It’s not quite Koufax and Drysdale, Spahn and Sain, or even Johnson and Schilling, circa 2001. But Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee at the top of the Mariners’ rotation has the potential to be the best duo in baseball, and one of the best in recent memory.
What does that mean? In any huge three-game series, manager Don Wakamatsu has the option of setting up his rotation to have Lee and Hernandez work two of the games. That will give everyone confidence.
Both are innings-eaters; Felix (238 2/3) and Lee (231 2/3) finished third and fifth in the majors in innings pitched. Rounding out the top 5: Justin Verlander (240), Roy Halladay (239) and Adam Wainwright (233) — all Cy Young-caliber pitchers. WIth workhorse Ryan Rowland-Smith in the rotation, the Mariners’ bullpen should be much more well-rested in 2010.
And if the M’s should somehow get intio the postseason, when the ridiculous amount of offdays allow you to reduce your rotation to just three pitchers if you so choose (as the Yankees did this year), then the Mariners would be golden.
Here are some of the top tandems in baseball. I’d say that Hernandez and Lee stack up with all of them, and have the added benefit of being a right-left combo:
Cardinals: Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter.
Giants: Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain
Red Sox: John Lackey, Jon Lester (it’s right-left, and it’s followed up by Josh Beckett, which trumps the Mariners, and everyone else, for depth)
Yankees: C.C. Sabathia, Andy Pettitte (feel free to substitute A.J. Burnett for Pettitte)
Angels: Joe Saunders, Jered Weaver (it would have looked a lot better with Lackey or Halladay at the top)
Phillies: Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels
Diamondbacks: Dan Haren, Edwin Jackson (a bit of a stretch, but Jackson did make the All-Star team)
Royals: Zack Greinke, Gil Meche. (OK, a big stretch, but Greinke is so good he can carry Meche)
Braves: Javier Vazquez, Jair Jurrjens.
Astros: Roy Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez.
Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley.
Mets: Johan Santana and mmm, uhhh, I’ll get back to you.