Sixty Feet, Six Inches: NL rotation breakdowns

Before we get to this week's topic, I must cop to writing what at the moment appears to be the stupidest thing
ever to appear on ESPN.com. In this space last week, I claimed that Bronson Arroyo was due for a turnaround.

Arroyo's line on Monday night? One inning, 11 H, 10 ER, 3 HR, 1 BB, 1 K. Worst of all, I took my own advice, and
started him in one of my personal leagues.


All right, now let's get to a midseason State of the Union: a team-by-team look at starting pitching in the
National League (the AL will follow next week). I'm tasked with giving you one interesting rotation quandary per
team, and I've ranked them from most to least interesting. Here goes:

src="http://assets.espn.go.com/i/teamlogos/mlb/sml/chc.gif" /> Chicago Cubs: Will Carlos Zambrano fall apart? Big Z is on the DL
with a sore shoulder, but the Cubs claim that he's avoided any kind of major trouble. Unfortunately, he's been
terrible in June, and he's thrown almost exactly 1,300 innings since 2002. His strikeout rate is down, and his
walk rate has increased every month this year. Right now, I'm calling Zambrano my biggest potential fader of the
second half.

src="http://assets.espn.go.com/i/teamlogos/mlb/sml/cin.gif" /> Cincinnati Reds: Will Edinson Volquez win the NL Cy Young? At this
point, that's a legitimate question: He's at 10-2 with a 1.71 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 110 K's in 95 IP. Ridiculous.
I've been a doubter all year, and while I give him his props for lasting longer than I thought possible, I still
have serious qualms about saying he's going to keep this up. It's a long season.

src="http://assets.espn.go.com/i/teamlogos/mlb/sml/ari.gif" /> Arizona Diamondbacks: Will whatever's eating href="javascript:newWin('http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/fantasy?statsId=7121')">Brandon Webb continue?
Immediately after being voted the No. 1 fantasy starter among ESPN.com experts for the rest of '08 (as of June 1,
but not by me), Webb entered what he's calling a "dead-arm" phase. He's 2-4 in his past seven outings, and 1-2
with a 5.24 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP in four June starts. The Diamondbacks have a heck of a rotation, but it gets a lot
less scary without their ace at the top of his game.

src="http://assets.espn.go.com/i/teamlogos/mlb/sml/hou.gif" /> Houston Astros: Is Roy Oswalt on the decline? Oswalt is a guy I
argued against ranking too highly before the season started because his 1.33 WHIP didn't match the 3.18 ERA in
'07. That's looking like a pretty good prediction at this point, considering he currently sits at a 1.40 WHIP and
a 4.77 ERA and 18 homers allowed. Including Wednesday night's loss, Oswalt has allowed fewer than three runs in
only three of his 17 starts.

src="http://assets.espn.go.com/i/teamlogos/mlb/sml/phi.gif" /> Philadelphia Phillies: Can href="javascript:newWin('http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/fantasy?statsId=6864')">Brett Myers get his
head dislodged from his posterior? I continue to rank Myers among my top-60 starters in baseball because his
strikeout rate is still up, his walk rate -- while not great -- isn't a disaster, and he says he's healthy. The key is
that Myers's fly-ball rate is almost exactly at his career average, so his major-league-leading 23 homers allowed
strikes me as at least a little unlucky.

src="http://assets.espn.go.com/i/teamlogos/mlb/sml/nym.gif" /> New York Mets: Will a switch at pitching coach
change anything? Johan
and John
will be fine, but Oliver Perez is on the verge of losing his spot in the rotation, Mike Pelfrey has been underwhelming and href="javascript:newWin('http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/fantasy?statsId=4875')">Pedro Martinez got
crushed last time out by the Rockies. Dan Warthen succeeds Rick Peterson in the Big Apple, and he has his work cut out
for him.

src="http://assets.espn.go.com/i/teamlogos/mlb/sml/sdg.gif" /> San Diego Padres: Can Chris Young return from his brutal skull
fracture? Young, of course, was battered by an Albert Pujols liner six weeks ago, and still
has to undergo surgery on his broken nose. The Padres hope to get him back after the All-Star break, but he wasn't
having a particularly scintillating season before his injury, and one wonders if he can avoid being gun-shy.

src="http://assets.espn.go.com/i/teamlogos/mlb/sml/sfo.gif" /> San Francisco Giants: Can a bad team continue to
boast three positive fantasy starters not named Barry Zito? Tim Lincecum has exceeded even his rosiest
projections, and figures to stay hot in '08. Matt Cain isn't destined to win many games,
but his strikeout rate is up. And Jonathan Sanchez has been a terrific story, having won five of his past six starts,
walking three or fewer in each of his past eight starts and fanning 96 in 95 total innings.

src="http://assets.espn.go.com/i/teamlogos/mlb/sml/pit.gif" /> Pittsburgh Pirates: Whither href="javascript:newWin('http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/fantasy?statsId=7411')">Ian Snell? Snell and href="javascript:newWin('http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/fantasy?statsId=7678')">Tom Gorzelanny were
considered fantasy oases in the Pittsburgh desert, but each has been awful this year. I've long since given up
hope on Gorzelanny (55 walks in 77 innings), and as soon as I heard Snell was complaining of elbow soreness after
his most recent start, I bumped him from my top-60 starters. If he's right, he's supposed to be a strikeout
magnet. But is he right?

src="http://assets.espn.go.com/i/teamlogos/mlb/sml/lad.gif" /> Los Angeles Dodgers: Will any of the injured guys be
able to help? Brad
, usually a first-half stud, is on the DL with shoulder tendinitis. While he's expected to be activated
before the end of the month, he currently boasts a 5.88 ERA and a 1.60 WHIP. Hiroki Kuroda has been better than Penny, but
he, too, is on the DL with tendinitis, and isn't used to the longer American baseball season. And href="javascript:newWin('http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/fantasy?statsId=5340')">Jason Schmidt is still
recovering from shoulder surgery.

src="http://assets.espn.go.com/i/teamlogos/mlb/sml/was.gif" /> Washington Nationals: Can href="javascript:newWin('http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/fantasy?statsId=8074')">John Lannan keep it up?
Shawn Hill is about
to go on the DL, so Lannan has taken over as the Nats' presumptive "ace," which is a little scary. But he's a
ground-ball pitcher with good control (28 walks in 89 innings), and he's allowed exactly two earned runs in each of
his past five starts. He's only owned in about 5 percent of ESPN.com leagues and should probably be owned in

src="http://assets.espn.go.com/i/teamlogos/mlb/sml/stl.gif" /> St. Louis Cardinals: Will the Cards get help from
their injured veterans? It's hard to believe a rotation that consists of Braden Looper, Todd Wellemeyer, Kyle Lohse, Joel Pineiro and Mitchell Boggs could be anywhere near second
place. St. Louis is going to need more starters, and they'd love it if Mark Mulder and/or Chris Carpenter could get back and be
effective. Otherwise, you have to believe a trade could be in the offing.

src="http://assets.espn.go.com/i/teamlogos/mlb/sml/mil.gif" /> Milwaukee Brewers: Will anyone other than href="javascript:newWin('http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/fantasy?statsId=6618')">Ben Sheets stay
fantasy-relevant? Dave
almost threw a no-hitter in his most recent start, but I'm certainly not buying 45 walks in 85 2/3
innings. Manny Parra
has won five straight decisions but has a clunky 62/42 K/BB ratio. Seth McClung's numbers look swell, but he's
Seth McClung. And Jeff
's WHIP has hovered between 1.45 and 1.53 for three straight seasons.

src="http://assets.espn.go.com/i/teamlogos/mlb/sml/col.gif" /> Colorado Rockies: Will Aaron Cook win 18? Cook has been the Rockies'
best starter, which isn't exactly a glowing compliment, but as the team's bats heat up, he figures to continue to
get chances for wins. As of Thursday, he stands at 10-5, and any time you sport a sub-4.00 ERA pitching half your
games at Coors Field, you're doing something right.

src="http://assets.espn.go.com/i/teamlogos/mlb/sml/atl.gif" /> Atlanta Braves: Can Mike Hampton come back? An effective Hampton
would be a godsend for the sub-.500 Braves, but then again, it's been about three years since he pitched in the
bigs. At the moment, Hampton is throwing in rookie ball, and certainly won't be back before mid-July, even if he
doesn't have yet another physical setback. The Braves could definitely use him; right now they're going with href="javascript:newWin('http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/fantasy?statsId=6245')">Tim Hudson and four
unheralded kids.

src="http://assets.espn.go.com/i/teamlogos/mlb/sml/fla.gif" /> Florida Marlins: Who'll get called up? href="javascript:newWin('http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/fantasy?statsId=7669')">Josh Johnson has made
it up to Double-A Carolina in his recovery from Tommy John surgery and has performed well, but if href="javascript:newWin('http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/fantasy?statsId=7504')">Francisco Liriano has
taught us anything, it's that it's tough to bounce back quickly from TJ. Sergio Mitre, out with a strained right
forearm, is throwing batting practice and could be back by August. And prospect Chris Volstad is back from his
triceps injury and also throwing at Double-A, and could make the big league jump like Ryan Tucker did last month.

Comings and Goings

sprained his ankle in his most recent start Monday when Carlos Beltran slid into him, and Hernandez is
unlikely to take his turn in Seattle's rotation this weekend. The Mariners think their ace will only miss one
start. Meanwhile, Erik
missed his Wednesday start, and isn't likely to take his next turn either, because of his back spasms.
The Seattle Times speculates that he could wind up on the DL for the second time this season. … Carlos Zambrano
went on the DL last Saturday because of a mild strain in his pitching shoulder, according to the Chicago Sun-
Times. The Cubs think he'll be out for the minimum amount of time. … Roy Halladay took a liner off his temple last
Friday, but made his start Wednesday night against the Reds. He didn't pitch well (5 ER, 9 H and 4 BB in 6 2/3
IP) but reportedly felt fine physically. … The Red Sox activated Daisuke Matsuzaka for last Saturday's game,
and he pulled an Arroyo (in other words, he got rocked). The Sox claim Matsuzaka didn't have any health issues,
and that it was just a bad outing. We'll see if it becomes a pattern Friday night at Houston. … The New York
Post reports that Oliver Perez could be headed out of the Mets' rotation after getting bombed by the Mariners on
Tuesday. … Ian Snell isn't expected to go on the DL because of his elbow soreness, according to the Pittsburgh
Tribune-Review. The Pirates claim that Snell has "golfer's elbow." (That explains what he's been doing all that
time he was supposed to be winning games for his fantasy owners.) Snell is scheduled to pitch again Friday, though
as of this writing, the Pirates hadn't decided if they'd scratch him. … Shaun Marcum won't need elbow surgery,
according to the Toronto Star, but the Blue Jays still don't know when they'll get their surprising righty back.
Marcum hasn't thrown yet since hitting the DL. … Hiroki Kuroda, on the DL with shoulder tendinitis, threw a
bullpen session on Wednesday and depending how he feels, could make his next start on Saturday. … Todd
Wellemeyer threw a successful bullpen session last weekend and told the Cardinals' official Web site he felt
great, which green-lighted Tony La Russa to get Wellemeyer back in the rotation Thursday afternoon against the
Tigers. ... Shawn Hill, considered by some (including yours truly) as an NL-only sleeper before the season, seems
likely to go on the DL with continued forearm troubles. ... The New York newspapers have made a big deal about the
fact that Carl
has a shot to contribute to the Yankees this year. Pavano expects to be ready to go by August, but
you'd still have to consider him a pretty long shot. ... John Lannan was hit on the wrist by a comebacker in his
most recent start against the Rangers, but X-rays were negative and he's not expected to miss his next start. ...
The Reds called up Daryl Thompson from Triple-A and he pitched five scoreless innings against the Yankees last
weekend. He's next scheduled to pitch Friday against the Indians. ... The Astros removed href="javascript:newWin('http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/fantasy?statsId=6713')">Shawn Chacon from their
rotation and called up Runelvys Hernandez to replace him. Chacon subsequently got into a wrestling match with GM Ed
Wade and was suspended indefinitely by the team. ... In their day-night doubleheader against the Mets on Friday,
the Yankees are expected to send out Sidney Ponson and Dan Giese. Ew.

On The Farm

Rays lefty Jake McGee is on the minor league DL with elbow soreness, which may put the kibosh on the idea that
he could make his big league debut before September. Meanwhile, David Price and Jeremy Hellickson have each been
promoted to Double-A Montgomery. If Price is lights-out, don't be surprised if he gets the call sometime after
the All-Star break. ... Thomas Hanson threw a no-hitter and struck out 14 for Double-A Mississippi on Wednesday
night. Hanson had struggled a bit since his promotion to Double-A, but the Braves prospect still clearly has as
much potential as just about any pitcher in the minors right now. ... The Cardinals hoped Mark Mulder would return
from shoulder surgery this weekend, but he experienced back troubles on Monday in a minor league outing. At least
it's not his shoulder. ... Ian Kennedy, rehabbing from a badly strained lat, struck out seven in three innings in a
rookie league game Monday, and he's expected to move up to Triple-A for a couple more rehab starts soon. ...
Francisco Liriano gave up nine hits and six runs, walking one and striking out three on Wednesday night for
Triple-A Rochester. It's his second straight poor outing and pretty much nixes the chance he'll be up before the

Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy
Sports Writers Association award winner across all three of those sports. You can e-mail him href="http://proxy.espn.go.com/chat/mailbagESPN?event_id=14522">here.