected WAR: 7.4

Apr 6, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics catcher Stephen Vogt (21) scores a run ahead of Texas Rangers starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo (49) on a wild pitch during the fourth inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

5. Texas Rangers — To breakdown the Rangers rotation situation I’ve asked for help from Nolan Writin editor Lisa Weatherall,

Derek Holland missed most of the 2014 season due to knee surgery he required after “tripping over his dog Wrigley” that most fans still question as the real cause of the injury. Regardless of the reason, he spent the season rehabbing but returned in September and pitched in 6 games (5 GS). The best part of seeing Holland back in action was the fact he looked like the pitcher Texas fans were hoping to see the entire season. He finished the season strong with a record of 2-0 and 1.43 ERA.

Local media reports that the 28-year old has matured since having to go through the rehab process which is most certainly a positive thing with Yu Darvish out for the season. If Holland remains healthy this season the pressure of being the number one starter will prove to be the biggest challenge of his career.

Yovani Gallardo was set to be the Brewers’ No. 1 starter before being dealt to Texas. At just 29-years old he is the Brewers all-time career leader in strikeouts with 1,226. A lot of fans speculate that the change in climate (cold to extremely hot in Texas) will be a major hurdle for him to overcome, but I completely disagree. Gallardo spent his minor league career in Florida, which is much hotter and humid than Arlington, and thrived. Not only that, but he still lives in Fort Worth and most players perform well when they live near where they play. My only concern is that this will be his first season to pitch for an American League team.”

Holland and Gallardo have been charged with carrying the staff all season, but Gallardo’s declining strikeout rate and the unknown surrounding Holland’s injury return leave many skeptical. Veterans Colby Lewis, Ross Detwiler, and Nick Martinez round out the staff.  Projected WAR: 5.6

Next: Oakland Athletics: A Team of Extremes

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