After watching Cliff Lee beat the Nationals last night, and at the same time, see Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals continue his dominance with his 18th victory, it got me thinkin’. How do the arms in the NL shape up as the playoff chase heats up?
The addition of Lee at the deadline made the Phillies the favorite to repeat in the senior circuit, however, if you’ve been paying attention, you know that the Cards are stacked at the top of the rotation as well. Even some of the Wild Card wannabee’s are getting stellar production from their arms.
Where do the Phillies rank? That’s for you to decide, with a little help from this list.
1. St. Louis Cardinals:
Is there a scarier top two than Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright? Wainwright leads the majors in victories, plus has an ERA of 2.59. And he’s not even the Cards number one! The other CC is 16-3 with an ERA in the low-two’s. His WHIP? Glad you asked, because its 0.97.
Toss in a healthy John Smoltz, complete with a chipped shoulder, plus Joel Piniero, a quiet 14-game winner in 2009, and you have the makings of a championship pitching staff. Their pitching coach, Dave Duncan, should have a spot reserved in the Hall.
2. San Francisco Giants:
Tim Lincecum is still doing freakish things, a year removed from his Cy Young win. Matt Cain has finally gotten the run support he needs to be a force, and that’s been proven in his 13-4 record, paired with a mid-two ERA.
Even – dare I say his name – Barry Zito, looks infinitely better this season than last, although he still has a ways to go before that $126 million contract looks like a bargain. Jonathan Sanchez was moved to the bullpen, then decided to throw a no-hitter. Brad Penny came over and decided to be a real pitcher. Don’t sleep on San Fran should they make it into the postseason.
3. Philadelphia Phillies:
Now to our boys. Some of you will disagree with this ranking, and that’s fine. But I’m taking Carpenter/Wainwright or Lincecum/Cain over our crop of steady pitching.
Cliff Lee has been Cliff Lee. However, recently, he’s been in a bit of a funk. Cole Hamels is showing signs of getting stronger near the playoffs, but he has been in a season-long slump, if you will. Joe Blanton has been perhaps, the most steady of the bunch, and makes him a fine choice for a number three guy in a five or seven-game series. If J.A. Happ comes back completely healthy, I’m not sure there is better number four in the NL. Plus, Pedro isn’t too shabby at the back-end.
Still, I’m going with the top two here, and I have to side with STL and SF on this one, even though, as a whole, the Phillies have some damn good starters.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers:
With two youngsters at the head of the class, the word inconsistency is often times used in L.A. Clayton Kershaw has turned into a stud, but recently, ace Chad Billingsley has taken a step backward.
On top of that, they have a suspect back-end, even though Randy Wolf is still fooling people left and right. The ex-Phillies has a 3.22 ERA this year, to go with 10 wins. Not bad, but as a whole, the Dodgers are still somewhat shaky. There is more bad news: Kershaw and Wolf have recently gone down with injuries, throwing a wrench into the Dodgers World Series plans.
5. Colorado Rockies:
For some reason, the Rockies still don’t strike me as a team that has good pitching. Maybe it’s the decade of crappy pitchers they threw out there. This season has been a revelation for Colorado, especially with their top two guys.
Jason Marquis was pulled from the depths and has turned into a reliable ace (15-10, 2.65 ERA), but the real story is the growth of Ubaldo Jimenez. The 25-year old, rocket-fueled righty is blossoming at the right time for the Rocks, which helps because the rest of their staff is inconsistent at best.
6. Florida Marlins:
A duo of Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco is enough to scare anyone in a short series, but give me names after that. You can’t, and that’s the problem. Two horses aren’t quite enough, even if they are as promising as these two.
Chris Volstad, Andrew Miller, and Sean West are brimming with promise, but promise rarely gets you a postseason berth. Maybe next year.