With the 2013 regular season approaching, it seemed fitting to rank today’s best pitchers in the National League.
Pitchers are measured beyond wins and losses. Determining the ranking of pitchers requires looking at a number of statistics. Strikeouts can be important to being a dominant, shut down pitcher and walks indicate if the pitcher is harming his cause. Keeping runners off the bases can change or keep momentum on your team’s side, forcing the opposition to get back on the field sooner than they want to. These are just a few of the statistics factored into determining these rankings.
Age and the history of a player is a good reflection of where the player has been and where they are going. Some players could be in their prime, veterans could be on their last years or rookies could have caught the world by storm once and could be facing the sophomore slump and some just defy the odds. With that said…
Just missed the cut: Adam Wainwright (Cardinals), Madison Bumgarner (Giants), Dan Haren (Nationals)
10. Craig Kimbrel (Atlanta Braves) Age: 24
42 saves, 1.01 ERA, 62.2 innings pitched, 16.7 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 0.654 WHIP, .126 opponent’s batting average
37 saves, 1.46 ERA, 67 innings pitched, 15.9 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 0.911 WHIP, .151 opponent’s batting average
There’s a reason that this closer made the rankings. Craig Kimbrel is the most dominant closer in baseball today. His fastball averages at 96-97 mph and has topped out at 100 mph and his curveball stays in the 85-89 mph range. Both pitches have exceptional swing-and-miss rates and in 2012 it was evident as he became the first pitcher to ever strikeout at least half of the batters he faced. He will likely not be able to maintain this pace but even a slight decrease is still extraordinary.
9. Roy Halladay (Philadelphia Phillies) Age: 35
11-8 record, 4.49 ERA, 156.1 innings pitched, 7.6 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 1.222 WHIP, .261 opponent’s batting average
17-9 record, 3.31 ERA, 234 innings pitched, 6.9 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 1.171 WHIP, .253 opponent’s batting average
A decline in statistics and an increase in age would be a bad sign for most pitchers. At age 35, there is some cause for concern. But Roy Halladay’s career would lead some to believe he can adapt and improve. His ability to produce strikeouts and groundballs at a good pace make him a workhorse. Phillies fans are maintaining hope that Halladay’s highest ERA is just a rare occurrence in this talented right-hander.
8. Cliff Lee (Philadelphia Phillies) Age: 34
6-9 record, 3.16 ERA, 211 innings pitched, 8.8 K/9, 1.2 BB/9, 1.114 WHIP, .255 opponent’s batting average
15-9 record, 3.59 ERA, 223 innings pitched, 7.4 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 1.211 WHIP, .256 opponent’s batting average
The win-loss record is deceptive; you may believe he is hitting the point of decline but he received just an average of 3.53 run support. In the 2012 season, Lee pitched 10 shutout innings and was still unable to get the win. He went through 13 starts before earning his first win in July. Lee is known for having exceptional control and if he can maintain that control, hopefully a healthy offense will provide enough run support to put him back on his winning ways.
7. Zack Greinke (Los Angeles Dodgers) Age: 29
15-5 record, 3.53 ERA, 212.1 innings pitched, 8.5 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 1.196 WHIP, .249 opponent’s batting average
12-11 record, 3.77 ERA, 202 innings pitched, 8.0 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 1.247 WHIP, .258 opponent’s batting average
Zack Greinke will be the number two pitcher on the Dodgers staff (with good reason) but he has number one pitcher stuff. Greinke features a variety of fastballs, including a cutter, which ranges between 88-95 mph, a slider, a curveball, and a changeup. His slider is his strikeout pitch, producing an impressive swing-and-miss rate (42%). He had some struggles in 2012, splitting the season with the Brewers and the Angels. With his new six-year contract, the Dodgers should be his home for a while and with the offense that came in this offseason; there are high expectations for him to succeed.6. Johnny Cueto (Cincinnati Reds) Age: 27
19-9 record, 2.78 ERA, 217 innings pitched, 7.1 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 1.171 WHIP, .252 opponent’s batting average
14-10 record, 3.57 ERA, 206 innings pitched, 7.0 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 1.261 WHIP, .252 opponent’s batting average
Johnny Cueto reached 200 innings for the first time in his career in the 2012 season. He also maintained an ERA below 3.00 for the second consecutive season. Another unfavorably notable feature that Cueto brought with him from 2011 into 2012 was a strained muscle in his back. This could be a result of his motion, involving a full turn to the point that he faces second base, but it also plays a role in deceiving hitters. If he can find a way to alleviate the strain his back takes, he will prove to be an effective pitcher that wins the Central division for the Reds.
5. Stephen Strasburg (Washington Nationals) Age: 24
15-6 record, 3.16 ERA, 159.1 innings pitched, 11.1 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 1.155 WHIP, .230 opponent’s batting average
16-8 record, 2.94 ERA, 190 innings pitched, 11.2 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 1.090 WHIP, .223 opponent’s batting average
2013 will be the season that the innings limit should be no more. His 2012 was very good and with the limitation eliminated, he has a better chance to achieve his true potential in 2013 and beyond. The high strikeout rate is not an indication of his limited work being inflated but his actual capabilities. His pitches include fastballs that reach 95-98 mph, a slurve in the 79-82 mph range, and a changeup at 87-90. All of his pitches have a high swing-and-miss rate which produces a high number of strikeouts but also could limit his inning totals as it will raise his pitch count. His presence in the Nationals rotation could be important in them reaching and winning the World Series.
4. Gio Gonzalez (Washington Nationals) Age: 27
21-8 record, 2.89 ERA, 199.1 innings pitched, 9.3 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 1.129 WHIP, .206 opponent’s batting average
16-11 record, 3.65 ERA, 201 innings pitched, 8.8 K/9, 4.2 BB/9, 1.334 WHIP, .232 opponent’s batting average
After a number of trades, Gio Gonzalez appears to have found a comfortable home in Washington. He got a major league leading 21 wins and lowered his WHIP while increasing his strikeout. A major issue with Gonzalez before the 2012 season was his control as he nearly walked 100 batters but he fixed that and walked just over 75. If he continues at this pace he can become a great pitcher on a consistent World Series-contending Washington Nationals team.
3. Cole Hamels (Philadelphia Phillies) Age: 29
17-6 record, 3.05 ERA, 215.1 innings pitched, 9.0 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 1.124 WHIP, .237 opponent’s batting average
15-10 record, 3.34 ERA, 221 innings pitched, 8.5 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 1.138 WHIP, .237 opponent’s batting average
On a staff with Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, Hamels has honed his game and became one of the best in the National League and the announced Opening Day starter for the 2013 season. Most pitchers don’t count on their changeup as their strikeout pitch but Hamels has one of the best in the league. His fastball and curveball are effective but his changeup is his go-to pitch that has made him so great. He posted his best winning percentage and that could get better if the offense of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley stay healthy.
2. Matt Cain (San Francisco Giants) Age: 28
16-5 record, 2.79 ERA, 219.1 innings pitched, 7.9 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 1.040 WHIP, .222 opponent’s batting average
12-11 record, 3.27 ERA, 222 innings pitched, 7.5 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 1.173 WHIP, .227 opponent’s bating average
Matt Cain posted a career best in numerous important statistics in 2012. As of June in the 2012 season, Cain can also add a perfect game as an accomplishment he has achieved. At age 28, Cain appears to have figured out what it takes to be an ace-caliber pitcher. He features a fastball around 90-93 mph, a slider at 85-87, a curveball at 84-86, and a changeup at 84-86. His pitches are not extraordinary but he has utilized them very well and could continue to do so in the 2013 season.
1. Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers) Age: 24
14-9 record, 2.53 ERA, 227.2 innings pitched, 9.1 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 1.023 WHIP, .210 opponent’s batting average
14-8 record, 2.79 ERA, 214 innings pitched, 9.3 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 1.137 WHIP, .215 opponent’s batting average
When a pitcher is compared to the great Sandy Koufax, you have a high ceiling to reach. Fortunately for the Dodgers, Kershaw has made the comparison fitting. In the last two seasons, Kershaw led the league in ERA with 2.28 in 2011 and 2.53 in 2012. Featuring a fastball that reaches 92-95 mph, an 84-87 mph slider, a 12-to-6 curve, and a changeup; Kershaw has earned a reputation as a strikeout pitcher with a good pickoff move. His slight decrease in statistics in 2012 can be attributed to a brief injury and incorporating new players to the team. With a full season with the new offense brought in, Kershaw could become a 20-game winner again and put up amazing statistics.
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