Ranking The Fab 5

March 01, 2004
March 01, 2004

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March 1, 2004

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Ranking The Fab 5

Bitter divisional rivalries sparked this winter's free-agent and
trade markets, with player movement especially heavy in starting
pitching. The Red Sox toppled the first domino on Dec. 1,
acquiring Curt Schilling from the Diamondbacks. Yankees owner
George Steinbrenner, whose eyes are always glued to the rearview
mirror, responded: New York traded for the Dodgers' Kevin Brown
and the Expos' Javier Vazquez, plugging holes left by the
departed Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens--perhaps even improving
its staff in the process. Pettitte and Clemens went home to
Houston, and it wasn't long before the Astros' foil in the NL
Central, the Cubs, delivered a counterpunch of their own, signing
Greg Maddux to create baseball's third premier all-righthanded
rotation (along with New York's and Boston's). When the smoke
cleared, four of the best pitchers in the game--among them the
top two active wins leaders, four of the top 10 strikeout and
shutout leaders, and the winners of 10 Cy Young Awards--had
changed hands. Based on top-to-bottom depth, SI ranks the five
best rotations. --D.G.H.

This is an article from the March 1, 2004 issue Original Layout


Cicago Cubs

ACE MARK PRIOR 23 R 18-6 2.43 1.10
No. 2 KERRY WOOD 26 R 14-11 3.20 1.19
No. 3 GREG MADDUX 37 R 16-11 3.96 1.18
No. 4 MATT CLEMENT 29 R 14-12 4.11 1.23
No. 5 CARLOS ZAMBRANO 22 R 13-11 3.11 1.32


PERFORMANCE W-L: 75-51 ERA: 3.36
WHIP: 1.21 K/9: 8.3 BB/9: 3.0

Pct. of Starts 7+ IP: 50 (81/162)

Average Opening Day Age: 27.4
Total 2004 Salary: $23.8 million


The changeup-tossing Maddux is a nifty counterbalance to
Chicago's power foursome; he craves ground balls as the others do
strikeouts. Maddux and Prior are among the smartest pitchers in
the game.


Hard to knock this staff's consistency--each member threw at
least 200 innings last year. Still, that was uncharted territory
for the two youngest starters, Prior and Zambrano, who may feel
the aftereffects this season.


Prior and Wood were sharp in the Division Series but faltered in
potential home clinchers in the LCS. Maddux (29 starts, 3.22 ERA)
earned his stripes in 11 postseasons (10 with Atlanta), though
his record is 11-14.

Houston Astros

ACE ROY OSWALT 26 R 10-5 2.97 1.14
No. 2 ANDY PETTITTE 31 L 21-8 4.02 1.33
No. 3 ROGER CLEMENS 41 R 17-9 3.91 1.21
No. 4 WADE MILLER 27 R 14-13 4.13 1.31
No. 5 TIM REDDING 26 R 10-14 3.68 1.39

PERFORMANCE W-L: 72-49 ERA: 3.80
WHIP: 1.28 K/9: 7.5 BB/9: 2.8

Pct. of Starts 7+ IP: 37 (56/151)

Average Opening Day Age: 30.2
Total 2004 Salary: $17.5 million

Plenty of mid-to high-90s velocity in this group, from Clemens to
Miller to Oswalt; Pettitte, who can hit the mid-90s on the radar
gun himself, immediately becomes the NL Central's premier

Coming from cavernous Yankee Stadium, Pettitte and Clemens must
adjust to cozy Minute Maid Park and its short porch in left.
Oswalt is the putative ace, but he made three trips to the DL
with a groin strain in '03.

The two former Yankees have playoff resumes as accomplished as
any active tandem (21-14 in 56 starts, 342 1/3 IP, six
championships), but the other three Astros have one playoff
appearance among them.

Boston Red Sox

Ace PEDRO MARTINEZ 32 R 14-4 2.22 1.04
No. 2 CURT SCHILLING 37 R 8-9 2.95 1.05
No. 3 DEREK LOWE 30 R 17-7 4.47 1.42
No. 4 TIM WAKEFIELD 37 R 11-7 4.09 1.30
No. 5 BYUNG-HYUN KIM 25 R 9-10 3.31 1.12

PERFORMANCE W-L: 59-37 ERA: 3.46
WHIP: 1.20 K/9: 8.0 BB/9: 2.6

Pct. of Starts 7+ IP: 47 (62/131)

Average Opening Day Age: 32.2
Total 2004 Salary: $42.4 million

This quintet offers a dizzying array of approaches and out
pitches, from Martinez's and Schilling's incandescent fastballs
to Lowe's sinker, Wakefield's butterfly knuckler and Kim's
Frisbee slider.

Starting has long been Kim's preference and his stamina isn't an
issue, but the second and third trips through the order are. And
how healthy is Martinez's shoulder, which has plagued him for
five years?

Schilling, the 2001 World Series co-MVP, may be the dominant
October starter of his generation (5-1, 1.66 ERA in 86 2/3
innings). Facing him and Martinez in Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 will be
a Herculean challenge.

New York Yankees

Ace MIKE MUSSINA 35 R 17-8 3.40 1.08
No. 2 KEVIN BROWN 39 R 14-9 2.39 1.14
No. 3 JAVIER VAZQUEZ 27 R 13-12 3.24 1.11
No. 4 JOSE CONTRERAS 32 R 7-2 3.30 1.15
No. 5 JON LIEBER* 34 R 6-8 3.70 1.17

PERFORMANCE W-L: 57-39 ERA: 3.15
WHIP: 1.12 K/9: 8.1 BB/9: 2.0

Pct. of Starts 7+ IP: 59 (74/125)

Average Opening Day Age: 33.4
Total 2004 Salary: $47.0 million

No lefthander, but this group has overpowering stuff and
strikeout ability, particularly in Vazquez, whose 241 K's trailed
only Wood's and Prior's. Sinkerballers Brown and Lieber will test
a revamped infield

Lieber's recovery from elbow surgery is on track, but can he
replicate his 20-win form of '01? Which Contreras will show, the
dominant one of September or the one with the ho-hum fastball and
flat splitter of April?

No postseason starts for Vazquez, Contreras or Lieber. Mussina
(5-5, 3.06 ERA) has been inconsistent in his 16 playoff outings.
With the Marlins and the Padres, Brown's World Series record was
0-3 with a 6.04 ERA.

Oakland A's

Ace TIM HUDSON 28 R 16-7 2.70 1.08
No. 2 BARRY ZITO 25 L 14-12 3.30 1.18
No. 3 MARK MULDER 26 L 15-9 3.13 1.18
No. 4 MARK REDMAN 30 L 14-9 3.59 1.22
No. 5 RICH HARDEN 22 R 5-4 4.46 1.50

PERFORMANCE W-L: 64-41 ERA: 3.26
WHIP: 1.19 K/9: 6.4 BB/9: 2.8

Pct. of Starts 7+ IP: 58 (80/137)

Average Opening Day Age: 26.2
Total 2004 Salary: $13.7 million

It's thrilling to watch the oscillation from Hudson's and
Mulder's pinpoint fastballs to Zito's parabolic curve.
Second-year man Harden is a Hudson clone and makes this the
youngest of the elite rotations.

After a meteoric rise through the A's farm system, Harden stalled
slightly in the majors, walking 40 in 74 2/3 innings and
complaining of back spasms. Mulder didn't pitch after Aug. 19
because of a fractured femur.

The Big Three have a 2.88 ERA in 90 2/3 postseason innings but
also suffer a teamwide bugaboo: In potential series-winning
starts, they're 0-5. Redman was 0-1 with a 6.50 ERA in four
relief outings for the Marlins last October.

Statistics are for 2003 except where noted
*2002 stats
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
K/9: Strikeouts per 9 innings pitched
BB/9: Bases on balls per 9 innings pitched
IPS: Innings pitched per start
Pct. of Starts 7+ IP: Percentage of starts that last 7 or more innings