Are Cole and Rodón the No. 1 starting pitcher duo?

December 16th, 2022

Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer on the Mets. Gerrit Cole and Carlos Rodón on the Yankees. The two New York teams both have an elite 1-2 punch of aces at the top of their starting rotations -- now that Rodón has reportedly agreed to a six-year, $162 million contract with the Bronx Bombers.   

But are either Verlander-Scherzer or Cole-Rodón the best pair of starters on any team in baseball right now? Let's rank the top rotation tandems across the Majors as of today.

Here are the top 10 starting pitching duos in baseball entering the 2023 season.

1. Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, Mets
Out with deGrom, in with Verlander. The Mets still have the best pair of aces in baseball in 2023. Scherzer and Verlander have six Cy Young Awards between them. Yes, Verlander is 39 and Scherzer is 38, but they're still two of the most dominant pitchers in baseball. Verlander just won his third Cy Young Award, going 18-4 with a Major League-best 1.75 ERA and 185 strikeouts for the Astros in 2022. Scherzer went 11-5 with a 2.29 ERA and 173 strikeouts for the Mets. Now the two former Tigers rotation-mates are reunited in New York.

2. Gerrit Cole and Carlos Rodón, Yankees 
The Yankees rival the Mets for the No. 1 spot on the list. And with Cole (32) and Rodón (30) both much younger than Verlander and Scherzer, it's easy to see the Yankees' new duo ending up as the top dogs in New York -- and in the Majors. The Yankees already had one of the top starting pitching tandems in the league when it was Cole and Nasty Nestor Cortes. Now that it's the power-pitching lefty Rodón, who has a 2.67 ERA and 12.2 K/9 over the last two seasons, that 1-2 punch is even better. Cole had an MLB-best 257 strikeouts last season; Rodón ranked third with 237. That's 494 K's between them.

3. Shane McClanahan and Tyler Glasnow, Rays
McClanahan's breakout and Glasnow's late return in 2022 set the Rays up for maybe the most electric 1-2 combo of any rotation on stuff alone. Both of them have overpowering upper-90s fastballs -- 25-year-old lefty McClanahan's averaged 96.7 mph in 2022, and 29-year-old righty Glasnow's averaged 97.4 mph when he came back from Tommy John surgery -- and both have wipeout breaking balls. Their back-to-back dominant starts in the Wild Card Series offered a taste of what they could do over a full season in 2023.

4. Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff, Brewers
Over the last three seasons, there hasn't been a more reliable duo than Burnes and Woodruff. Burnes, the 2021 NL Cy Young Award winner, has a 2.62 ERA over that time with 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings. Woodruff has a 2.84 ERA and a 10.9 K/9. They're the only pair of rotation-mates in MLB with an ERA under 3.00 and a K/9 over 10 since the start of 2020.

5. Max Fried and Spencer Strider, Braves
Fried has ascended into the ace spot for the NL East champions over the last couple of seasons, and Strider looks like he's on the same track after an overpowering rookie season. The 24-year-old flamethrower had a 2.67 ERA and an insane 202 strikeouts in 131 2/3 innings and was the runner-up for the NL Rookie of the Year Award, while the 28-year-old Fried went 14-7 with a 2.48 ERA and 170 K's and was the runner-up for the NL Cy Young Award.

6. Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, Phillies
Nola and Wheeler just pitched the Phillies to the brink of a World Series title, and they're both so good that it's hard to say who's the No. 1 and who's the No. 2. The 32-year-old Wheeler has had an ERA under 3.00 in all three of his seasons with the Phillies, while Nola is one of the great workhorses in baseball today, with 235 strikeouts in 205 innings in 2022.

7. Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman, Blue Jays
The bulldog Manoah plows right through hitters, and then Gausman throws them off balance with his fall-off-the-table splitter, which is one of the best chase pitches in baseball. They're a great complement to each other. Both pitchers finished in the top 10 in AL Cy Young Award voting in 2022, with the 24-year-old Manoah going 16-7 with a 2.24 ERA and 180 strikeouts and the 31-year-old Gausman going 12-10 with a 3.35 ERA and 205 strikeouts.

8. Yu Darvish and Blake Snell, Padres
You could easily throw Joe Musgrove on here with either Darvish or Snell, but this isn't a list of trios, so we'll go with the duo who led the Padres' playoff rotation in 2022. The veteran Darvish, San Diego's No. 1, posted a 2.88 ERA in the postseason, following a 16-8, 3.10 ERA, 197-strikeout regular season. With the former AL Cy Young Award winner Snell (and Musgrove) pitching behind him, that helped the Padres go head to head with the Mets' deGrom-Scherzer-Bassitt trio and win the NL Wild Card Series.

9. Clayton Kershaw and Julio Urías, Dodgers
The Dodgers won't have Walker Buehler back until late in the year, if at all, but it might not even matter. That's how good Urías has been anchoring the L.A. rotation over the last two seasons, as the 26-year-old left-hander won the NL ERA title at 2.16 in 2022 after leading the Majors with 20 wins in '21. With Kershaw returning for a 16th season in 2023, after the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner looked great with a 2.28 ERA over 22 starts in '22, the top of the Dodgers' rotation is still one of the best around.

10. Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier, Astros
Losing Verlander is only going to make room for the Astros' next wave of star arms. The 29-year-old Valdez finished fifth in AL Cy Young Award voting in 2022 after going 17-6 with a 2.82 ERA and 194 strikeouts in an AL-high 201 1/3 innings, and the 25-year-old Javier put himself on the map by leading the Astros' combined no-hitter in Game 4 of the World Series. Actually, both Valdez and Javier were lights-out in the postseason -- the southpaw Valdez went 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA, and the right-hander Javier went 2-0 with a 0.71 ERA.