Sep 9, 2011; Washington, DC, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Bud Norris (20) throws in the second inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE

Ranking the NLC – Starting Staff: Brewers #1


I took a different approach versus the rankings of the position players. Why? There are variable reasons, but the most prominent is that there is not a clear way to signify what each team’s starting rotation will be. I’ve read a few posts where comparing one staff’s number 1 versus the others within the division, but even then, are we sure?

I know that’s a bit of a contradiction to the positions (as I’ve indicated) with the likes of the Reds left field situation and the Pirates and their left and right field matters. The starting staff “permits” more discrepancies as you will soon see. And at this point, no one is assured of a starting spot although I’m sure we can agree on many of them.

I have also added something here. If there is another pitcher on a roster (or even in one case, a non-roster invitee) and added them (somewhat) to the mix. Those additions will be in italics with the first five from each team’s website listed first. I added such as there might be competition for a post (or spots) within an individual staff.

So, here’s the ranking of the National League Central and the starting staffs.

1. Milwaukee Brewers (Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf, Chris Narveson)

Oct 12, 2011; St. Louis, MO, USA; Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo throws a pitch during game three of the 2011 NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. (Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE)

We know the old saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies here. Well, the Brewers didn’t. I was one that poo-pooed Greinke prior to 2011. I was in the minority there and was proven to be 100% wrong.

Heading into this season, every staff within the division has questions, and the Brewers are no exception. Can Greinke duplicate his 2011? Or could he even be better now that he’s got a year of NL play under his belt? Or better yet, stay off the basketball court.

Can Narveson perform at no less than the same level? He might have to be a bit better.

I have my eye on Marcum. He did lose some steam in the playoffs going 0-3 with and ERA that approached 15 (14.90) and a WHIP of 2.276 and he did that in nine innings. That shouldn’t take a whole lot away from what he did during the regular season. Among Brewers starters, he did post the best H/9 (7.8).

There will be questions about Gallardo as well. Including the playoffs, he threw 226 innings, the first time in his career where he went over 200 innings.

2. St. Louis Cardinals (Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook)

Oct 28, 2011; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Chris Carpenter throws a pitch in the first inning in game seven of the 2011 World Series against the Texas Rangers at Busch Stadium. (Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE)

You’re probably wondering why the Cards are here. Love him or hate him, Chris Carpenter is a main reason. Despite a poor beginning to 2011, the veteran willed his way back on track and guided the Cardinals to the World Series title. His postseason wasn’t spotless by any means, but you have a good idea what you will get from him when he’s on the bump. The question surrounding Carp will be the age thing. He’ll be 37 in late April.

Oh, and Carpenter tossed 237.1 innings during the regular season. That led the NL.

The biggest question surrounding the Cards staff is obviously that of Wainwright who returns after missing 2011 due to Tommy John surgery. He’ll no doubt be scrutinized, and 2012 may not be the best of seasons for him. Maybe, just maybe, I’m giving Wainwright a tad too much credit.

Keep one eye on Garcia. After finishing 3rd in the 2010 Rookie of the Year vote, Garcia hurled 31.1 more innings last season that he did in 2010. Add the 25.2 from the postseason, and that comes to a tidy sum of 57 additional innings from the previous year. Yep, it landed Garcia on Tom Verducci’s red flag list.

My other eye will be on Lohse for no other reason to see if he can replicate his 2011 magic.

3. Cincinnati Reds (Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leake, Homer Bailey, Aroldis Chapman)

Aug 6, 2011; Chicago, IL, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto (47) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. (Dennis Wierzbicki-US PRESSWIRE)

So now you’re wondering why I have the Reds after the Cards. While addition of Latos is stellar, the 2011 staff as a whole was not…even with the continuing emergence of Cueto. Yes, there were injury issues at the onset of 2011, but Latos cannot revive the staff on his own. Or can he? Yes, that would be awesome if he could.

Questions are as many here. Will Arroyo bounce back after a lackluster 2011 campaign? That illness from the start of 2011 did zapped his velocity. Sure, he’s not going to blow any batter away with his fastball, but, I still contend that’s why he was so off last season. All his pitches lacked the steam they need to be effective.

There will be the debate about Cueto and the label of “ace”. He has matured in his pitching, but some will cite the every disappearing strikeout rate. Hey, as long as he continues to mature and produce, I think we have no issues. That tells me he’s not relying on the whiff and letting one of the best defenses in all of baseball for help.

Leake also landed on Verducci’s red flag list. There is a stipulation for the increased innings count from 2010 to 2011. Leake was due to be shut down, but an inspiring performance on September 6, Dusty saw fit to let Leake have another go. Yes, if Leake falters this season, it will all be on Dusty. That’s just the way it will go. It’s already set up for that.

Bailey seems entrenched at #5, but a lot could depend on the readiness of Chapman. If the “Cuban Missile” displays he’s ready out of spring training, it could be the bullpen for Homer, a move I’m not too settled on.

4. Chicago Cubs (Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, Travis Wood, Chris Volstad, Paul Malholm, Randy Wells)

Sep 21, 2011; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Matt Garza throws a pitch in the ninth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field. (Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE)

I love Garza. He might be the grittiest pitcher in baseball. I like Dempster, but he may have lost a bit of his touch, but he can still give you excellent starts. Sure, they’ll be that dog of an outing, but Dempster usually comes back in his next start and performs well.

After Garza and Dempster, it’s a battle for the other three spots with the remaining four. If I were to bet (and I’m not one to do so), I would think Maholm has a spot leaving two spots for the remaining trio of Wood, Volstad and Wells.

2011 was anything but smooth sailing for Wells who had a great 2009, but has produced little since. He was also bound for the disabled list after his first start.

The former Red (Wood) might be going against Volstad, who came to the Cubs in the Carlos Zambrano deal, for the final spot.

5. Pittsburgh Pirates (Jeff Karstens, Kevin Correia, Charlie Morton, James McDonald, Erik Bedard)

August 20, 2011; Pittsburgh,PA, USA: Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Charlie Morton (50) pitches against the Cincinnati Reds during the second inning at PNC Park. (Charles LeClaire-USPRESSWIRE)

Talk about a team having another’s number. The Reds stuggled mightily against the Bucs in 2011. So why do I have them 5th? Apparently, almost every other team had success. No, pitching isn’t the only reason a team wins or loses, but having arms will help.

I like the emergence of Morton (speaking of having a team’s number). I like the development of Karstens despite his 2011 numbers. I say the same for McDonald, too. Actually, I’m a little more impressed with McDonald. After those three, well, I’m not too sold.

I know Correia made the All-Star team, but the second half of the season was a nightmare. For July and August, he was 3-6 with an ERA of 7.09 and a slash against of .344/.393/.579. August saw the end of his 2011, too.

I know why the Bucs elected not to pick up the option on Maholm, now a Cub…money. Bedard is hardly an upgrade to me unless he can find the Erik Bedard from Baltimore.

6. Houston Astros (Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez, Bud Norris, Henry Sosa, J.A. Happ, Kyle Weiland, Livan Hernandez)

Yes, Seven are listed here. Myers, Rodriguez and Norris are givens and all are capable of shutting down a team’s offense. Myers simply has to reclaim his pre-2011 form as last season was not what we expected.

Norris is an ace waiting to happen. It will be just a matter of time before he steals the spotlight from Myers and Rodriguez. Maybe by the time that occurs, the Astros will be in the AL West.

After that trio, all bets are off. Happ hasn’t progressed as I thought he would when he was included in the Roy Oswalt deal. Sosa may need more time in the minors to season and work on his control and limit the walks. Weiland never posted a winning season in the minors and also has issues regarding free passes.

And then there’s the veteran Hernandez, a non-roster invitee. Not pretty and not flashy. He does do two things well: eats innings and hits.

Tell us what you think…

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Tags: Baseball Chicago Cubs Cincinnati Reds Featured Houston Astros Milwaukee Brewers MLB National League National League Central NL Central Pittsburgh Pirates Popular St Louis Cardinals Starting Pitching

  • Zombeels

    Carpenter is just an injury waiting. A 36 year old, entering the twilight of his career, pitching a career high number of innings the year before while being overworked, is just an injury waiting to happen.

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  • FrankieBrown

    @Zombeels I have to agree. In fact, w/ Carpenter, Furcal, Berkman, Freese and Beltran, injuries, or lack thereof, may be more key to the Card’s success than just about any other team. Garcia had a big uptick of IP last year, and is considered at risk of an injury this yr as well. But even if they do have a lot of injuries, the Reds will still have their hands full, I suspect. Those injuries sometimes galvanize lesser players into performing above their usu. level, so I suspect that it is going to be on field performance and not injuries, that will decide the Central this year.