In our continuing look at how the Seattle Mariners match up - position by position - with the top two teams in the American League West, today it's the starting rotations.
That means a bit more speculation, since the starting five might change for all three teams in spring training, though at the end of the rotation, not the top. With that caveat, we're off.
The RotationTexas - Colby Lewis, Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Neftali Feliz, Matt HarrisonLos Angeles - Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson, Ervin Santana, Jerome WilliamsSeattle - Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas, Hisashi Iwakuma, Hector Noesi, Kevin Millwood
The Mariners and Angels have classic staff aces in Felix and Weaver, the Rangers have a solid rotation that could be more than that - but Los Angeles owns the division's most impressive rotation. Teams facing Weaver, Haren and Wilson have to go into a series thinking 'one win,' and if it's a four-game series, they might face Santana, a right-hander forever on the cusp of getting it. Yikes!
Seattle's rotation beyond Felix is a work in progress: Vargas won 10 games for the first time in his career, but he's more a No. 3 or No. 4 pitcher than the No. 2 he'll be in 2012. Iwakuma is a good gamble with a history of eating innings, but has never faced major league lineups. Noesi has promise but only two career big-league starts. And Millwood, the most likely fifth starter if he shows anything in camp, has 415 starts - he just hasn't won many in the last two years. Making half their starts in spacious Safeco Field will help, but this is a rotation without resume, and a major question mark.
The Rangers rotation has taken on the Nolan Ryan philosophy of pitching: Stay in the game, fight for every inning, feel free to work inside. Combine that with the lethal Texas offense, there are a lot of wins in this rotation.No, there's no one with a 20-game season under his belt but, put oddsmakers would likely favor any of them over Seattle's No. 2 starter. Darvish comes in with scouts raving about him, and Feliz? As a closer, the Mariners never got a hit against him. Yikes, again.
The Angels rotation is cleary the class of the division and one of the best in the AL, and the Rangers have a good one that could get more impressive as the season goes on. For the first time in years, Seattle has issues to resolve, if only until the young guns - Dan Hultzen, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton - are ready. The best news? With time off between the Japan season-opening series and their first series in Oakland, the Mariners will be able to start Felix in their first and third game of the year.
If he could make two of every three starts all season, the Mariners might be division favorites.