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Pitching Power Rankings 7/19/14

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While it seems like a lot of people are into the flash of the home run or the offensive juggernaut of a team whether it be baseball or football or any sport, I have always been the guy that loves a great defensive team. I love a hockey goalie that shuts a team down despite shotty defensive help. I love a great pitching performance just like I loved watching the Seahawks play defense last year, like I loved watching the Pistons dismantle that star studded Lakers team in the finals. The grit and drive it takes to play great defense really gets me going. I love it and I love watching pitchers that realize they can only help their team once every five days so they better make it count. Guys like Pedro Martinez come to mind to me when thinking about the best in my lifetime. He was one of those guys that regardless who he was pitching against it was a must watch event. While those guys/teams are exceptionally rare, there are plenty of guys that have what it takes to do it here and there. In the 2014 baseball season pitching isn’t taking a backseat to the offense. There are several guys worth tuning into once every five games including one guy that may end up being better than Pedro.


Dishonorable Mention

Stephen Strasburg (Was)

Ever since he burst onto the scene in 2010 we have been expecting big things out of this kid. However, he just hasn’t lived up to the hype thus far. While he will be only turning 26 years old tomorrow, we all had him pegged to have a career that would rival the likes of Clayton Kershaw, who just recently turned 26 himself. Every time we head into a new season we have Strasburg pegged to excel and he just hasn’t delivered yet. While this year will only be his third full season in the starting rotation, he is working on his worst season yet. Thus far in 2014 he has thrown 132.0 innings in 21 starts, allowed 52 earned runs (good for a 3.55 ERA), gave up 14 home runs, has a WHIP of 1.22 and an opponents batting average of .261. Compare that to 2012 when he pitched 159.1 innings in 28 starts, allowed 56 runs (good for a 3.16 ERA), gave up 15 home runs, had a WHIP of 1.11 and an opponents batting average of .230. Then in 2013, he pitched 183.0 innings in 30 starts, allowed 61 runs (good for a 3.00 ERA), gave up 16 home runs, had a WHIP of 1.13 and an opponents batting average of .207. He is not exactly trending in the right direction. Sure he is second to David Price in the strikeout category but all the other numbers should be better.

Homer Bailey (Cin)

To some extent the Reds are at fault for Bailey landing on this list. But when you sign a $100M+ deal in the offseason you can’t have a 4.21 ERA at this point in the season.

CC Sabathia (NYY)

This will be the only injured pitcher to find his way into this column and while some others deserve to be talked about for how well they pitched until they got hurt, CC was so bad before he found his way onto the DL that he deserves some shit. Yes he only started eight games, so it may be a little unfair, who knows maybe he could have straightened things out. However, it sure as hell didn’t seem like he was going to. In his eight starts he only completed seven innings twice. In five out of his eight starts he allowed four or more runs. There was only one start that he finished with an ERA under five for the season before settling in at 5.28 before going on the DL. Maybe he should work on putting that weight back on before the start of the 2015 season.

James Shields (KC)

Shields has been far from awful but he hasn’t been nearly as good as we expected him to be. He has shown the capability of pitching a gem but those games are few and far between this season. Just over his last ten starts he has allowed 32 runs and 91 batters to get on base over the course of just 63 innings. Last year his WAR was 4.1 while this year he is sitting at a measly 0.4.

Justin Verlander (Det)

This was the most obvious guy to make this list. We all know how good he has been in the past but the loss of steam on his fastball has cost him elite status. His WAR this year is 0.1, the worst of his career not counting his two start year back in 2005 when he first joined the major leagues. Even last year while he struggled his WAR was still sitting at 4.6. This year I’m not so sure he is going to recover. He needs to make some sort of transition in his game or he is going to be an afterthought in the coming years.

15. Jake Arrieta (CHC)

Thirteen starts, a 1.95 ERA, 1.01 WHIP an opponents batting average of .204 and the 10th best WAR amongst pitchers. Can he keep that up? Probably not, but those are some exceptional numbers, especially for a guy wearing a Cubs jersey.

14. Hisashi Iwakuma (Sea)

Iwakuma started the season on the DL and then proved to be a bit rusty in his first start of the season but it was game on after that. In his next three starts he went eight strong and in two of them he didn’t allow a run, the other one he allowed just two runs. He hit a bit of a rough patch in June but in July this guy has been throwing fire. Through four starts he has an ERA of 1.57 and 28 strikeouts in the month of July. He has helped contribute to Mariners pitching staff that has allowed the fewest runs in baseball. if they could ever start scoring some runs they could be one of those scary teams in the playoff hunt.

13. Mark Buehrle (Tor)

While I’m no baseball stat geek (I have no idea what OPS is and I don’t want to know either), WAR is one that makes sense to me and Mark Buehrle of all people trails just Adam Wainwright and Felix Hernandez for the highest Wins Above Replacement amongst all pitchers this season. The 35 year old left handed veteran has had far and away the best season of his career in 2014. As it stands now his ERA is basically a half run better than any other season of his career and now he is pitching in large part in a hitter's ballpark up there in Toronto. Odds are his numbers will start to even out after the All-Star break but thus far he has been lights out.

12. Zack Greinke (LAD)

After such a hot start to the season it is understandable that he hasn’t been able to keep that up throughout the entire season thus far but ever since the lost that two runs or fewer streak he has struggled. On May 22nd, his last start allowing two or fewer runs, his ERA was down to 2.01 but now it sits at 2.90. So yah, he had a rough month of June but he is still one of the games best. In his last three starts he has thrown 22 innings, struck out 26 while only allowing five runs. It appears that he has gotten through his rough patch and found his good stuff once again.

11. Max Scherzer (Det)

While Scherzer hasn’t been nearly as dominant as he was a year ago, he is steadily putting together another impressive season. He should finish the season with an ERA in the low threes and he should tally right around 240 strikeouts before we reach the playoffs. By the way if you could pluck that one start against the Royals in which he allowed ten runs in four innings, his ERA would drop from 3.35 to 2.72. If that start never happened, which I blame solely on me taking him in a DraftKings contest, we would be talking about him as a Cy Young candidate. Just don’t look him in the eyes or you’ll get dizzy and throw up everywere.

10. Jon Lester (Bos)

While the Red Sox are having just an awful season Lester has been the one bright light. However the talk around town is all about what they are going to do with this guy. Is he a true ace? Probably not. But he is battle tested and has proven he can be a horse in the playoffs. But the Red Sox lowballed him in the offseason and now it appears he is on his way out of town unless they overpay him. Boston sports radio is a real sad scene right now. Being that it is a little too early to throw themselves into Patriots talk, we are getting a steady dose of, what are the Sox going to do with Lester, complaints about the Bruins giving Jordan Caron $600k and the Celtics not getting better or worse. Lately Lester is making it worse on us fans by pitching a gem every five days. Over his last six starts he has nearly dropped his ERA a full run down to 2.65. Amidst all the chatter it really seems like Lester is pitching to make the Red Sox pay for offending him earlier this year.

9. Scott Kazmir (Oak)

Kazmir has been one of many reasons the Athletics have compiled the best record in baseball. This season he has taken his career ERA of 4.00 and laughed it off, posting a 2.38 ERA so far this season. His WHIP is under one and batters are only hitting .206 off of him. While he was always a serviceable guy in the rotation he has never been anything close to the pitcher he has been this season. The best ERA he has ever finished a season with was 3.24 which was back in 2006. He hovered around that number for a few seasons before going downhill fast. In 2009 his ERA was 4.89, in 2010 5.94, in 2011 he had just one start allowing 5 runs in 1.2IP, then he missed 2012 and last year with Cleveland he posted a 4.04. Everyone including Billy Beane would tell you this type of season was rather unexpected.

8. Garrett Richards (LAA)

This kid is breaking out of his shell before our eyes. Now that he is a full time starter he is having an exceptional year. He has compiled 26 more strikeouts this season than he did last year in 21.2 fewer innings pitched. His 2.55 ERA is amongst the best in baseball as is his .196 BAA. This kid is just 26 years old and just starting to hit his stride yet he already owns a top 10 WAR ranking amongst pitchers. We could see big things from him for years to come.  

7. Yu Darvish (Tex)

Yu is on pace to hit the majority of the numbers he posted in 2013’s stellar campaign. Everytime he takes the mound there is a chance he could throw a no hitter or fan fifteen, or both. His WHIP is up a bit from last year but his home run numbers are way down. It’s a shame the Rangers couldn’t put together a better offseason to help their bullpen and offense because that AL West is loaded with talent and outside of the Astros, who actually have a really underrated starting rotation, there could be four legit teams in that division.

6. David Price (TB)

After a rocky start to the season Price has really settled in like he is pitching for a new contract or something. In the month of June he took the mound five times and struck out double digit batters in all five of them. While the strikeout numbers have cooled off a bit in the month of July the exceptional pitching hasn’t. In three starts in July he has pitched 23.2 innings and has allowed just three runs bringing his ERA down to a season low of 3.23. He has been firing on all cylinders for the better part of two months now and has shown no signs of slowing down. The Rays will need him to keep pitching his tits off if they want to try and dig themselves out of a big hole and make a push towards making the playoffs. He is just 28 years old and among the best in the bigs. It should be awfully interesting to see where Price ends up and for what price at the start of the 2015 season. Something tells me the Yankees are going to blow everyone else’s doors off only to ultimately be disappointed in the investment.

5. Chris Sale (CHW)

Is it just me or is this kid still somehow wildly underrated? It would help if the Chi Sox could put together a run at the playoffs and get this kid on the national scene but that probably won’t be happening this year. Sale turned just 25 earlier in this season yet he has already put together two seasons with an ERA in the low threes and WHIP’s just above one. Now this year he sits at 8-1 on a team that is under .500 and he has the best stats of his career. He was bit by the injury bug earlier in the season but has come out of it as good as he has ever been. His ERA is 2.08, the best since he became a full time starter in 2012 and his WHIP is sitting at 0.84 which is only bested by Kershaw’s 0.83. This kid is only going to get better and while he isn’t quite a household name like the Kershaw’s of the world, it is just a matter of time before he shines bright, do the right thing and start spending some money White Sox, give this kid the supporting cast he deserves. Also, give him a freaking raise. He only made $865k last year and he is making roughly $20M less than Cole Hamels this year. He is locked into this team friendly deal until 2018 and that’s only if they decide not to pick up the team options for $12.5M in 2018 and $13.5M in 2019. So basically he is locked into a crappy deal until 2020 when he will have eclipsed the age of 30. Pay this kid now before he makes you pay for it in another way.

4. Johnny Cueto (Cin)

Cueto has gotten steadily better in every season since he came into the league in 2008. Last year he suffered some injury problems but he hasn’t let that impact his game this year to any degree. He has slowly proven that he can be the ace of a staff. The word “slowly” may sound disrespectful but I mean it in a sense that he never really burst onto the scene with one exceptional season that he has been since trying to match. He has simply gotten better with every season that passes and this 28 year old is having the best season of his career right now. As of now he owns a 2.13 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP, both the best of his career. He has grown into a bonafide #1 starter on just about any ballclub out there. As proof of his growth, Cueto has tallied 141 strikeouts in 20 starts this season where he has only topped that number twice in five other full seasons. He is on pace to shatter his best strikeout season of 170 k’s back in 2012. He will probably top the 200 mark for the first time in his career. This guy is in his prime and for the majority of the season he has held an ERA under two. He may very well finish the season with 200+ strikeouts an ERA under two and a WHIP under one all while not winning the Cy Young award and maybe not even finishing in the top two of voting.

3. Adam Wainwright (Stl)

First off, you know it’s the slow point in the sports year when people are building radio/tv shows around a guy giving Jeter a few “pipe shots” in the All-Star game. But who gives a shit? Yes, because Bud Selig is awful at his job the MLB All-Star game determines who gets home field advantage in the World Series, because god forbid we use something that makes sense like who had the best interleague record, but why are people bitching about Wainwright the other night? Are people really dumb enough to think he just threw him a few meatballs to allow Jeter to look good? You idiots do realize that what he did wasn’t that at all right? Yes he gave him pitches to hit, but he wanted to get him out. He didn’t want to pitch around Jeter he wanted to challenge him. Imagine you are pitching to McGwire in your back yard back in his prime. Are you going to pitch around him or are you going to try and throw three strikes right by him just to be able to say you did? Of course you want to be able to say you went after him and got the best of him, so please all you idiots shut the fuck up.

Anyways, all Adam Wainwright is doing this season is put together the best year to date of his already exceptional career. His 1.83 ERA is more than a half run better than any other season he has had and his 0.91 WHIP quite better than his career best of 1.05. His strikeouts are down yes, but so are his home runs allowed and basically everything else that counts when judging a pitcher. This guy could be easily argued as the best pitcher in baseball. We shouldn’t be focusing on what he did in the first inning of an All-Star game but instead what he has done this year and in the past few years because at 32 years old it is exceptional that he has been better than ever before. Especially once you factor in that Justin Verlander is only 31 years old. So let’s stop taking him for granted and start enjoying the gems he is throwing every five days before it’s over.

2. Felix Hernandez (Sea)

Remember back in 2010 when people were skeptical to call King Felix the Cy Young winner because of his 13-12 record? Well that year he had an ERA of 2.27 and a WHIP of 1.06. This year he is currently sitting with an ERA of 2.12 and a WHIP of 0.90 oh by the way his record this year is 11-2. So ya, he is still getting better. While the Mariners have tapered off his innings a little bit since he had sixteen complete games between the 2010 Cy Young campaign and the 2013 season. He hasn’t thrown a single complete game since 2012. Yet he has a chance this year to post career bests in every department, which is awfully scary to think about given how good he has been in years past.

1. Clayton Kershaw (LAD)

In my opinion Kershaw is the undisputed best pitcher in baseball and has been since Verlander started struggling. I’m not even sure anyone with a set of eyeballs can argue this with me. This 26 year old has not one but two Cy Young awards under his belt and is still getting better. If it weren’t for an early injury he would be well on his way to topping every career best he has set. Regardless he appears to be on his way to posting his best ever ERA and WHIP as well as record even though that’s virtually meaningless which is why I have barely mentioned records during this piece. I just hope everyone is aware how insanely good this kid has been this year. If you take out his one bad start in which he allowed seven earned runs in 1.2IP his ERA would be sitting at 1.14. I am telling you this kid is the best pitcher we have seen since Pedro and there is no hyperbole there, he is that good. Everytime he takes the mound he is a threat to throw a perfect game and by “perfect game” I mean 27 strikeouts and no guys allowed on base. He no hit the Rockies, who have the third most potent offense in baseball while striking out 15. It would have been classified as a perfect game if it weren’t for that Hanley Ramirez error. But this kid is as good as we have seen in a long time. He has a chance to be one of the best of all time. He is reason enough to buy the MLB package just to watch him once every five days. If you are in a fantasy baseball keeper league, do yourself a favor and trade your entire team for him, trust me you’ll thank me for the next ten years.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

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