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Arizona Diamondbacks: Great starting pitching usually leads to success

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Robbie Ray has emerged as one of the elite pitchers in the game. (Harry How/Getty Images)
Robbie Ray has emerged as one of the elite pitchers in the game. (Harry How/Getty Images) /
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The Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks are the top two teams in the National League for a reason.

Some things never change. Great starting rotations often equate to winning ball clubs, and the Arizona Diamondbacks have one of the leading staffs this season.

For obvious reasons, it is hard to compare the dead ball era to the steroid era. However, great teams in both those parts of baseball history usually had one or two, if not three, elite starting pitchers. Last season, the Chicago Cubs starters combined for a 2.96 ERA, the best in the majors and their season ended with a parade..

The 2017 Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks can join the club. In the majors, the Dodgers (3.18) and the Diamondbacks (3.37) entered Thursday night’s game one and two in the majors in starters ERA. Los Angeles and Arizona starters have given up the fewest home runs and both rotations have an excellent WHIP.

When Rich Hill is right and the blister is not bothering him, the Dodgers arguably have the best 1-2-3 punch in the majors. Clayton Kershaw’s 2.19 ERA and 0.89 WHIP ranks second in the majors behind Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals. Alex Wood is 10-0 with an ERA under two. If the southpaw had enough innings to qualify, his ERA would lead baseball.

Hill turned in a great start against the Diamondbacks, threw a ton of strikes and pitched great for the Dodgers since being traded to the team last August.

What a difference a year makes

When the Diamondbacks lost Shelby Miller for the year earlier this season, a certain level of concern was anticipated. The right-hander did not pitch well in 2016, but had a encouraging spring training and started 2017 by pitching to a respectable 4.04 ERA in four starts.

Any concerns were extinguished when Zack Godley stepped into the rotation. After having success last season, the right-hander has developed into one of the more underrated starters in the game. After yet another quality start Wednesday night against the Dodegrs, Godley is 3-3 with a 2.58 ERA in 11 starts. If he had the innings to qualify, Godley’s 0.95 WHIP and .188 BAA would rank near the top.

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Not only is Godley pitching well, the Diamondbacks finally have the 1-2 punch they have been sought. Zack Greinke has bounced back this season with a 10-4 record and a 3.05 ERA in 17 starts. Most importantly, after struggling at Chase Field last year, Greinke is 8-0 at home in 2017 and has induced the most strikeouts on pitches outside of the zone. The right-hander’s stuff has been electric, but an effective slider has made all the difference.

Meanwhile, Robbie Ray has taken his game to a new level and has become that number two ace the Diamondbacks need. The southpaw is striking out guys left and right and has one of the best weapons in all of baseball, a heater he can throw right by the best hitters with RISP. With Kershaw not available to start the All-Star Game and Scherzer’s status in doubt, both Greinke and Ray  make a strong case to start.

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Conversely, there are concerns with Fernando Rodney right now and a solid bullpen is needed to win in October. With Taijuan Walker also pitching well, the Diamondbacks have the starting pitching to compete. After all, they remain just one of three teams, including the Dodgers and Astros, with a winning percentage above .600.

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