You can never have too much pitching.
The old baseball adage rings true, as the best MLB starting rotations usually have one, two, or even three aces (looking at you, Cleveland). In addition to talent, depth and consistency are important characteristics to have in a team's rotation during a 162-game grind that's filled with ups, downs, and injuries.
The following five teams are in good position to stay in postseason contention this year thanks to elite starting pitching. Here are the best starting rotations in the majors:
* - questionable for opening week of season
The Dodgers' rotation is deep and talented, but injury concerns keep it from being higher on this list. Clayton Kershaw is still one of the best pitchers in the game when healthy, but he hasn't thrown 200-plus innings since 2015. He's also dealing with a shoulder issue, and as a result won't start on Opening Day start for the first time since 2011. Starting the season opener in lieu of the staff ace is Hyun-Jin Ryu, who posted a sparkling 1.97 ERA in 15 starts in 2018, but he's only logged 213 2/3 innings over the last three seasons. Then there's 39-year-old Rich Hill, who's already working through a knee issue. However, this is still a formidable group. Walker Buehler could soon pass Kershaw as the Dodgers' staff leader, as the 24-year-old owns a career 2.95 ERA in 146 2/3 innings to go along with a 10 K/9 rate. Hill and Kenta Maeda are solid options at the back end of the rotation, and with Ross Stripling and Julio Urias, Los Angeles boasts the depth to cope with early-season injuries.
If the Mets are going to survive the treacherous waters of the NL East, their starting pitchers will have to be healthy and firing on all cylinders. Fortunately, their rotation is oozing with talent. Jacob deGrom is coming off one of the best seasons by a hurler in the modern era (1.70 ERA, 0.91 WHIP). Even if he can't replicate those numbers, he should still be in the mix for a second consecutive NL Cy Young award. Noah Syndergaard is a powerhouse on the mound thanks to a dynamic repertoire that features a 98-mph fastball and a wipeout slider and is likely still approaching his peak. Although Steven Matz has struggled with injuries since bursting onto the scene in 2015 with a 2.27 ERA during the Mets' World Series run, he's still only 27. Zack Wheeler looks like he's finally living up to the hype after being the sixth overall pick in the 2009 MLB Draft and could be a No. 2, or even a No. 1, on a number of teams. Jason Vargas, a 2017 All-Star, rounds out the rotation.
Chris Sale is a top-five pitcher and a true stopper at the front end of a very good rotation. It looked like the 29-year-old was primed to capture his first Cy Young award in 2018, but injuries limited him to only 158 innings after throwing 200-plus in four of the last five seasons. However, when he did pitch, the seven-time All-Star was his sensational self, posting a 2.11 ERA and a career-high 13.5 K/9 rate. David Price isn't a No. 1 pitcher anymore, but he can still come up big when it matters. He went 2-0 with a 1.98 ERA in the World Series against the Dodgers. Rick Porcello had a 1.17 WHIP last season and won the Cy Young in 2016. The back end is comprised of Eduardo Rodriguez, who was on his way to a breakout campaign before going down with an ankle injury, and Boston sports folklore hero Nathan Eovaldi.
Whenever a team can send a three-time Cy Young winner in his prime to the mound every fifth day, its starting rotation is probably in good shape. That's exactly the case in Washington, as Max Scherzer leads a deep and experienced staff. The 34-year-old registered 300 strikeouts for the first time in 2018 and has thrown a whopping 852 in the last three seasons, more than any other pitcher during that time. Speaking of strikeouts, Stephen Strasburg and his career 10.8 K/9 rate and 3.14 ERA follow Scherzer in the pecking order. Strasburg is a headache for opposing hitters when he is on but he's only pitched 200 innings once, back in 2014. Prized free-agent acquisition Patrick Corbin - who finished fifth in NL CY Young voting last season after posting a 3.15 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 11.1 K/9 rate in Arizona - is the No. 3. Veterans Anibal Sanchez and Jeremy Hellickson round out the rotation. Sanchez had a renaissance season at age 34 with a 2.83 ERA in 24 starts for the Atlanta Braves, while Hellickson posted a 1.07 WHIP in 91 1/3 innings (19 starts) with the Nationals.
The Indians will probably win another AL Central title this season solely because of their sublime starting pitching. Cleveland essentially has three aces, as two-time AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, and Carlos Carrasco all finished 2018 with a WAR above 5.0, according to FanGraphs. The Indians may soon have a fourth, as Mike Clevinger produced a breakout 2018, accruing a WAR of 4.2 with a 3.02 ERA and 207 strikeouts in 200 innings. Shane Bieber is the No. 5 and has the potential to turn into another front-end starter. The 23-year-old's spring numbers as of Friday are sensational, as he owns a 1.42 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 19 innings. With Cleveland's bullpen and outfield depleted, this rotation will carry the team all season long.