This feature about baseball pitchers incorrectly described Minnesota Twins pitcher Jon Rauch as the team's closer. Matt Capps is the Twins' closer.
The Score: Which baseball teams have the strongest pitchers?
Pitchers are always important in baseball. Whether it's major league or Little League, a great pitcher gives even a mediocre team a chance to win.
That's especially true as the Major League Baseball playoffs start next week. Any team with three strong starting pitchers and a dependable relief pitcher (called a "closer") has a chance to go all the way. The four playoff teams for the American League have been decided, but in the National League, San Francisco, Atlanta and San Diego are battling for the last two spots.
Let's rank the playoff teams by who has the best starters and closers. Those are the teams with the best chance at winning the World Series.
1. New York Yankees
2. Tampa Bay Rays
3. Minnesota Twins
4. Texas Rangers
The Yankees' ace, CC Sabathia, and closer, Mariano Rivera, are as good as it gets. After that, New York has some strong throwers who are question marks. Andy Pettitte has been hurt. Phil Hughes is young and not used to playoff pressure. Veterans A.J. Burnett and Javier Vazquez have been inconsistent. New York Manager Joe Girardi must make smart pitching choices for the defending champs to win again.
Tampa Bay's top three pitchers may be better than the Yanks'. David Price is a young flamethrower. James Shield and Matt Garza can beat any team. Rafael Soriano may have been the American League's best closer this season.
Minnesota and Texas have plenty of good pitchers but lack that one true ace to challenge the Yanks or the Rays. In addition, I wonder about their closers. The Twins' Jon Rauch is so-so, and the Rangers' Neftali Feliz, even though he throws bullets, is still a rookie.