Starting Pitcher Notes

April 19, 2016
                                                        Arrieta Now Majors’ #2 Starting Pitcher

Since the start of the season, Jake Arrieta has surged past Zack Greinke and Max Scherzer to rank as the #2 starting pitcher in baseball, behind only Clayton Kershaw.    Arrieta, coming off a Cy Young season, is now 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA.   Kershaw is still far, far ahead, and one can’t foresee right now when there could be a transition in the #1 spot.



Jon Lester Edging Up

Since the start of the season I have sort of been rooting for Jon Lester, because on the MLB TV show in January I got into a little bit of a tangle with my good friend Brian Kenny over Lester’s current place in the baseball world.   I was using a very different set of criteria to evaluate starting pitchers than the other guests on the show were, the other guests being Vince Genarro and Mike Pitriello.   They were all basing their ratings on stuff like 2015 WHIP and post-All-Star break OPS allowed, so I don’t think any of them even had Lester in their top ten.  I was just relying on the Starting Pitcher rankings, which is a system that I believe in.   Lester last year was 11-12 with a 3.34 ERA, plus a couple of losses in the post season, but I had him as the number five lefty, behind Kershaw, Bumgarner, Price and Sale.    To me, he takes the mound every fifth day and had a 207-47 strikeout/walk ratio last year.   So I’ve been rooting for him to have a solid season, which so far he has, with a 2.21 ERA. 

Lester last year allowed 44 stolen bases in 32 starts, which is. know, really too many.   So far this season he has allowed 2 stolen bases in 3 starts with 2 runners caught stealing, so he may have put in a little work on that; I don’t know.   He two-hopped a throw to first on bunt in his last start, creating another viral video, but got the out somehow anyway.

Jon Lester and Cole Hamels have been more or less joined at the hip since they were drafted in 2002, and they still are.   Hamels last year was 13-8, 3.66 ERA, and (like Lester) had been dropped from the top ten by the other analysts on the show.   I still had him 6th.   To me, what a pitcher has proven over a period of time is more important than how he was pitching in August of last season—as long as he is still in the rotation and still earning his morning oatmeal.   And Hamels, like Lester, has so far been justifying my faith in him, with a 2.95 ERA.   Lester is now 128-80 in his career, Hamels 123-91, making both of them still marginally viable Hall of Fame candidates, although they need to have big seasons ahead of them.   But when you’re 32 years old and can still be talked about in the Hall of Fame conversation, you are having a good career. 


Corey Kluber drops out of the top ten

Corey Kluber, 0-3 with a 6.16 ERA, has dropped out of the top ten after opening the season in the 8th position.    He’s not really getting Klubed around, though.   His strikeout/walk ratio is 19-5, and he has given up on two Dugout Groaners.   He should be OK. 


Dickey, Ross in freefall

R. A. Dickey and Tyson Ross have been the fastest-falling pitchers in the early season.   Dickey, also known as Rad Ickey, has a 6.75 ERA, although maybe he should be given a little edge because he has mostly just been pitching against the Red Sox.    Tyson (Chickens) Ross has made only one start because of a shoulder injury., and got shelled in that one, but is expected to return to the rotation soon.


Syndergaard on fire

Noah Syndergaard, with 29 strikeouts in three starts and an 0.90 ERA, has moved from 66th to 45th since the season started, and, the way he is pitching, has a chance to rank as a top ten starter by mid-season.


Kennedy running for President

The Royals took a lot of flak for signing Ian Kennedy to a $70-million contract in January, but Kennedy is one of the fastest-moving pitchers in this year’s rankings, moving up from 41st to 30th since the season started.    He is 2-0 with an 0.66 ERA.   The only other pitcher (in that range) who has made a similar move is J. A. Happ, also 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA, who has moved from 53rd to 40th.    Danny Salazar and Masahiro Tanakawaka are also making strides forward in that portion of the chart. . .the top #2 starters portion of the chart. 



Miller falling fast

Arizona’s Shelby Miller has fallen from 34th to 46th since the start of the season.   He is winless with an 8.53 ERA through three starts, has stuck out only 9 batters and has walked 8.    Miller last year was the majors’ top tough-luck pitcher and one of the biggest tough-luck pitchers of this century, finishing 6-17 although he actually pitched really well.   But so far this year, he’s just not getting outs. 



Maeda is Golden

The highest-rated pitcher in the majors who was unrated at the start of the season is Miguel Gonzalez, but that’s a fluke. . .he was cut from the rankings after he was released by the Orioles, restored to the rankings when he was signed by the White Sox, although he hasn’t pitched yet this season.   The highest-ranked pitcher who was letimately unranked at the start of the season is Kenta Maeda of the Dodgers, who has a 0.47 ERA through three starts.  He currently ranks 143rd.   We need to see more than three starts. 


In danger of losing their footing

The next pitchers to fall out of the ratings if they don’t get on the mound and pitch a decent game pretty soon:  Jason Vargas of the Royals, Mike Wright of the Orioles, Christian Bergman of the Rockies and Shane Greene of the Tigers.


Others Rising and falling

Other pitchers moving up in the rankings so far this year include Jose Quintana, Francisco Liriano, Gio Gonzalez, Garrett Richards, Matt Harvey, Jake Odorizzi, Hector Santiago, Jaime Garcia, Mat Latos, Jeremy Hellickson, Chad Bettis, Charlie Morton, Jose Fernandez, Jarad Eickhoff and Vincent Velasquez. 

Those falling include Lance Lynn, Collin McHugh, Mike Leake, Scott Kazmir, Wade Miley, Jake Peavy, Lance McCullers, Danny Duffy, Matt Garza and Adam Wainwright.


The Starting Pitcher Rankings are updated daily, and are available to you in the Ratings section of Bill James Online.   I love them, but I haven’t done as much as I should to promote them.  



COMMENTS (9 Comments, most recent shown first)

I'm with JohnPontoon -- I had never heard of, or seen, the phrase "Dugout Groaners" before -- but, based on Bill's clarification, I assume it means home runs allowed (which would cause players in the pitcher's dugout to groan). Or maybe not.
7:59 AM Apr 22nd
I used the bjol starting pitcher rankings combined with the prospectus this year in the boys of summer fantasy baseball draft. It was my second year using the rankings. Astoundingly I was able to draft Keuchel, Lester, Hamels easily in the middle rounds. I also took a flyer on Kenta Maeda because I want to believe the hype. I recently just traded Pujols for Cueto and now feel like I'm playing with one of the best pitching staffs in the league. As you mentioned several players have fallen from grace in the rankings so far and pitching is actually getting thin again. I believe in the rankings and just want to say, thanks again.
6:37 AM Apr 21st
"Dickey, also known as Rad Ickey"

Or "Ridic-y," as he was known in this Met-fan household (and still is if we happen on a Jays game).
8:24 AM Apr 20th
Typo. I meant only two Dugout Groaners.
8:23 AM Apr 20th
"[Corey Kluber] has given up on two Dugout Groaners."

What does that mean? Sorry if I'm being dense, I just can't figure it out.
6:35 AM Apr 20th
Well, I'll use Liriano to try to explain why it is so impossible for a wealthy organization to behave in a cost-effective manner. I remember when Liriano was a Free Agent after the 2012 season, we were sitting around the table in early October talking about what we should do in the off season. When we got to Liriano everybody was quiet for a moment, and I said, "Well, he's going to win 18 games for somebody sometime, but I don't know when or who." Nobody at the table disagreed with me; in fact, everybody in the room--executives and scouts--generally agreed with me. Nonetheless, we didn't go after him.

From the standpoint of scout or a person who has some scouting skills, it was pretty obvious that Liriano had very significant ability, but he just hadn't been able to stay on the mound long enough, enough consecutive starts, to harness his game. He was always just a little bit off-the way you are just a little bit off when you haven't been on the mound consistently.

From the standpoint of an organization without a big budget, that's what you look for, guys who have the ability to play but haven't QUITE been able to put it together. But in a wealthy organization, it's just impossible to get the momentum rolling to go after a guy like that. If you have the money to go after the guys with good resumes, you go after the guys with good resumes.
5:47 PM Apr 19th
Liriano had some injury issues, which led to some command and consistency issues, and your answer to the Pirate question is some variation of "Ray Searage."
4:41 PM Apr 19th
Oops my "Majors" I meant American League.
3:39 PM Apr 19th
Wondering how often a pitcher has as many starts as Syndergaard demonstrating such excellence, then soon after completely falls apart. Then I noticed the name Francisco Liriano.

As someone who predominantly follows the American League, I thought he would be out of baseball by now. After his 12-3 2.26 rookie season, he was 4.75 with an average of 139 innings his other five years in the Majors and 5.23/146 his last two. This was well past the hitters' era. I see Pittsburgh is milking their fourth really good year out of him - albeit with a limited workload. They managed to revive the careers of J.A. Happ, A.J. Burnett, Edinson Volquez, and Vance Worley in recent years as well. Bully for Pittsburgh's pitching department. Why are they so good?
3:38 PM Apr 19th
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