The 2016 baseball season has surpassed the halfway point and the All-Star break has arrived. This mid-season top thirty starting pitchers edition of Missives from the Mound offers the philosophical approach of is the glass half empty or half full? Remember the era of the pitcher? Well, this season home runs are leaving the yard at an historic pace and Earned Run Averages are aggressively ascending north.
Once proven and secure investments have disappointed or landed on the disabled list. This is highlighted by the ineffectiveness of last season’s American League Cy Young Award finalists (Dallas Keuchel, David Price & Sonny Gray) and their 4.80. 4.34 and 5.16 ERA respectively. And over in the National League, runner-up (Zack Greinke) and third place finisher (Clayton Kershaw) are both currently sidelined with injuries.
I still believe in the playing long game and letting the talent win out, especially in the marathon season that is baseball but my confidence is shaken. The starting pitching market is in crisis. I mentioned last month how earned run averages for starting pitchers over the last three seasons have continued their upward trend up. So, before proceeding, let’s examine the current landscape and the league averages for starting pitchers.
• Major League Baseball: 4.36 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 20.2 K%, 12.4 K-BB% & 1.22 HR/9
• American League: 4.51 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 19.6 K%, 11.8 K-BB% & 1.31 HR/9
• National League: 4.21 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 20.8 K%, 13.0 K-BB% & 1.13 HR/9
Top 30 Starting Pitchers
All statistics through July 10th and sourced @ Fangraphs
Deconstructing The Top Thirty Starting Pitchers
1. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers – Kershaw. There is no substitute.
2. Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants – The rock you build your rotation on; 1,300.2 IP and 2.93 ERA over his illustrious career.
3. Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals – In the 2016 SPI Quick Pitch Preview, I stated last season I swung and missed on Strasburg but the process was precise. Stephen should be among the NL CYA finalist at seasons end this time around.
4. Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals – Life is Good; 2.88 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 31.5 K% and 15.2 SWK% in 356.1 IP since returning to the National League.
5. Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs – I fully expect the reigning NL CYA winner to make the necessary corrections and get back on track post ALL-Star Break, but his last trio of starts have culminated in 16.1 IP, 21 H, 15 R, 15 ER, 4 HR, 8 BB, 14 K and 8.27 ERA.
6. Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox – Over the last calendar year (July 6 2015 – July 8 2016), the lanky lefty from the South Side of Chicago has made 34 GS with a record of 21-10 and 3.63 ERA over 230.1 IP.
7. Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins – The inevitable innings limit still looms but I’m not straying from my preseason analysis: Even with an inning cap this phenomenal pitcher is worthy of his premium price tag, think Chris Sale 2014. – 2016 SPI
8. Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets – I am worried about Thor’s status going forward and hence his drop in my rankings but the talent outweighs my concerns.
9. Jacob deGrom, New York Mets – There were questions early on in the season about deGrom’s velocity but that has been quelled with his fastball velo sitting at 94 mph. Over his last nine games started, Jacob has struck out 68 batters in 57.0 IP with 30.0 K%.
10. Johnny Cueto, San Francisco Giants – This workhorse was the perfect free agent acquisition and provides the Giants with an excellent 1-2 punch in their rotation. Also of note, Cueto is 8-0 on the road with a 2.51 ERA and 5-1 at home with 2.43 ERA this season.
11. Jon Lester, Chicago Cubs – Big Jon had a 2.03 ERA over 16 GS in 106.1 IP when the the month of June ended. His ERA after 4.1 IP in July now sits at 3.01 on the season.
12. Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians – Kluber has average 229 IP and 257 Ks in his previous two seasons and his 2.95 FIP and 25.1 K% keeps him among the game’s aces.
13. Carlos Carrasco, Cleveland Indians – An injury halted Carrasco season but he’s back and my expectations remain extremely high with this talented arm post ASB.
14. David Price, Boston Red Sox – This premium offseason asset has allowed 60 ER in 124.IP but does have career highs in both K% (27.1) and SWK% (12.9). I have no hesitations going to war with this horse in the second half.
15. Danny Salazar, Cleveland Indians – Salazar has been a stud this season. His 2.75 ERA is second best in the American League. The Indians are blessed with three top of the rotation arms and health is their only hurdle.
16. Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Pirates – If we are being honest, Cole was disappointing before his injury but there is hope for his return sooner than later. The Pirates ace is critical to their second run and playoff push going forward.
17. Zack Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks – Greinke’s splits home: 5-3, 60.2 IP, 43 K, 5.04 ERA and 1.35 WHIP. And his splits away: 5-0, 48.2 IP, 48 K, 1.85 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. Hopes of Zack returning immediately after the break have been squashed and there is no timetable currently.
18. Carlos Martinez, St.Louis Cardinals – I was extremely high on Martinez entering the season and ranked him as the 21st starting pitcher overall. Carlos enters the break with a 2.85 ERA and 1.16 WHIP and it’s my belief the best is yet to come from this immensely talented pitcher.
19. Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees – Tanaka has been one of the most effective starting pitcher’s in the American League. He definitely warrants a Top 20 overall ranking.
20. Cole Hamels, Texas Rangers – Since arriving in Texas via trade last season, Hamels has started 30 games and is 16-3 with 3.40 ERA. Cole does have interesting home versus road splits but where would this team be without him?
21. Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox – This overlooked lefty has pitched 606.2 IP and posted 3.40 ERA, 3.27 FIP and 1.24 WHIP over his last three seasons. Quintana has been consistently solid and under appreciated throughout his career.
22. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers – He said he was close in early May and JV has delivered over his last dozen starts with a 3.05 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 26.4 K%. The curse of Kate is dead and buried.
23. Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves – If you are still questioning Teheran’s credentials, then you haven’t been paying attention. Since September 4, 2015, Julio has impressed; 24 GS, 157.2 IP, 139 K, 41 BB, 2.63 ERA and 1.02 WHIP.
24. Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros – The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner has been one of the biggest busts in the first half of 2016 but I’m buying a bigger and better version of Dallas post All-Star break.
25. Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays – This season’s expectations have gone array for Archer, but an examination into his H/A splits is telling. At the Trop: 9 GS, 1-6, 56.2 IP, 73 K, 2.70 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. On the road: 10 GS, 3-6, 53 IP, 57 K, 6.75 ERA and 1.71 WHIP.
26. Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs – Kyle over the last calendar year has made 33 GS and has managed a 3.15 ERA, 3.30 FIP, 1.09 WHIP, 23.3 K% and 16.4 K-BB%. He is an under the radar arm in the Cubs rotation.
27. Rich Hill, Oakland Athletics – I had no idea what to expect from this pitcher entering this season but since last September, Hill has been simply stated excellent when on the bump.
28. Lance McCullers, Houston Astros – If McCullers can cut down on the free passes, a big second half awaits. In 32 career starts, Lance has 182.2 IP with 201 Ks and a 3.40 ERA.
29. Drew Pomeranz, San Diego Padres – Pomeranz won a rotation spot this spring and that move has paid major dividends. Drew is not a product of Petco, he’s actually pitched better away from his home park this season.
30A. Aaron Sanchez, Toronto Blue Jays – This Jays pitcher has become a personal favorite of mine. Excelling in the American League East just adds to his street cred, but an inning limits barrier looms large with an expected move to the bullpen at some point in the second half.
30B. Danny Duffy, Kansas City Royals – Duffy has delivered since being inserted to the Royals rotation. His dominance has held steady with 73 strikeouts and a 28.9 K% in 62.3 IP. Danny has kept his control in check, posting a 4.7 BB% and 1.02 WHIP over his 11 GS.
Enjoy the break and best of luck rest of the season!