When teams in Major League Baseball began employing the use of a fifth starter in the 1970s, it signified a major change in pitching philosophy. Bullpen specialists were also becoming popular, and no longer were the days when starting pitchers were required to work 300-plus innings each season.
As such, the role of the fifth starter became very important for each team. With travel days, oftentimes the fifth starter may miss turns in the rotation in order for their rotation mates to continue with their routines of pitching every fifth day. Here are the current fifth starters considered the best in baseball today.
5. Anibal Sanchez: Miami Marlins
Normally, Miami Marlins starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez would be the No. 3 pitcher in the rotation. However, with the offseason acquisitions of Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano, Sanchez slides into the final spot in the rotation.
Considering his body of work, Sanchez is certainly no slouch in that role, posting a 3.61 ERA in the past two seasons and registering over 200 strikeouts last season for the first time in his career.
4. Dillon Gee: New York Mets
In 2011, despite what was otherwise a gloomy season at Citi Field, New York Mets starting pitcher Dillon Gee was one of the lone bright spots, posting a 13-6 record and 4.45 ERA in his first full season.
Gee won’t blow anyone away with a blazing fastball, however, he has an excellent array of secondary pitches and has shown the ability to work out of jams. Considering the Mets’ current financial woes and declining attendance figures, Gee is a steal in the rotation at just $500K.
3. Neftali Feliz: Texas Rangers
Over the past three seasons, the Texas Rangers have mastered the art of turning relievers into starters, with C.J. Wilson successfully transitioning in 2010 and Alexi Ogando last year.
Now, the Rangers are pulling off that same trick for the third straight season, with former closer and 2010 Rookie of the Year Award winner Neftali Feliz making the transition to the rotation.
With Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison and Yu Darvish in place at the top of the rotation, Feliz will be given all the time he needs to make the successful transition. Judging from his start thus far (2.25 ERA, 1-0 in first two starts), the Rangers may have pulled off the trifecta.
2. Jeff Niemann: Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays are absolutely loaded with great homegrown starting pitching, and this past spring training the Rays had a unique problem that most teams would love to have.
With youngster Matt Moore entrenched as the fourth starter, the battle for the final spot in the rotation came down to Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis, both of whom pitched well in starting roles in 2011. Niemann won the battle, and gives the Rays an outstanding core of starting pitching that rivals any in the majors.
1. Ryan Vogelsong: San Francisco Giants
Last season, San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong came out of nowhere to post a 13-7 record and 2.71 ERA, a remarkable feat considering he hadn’t posted a win in the majors since 2005.
Vogelsong at times last season was the best pitcher on a staff loaded with talent and was rewarded with an All-Star selection for his efforts. This season, Vogelsong is on the back end of a rotation that features two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and a rejuvenated Barry Zito. Not too shabby at all.
This is a guest post submitted by Mike Wright. Mike played all kinds of sports growing up and adamantly follows everything sports. He works with Phoenix Bats, a company that creates world-class wood bats, such as their premier custom wood bats, for amateur and professional ball players around the world. Mike loves writing on different sports topics and is honored to contribute here.