MLB League News: 7 Pitching Staffs to Watch
Washington Nationals pitchers at spring training 2012
The 2012 baseball season saw a continued return of good pitching to MLB. In recent years, fans have seen the return of no hitters, perfect games and 20 game winners. Pitchers such as C.C. Sabathia and Justin Verlander have dominated games in the post season. It is nice to see the game get back to what it was before muscled up behemoths began blasting baseballs over the fence in record numbers.
In 2013, fans of the game can look forward to seeing more solid pitching from talented staffs in both the AL and NL. While there may not be anything close to the five aces that the Atlanta Braves boasted during the 1990's, there will be plenty of teams worth watching.
Some of the teams on this list bring championship pedigree. They are worth watching to see how long they can sustain their place at the top. The longer they win, the greater their place in baseball history will be. Fans remember the great Baltimore Orioles pitching staffs from 1966 to 1983, because they won year after year.
Others will be worth watching, because they have not reached their peak. These staffs have a ton of potential and only time will tell if they fulfill it. One might boast a 20 year old phenom next season that could be the talk of baseball.
Then, there are those with question marks. One team will have an ace returning from suspension. Another has an international player who came in with a lot of fanfare, proved his worth and will have to do it again. Two have pitchers that took different routes in recovering from Tommy John surgery and are expected to be at full strength in 2013.
Here are seven MLB pitching staffs that will be worth watching in 2013. Fortunately, some of us have teams nearby in each league and we can see them all.
7. Cincinnati Reds
The Reds made it to post season play for the second time in three years. They won 97 games and the NL Central title. Then, Cincinnati lost to the San Francisco Giants in an NL Divisional Series and had to start all over again.
Fortunately, Cincinnati has a pitching staff that is the best in their division and one of the best in baseball.
The leader of the group is Johnny Cueto. He went 19-9 last season and was a candidate for the NL Cy Young Award. Though it won't be easy to repeat those numbers, if Cueto can stay healthy, the Reds can look for another big year from him.
Cueto is not alone. He has help in Mat Latos who finished 14-4 and Homer Bailey, winner of 13. Bailey threw a no hitter in his last start of 2012.
With Cueto, Latos and Bailey in tow, Cincinnati is in good shape. They will need every one of those arms to stay competitive in the tough National League.
6. San Francisco Giants
The Giants won their second World Series in three years. One of the biggest reasons was their pitching staff. It came through big time in the post season as men thought to be liabilities turned into October stars. This in no way means San Francisco doesn't have question marks going into next year.
The first is whether Tim Lincecum will ever return to the form he showed in 2008 and 2009. Lincecum struggled so much last season that he was moved to the bullpen in the playoffs. When called upon, Lincecum came through and the Giants hope that this may be a springboard for next season.
Barry Zito surprised many by winning 15 games last year. He followed that up with solid performances in October. The question for next season is whether or not Zito can do it again.
The one man that San Francisco should be able to rely on is Matt Cain. He went 16-5 and threw a perfect game with 14 strikeouts against the Houston Astros.
With two world championships in three years, the Giants staff is pitching for their place in history now. With them, it is a case of how long can they sustain their success and who will be a part of it?
As long as San Francisco continues to pitch in October, their staff will etch its place in baseball history and be worth watching every season.
5. Texas Rangers
The staff which is judged by one of the greatest pitchers of all time every year came up short when it mattered most in 2012. Texas pitchers could not get it done as part owner Nolan Ryan watched them blow a three game lead in the last days of the season and lose the AL West. The Rangers were eliminated by the Baltimore Orioles in the first ever AL wildcard game.
Still, the Rangers will be worth watching in 2013. Despite losing the pennant, Texas boasted an 18 game winner in Matt Harrison. Derek Holland had a solid season. And Yu Darvish won 16 games in his first Major League season. If each of these pitchers can raise their games just a notch, the Rangers may finally win the World Series which has eluded them the last three seasons.
Texas will be worth watching for Darvish alone. After coming in with much fanfare, he proved his worth and will have to do it again next year. If he does, the Rangers will not collapse like a house of cards.
4. Oakland Athletics
Fans of bay area baseball have a lot to look forward to in 2013. The A's were one of the best teams in baseball from July to October. Oakland made up a 12 game deficit to catch the Texas Rangers and win the AL West.
The A's did this despite not having a single pitcher win 15 games. Tommy Milone and Jarrod Parker led the staff with 13 wins apiece.
But the story of 2013 for Oakland will be the comeback from suspension of Bartolo Colon. Colon was suspended 50 games after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. It was a major blow to the A's post season chances and there were some who thought Oakland would not resign Colon. General Manager Billy Beane showed that all is forgiven and gave Colon a one year contract for $3 million.
Now, Colon has to put 2012 behind him and help the A's win in 2013. The past is gone and all he can do is focus on the present. No matter what people may say or think, Colon has a clean slate and his record will be 0-0 on opening day just like everyone else.
If Colon can stay healthy (he will turn 40 in May) and pitch well, he will earn a measure of redemption from Oakland players and fans.
How his performance affects Oakland's staff will be worth watching next season.
3. Atlanta Braves
The Braves have been known for having quality pitching. Though they have not been as dominant as their pennant winning teams of the 1990's, Atlanta is slowly building a top notch staff. The Braves ranked fourth in the NL with a team ERA of 3.42. The staff was led by 36 year old Tim Hudson who went 16-7.
The key to Atlanta's staff taking the next step and staying with NL East rival Washington is right hander Kris Medlin. Medlin came back from Tommy John surgery in 2012 and was used sparingly so that he would be available for the post season. He finished the season with a record of 10-1 in 12 starts. Medlin will be expected to pitch a full season next year and the Braves hope that he can get close to doubling his win total of last year.
If Medlin lives up to his potential and the rest of Atlanta's staff remains consistent, the battle for NL East supremacy with Washington and the Philadelphia Phillies will be a heated one.
2. Washington Nationals
In the past three seasons, Washington has put together a staff with potential to win for a long time. It was good enough to lead the Nationals to 98 wins in 2012 and hopes to improve on that total next season.
Washington will go into 2013 with a 20 game winner in left hander Gio Gonzalez. Unfortunately, those 20 wins will not count next season so he will have to do it again.
However, Gonzalez should have more help as the Nationals hope to get a full season out of Stephen Strasburg. Coming off of 2010 Tommy John surgery, he won 15 games last year before being shut down after pitching 160 innings. If Strasburg and Gonzalez are on their games, Washington could have two 20 game winners.
Dan Haren was signed as a free agent to replace Edwin Jackson and the Nationals hope that he returns to his All-Star form of 2007 to 2009. Washington feels confident that Jordan Zimmerman and Ross Detwiler will be better than they were in 2012.
If the Nationals put it together in 2013, they could have the best pitching staff in baseball.
1. Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles won 93 games and a wildcard spot despite not having a single pitcher win more than 12 games. It was starter by committee as only Wei-Yen Chen started more than 20 games. Chen was the only Baltimore pitcher with more than 10 wins as he led the staff with 12.
However, what will make the Orioles interesting is the development of 20 year old phenom Dylan Bundy. If Bundy joins the rotation and pitches the way he did in the minors, Baltimore may finally have the ace they've been looking for since losing Mike Mussina to the New York Yankees in 2001.
The fourth over all pick in 2011, Bundy went 9-3 at three minor league stops in 2012. His ERA was 2.08. The Orioles called him up in September and he made a couple of appearances.
Because of his youth and lack of experience, Bundy may start 2013 in the minors. However, if he gets off to a good start, Baltimore will not let him stay down long.
The arrival of Bundy and how he affects the staff will be worth keeping an eye on next season.