Major League Baseball is back and with a 162-game season, we’ll get to see some of the best starting pitchers in baseball taking the hill to try and push their teams into October. As part of our baseball coverage, we update our MLB rotation rankings every month.
With the MLB trade deadline behind us and top arms like Max Scherzer and José Berríos dealt, paired with key injuries to All-Star pitchers, there are plenty of changes entering the second half of the season. To no surprise, a new team has claimed the title for the best starting rotation in MLB.
Bookmark this page throughout the season for monthly updates. Let’s dive into our MLB rotation rankings in 2021.
10. San Diego Padres (8)
Not acquiring Max Scherzer might cost the San Diego Padres a shot at the World Series. WHile this is a very talented team with a great lineup and phenomenal bullpen, the starting rotation is falling apart. San Diego’s starters posted the third-worst ERA (6.04) in July. The blame is divided among Chris Paddack (.288 BAA), Blake Snell (1.83 WHIP) and Yu Darvish (7.32 ERA). We’ll keep this team at No. 10 in our MLB rotation rankings based on upside and talent, but the margin for error is gone.
9. New York Mets (1)
The biggest slide in our MLB rotation rankings this season. Our expectations were high in July with Jacob deGrom leading the NL Cy Young race, Carlos Carrasco nearing a return and the Mets vowing to address an injury-riddled pitching staff. Now, deGrom is out until mid-September and New York settled for Rich Hill and Trevor Williams as its additions. The Mets’ rotation ranked 19th in ERA (4.66) this month and things might get worse from here.
8. Toronto Blue Jays (Unranked)
The Toronto Blue Jays couldn’t enter August without adding a front-line starter. Yes, landing José Berríos came at a significant cost and there’s a strong argument for it being an overpay, but it filled a need. Keep in mind, the Blue Jays’ rotation posted the seventh-best ERA (3.51) in July with a strong 17.3 percent K-BB rate. A trio of Berríos, Hyun-Jin Ryu (2.70 ERA in July) and Robbie Ray (.175 BAA, 0.92 WHIP this month) is a quality playoff trio.
7. Oakland Athletics (10)
The Oakland Athletics overpaid for Starling Marte, trading away promising hurler Jesus Luzardo. But when you have arguably the most underrated rotation in MLB, you can afford to take those risks. A quick look at the numbers, especially some Frankie Montas stats, shows the effectiveness of this pitching staff.
- Oakland Athletics pitching stats (July): 3.35 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, .225 BAA, 21.7% K-BB rate
When MLB banned pitchers from using sticky substances in June, many wondered if Montas would struggle even more. Let his 2.30 ERA, .202 batting average allowed, 31.7 percent strikeout rate and 4.44 K/BB ratio in 31.1 innings silence that doubt. Montas is tapping into his special abilities and with Sean Manaea, Chris Bassitt and James Kaprielian also pitching really well, Oakland may cause problems if it plays in October.
6. San Francisco Giants (2)
Regression was inevitable for the San Francisco Giants rotation. Kevin Gausman pitched at a Cy Young level entering July, putting up deGrom-like numbers in June. Things have fallen off since, as demonstrated by his 5.11 ERA, 1.54 WHIP and .255 batting average allowed. San Francisco tried to acquire Max Scherzer and fell short, failing to add a single starter at the deadline. A 3.89 rotation ERA in July, 12th in MLB, might be a greater sign of where this team is.
5. New York Yankees (UR)
This is a big swing for the New York Yankees. They deserved to fall out of the rankings entering July, considering the injuries and how some starters were performing. Perhaps feeling the pressure of frustrated fans and sensing many in baseball started counting this team out, the Yankees’ starting pitchers turned things around.
- New York Yankees pitching stats (July): 2.79 ERA, 0.78 HR/9, 28.1% K-rate, .190 BAA, in 116 innings (22 starts)
What’s most remarkable about the above numbers, Gerrit Cole didn’t really help matters. He posted a 4.71 ERA in July with a 1.29 WHIP, but a 2.85 SIERA tells us he’ll rebound. The real story is Jameson Tailon, who held opponents to a.180 batting average and registered a 1.16 ERA. With Montgomery also pitching well, Corey Kluber inching towards a return and Andrew Heaney on the team, things look promising.
4. Houston Astros (6)
Admittedly, there were mixed results for the Houston Astros rotation in July. Zack Greinke (2.74 ERA) pitched very well and Lance McCullers Jr. (3.86 ERA, 2.30 FIP) is recovering nicely from a stint on the IL. But Framber Valdez and Jake Odorizzi struggled to find consistency on the mound. With so many talented, young arms on the Astros’ roster, though, they deserve a spot in the top five of our MLB rotation rankings.
3. Chicago White Sox (5)
The Chicago White Sox rotation is the definition of stability and balance. When Lucas Giolito struggled early in the season, Carlos Rodon and Dylan Cease stepped up to carry some of the weight. With Cease now hitting a rough patch and Rodon experiencing some poor luck, Giolito and Lance Lynn are now carrying this pitching staff.
Chicago finished July with the fifth-lowest rotation ERA (3.34), the second-highest K/9 (10.13) and it made the difference. Keep in mind, the lineup has been awful as of late and the White Sox keep adding to their insurmountable lead in the AL Central. With an elite bullpen and rotation, Chicago is dangerous in October.
2. Milwaukee Brewers (3)
Unlike many teams in our MLB rotation rankings, the Milwaukee Brewers must be more cautious at this point in the season. Corbin Burnes, who has never thrown more than 59.2 innings in an MLB season before 2021, is already past the 100-inning mark. Freddy Peralta, Milwaukee’s breakout star, is at 108 innings after topping at 85 in 2019.
Fortunately, skipper Craig Counsell is using a piggyback day, two pitchers throwing four innings each, to limit the wear on young arms. Milwaukee can afford to do this now because the NL Central is practically locked up. As for the long-term benefits, look towards October. The Brewers’ rotation in the postseason, Peralta (.128 BAA, 34.5% K-rate), Burnes (.209 BAA, 1.49 FIP) and Brandon Woodruff (.168 BAA, 0.84 WHIP). Best of luck to opponents.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (4)
Trevor Bauer almost certainly isn’t returning to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2021 and his teammates are just fine with that. Recognizing the absence in the pitching staff, a void that existed even with Clayton Kershaw nearing a return, Los Angeles acquired Max Scherzer (and Trea Turner) at the trade deadline.
Keep in mind, even amid the absences of Kershaw, Bauer and Dustin May, Dodgers’ starting pitchers finished July with the third-lowest ERA (2.87) in the majors. Looking ahead to October, which is really what matters for the defending World Series champs, the Dodgers can throw Scherzer, Kershaw, Walker Buehler and Julio Urias in a postseason series. No other explanation is necessary for why they are No. 1 in our MLB rotation rankings.