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2.) SAN FRANCISCO 2010 Starters: 3.54 ERA | (Credit: Getty Images)

2.) SAN FRANCISCO

2010 Starters: 3.54 ERA | 7.99 K/9 IP | 1.25 WHIP

Ace Tim Lincecum had an “off” year, for him, so it’s reasonable to expect improvement. Weak link Barry Zito has the highest salary ($18.5 million).

MLB's starting rotation rankings for 2011

So who has the game's best rotations? In ranking baseball's rotations 1 through 30 for the 2011 season, I relied upon the pitchers' statistics from last year and their projections (from the respected PECOTA system) for this year. I added a dollop of scouting perspective, nudging certain teams one way or the other based on industry evaluations and expectations.
--Ken Davidoff

1.) PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES 2010 Starters: 3.55 ERA |
(Credit: AP )

1.) PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

2010 Starters: 3.55 ERA | 6.97 K/9 IP | 1.19 WHIP

By far baseball’s best. Cole Hamels went from ace of the 2008 World Series champs to the number four guy, and he’s still great.

2.) SAN FRANCISCO 2010 Starters: 3.54 ERA |
(Credit: Getty Images)

2.) SAN FRANCISCO

2010 Starters: 3.54 ERA | 7.99 K/9 IP | 1.25 WHIP

Ace Tim Lincecum had an “off” year, for him, so it’s reasonable to expect improvement. Weak link Barry Zito has the highest salary ($18.5 million).

3.) LOS ANGELES DODGERS 2010 Starters: 3.99 ERA
(Credit: Getty Images)

3.) LOS ANGELES DODGERS

2010 Starters: 3.99 ERA | 7.95 K/9 IP | 1.26 WHIP

Ted Lilly, who turned down free agency to re-sign, provides some much appreciated depth. Clayton Kershaw, 23, already is very good. Chad Billingsley should be better.

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4.) LOS ANGELES ANGELS OF ANAHEIM 2010 Starters:
(Credit: Getty Images)

4.) LOS ANGELES ANGELS OF ANAHEIM

2010 Starters: 4.05 ERA | 6.77 K/9 IP | 1.31 WHIP

In Dan Haren and Jered Weaver, the Angels have a pair of potential aces. The key could be former Mets prospect Scott Kazmir, who has to bounce back from a miserable 2010.

5.) OAKLAND A'S 2010 Starters: 3.47 ERA |
(Credit: AP )

5.) OAKLAND A'S

2010 Starters: 3.47 ERA | 6.12 K/9 IP | 1.24 WHIP

An impressive young staff, featuring a pair of lefties in Dallas Braden and Gio Gonzalez and possible late bloomer Brandon McCarthy. Network Associates Coliseum is a pitcher’s friendly confines.

6.) CHICAGO WHITE SOX 2010 Starters: 4.26 ERA
(Credit: AP )

6.) CHICAGO WHITE SOX

2010 Starters: 4.26 ERA | 6.32 K/9 IP | 1.34 WHIP

Jake Peavy's remarkable return from a detached latissimus dorsi is on hold, due to tendinitis in his rotator cuff. There's still decent depth here, though.

7.) BOSTON RED SOX 2010 Starters: 4.17 ERA
(Credit: AP )

7.) BOSTON RED SOX

2010 Starters: 4.17 ERA | 7.41 K/9 IP | 1.35 WHIP

If Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka all maximize their potential, the Sawx could be elite, as Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are a great top two.

8.) MINNESOTA TWINS 2010 Starters: 4.17 ERA |
(Credit: AP )

8.) MINNESOTA TWINS

2010 Starters: 4.17 ERA | 6.38 K/9 IP | 1.29 WHIP

The big question is, can frontline guys Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano duplicate their 2010 performances? This is Pavano’s first multi-year contract since his Yankees days.

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9.) FLORIDA MARLINS 2010 Starters: 4.14 ERA |
(Credit: AP )

9.) FLORIDA MARLINS

2010 Starters: 4.14 ERA | 7.01 K/9 IP | 1.36 WHIP

It’s their final season to capitalize on the pitchers’ haven that is Sun Life Stadium. If Javier Vazquez reverts to somewhere near his 2009 form, this is a really good rotation.

10.) COLORADO ROCKIES 2010 Starters: 4.21 ERA |
(Credit: AP )

10.) COLORADO ROCKIES

2010 Starters: 4.21 ERA | 7.34 K/9 IP | 1.36 WHIP

How close can ace Ubaldo Jimenez come to matching his 2010 results? And how close can Jorge de la Rosa get to 200 innings?

11.) TEXAS RANGERS 2010 Starters: 4.23 ERA |
(Credit: AP )

11.) TEXAS RANGERS

2010 Starters: 4.23 ERA | 7.16 K/9 IP | 1.33 WHIP

Something to monitor here: How will returnees C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis hold up after pitching so deep into October last year? Brandon Webb is a gamble.

12.) NEW YORK YANKEES 2010 Starters: 4.35 ERA
(Credit: AP )

12.) NEW YORK YANKEES

2010 Starters: 4.35 ERA | 6.97 K/9 IP | 1.34 WHIP

They’re easy winners of the “Most Likely to Make an In-Season Trade” award. Both A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes serve as significant question marks.

13.) CHICAGO CUBS 2010 Starters: 4.00 ERA |
(Credit: AP )

13.) CHICAGO CUBS

2010 Starters: 4.00 ERA | 7.29 K/9 IP | 1.36 WHIP

They held onto Victor Zambrano because they thought they could count on him once more. Meanwhile, Matt Garza, like Greinke and Marcum with Milwaukee, should enjoy the league switch.

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14.) DETROIT TIGERS 2010 Starters: 4.46 ERA |
(Credit: AP )

14.) DETROIT TIGERS

2010 Starters: 4.46 ERA | 6.72 K/9 IP | 1.36 WHIP

Justin Verlander ranks among the very best pitchers in the game. Can Rick Porcello climb back from his sophomore slump? Can Phil Coke make the switch from reliever? What can Brad Penny do?

15.) ATLANTA BRAVES 2010 Starters: 3.80 ERA |
(Credit: Getty Images)

15.) ATLANTA BRAVES

2010 Starters: 3.80 ERA | 6.63 K/9 IP | 1.28 WHIP

PECOTA sees better times for young Tommy Hanson and worse ones for older Tim Hudson. Young Mike Minor will be looked upon to produce in the back of the rotation.

16.) TAMPA BAY RAYS 2010 Starters: 3.99 ERA
(Credit: AP )

16.) TAMPA BAY RAYS

2010 Starters: 3.99 ERA | 7.18 K/9 IP | 1.29 WHIP

Loads of potential here, as David Price, James Shields, Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson all have upside. To date, though, other teams trump them in results.

17.) MILWAUKEE BREWERS 2010 Starters: 4.65 ERA |
(Credit: Getty Images)

17.) MILWAUKEE BREWERS

2010 Starters: 4.65 ERA | 7.37 K/9 IP | 1.45 WHIP

Zack Greinke (cracked rib) will miss the start of the season, and Shaun Marcum concerned team officials with an ailing shoulder. So much for the renovation.

18.) SEATTLE MARINERS 2010 Starters: 3.83 ERA |
(Credit: Getty Images)

18.) SEATTLE MARINERS

2010 Starters: 3.83 ERA | 5.89 K/9 IP | 1.25 WHIP

King Felix Hernandez, as he tries to defend his AL Cy Young Award, might have a worthwhile running partner in young Michael Pineda. Erik Bedard is giving another try.

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19.) BALTIMORE ORIOLES 2010 Starters: 4.67 ERA |
(Credit: AP )

19.) BALTIMORE ORIOLES

2010 Starters: 4.67 ERA | 5.62 K/9 IP | 1.40 WHIP

There are high ceilings throughout the rotation, topped by Brian Matusz, and veteran Justin Duscherer tries once again to stay healthy and reclaim his All-Star form.

20.) HOUSTON ASTROS 2010 Starters: 3.90 ERA |
(Credit: Getty Images)

20.) HOUSTON ASTROS

2010 Starters: 3.90 ERA | 7.90 K/9 IP | 1.34 WHIP

Can ace Brett Myers pitch as well as he did last year? Will Wandy Rodriguez justify the team’s long-term commitment in him? Can J.A. Happ justify his prime role in the Roy Oswalt trade?

21.) TORONTO BLUE JAYS 2010 Starters: 4.30 ERA
(Credit: AP )

21.) TORONTO BLUE JAYS

2010 Starters: 4.30 ERA | 7.35 K/9 IP | 1.35 WHIP

They could trade Shaun Marcum (to Brewers) because they have impressive young arms like Kyle Drabek, Brett Cecil and Ricky Romero. Even Brandon Morrow is only 26.

22.) CINCINNATI REDS 2010 Starters: 4.05 ERA |
(Credit: AP )

22.) CINCINNATI REDS

2010 Starters: 4.05 ERA | 6.58 K/9 IP | 1.32 WHIP

It’ll be Edinson Volquez’s first full season since his breakout 2008. Kids Homer Bailey and Travis Wood have to deliver.

23.) ST. LOUIS CARDINALS 2010 Starters: 3.50 ERA
(Credit: MCT )

23.) ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

2010 Starters: 3.50 ERA | 6.79 K/9 IP | 1.30 WHIP

Chris Carpenter spent the spring battling a balky left hamstring. With Adam Wainwright done for the year, Carpenter has to be great and Jaime Garcia has to build on his freshman campaign.

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24.) NEW YORK METS 2010 Starters: 3.80 ERA
(Credit: AP )

24.) NEW YORK METS

2010 Starters: 3.80 ERA | 6.31 K/9 IP | 1.36 WHIP

We’re not counting Johan Santana, because who knows when he’ll be back and how he’ll pitch? Much falls upon the Chrises, Capuano and Young.

25.) SAN DIEGO PADRES 2010 Starters: 3.73 ERA
(Credit: Getty Images)

25.) SAN DIEGO PADRES

2010 Starters: 3.73 ERA | 7.15 K/9 IP | 1.32 WHIP

Their magnificent bullpen last year hid the reality that their rotation, besides Mat Latos and Jon Garland (now with the Dodgers), wasn’t very good.

26.) ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS 2010 Starters: 4.39 ERA |
(Credit: AP )

26.) ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

2010 Starters: 4.39 ERA | 6.70 K/9 IP | 1.35 WHIP

Yankees export Ian Kennedy established himself as a real big-leaguer last year, and Daniel Hudson made interim GM Jerry DiPoto look smart for the Edwin Jackson trade with the White Sox.

27.) WASHINGTON NATIONALS 2010 Starters: 4.61 ERA |
(Credit: AP )

27.) WASHINGTON NATIONALS

2010 Starters: 4.61 ERA | 5.61 K/9 IP | 1.44 WHIP

Livan Hernandez’s 2010 looks like the outlier in an overall decline. His fellow veteran Jason Marquis has to bounce back from a brutal first year with the Nats.

28.) KANSAS CITY ROYALS 2010 Starters: 5.25 ERA
(Credit: MCT )

28.) KANSAS CITY ROYALS

2010 Starters: 5.25 ERA | 6.26 K/9 IP | 1.47 WHIP

With Zach Greinke gone, this could get real ugly. Even if Bruce Chen, Kyle Davies, Jeff Francis, Luke Hochevar and Vin Mazzaro all exceed expectations, the sum result would be unimpressive.

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29.) CLEVELAND INDIANS 2010 Starters: 4.53 ERA |
(Credit: AP)

29.) CLEVELAND INDIANS

2010 Starters: 4.53 ERA | 5.55 K/9 IP | 1.46 WHIP

Fausto Carmona is simply not the pitcher the Indians hoped he would be. Maybe former Red Sox Justin Masterson, now 26, can make a climb.

30.) PITTSBURGH PIRATES 2010 Starters: 5.28 ERA |
(Credit: Getty Images)

30.) PITTSBURGH PIRATES

2010 Starters: 5.28 ERA | 5.58 K/9 IP | 1.53 WHIP

The Pirates desperately need high-end pitchers to support the young nucleus of Andrew McCutcheon and Pedro Alvarez, but no one on the current rotation fits that bill.

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