Building the Perfect MLB Starting Rotation in 2020

Chris Halicke

As we all wait for baseball to return amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, we are going to have some fun. 

Sports Illustrated's MLB staff writers Tom Verducci, Stephanie Apstein, Emma Baccellieri, Connor Grossman, Matt Martell, and Michael Shapiro all dreamed up their perfect starting rotations for 2020 (read here). I also came up with my ideal rotation for 2020, and it comes with a couple surprises. 

1. Gerrit Cole

Gerrit Cole was my choice for the American League Cy Young in 2019. His 326 strikeouts in 212 1/3 innings is legendary stuff (an MLB-record 13.8 strikeouts-per-nine). He also checked off traditionally valued stats, winning 20 games with a 2.50 ERA. He's the best pitcher in baseball. Just imagine what he could have done without being under Pittsburgh's restrictive pitching philosophies for the first five years of his career. 

2. Jacob deGrom

It's hard to call Jacob deGrom a number two in any rotation, so I like to think of this as a 1b to Cole as a 1a. deGrom has won consecutive National League Cy Young awards and is only one year removed from a jaw-dropping 1.70 ERA in 2018. deGrom is still at the top of his game after another phenomenal year in 2019, so he's an obvious choice for any rotation.

3. Stephen Strasburg

He doesn't have the lights out numbers of Cole or deGrom, but I need at least one big-game pitcher in my rotation. When a pitcher deservedly wins the World Series MVP, I will not allow that to go unnoticed. Strasburg's 251 strikeouts in 209 innings with a 1.04 WHIP still shows me he's one of the better pitchers in baseball, but his big-game status tells me he could go up against anyone in the postseason and give me a win. 

4. Jack Flaherty

Jack Flaherty is one of the younger pitchers I absolutely love in the game of baseball right now. At only 24 years old, he is thrusting himself into conversations among the best pitchers in baseball with the numbers he's putting up. I don't want a rotation filled with only veteran pitchers, so out of all the younger pitchers in baseball, Flaherty is my choice.

5. Lance Lynn

Here's where my bias as a Texas Rangers writer shows, but hey, it's my rotation. But let's not act like Lance Lynn is some scrub. He was in the top three in pitching bWAR (7.5) and fWAR (6.8) and his 246 strikeouts were seventh in all of baseball. He's also among the best in eating innings in all of baseball. Lynn pitched at least five innings in all but one of his 33 starts and pitched at least six innings in 25 of them. The value of pitching deep into games is as valuable as its ever been in baseball and Lance Lynn can do that. 

Also, his curveball is literally unhittable. 

Final Thoughts

It's insanely difficult to leave pitchers like Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer off, but I wonder how much longer they could sustain durability at their ages. Verlander underwent groin surgery last month and after six straight seasons of eclipsing 200 innings, Scherzer only pitched 172 1/3 in 2019. Scherzer's been as durable as any pitcher in baseball during the last decade, but I wonder if father time might be stepping in this decade.

Regarding the Rangers, they have the potential for multiple pitchers in the running for the Cy Young award again. Lynn returns alongside Mike Minor, who led all of baseball in bWAR (7.8) in 2019. Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels traded for Corey Kluber this offseason, who has two Cy Young awards of his own. Kluber is looking to bounce back after an injury-riddled 2019 campaign.

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