Starting pitchers CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda must perform at a high level in order for the Yankees to be able to compete for first place in the American League East. The same holds true in the National League East for Philadelphia Phillies starters Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.
The Phillies, who are coming off an 89 loss season with a fourth-place finish, only had two effective starters last season. Those starters happened to be Lee and Hamels.
Lee was the definition of an ace in 2013 as he went 14-8, had an ERA of 2.87, a WHIP of 1.010, 222 strikeouts in 222.2 innings pitched, and held opponents to a .232 batting average. Though he was great, there is a question as to how much longer Cliff Lee can keep up his torrid pace as he is now 35-years-old.
Hamels is not as much of a guarantee as Lee, though he was quite good. He went 8-14 with a 3.60 ERA, a WHIP of 1.159, and 202 strikeouts. These numbers in of themselves sound great, but maybe it’s worth looking at trends.
In 2011, Hamels’ ERA was 2.79 and his ERA+ was 137 (100 is league average). In 2012, he posted a 3.05 ERA and a 132 ERA +. His ERA jumped to 3.60 in 2013 and his ERA+ dropped to 106.
Also, his first half ERA (4.05) was not on par with his typical performance, but he improved in the second half (2.97 ERA). It is questionable as to which Hamels will be seen in 2013. The Cole Hamels from the first half of 2013, or the one from the second half.
Another issue with Hamels is the fact that he has tendenitis and will miss opening day. If the Phillies want to have any chance in 2013, he will have to come back with little-to-no setbacks. This is not the start to 2014 he was hoping for.
The Yankees are in a similar situation. C.C. Sabathia had the worst season of his career in 2013, posting a 4.78 ERA, a 1.370 WHIP, and a league high 112 earned runs.
In 2012, Sabathia went 15-6 with a 3.38 ERA and a 1.140 WHIP. He must come closer to his 2012 totals in 2014 in order for the team to improve on their 85 wins in 2013.
Hiroki Kuroda was great for most of last season, but he struggled in August and September. From the beginning of the season in April through July, Kuroda was a candidate for the Cy Young award, but after that he struggled.
In August and September combined, he went 1-7 with a 5.44 ERA while giving up 8 home runs. This was a much different Kuroda than Yankees fans were used to, which brings up concerns about his age. He is now 39, and its hard to tell whether the end of 2013 was a sign of trouble, or just a rough patch.