Did the World Series at all clamp down on the perceived value of "bullpenning," a practice that in theory can work in short bursts -- like the postseason -- but is more questionable when applied to a full season?
The matchup of the Nationals and Astros in last year's Fall Classic may have helped close the gap on the two philosophies, or, at the very minimum at least point the national conversation back in the direction of how valuable a strong, veteran rotation can be when factoring in the entirety of a season -- including October.
The American League West will feature several interesting rotations -- some of whom are established, others that are taking shape for contention in future seasons. How do they stack up entering the 2020 season? An overview:
On paper, it looks like the A's may have the Astros beat in terms of depth, but where the Astros are lacking in available arms, they are deep in experience and cache. There's a formidable 1-2 at the top of the Astros’ rotation with 2019 AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander and 2009 Cy Young winner Zack Greinke setting the pace. Verlander went 21-6 with 300 strikeouts, a 2.58 ERA and 0.80 WHIP en route to his second Cy Young. Greinke, traded from D-backs in July, was 18-5 with a 2.83 ERA combined, including 8-1 with a 3.02 ERA in 10 starts with Houston. But how do the Astros make up for the loss of Gerrit Cole to the Yankees? Lance McCullers Jr. will return to action this year after missing 2019 following Tommy John surgery, but is likely on an innings limit. Beyond that, the rest of the rotation is up for grabs. Brad Peacock and Jose Urquidy will be competing for a spot, along with newcomer Austin Pruitt. –Brian McTaggart
The rest (listed alphabetically)
The Angels made improvements to their rotation this offseason but after missing out on free agent starters such as Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, they instead made a splash by signing third baseman Anthony Rendon. The Angels did acquire Dylan Bundy in a trade and signed Julio Teheran to a one-year deal to add to their depth but they don’t have a frontline starter to pair with Shohei Ohtani, who is expected to pitch once a week. Veteran Andrew Heaney returns and they do have some intriguing youngsters such as Griffin Canning and Patrick Sandoval. So the Angels have more depth than in recent years but the rotation is still their weakest link. –Rhett Bollinger
In stark contrast from the past couple of years which have seen them scramble to piece together a rotation, the A’s enter Spring Training with a surplus of starting pitchers and not enough slots. Mike Fiers, Oakland’s 2019 Opening Day starter, and Sean Manaea, who got the start in the AL Wild Card Game, anchor the rotation as the club’s most experienced starters. Frankie Montas will slot back in after an 80-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs cut short a season that was heading towards a likely All-Star selection as he went 9-2 with a 2.70 ERA over the first half of the season. Expected to round out the rotation are exciting top prospects in electric left-handers Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk, both of whom are receiving early projections as Rookie of the Year candidates after impressing in their 2019 cameos out of the bullpen.
For the first time since 2006, Felix Hernandez isn’t part of Seattle’s opening rotation. Also gone from last year are veterans Mike Leake, Wade LeBlanc and Tommy Milone as the Mariners are going younger and piecing things together in 2020 while awaiting the arrival of more top prospects in the near future.
Left-hander Marco Gonzales, 27, returns as the No. 1 starter after going 16-13 with a 3.99 ERA in a career-high 203 innings and just signed an extension that locks him up through at least 2024. But the rest of the group is filled with questions. Yusei Kikuchi struggled last season in his first season in the Majors. Free agent signee Kendall Graveman was a two-time Opening Day starter with Oakland, but hasn't pitched since Tommy John surgery in '18. Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn are highly regarded rookies, but have thrown just a combined 45 1/3 innings in the Majors.
Logan Gilbert and George Kirby -- the club's last two first-round Draft picks -- could arrive soon if they continue progressing. Until then, offseason pickups Nick Margevicius, Nestor Cortes Jr. and Phillips Valdez provide some depth and the Mariners are still interested in free agent Taijuan Walker. –Greg Johns
The Rangers' biggest move this offseason was acquiring two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber from the Indians. He is coming off an injury-plagued season, but if he comes back strong, the Rangers will have a formidable trio at the top with Kluber, Mike Minor and Lance Lynn. The Rangers also signed right-handers Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles for the back end. Gibson has averaged 10 wins a year for the past six seasons with the Twins. Lyles caught the Rangers' attention by going 7-1 with a 2.45 ERA in 11 starts for the Brewers at the end of last season. The veteran rotation gives young left-handers Brock Burke, Joe Palumbo, Taylor Hearn and Kolby Allard, and right-hander Jonathan Hernandez more development time at Triple-A. –T.R. Sullivan