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Here's the pitch: Ranking MLB's rotations

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels, right, sits in

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels, right, sits in the dugout with fellow Phillies starting pitchers from left; Roy Oswalt, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Joe Blanton. (March 24, 2011) Credit: AP

The Nike commercial from Mark McGwire's prime, from the eye of the storm that was the "Steroid Era," wrapped up with Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux lamenting, "Chicks dig the long ball."

Hardcore fans, on the other hand, always have dug starting pitching. Particularly when elite guys like Glavine and Maddux occupy the same team's rotation.

When Cliff Lee rejected the Yankees and Rangers to sign with the Phillies last December, his alliance with Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt (and Joe Blanton) immediately evoked comparisons to the Atlanta rotations which featured Glavine, Maddux, John Smoltz and impressive fourth wheels such as Steve Avery, Kevin Millwood and Denny Neagle.

On the flip side, Lee's Bronx buh-bye and Andy Pettitte's retirement set Yankee Universe into a panic, not altogether unjustified, about the state of their rotation. Across the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, meanwhile, the Mets place their starting pitching hopes on reclamation projects such as Chris Capuano and Chris Young.

Sure, you can win the World Series without an excellent starting rotation, or even without a bona fide ace (see: 2002 Angels), but it's awfully difficult. The reigning World Series champs, the Giants, proved that a great rotation can overcome other flaws like, for instance, very little offense.

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.



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