Down goes Jeremy Hellickson! Down goes Alex Cobb! Down goes Matt Moore! Yeah… this happened. Piece by piece the mighty pitching staff of the Tampa Bay Rays has been dismantled and it’ll cost them. Going into the season, the Rays’ superb starting pitching depth gave them the best starting rotation in the American League East. But that depth can turn thin really quickly and it seems like it’s starting to show. Oh well, dust to dust and all that. Even with former AL Cy Young Award winner David Price at the helm, it’s clear that this is no longer the premier starting rotation in baseball’s best division. So who is? The Red Sox? Eh… lots of inconstancy there but nonetheless a very good starting 5. But not the best. No, that honor belongs to none other than the New York Yankees who just months ago were viewed as having one of the worst rotations in all of baseball. It’s obvious now that the hurlers in pinstripes are the best in the East and one of the best in baseball.
So what changed? Well it helps when a Japanese phenom the Yankees paid $155 million dollars for can perform as good as advertised out of the fourth spot in the staff. It doesn’t hurt to have a former rookie sensation come back from two years of injury. A filthy home grown 27-year-old and two veteran starters won’t work against the team either. Yes it’s good to be a Yankees’ starter… for the most part. The emergence of Masahiro Tanaka has brought excitement, intrigue and, while adjustments are still in the works, it’s brought results. Michael Pineda has been brilliant out of the 5 spot and in only his second regular season start since 2011, he dominated the World Champion Boston Red Sox. Ivan Nova has had more than a few bumps along the way, but was awesome in his last start as he earned the win. After a bad first start, Hiroki Kuroda has looked great in the second spot and “ace” C.C. Sabathia has struggled but is showing very positive signs of regaining his former dominance.
Yankees’ starters have walked only 15 batters in 2014 which is second best in all of Major League Baseball behind only the San Francisco Giants who have allowed only 14. The Bombers’ staff has also struck out 73 batters which is 9th in all of baseball and second in the AL East behind the Red Sox who have 82. Their starting pitchers have also posted baseball’s 13th best WHIP at 1.23 which is tops in the AL East. While the Yankees’ rotation may not be the best in all categories they do top others in the division all around. The Red Sox John Lackey faced off against Hiroki Kuroda on Saturday and gave up 4 home runs while Kuroda, not without a little trouble, secured his team the victory. Michael Pineda went up against Clay Buchholz and out-pitched the veteran entering his eighth year. Ivan Nova and Felix Doubront were locked in a pitcher’s duel on Sunday and Nova came out on top. While C.C. Sabathia lost to Jon Lester and the Red Sox, he was undone by one rough inning in what was a very positive outing. Still, the Yankees staff was the main reason for the team taking 3 out of 4 from the Red Sox and it’s because their pitching was simply better.
What of everyone else in the East? Well Baltimore’s staff has been faltering as their big pitching acquisition Ubaldo Jimenez struggles to perform. The Rays, as we’ve gone over, can’t keep their arms on the mound and it’s weakened their staff significantly. The Toronto Blue Jays are still trying to figure out the meaning of the word “pitching” as their rotation is really lacking and is looking to be on the verge of total collapse any minute now. There’s a lot of debate on this topic and I’ve likely stirred the pot even more. But there is no denying that the Yankees’ rotation is performing better than that of their AL East rivals. The Rays are ready to add a Red Cross to their logo and it’s led the way for five new kings to take the crown. Can they keep it going? Hopefully. But here in the early going these new kings are aces.