Who Has The NL’s Best Rotation?

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Scott Kazmir was part of one of the worst trade deadline deals in recent history. Let me refresh your memory (or pour salt in an old wound).

With the Mets six games out of first and in fourth place in the NL East, GM Jim Duquette sent the Mets’ first round selection and top prospect AND a minor pitching prospect to Tampa Bay for Victor Zambrano and Bartolome Fortunato.

Zambrano showed flashes of being a decent pitcher as a rookie in 2001, going 6-2 with a 3.16 ERA after a mid-season call-up. But SI’s Jeff Pearlman wrote how in 2003, Zambrano led the American League in walks, wild pitches and hit batsmen. Fortunato pitched in 15 games in 2004, two more in 2006 and hasn’t been heard from since.

Hindsight is always 20/20 and others like Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLB Trade Rumors have already questioned this trade, including a MMO Fan Shot from 2012, so I won’t go in depth on my dismay except to question why the team didn’t just bring him up to the majors…

Kazmir was decent in 2005, an All-Star in 2006 and led the AL in strikeouts (239) in 2007, starting 34 games with a 3.48 ERA and a 13-9 record. That was probably his best season before the 2014 campaign, when he went 15-9 with a 3.55 ERA for Oakland. Last year, he was traded to Houston and despite a 2-6 record with a 4.17 ERA while pitching in the band box known as Minute Maid Park, he’ll get credit for helping the Astros back into the postseason.

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Dodgers announced the signing of Kazmir to a 3-year, $48 million contract. It means they’ve added another left-handed starter, joining Clayton KershawBrett AndersonAlex Wood and, if healthy, Hyun-jin Ryu for a southpaw quintet. But does the move make LA’s rotation one of the best in the arm-heavy National League? We all know what the Mets plan to trot out each day, but is it the best?

Using projected Wins Above Replacement (WAR), MLB’s Paul Casella ranked the Top 5 rotations of 2016 before Christmas with Mike Bolsinger as the Dodgers’ fifth starter. Based on FanGraphs’ prediction, this move nudges them ahead of the Washington Nationals with a projected combined WAR of 16.9. A lot of this is based on Kershaw being the best pitcher in baseball…and with five straight top-3 Cy Young Award finishes, it’s hard to argue against that.

It’s hard to argue against the Nationals, who will send out Max Scherzer on Opening Day. His 14-12 record doesn’t look great, but the 2.79 ERA, the 276 strikeouts versus just 34 walks in 228.2 innings is pretty impressive. has been projected to put up similar numbers since arriving in The Show in 2010. While many want to call him a bust, his career numbers (54-37, 3.09 ERA, 1.092 WHIP, six year total WAR of 14.0) speak to the contrary. Is 2016 the year he finally puts it all together?

Is 2016 the year the Cubs finally put it all together? The position players we heard of and saw first-hand as Mets fans. Granted, they were being swept on the biggest stage but you can’t deny the talent of 2015 Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler. The pitching staff isn’t homegrown, but just as talented starting with Jake Arrieta, the reigning 2015 Cy Young winner. Adding the ageless John Lackey to a staff that already featured Jon Lester, Jason Hammel, and Kyle Hendricks is why many think this is the best rotation.

Both Casella and Victor Barbosa of Cheat Sheet put the Mets at No. 2. They admit the Mets have an impressive starting rotation, that Steven Matz could be a No. 2 starter elsewhere but is likely to be No. 5 on this team and will trot out “an ace-caliber pitcher at least once every series”. So why wouldn’t they be the best in the league?

There’s no good answer to that question. Jacob deGrom is considered the No. 1 starter thanks to a 2.54 ERA and a lovely 0.98 WHIP in 191 innings. I can see starting him in Kansas City, only so that the true No.1 can start Game 3 at Citi Field. Matt Harvey sat out a year and despite saying stupid things like any 26-year old, he still put up ace-like numbers (2.71 ERA, 1.02 WHIP).

Terry Collins should find a way to ensure Harvey and Noah Syndergaard are separated by Bartolo Colon. Imagine facing Harvey’s 96 MPH fastball, then Big Sexy’s pinpoint fastball at 90 MPH, followed by Thor and the thunder of a 100 MPH heater just “60-feet, six-inches away”.

It’s a frightening thought for opposing batters and an exciting one for those that root for the Orange and Blue.

So who do you think has the best rotation in the NL? I didn’t even mention San Francisco with 2014 World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner, Jeff Samardzija, Jake Peavy, Johnny Cueto and Matt Cain coming back from a flexor tendon strain that limited him to just 60 innings last year. Where do you rank the Mets against the rest of the Senior Circuit?

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About Martin Kester 33 Articles
Since hanging from a street sign to watch the 1986 ticker-tape parade, I've enjoyed the Mets from a distance. Growing up, they were across the GW with Bob Murphy's voice bringing them close. I'm in enemy territory in Atlanta, but now I'm protected by Norman Seabrook and Howie Rose.