Continuing my series: three opening day starters were announced previously: the Rangers will go with Yu Darvish, the Pirates with Francisco Liriano, and the Giants with Madison Bumgarner.
Darvish is the least surprising of the group. The import from NPB built upon his solid 2012 rookie season, stepping forward as one of the elite pitchers in baseball in 2014. He led the majors in strikeouts and K/9, which bodes well for continued success. While Texas has several other capable starters, the rest all come with significant injury concerns. Darvish's performance this year will go a long way in determining what the Rangers do in 2014. He's a strong Cy Young candidate and arguably the player whose team can least afford a bad season from.
Liriano had a bounceback campaign last year with the Pirates, capped by a pair of strong postseason outings. He is the best pitcher on the Pirates right now, but that comes with a caveat - the 161 innings he threw last season were the second most of his career. He's still only 30, which seems impossible, considering how much he's been up and down during his career. With the Reds and Cardinals still looking strong, the Pirates likely will depend on another strong performance by Liriano to get back to the playoffs. If all goes well in Gerrit Cole's development, he should take over the opening day role for a long time.
Of the five announced opening day starters, Bumgarner is the biggest surprise. Not a surprise because of his on-field contributions - he was the best pitcher on the Giants last year, by a fair amount - but because of his listing of more famous rotation-mates. Tim Lincecum, who pitched better in 2013 than he did in 2012, for whatever that's worth, is a two-time Cy Young Award winner. And it's not like he's some old dude - he won those awards in 2008 and 2009. Matt Cain has been the rock of the staff for years and was a model of consistency before suffering his first poor season in 2013. He is the longest-tenured Giant. Finally, Tim Hudson was brought aboard as a free agent. While he's 38, he was solid last year before a gruesome ankle injury ended his season, and has a career profile of a borderline Hall of Famer. His ERA+ of 97 in 2013 was the second worst of his career.