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10 Best 1-2-3 Pitchers in Baseball

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10 Best 1-2-3 Pitching Combinations in MLB

Best MLB Pitching Combinations
Steve Bisig - US Presswire

Which Major League Baseball teams have the best 1-2-3 starting pitcher combinations in the majors?

The best pitchers in the league get lit up, and the best offenses get shut out. As the old baseball saying goes, ‘every team will win 54 games, every team will lose 54 games. It’s how you play in the other 54 games that make the difference’. And the biggest difference in any game on any day is how well your starting pitcher performs.

Usually in a rotation there is an ace (like Justin Verlander) at the top of the rotation, followed by a very solid pitcher at 2 (Chris Sale, Cole Hamels). The 3rd and 4th guys will be one high upside veteran who’s been there and done that (like Bronson Arroyo) and a young guy with potential (Brandon Morrow), which is followed by the 5th guy that is normally whoever the team can get that’s cheap, durable and serviceable.

This top ten focuses on the top 1, 2, 3 rotation in the majors because what’s truly important to any team that wants to set itself apart is how well they perform in the playoffs. Playoff pitching is dependant on your top three pitchers, with the 4th starter maybe picking up one or two games in a world series run. If your best 3 pitchers show up even the teams that are flukes can make deep playoff runs. So given a choice, here is my top ten 1-2-3 punches in all of Major League Baseball

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10. Chicago White Sox

10. Chicago White Sox
Jerry Lai - US Presswire

Top 3 – Jake Peavy, Chris Sale, John Danks

Sale proved early that he could hack it with the aces early for the Chicago White Sox, this season could set him up as a top 10 starting pitcher in the Majors. Peavy has been there done that, and last year looked a lot like his old self. Finally John Danks was always highly regarded as a prospect, but never really grew into those expectations. A surge from Danks (which I find unlikely) could vault this rotation even higher than its 10 ranking, given Peavy can stay healthy. Danks struggled early in the season and threw his last pitch on May 19.

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9. Tampa Bay Rays

TB Rays
Anthony Gruppuso - US Presswire

Top 3 – David Price, Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson

With the exception of 2012 Cy Young winner David Price, this Tampa Bay Rays staff is on the list because of their potential. Matt Moore is one of the most highly touted prospects in years, and given that he threw 7 innings of shutout two hit baseball in 2011 against the Texas Rangers in his first postseason start, and his 4th start ever, I’d say betting on Moore to be good is a safe bet. Hellickson at three is about as solid as number three pitchers get. The true value of this staff rests solely on Matt Moore, if he can realize part of his potential in 2013 the Rays will be very scary again.

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8. Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati Reds
Frank Victores - US Presswire

Top 3 – Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Aroldis Chapman

Aroldis Chapman is the X-Factor for the Cincinnati Reds. He proved himself as a dominant closer, and whether that talent will trasfer into the top of the rotation remains to be seen. I believe Chapman will be fine, and as such this rotation will be getting a boost. Besides Chapman the Reds have Johnny Cueto who has become one of Majors quietest aces, and Mat Latos who proved that his dominant 2010 season was not just a fluke, sporting a 14-4 record and an ERA under 3.50, and really helped carry the team from around mid-June on.

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7. LA Angels

LA Angels
Tim Heitman - US Presswire

Top 3 – Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Tommy Hanson

This Los Angeles Angels rotation would look much more formidable if Zack Greinke were involved, but then again every rotation in the majors would benefit from Zack Greinke. Even without Greinke the Angels still bring perennial Cy Young Nominee Jered Weaver, and the always solid C.J. Wilson. The x-factor of this staff is Tommy Hanson. He struggled his last couple seasons with the Atlanta Braves, but he still has tons of potential, and could benefit from a change in environment.

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6. Detroit Tigers

6. Detroit Tigers
H. Darr Beiser - US Presswire

Top 3 – Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister

Without Verlander the Detroit Tigers staff is merely pretty good, but not top 10, but Justin Verlander is good. Very good. Good enough to vault the Tigers top 3 just outside of the top 5 of my list. Besides Verlander the Tigers have Scherzer , who is a strike out machine and if he could bring his walks down he has the stuff to be a Cy Young candidate. Next in the rotation is Doug Fister, who has been dominant in flashes as a Tiger, but has had trouble staying healthy all season. In 2013 a regular Verlander, an above average Scherzer and a healthy Fister could easily manifest a title for MoTown

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5. Toronto Blue Jays

Blue Jays
Mike DiNovo - US Presswire

Top 3 – R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Brandon Morrow

The Toronto Blue Jays might have won the offseason, but they did not win the top 1-2-3 punch competition. They did get close though. By adding last year’s NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey from the New York Mets and a former Cy Young nominee Josh Johnson (who has had an entire year to settle after his Tommy John surgery in 2011), the Blue Jays are ready to compete. What separates the Jays from the next four teams ahead of them is how unproven their third pitcher, Brandon Morrow still is. Personally I think Morrow and his 97 mph fastball are going to live up to the hype soon, and he was great in stretches last year, but until he gets more consistent the Jays will have to live with a #5 ranking.

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4. Washington Nationals

4. Washington Nationals
Joy R. Absalon - US Presswire

Top 3 – Steven Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman (Dan Haren)

The combination of the freakish Steven Strasburg, and the dominant Gio Gonzalez gives the Washington Nationals arguably the best 1 – 2 looking beyond the 2013 season and into the future. Now combine the Gio/Strasburg factor with Jordan Zimmerman who has gotten better every season he’s been in the majors, and the low risk high reward signing of Dan Haren, who I included in this list because neither Zimmerman or Haren are the clear third starter and you get a team that won 97 games last year, and could win more this year. The Nats have one of the best up and down staff in all of baseball, but I left them out of the top three because of the questions that surround Gio Gonzalez and his potential 50 game suspension.

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3. LA Dodgers

3. LA Dodgers
Jayne Kamin - US Presswire

Top 3- Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Josh Beckett

The Los Angeles Dodgers have set themselves up for the future by adding bringing Zack Greinke to the same staff as Clayton Kershaw. It’s entirely possible that these two compete against each other for a Cy Young for the next few seasons, not that either of them need another trophy besides a World Series on their mantle. Then factor in Josh Beckett at number 3. Beckett brings the Dodgers the experience necessary to compete for a title, and could really benefit from the change of scenery when he was traded from the Boston Red Sox. Honestly though, the top 2 is what sets the Dodgers apart from the rest of the teams on this list, with their explosive line up we could be looking at two 20 game winners in LA this year. 3 if you include the Angels.

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2. SF Giants

2. SF Giants
H. Darr Beiser - US Presswire

Top 3 – Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner

The San Francisco Giants won the 2012 World Series thanks to their dominant pitching, but their most dominant pitcher over the last few seasons (Tim Lincecum) was totally ineffective last season. They made up for his drop in production with another surprisingly strong season from Ryan Vogelsong. What really sets the Giants apart is the emergence of Matt Cain as a true ace, and Bumgarner as a strong number two. If those two can repeat their 2012 performance and Tim Lincecum can find his rhythm again then look for the Giants to compete for another ring.

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1. Philadelphia Phillies

1. Philadelphia Phillies
Brett Davis - US Presswire

Top 3 – Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee

Though other teams on the list performed better than the Philadelphia Phillies in 2012, they still have the best top three in baseball. Halladay and Lee both have Cy Young’s on their mantle (much like the 2 Dodgers pitchers), but to augment those two there is Cole Hamels, the only guy without a Cy Young, but the only one of the three with a ring. Regardless of problems the Phillies have to work through offensively, these three pitchers, can keep the Phils competitive against even the most ruthless competition. With the roster visibly aging they will have to for this team to stay alive in the NL East. Whether they can keep it up is questionable, Roy Halladay looked visibly fatigued in his worst season in a long time last season, and will be 36 in May. Cliff Lee is no spring chicken and will be 34 in August. These three need to prove their worth if they want to remain at the top of this list beyond 2013.