Among the irrationally optimistic, the conventional wisdom is that the Giants' starting pitching will keep the team in contention. Sure, there'll be a lot of nail-biting 1-0 games, but if you can keep the other team from scoring, etc.... Jerry Glanville leaving tickets for Elvis at every Falcons game was just a little less irrationally optimistic. Sometimes, I wish I had that kind of irrational optimism heading into the season. If I had credibility, I would sacrifice it gladly to live in a logic-free zone of fluffy clouds and Giants-can-contend optimism.
Unfortunately, I live in a scorched-earth reality that's just getting scorchier and realityier as the season gets closer. I wasn't getting crazy enough to think the starting rotation would lead to a playoff run, but I thought, hey, at least the Giants have one of the best rotations in baseball. Then I read this in the Sporting News. It seemed like a given that the Giants had one of the ten best rotations in baseball. What I forgot was that three other rotations in the top-ten are in the NL West, and those teams aren't likely to have a historically bad offense.
There's obviously room to quibble with the rankings -- maybe the Padres' back-end is too iffy to justify their second slot, the rankings of the Diamondbacks and Dodgers rely on injury-saddled vets, the Cub rotation might be overrated -- but the larger point remains. Every team in the NL West can pitch. Four of those teams can at least fake an offense. In order for the rotation to transcend the NL West morass of quality, Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum need to develop this season into the demi-gods we believe they eventually will. If they don't -- and I'm talking, like, 200 innings of sub-3.00 ERAs -- the Giants will likely have a good rotation, but one that only serves to drive us insane with close losses.
You knew this already. I suppose I needed to see the NL West rotations all lined up in order for it to register for me. My rankings:
- Diamondbacks - Even without Randy Johnson, it's a pretty sweet rotation. I'm a big believer in Micah Owings, but maybe that's because he would be a fine cleanup hitter on the Giants.
- Padres - Chris Young pooters out at the end of every season, but he's pretty danged good while it lasts. Jake Peavy is everything we hope Cain can be. Maddux will do his thing until he's 50, and Randy Wolf is a good and cheap gamble for a good and cheap team.
- Giants - I have to temper a lot of enthusiasm here, as I can't just assume that Cain and Lincecum are going to be beasts. I think they will. I hope they will. But I'm not going to rank them with Peavy and Young or Dan Haren and Brandon Webb just yet. Still, I'm stupid enough to be encouraged by Barry Zito's second-half, Noah Lowry's past K/BB success, and Kevin Correia's string of six good starts to finish the year.
- Dodgers - They have Brad Penny and Derek Lowe to match what we can reasonably expect from Caincecum, Hiroki Kuroda to match what we can reasonably expect from Zito, and Chad Billingsley to blow away whatever Noah Lowry can do. I rank them below the Giants out of pure hatred.
These are the top four rotations in the NL. It makes me homicidal with rage that they're all in the NL West.
- Rockies - What annoys me the most is that the Rockies have a good rotation too. They don't have a partner for Francis to match up with the other 1-2 punches in the division, but their offense will probably be good enough to make up the difference, the bastards.