Major League Baseball is back and with a 162-game season in the books, it’s time for the MLB playoffs. October means we’ll get to see some of the best starting pitchers in baseball taking the hill to try and push their teams to the World Series. As part of our baseball coverage, we update our MLB rotation rankings throughout the postseason.
Who has the best rotation in baseball? We provide the answers with an in-depth analysis of the top pitching staffs throughout the year.
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Bookmark this page throughout the season for updates to our MLB rotation rankings throughout the playoffs.
MLB stats courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball Reference
12. Philadelphia Phillies
The Philadelphia Phillies pitchers came apart in September, posting a 4.33 ERA (24th in MLB) with the eighth-worst WHIP (1.28), all with a .264 batting average allowed to opponents. We’d trust Zack Wheeler (2.82) in Game 1 of a series and even Aaron Nola (3.25 ERA) can give Philadelphia a chance on any given night. Behind the duo, though, we just don’t have any faith in Noah Syndergaard or Ranger Suarez against a great lineup.
11. Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays chose not to address their starting pitching at the trade deadline, only time will tell if it proves costly. Instead, the front office gambled on José Berríos figuring out his issues and Ross Stripling repeating his stunning excellence. While Stripling (2.92 ERA, 0.98 WHIP) lived up to his end of the gamble, Berrios (5.37 ERA, .290 BAA) has fallen far short. It leaves us only able to trust Kevin Gausman and Alex Manoah, who carried things for a rotation that ranked 12th in ERA (3.69) after August.
10. St. Louis Cardinals
Acquiring Jordan Montgomery and Jose Quintana at the trade deadline worked out brilliantly for the St. Louis Cardinals. Flipping Harrison Bader to the New York Yankees, St. Louis landed a pitcher who fits perfectly within the team philosophy. In 11 starts with the Cardinals, Montgomery recorded a 3.11 ERA with a .232 BAA and 1.08 WHIP, thanks to a stellar 49.7% groundball rate. As for Quintana, his 2.11 ERA and 0.15 HR/9 in 11 starts with the Cardinals have been even better than they expected.
The X-factors for St. Louis are Adam Wainwright and Jack Flaherty. In Wainwright’s case, a career 2.83 ERA in the postseason suggests he’ll thrive once again in October. It’s worth considering, though, that he finished with a 7.22 ERA with a 13-11 K-BB ratio in his final six starts. Flaherty can be the Cardinals’ ace when he’s at 100%, but multiple IL stints led to a difficult return in September (4.00 ERA).
9. Seattle Mariners
The Seattle Mariners paid a steep price for Luis Castillo so they could have him in October. Since joining his new club, the All-Star pitcher sports a strong 3.17 ERA with a 2.92 FIP and an outstanding 22.6% K-BB rate in 65.1 innings. The second-best Mariners’ starter behind Castillo right now is George Kirby. The rookie displayed phenomenal control in the second half, registering a 2.63 ERA with a minute 4% walk rate and 1.10 WHIP.
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Behind those two, we have some questions. Robbie Ray, the AL Cy Young Award winner in 2021, finished with a 1.35 WHIP and 4.00 ERA after the All-Star Break, surrendering 14 home runs and a concerning .263 batting average. As for Logan Gilbert, inconsistency is a big problem as he alternates between gems (1.13 ERA over eight innings on Sep. 30) and duds (five earned runs allowed vs Kansas City Royals on Sep. 24). How far Seattle advances will depend on which versions of Ray and Gilbert show up.
8. San Diego Padres
We loved the San Diego Padres rotation coming into the season, but its level of performance fluctuated every month. The Padres’ rotation posted a 4.20 ERA in July and a 4.42 ERA in August. As San Diego started catching fire in the final weeks, the pitching staff played a crucial part. From Sep. 11 to the end of the regular season, Yu Darvish (1.73 ERA, .170 BAA), Blake Snell (0.72 ERA, 9.64 WHIP) and Joe Musgrove (2.11 ERA, .235 BAA) helped the Padres post the third-lowest ERA (2.50). It’s that kind of volatility that made it difficult to place the Padres in the MLB rotation rankings.
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7. Tampa Bay Rays
Remove health from the equation and the Tampa Bay Rays are much higher in the MLB rotation rankings. Tyler Glasnow is one of the best pitchers in baseball, but he is on a pitch count in his first starts back from Tommy John surgery. In a similar fashion, Shane McClanahan dealt with shoulder and neck issues in September that could linger into the postseason. When both starters are on the mound, though, Tampa Bay has two aces who can tear through some of the top lineups in the American League.
The two names the average baseball fan will become familiar with are Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen. Both former relievers. Rasmussen sports a 2.45 ERA in his last 16 starts and Springs (2.39 ERA, .211 BAA) has been even better since the All-Star Break. If the Rays go on an October run, it’s going to be due to their pitching staff emerging as one of the best rotations in the playoffs.
6. New York Yankees
Gerrit Cole might be the ace of the New York Yankees rotation, but Nestor Cortes is the starter everyone should have more confidence in. One of the best stories from the 2022 MLB season, Cortes held opponents to a .188 batting average across 158.1 innings. He held opponents to a 5.3% Barrel rate, combining it with a microscopic 2.44 ERA and 3.13 FIP. Behind Cole and Cortes, the Yankees, Jameson Taillon (3.83 ERA) is an effective No. 4 starter who will cover five-plus innings. The wild card, of course, is Luis Severino. He’s been sharp since coming off the injured list, but durability is a major concern.
5. Cleveland Guardians
The Cleveland Guardians starting rotation carried them at the end of the regular season, securing the AL Central for one of the hottest teams in MLB. Everyone is familiar with Shane Bieber and he certainly dominated in the second half (2.52 ERA, 0.91 WHIP), but Triston McKenzie (.201 BAA, 27.6% strikeout rate) is becoming the ace of this pitching staff. Behind the duo, Cal Quantrill (3.01 ERA, 5.2% walk rate) and Aaron Civale (3.41 ERA, 4.2% walk rate) function perfectly in the middle of the rotation.
4. Atlanta Braves
The reigning World Series champions certainly have the rotation to win another title. Max Fried (2.18 ERA, .207 BAA post-ASB) showed against the New York Mets why he is the ace of this rotation. The 28-year-old southpaw allowed just 12 home runs across 733 batters faced (1.63%) during the regular season and Kyle Wright (.227 BAA, 3.57 ERA) can be just as dominant when he is commanding his pitches. Charlie Morton is the wild card of this pitching staff, just as capable of a one-run game as he is a disastrous outing. Unfortunately, the oblique injury for 23-year-old Spencer Strider will sideline him at the start of the postseason, pushing Atlanta down in the MLB rotation rankings.
3. Houston Astros
Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander can dominate an October night at any given moment. One of the best starting pitchers of his generation is especially dangerous early in the postseason, responsible for an 8-1 record in the ALDS (2.52 ERA) and a 3.13 ERA in the ALCS. Naturally, the Astros’ postseason rotation is about so much more than just Verlander. Christian Javier (.150 BAA, 1.76 ERA) tore through opposing lineups in the second half and Lance McCUllers Jr (2.38 ERA) returned strong from injury. Behind them, just Framber Valdez (2.93 SIERA) and Jose Urquidy (.217 BAA, 1.03 WHIP). Houston’s depth is really what helps it stand out in the MLB rotation rankings.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
Clayton Kershaw still gets a bad rep in the postseason, but it’s a flawed narrative. He dominated in the 2020 World Series, allowing just three runs in 11.2 innings (2.31 ERA). While there can be some blowups, a 2.54 second-half ERA in 2022 demonstrates he is still pitching at an elite level. Julio Urias (1.24 ERA,.176 BAA, 0.87 WHIP) is performing at an even higher level since the All-Star Break. Los Angeles is behind the Mets in our MLB rotation rankings for October because of the top-end talent, but incredible depth helped Dodgers’ starters post the lowest rotation ERA (2.67 ERA) in the second half, with credit to Kershaw, Urias, Tyler Anderson, Andrew Heaney and now the return of Tony Gonsolin.
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1. New York Mets
The New York Mets have the best rotation in the MLB playoffs. Since coming off the injured list, Jacob deGrom boasts an electrifying 42.7% strikeout rate and held opponents to a .173 batting average with a 0.75 WHIP in 64.1 innings. Behind the two-time Cy Young Award winner, New York will turn to three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer. The 38-year-old is dominant in his own right, sporting a 2.29 ERA with a 0.91 WHIP, a .196 batting average allowed and a 26.0% K-BB rate. Don’t forget about Chris Bassitt, though, the offseason acquisition who carried this rotation during deGrom and Scherzer’s IL stints. Trotting out a starter with a 3.42 ERA and .233 BAA – with a 2.70 ERA since August – in Game 3 of a series, that’s just unfair. Of course, Taijuan Walker and Carlos Carrasco aren’t bad options either.