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World's No. 1 Starting Pitcher Rankings

August 26, 2019
Max Scherzer is returning to the Washington Nationals rotation on Thursday after missing nearly a month with a rhomboid muscle strain. This is just in time both for the Nationals' playoff push and for Scherzer to try to regain his status as the top pitcher in Bill James' World’s No. 1 Starting Pitcher Rankings.

Scherzer, who had a 1.17 ERA in 10 starts prior to his injury, was the No. 1 starter in the rankings to begin the year. He had a small lead entering Wednesday, but Justin Verlander passed him with a great start in a loss to the Tigers.

Here is the current top 10.

Bill James World's No. 1 Starting Pitcher Rankings
Rank Name Team Current Score
1 Justin Verlander Astros 550.3
2 Max Scherzer Nationals 547.4
3 Jacob deGrom Mets 522.6
4 Gerrit Cole Astros 516.9
5 Chris Sale Red Sox 504.3
6 Clayton Kershaw Dodgers 497.0
7 Zack Greinke Astros 490.9
8 Aaron Nola Phillies 487.5
9 Stephen Strasburg Nationals 486.1
10 Patrick Corbin Nationals 486.0


The rankings use a system devised by Bill James in which the primary component is a pitcher’s Game Score in each game he starts. Daily updates to the rankings and a comprehensive explanation of the methodology can be found here.

Verlander has survived 33 home runs against him to post a 2.77 ERA. He has 14 starts with a Game Score of 70 or higher. No one else has more than 10. He's one of three Astros pitchers in the top 10. The Nationals also have three pitchers in the top 10.

Several pitchers have made big jumps to get into the top 20 (first number indicates ranking entering March 20):


Charlie Morton (from 34 to 12)
Lance Lynn (66 to 13)
Hyun-Jin Ryu (79 to 17)
Sonny Gray (65 to 16)
Luis Castillo (52 to 18)
Walker Buehler (49 to 15)


Charlie Morton’s ascent has come with a new team, as he signed with the Tampa Bay Rays this offseason. He's used a dominant curveball to lead the AL with a 2.70 FIP and ranks second in the league with a 2.85 ERA.

Lance Lynn is also a free agent signing that paid off for the Rangers. He has a 2.84 ERA in his last 18 starts. Hyun-Jin Ryu has a major-league-leading 1.64 ERA. He’s the healthiest he’s been in a long time, has shown a dominant chanegeup, and will likely make his most starts in a season since he had 30 in 2013.

Sonny Gray had a rough time with the Yankees, but a trade to the Reds has done him good. His ERA is down nearly two full runs from 2018 to 2.92. His teammate, Luis Castillo, has also had a big drop in ERA thanks to one of the best changeups in baseball. Walker Buehler’s ERA is up from 2018, but he’s had two great starts to boost his score, a 16-strikeout complete game against the Rockies and a 15-strikeout complete game against the Padres.

The pitcher who has slipped the furthest out of the top 10 is Corey Kluber, who dropped from No. 5 to 30 after missing most of the season with a fractured forearm. He was getting close to returning from injury, but had a recent setback. Kluber and Chris Sale (currently No. 5) may continue to drop due to their injury-related inactivity.

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COMMENTS (6 Comments, most recent shown first)

It seems obviously so, Marc, - except possibly not. Strikeouts and home runs are so high that pitching in general is much more important than it was 40 years ago.
10:37 AM Aug 30th
Marc Schneider
But what's interesting to me, as a Nats fan, is that they have 3 of the top 10 starters, yet are 5.5 games behind the Braves, obviously due to a poor start and very weak bullpen. So starting pitching is not everything especially today when there are very few complete games. I wonder if 40 years ago or even during the Braves heyday in the 90s that starting pitching was much more likely to be a direct correlation of success.
10:20 AM Aug 30th
Verlander & Scherzer: makes me weep the Tigers decided they couldn't afford to keep them both. They had Price, Anibal Sanchez, and Porcello on that 2014 staff, too. That is certainly a championship rotation.

What could their 2019 line-up have been (and not purchasing or losing expensive free agents)?
c Alex Avila and Bryan Holaday
1b-c James McCann
2b-if Niko Goodrum and Ronny Rodriguez
ss Willi Castro
3b Eugenio Suarez
rf Nicholas Castellanos
cf-of Jacoby Jones and Victor Reyes
lf Cameron Maybin
dh JD Martinez

That's a solid line-up with good subs.

If Detroit made the reasonable trades to get Justin Wilson and Shane Greene (well, they gave up Robbie Ray for Greene) and didn't make the cost saving trades to unload them, the Tigers would have two excellent relievers - a righty and lefty each.
Blaine Hardy and Daniel Stumpf make a not terrible lefty/righty middle relief pair.
Kyle Ryan long ago left Detroit and developed into a good reliever. Pair that lefty with righty Buck Farmerm to make a better pair of middle reliever.
Perhaps, if they kept that 2014 rotation, they could have developed the likes of Spencer Turnball and Drew Verhagen into fine relievers. As is it, they are fine already as long relievers.

Anyway, this 25 man roster all adds up to a team that should at least be fighting the Twins and Indians for the division, if not running away with it. The Astros would still be very hard to beat for the league championship, I'd guess, but heck, if the Astros didn't have Verlander, and Detroit still did with this group surrounding him, they may well have reached another World Series this year.

Just dreaming. I suppose most teams would have similar what ifs.

12:17 PM Aug 27th
I'll trade you Sale for Ryu, straight up.
6:10 PM Aug 26th
As long as Scherzer has been out, Verlander leads him by only three points, and he still leads deGrom by 25. There's a lot of latency in these rankings, and that is probably a good thing.
3:30 PM Aug 26th
Nice to see that the rating system generates a result which is accurate. JV, the Greatest Pitcher the Detroit Tigers have ever had.
3:00 PM Aug 26th
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