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Rotation poker hands: NL East

By Dayn Perry | Baseball Writer

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When it comes to rotations, who's tops in the National League East? (Getty Images)

Rotations as poker hands: AL West | NL West | AL Central | NL Central | AL East

Just for fun this week, in addition to ranking the rotations in each division, we've been assigning a poker hand to each rotation. This time out, we'll wrap things up with the NL East.

A reminder: Do not correlate individual cards with individual players. We aren't assigning a card to a player, otherwise a terrible rotation (with, let's say, four 2s) would make an awesome hand (four of a kind, in this example).

And now, the NL East:

Nationals
First, a roll call, with 2012 ERAs: Stephen Strasburg (3.16), Gio Gonzalez (2.89), Jordan Zimmermann (2.94) and Ross Detwiler (3.40). Sure, Edwin Jackson is now a Cub, but Dan Haren, if healthy, is more than capable of replacing his innings. As a unit, the Washington rotation in 2012 led the NL in ERA, FIP, WHIP, average game score and average fastball velocity (the average four-seam fastball thrown by the average Nationals starter in 2012 checked in at a healthy 93.8 mph). They also ranked second in K% and fifth in quality-start percentage. Those numbers obviously speak to the excellence of the 2012 unit, and several of those indicators also bode well for 2013 and beyond. Throw in a presumably unharnessed Strasburg and the prime-ish ages of Gonzalez, Zimmermann and Detwiler, and you've got a rotation that should be tops in all of baseball.

Hand they've been dealt:

Straight flush, because they're really, really good.

Braves
Ace Tim Hudson might be getting up there in years, but he's still capable of pitching at a high level. After all, this is a pitcher who boasts an ERA of 3.41 … since turning 35. Elsewhere, Kris Medlen, thanks in part to one of the best changeups on the planet, might emerge as the true staff ace in 2013. Mike Minor and Paul Maholm have the potential to provide average to modestly better-than-average innings, and fifth man Julio Teheran, long regarded as a top pitching prospect, has frontline potential. Teheran's fastball-change combo is impressive, and the Braves have given him plenty of one-on-one attention after last season's disappointments. Some of shine has come off of the 22-year-old right-hander, but this is still the guy Baseball America tabbed as the fifth-best prospect in baseball prior to 2012.

Hand they've been dealt:

A straight! In most divisions, this would be tops.

Phillies
Cole Hamels has emerged as a genuine ace, and Cliff Lee continues to author some of the most impressive command numbers in all of baseball (his career K/BB ratio of 3.64 ranks 13th on the all-time list). On the downside, Roy Halladay is coming off his worst season since 2000, and his grievous struggles this spring (and his age of 35) raise concerns that he'll never again perform at a high level. It's of course premature to assume as much, but it's a consideration moving forward. As well, the departures of Joe Blanton and Vance Worley have thinned out the depth that had been in place. Kyle Kendrick has average-ish potential, but his baseline indicators a year ago were pretty ugly. Needless to say, fifth starter John Lannan has very limited upside. In other words, after Hamels and Lee, there's cause for concern.

Hand they've been dealt:

Three of a kind! When you share a loop with the Nats and Braves, though, that doesn't cut it.

Mets
Will Johan Santana's failing shoulder allow him to contribute much in 2013? Can Shaun Marcum get and stay healthy? How will the Mets replace R.A. Dickey's excellence and innings? The future is bright, what with Matt Harvey in place and Zack Wheeler on the way (and that's to say nothing of Noah Syndergaard, Michael Fulmer and others), and Jon Niese has breakout potential. In the here and now, however, there's little depth, and placeholders Dillon Gee and Jeremy Hefner likely won't prevent runs at a league-average clip. Insofar as the Mets' rotation is concerned the future's bright, but the present is not.

Hand they've been dealt:

That's a solid pair, but overall the hand isn't strong.

Marlins
There's really no need to elaborate beyond this point: The Marlins' opening day starter -- Ricky Nolasco -- has a 4.49 career ERA. There's breakout potential in Henderson Alvarez and modest upside in Nathan Eovaldi, but you simply can slough off the likes of Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle and Anibal Sanchez and expect to have a credible rotation the very next season. So it is with the risible Marlins.

Hand they've been dealt:

That's ... not good.

 
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