MLB's Biggest Storyline of 2011Part of the process for applying for Major League Baseball's Ultimate Dream Job was to write a short 500 word essay. We had two options. We could take a stab at determining who will win the MVP in the National and American Leagues, or write about the biggest storyline of 2011. I opted for the latter. I said starting pitching would be the biggest storyline.
Here's what I said.
Once teams break camp and players head north to begin the 2011 Major League Baseball campaign, the biggest storyline will be starting pitching. Since light was exposed on the steroid scandal of the 1990s and 2000s, we've seen players' bodies return to traditional physiques. We've seen power numbers regress to historically significant ranges. As a result, starting pitching has thrived.
With the offseason acquisition of Cliff Lee, the Philadelphia Phillies possess the most formidable starting four in baseball. Having pitched in the World Series the last two seasons, one with the Phillies and one with the Rangers, Lee will bring a polished resume to the staff. Lee will return to the City of Brotherly Love after a brief stint with the team in 2009 to join forces with Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. Halladay pitched a perfect game against the Florida Marlins during the 2010 regular season, as well as, a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds during his postseason debut in the NLDS. Oswalt, who was acquired from the Houston Astros prior to the trade deadline last season, will pitch his first full season with the Phillies. Hamels, who won the World Series MVP in 2008, will be surrounded by three potential aces. The Phillies are once again clear front-runners to win the National League East.
Simply review their resumes and you'll understand why the Phillies stand head and shoulders above the rest of baseball. Cliff Lee won the American League Cy Young award while winning 22 games for the Cleveland Indians in 2008. He started four games in the 2009 and 2010 World Series. Roy Halladay won two Cy Young awards. One in the American League with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2003, and during his lone season in the National League. Roy Oswalt led the Houston Astros to the World Series in 2005. Following his trade to the Phillies in 2010, Oswalt recorded seven wins and one lose in 12 starts. Though younger than the others, Cole Hamels has appeared in the postseason every year with the exception of his rookie year.
Despite all eyes will be focused upon the Phillies, the Milwaukee Brewers have quietly assembled a pennant-contending rotation themselves. Though not as accomplished as the Phillies, the Brewers rotation features Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, and Yovani Gallardo. When a small market city acquires a recent American League Cy Young award winner, they've demonstrated a commitment to winning. With the recent struggles within the Chicago Cubs, and key injuries to the St. Louis Cardinals, the Brewers are the favorites to claim the National League Central title.
For a team known primarily for the offensive production of Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun, Yovani Gallardo has been the ace of the staff. Though Milwaukee's starters lack the accomplished resumes, the team seems positioned to make a legitimate run at the postseason.
With that being said, that's why they play the games. It's time to play ball.