At the beginning of the season we ranked what we thought would be the 10 best pitchers in each league. Now that the season is three-fourths done, let’s see how we did in the National League after ranking the best of the American League last week.
Below are the current 10 best starting pitchers in the senior circuit based on a number of different categories, including wins, ERA, strikeouts, and walks, with statistics through Monday. Beneath each ranked pitcher is who we projected to be there way back in April. On to the list:
10. Madison Bumgarner: San Francisco Giants; 2012 Pitching stats: 14-8 record, 2.93 ERA, 178.0 innings, 8.3 strikeouts/nine innings, 1.8 walks/nine innings, 1.02 walks/hits per inning—Bumgarner, who just turned 23 at the beginning of August and finished 11th in last year’s Cy Young voting is having his best season yet. The 10th overall pick of the 2007 draft is currently in the top 10 in the three triple crown categories of wins, ERA, and strikeouts. He has helped ease the downfall of Tim Lincecum.
We had: Matt Cain. See below at No. 6.
9. Gio Gonzalez: Washington Nationals; 2012 Pitching stats: 16-7 record, 3.28 ERA, 159.3 innings, 9.5 strikeouts/nine innings, 3.4 walks/nine innings, 1.16 walks/hits per inning—Gonzalez, who made his second straight All-Star team this past summer has made a smooth transition to the National League. The former Athletic is second in wins, strikeouts per nine innings, and fewest hits per nine innings (7.06).
We had: Ian Kennedy who is currently 11-11 with a 4.44 ERA and a league-worst 26 home runs allowed.
8. Jordan Zimmerman: Washington Nationals; 2012 Pitching stats: 9-8 record, 2.63 ERA, 161.0 innings, 6.7 strikeouts/nine innings, 1.8 walks/nine innings, 1.13 walks/hits per inning—Zimmerman, who was passed over for the All-Star Game this past season despite a 2.61 ERA at the break, has continued his dominant ways over the second half and is right behind league-leading Johnny Cueto in ERA. Only his unimpressive win-loss record, due in part to a weak offense, and a relatively low strikeout total (119 thus far) has held him back.
We had: Mat Latos who had an ERA above 5.00 in mid-June but is now down to 3.84 with a 10-4 record.
7. Kyle Lohse: St. Louis Cardinals; 2012 Pitching stats: 14-2 record, 2.64 ERA, 174.0 innings, 5.5 strikeouts/nine innings, 1.7 walks/nine innings, 1.08 walks/hits per inning—The 33-year-old Lohse has never had this kind of success in his 12 years in the majors. The right-hander, who leads the league in winning percentage and games started (27), is one win away from tying his career-best and he has never finished a season with an ERA below 3.00.
We had: Cole Hamels. See below at No. 3.
6. Matt Cain: San Francisco Giants; 2012 Pitching stats: 13-5 record, 2.82 ERA, 182.0 innings, 8.1 strikeouts/nine innings, 1.8 walks/nine innings, 1.02 walks/hits per inning—Cain has had some memorable performances this season with a no-hit shutout (perfect game actually), a one-hit shutout, and shutting out the Phillies on two hits over nine innings in a game that went to extra innings.
We had: Zack Greinke who did well in his time with the Brewers (9-3 record, 3.44 ERA) but has struggled in his six starts (2-2 record, 5.22 ERA) with the Angels.
5. Stephen Strasburg: Washington Nationals; 2012 Pitching stats: 15-6 record, 3.05 ERA, 150.3 innings, 11.1 strikeouts/nine innings, 2.6 walks/nine innings, 1.14 walks/hits per inning—Strasburg has been spectacular in his return from Tommy John surgery this season. The 24-year-old All-Star ranks second in wins but it’s his 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings ratio—nearly 2 strikeouts ahead of Gio Gonzalez in second-place—that tell the story of how much better his stuff is than the competition. Soon he’ll put together a Dwight Gooden-type season and run away with the Cy Young.
We had: Matt Garza who is currently 5-7 with a 3.91 ERA for the Cubs.
4. R.A. Dickey: New York Mets; 2012 Pitching stats: 16-4 record, 2.76 ERA, 182.3 innings, 9.0 strikeouts/nine innings, 2.0 walks/nine innings, 1.02 walks/hits per inning—Though most consider this season to be Dickey’s big breakout year, as the 37-year-old made the All-Star team for the first time in his career, the knuckle-baller has been doing this for a few years now in the Big Apple. Two years ago he went 11-9 with a 2.84 ERA and last year was 8-13 with a 3.28 ERA. Should he get to 20 wins he’ll be a serious challenger for the Cy Young.
We had: Cliff Lee who has three wins in 23 starts despite a 3.67 ERA.
3. Cole Hamels: Philadelphia Phillies; 2012 Pitching stats: 14-6 record, 2.99 ERA, 177.3 innings, 8.7 strikeouts/nine innings, 2.3 walks/nine innings, 1.12 walks/hits per inning—The three-time All-Star Hamels has started to distinguish himself a bit this season from his more-accomplished teammates Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. The 28-year-old is not only in the top 10 in the National League in a number of statistics, he’s clearly the Phillies best option in a staff of top-flight starters.
We had: The aforementioned Tim Lincecum who has a 5.30 ERA and leads the league with 14 losses.
2. Clayton Kershaw: Los Angeles Dodgers; 2012 Pitching stats: 12-7 record, 2.84 ERA, 186.7 innings, 8.8 strikeouts/nine innings, 2.1 walks/nine innings, 0.99 walks/hits per inning—The reigning Cy Young Award winner is right in the mix for a repeat honor as he leads the league in starts (27), innings, and fewest hits allowed per nine innings (6.8). He needs a few more wins to put him over the top though.
We had: Clayton Kershaw.
1. Johnny Cueto: Cincinnati Reds; 2012 Pitching stats: 17-6 record, 2.48 ERA, 181.7 innings, 7.1 strikeouts/nine innings, 2.0 walks/nine innings, 1.12 walks/hits per inning—Cueto was good each of the last two seasons (12 wins in 2010, 2.31 ERA in 2011) but had trouble staying healthy. This year he’s been healthy and the results speak for themselves as he leads the league in two of the three (wins and ERA) triple crown categories.
We had: Roy Halladay who has an 8-7 record along with an un-Halladay like 3.88 ERA in an injury-plagued season.
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