Death, taxes and David Price pitching seven strong innings and getting a win.
That seemed to be the way of things as recently as, say, 24 hours ago. Price went into his start against the Texas Rangers on Monday night with 12 straight outings of seven-plus innings under his belt, and he was tied with Jered Weaver for the AL lead in wins with 16.
Something weird happened. Instead of logging his customary seven innings, Price got rocked for six earned runs and was done after four innings.
Yeah, that actually happened.
Price is still having an excellent season by any set of standards, but his poor outing on Monday didn't do his chances in the American League Cy Young race any favors. He already had work to do to catch up to Felix Hernandez, and now he has more work to do.
Here's a look at this week's top five.
Note: Stats are current as of the start of play on Tuesday, August 28, and they all come from Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
Matt Harrison, Texas Rangers
I'm digging the season Matt Harrison is having. He's 15-7 with a 3.04 ERA, and he has a 1.21 ERA in his last three starts. Everyone thinks the Rangers don't have an ace, but Mr. Harrison would no doubt beg to differ.
Hiroki Kuroda, New York Yankees
Hiroki Kuroda wasn't very sharp in his last outing, but he still managed to give the Yankees eight solid innings. He's 12-9 with a 2.98 ERA, and he has a 2.29 ERA over his last 17 starts. Am I the only one who thinks he should start Game 1 for the Yankees when they get to the postseason?
Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox
Last Friday saw Jake Peavy make a typical Jake Peavy start. He allowed only two earned runs in seven innings, but he failed to get a win because his bullpen hates his guts. He's only 9-9 this season, but with a 3.09 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. According to FanGraphs, he has the fourth-highest WAR among American League starters.
Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers
Never mind Max Scherzer's 4.13 ERA. What's important is that he leads the American League in strikeouts. Just as important is the fact that he has a 3.57 FIP, according to FanGraphs. His ERA is largely a byproduct of his absurd .347 BABIP.
Last Week: No. 5
When we last checked in with Jered Weaver, he was fresh off a brutal outing in which he was obliterated for a career-high nine earned runs in three innings at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays, who were then only a couple days removed from being the victims of a perfect game.
In the process, Weaver's ERA jumped from an AL-best 2.22 to a non-AL-best 2.74.
One got the sense that such an outing was on the horizon for Weaver. After all, it was right around the middle of August last year that he was torched for eight earned runs by the Toronto Blue Jays and then proceeded to be pretty pedestrian down the stretch.
It's looking right now like that same fate may not be in the cards for Weaver. He bounced back from his horrid outing against the Rays with a solid outing against the Red Sox at Fenway Park in which he allowed two earned runs in seven innings with five strikeouts. He picked up his 16th win and kept his ERA at 2.74.
That's good for fifth in the AL. Weaver still leads the league with a 0.98 WHIP.
I'm keeping Weaver stuck at No. 5 because—let's face it—beating the Red Sox isn't much of an accomplishment these days. But just as important, some of Weaver's peripheral numbers still fail to impress as much as his record, his ERA and his WHIP.
According to FanGraphs, Weaver has a FIP of 3.53 that's considerably higher than his ERA. He actually has a higher FIP than Jarrod Parker, and his FIP is barely better than that of Max Scherzer.
Speaking of Scherzer, he actually has a higher WAR than Weaver, 3.2 to 3.0, and he certainly has more strikeouts than Weaver. Weaver's 6.87 K/9 is his lowest since 2007, so it's a good thing his BABIP checks in at a microscopic .237.
There's a lot to like about the season Weaver is having, but he still has a long way to go to be the man to beat in the AL Cy Young race.
Last Week: No. 3
I mentioned in the opening that David Price went into his start against the Rangers on Monday with a string of 12 straight outings of at least seven innings under his belt.
Just as impressive is the fact that he accumulated a 1.56 ERA in those 12 starts with a .182 opponents' batting average. He was as automatic as any pitcher can possibly be.
He proved to be no match for the AL's best offense. The Rangers collected 10 hits, including back-to-back homers, against Price in just four innings of work. The six earned runs he gave up were one short of his season high.
Price saw his ERA jump from an AL-best 2.28 to 2.53, a figure that ranks third in the AL. His WHIP of 1.10 ranks seventh.
Not unlike Weaver, Price's FIP suggests he's been a little on the lucky side this season. FanGraphs has it at 3.17, over half a run higher than his ERA.
Granted, a 3.17 FIP is still very, very good. Only three pitchers in the AL have Price beat in that category.
Also very, very good is the fact that Price ranks seventh in the AL in innings pitched and fifth in strikeouts. His 8.79 K/9 is on track to be a new career best, and his 2.59 BB/9 is right on line with the walk rate he posted in 2011.
I've knocked Price down a spot in these rankings this week because some sort of punishment was in order after the outing he had against the Rangers. A bounce-back outing will get him back up to No. 3 if he can muster one his next time out.
And he should be able to. His next start will come against the reeling Blue Jays.
Last Week: No. 4
I'm well aware that Chris Sale lasted just four innings against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night. Eventually, this outing is going to cost him in these rankings.
But all pitchers are being judged on their stats as of the start of play on Tuesday, so for now Sale is A-OK.
Sale finds himself up a spot in these rankings this week because of his performance against the New York Yankees last Wednesday. It was one of his best, as he allowed just three hits and an earned run in 7.2 innings while striking out 13.
For his efforts, Sale was awarded with a game score of 81. That makes it three games this season in which Sale has earned a game score of 81.
That may mean something. That may mean nothing. It's cool either way.
At any rate, Sale also picked up his 15th win and dropped his ERA from 2.72 to 2.65. That's good for fourth in the AL, and he also ranks fourth in the AL with a WHIP of 1.03.
Sale has a FIP of 3.11, according to FanGraphs. That puts him slightly ahead of Price, and Sale also has him beat in K/9, BB/9, K/BB and opponents' batting average.
For what it's worth, he also has Price beat in WAR, 4.2 to 4.0.
There's not a huge gap between Sale and Price. It's actually a little uncanny how closely their numbers stack up.
But for now, Sale has the edge.
Last Week: No. 2
Just as we're going to ignore the fact that Sale struggled against the Orioles on Tuesday night for the time being, we're going to have to ignore the fact that Verlander met his match against the Kansas City Royals.
What matters is that he pitched nine innings for the fifth time this season on Thursday against the Toronto Blue Jays, allowing two earned runs and striking out 12.
He failed to pick up a win because Detroit's offense hates Verlander hates him almost as much as Chicago's offense hates Jake Peavy. Verlander is only getting an average of 3.65 runs of support in his starts this season.
Oh well. He still managed to lower his ERA to 2.50 and his WHIP to 1.00. Both figures rank second in the AL, and Verlander also ranks second in innings pitched and strikeouts.
Per FanGraphs, Verlander ranks also ranks second in the AL with a FIP of 2.96. He ranks fourth with a K/9 of 9.06 and fourth with a K/BB of 4.09.
He and Felix Hernandez have the exact same WAR at 5.5. That means there's a case to be made for Verlander to occupy the top spot in these rankings, but there are simply more reasons to bow down to King Felix.
I shall explain in the next slide...
Last Week: No. 1
What Felix Hernandez is doing right now is ridiculous.
King Felix pitched another complete-game shutout on Monday night against the Minnesota Twins. That gives him five of those on the season, and all five have come within his last 14 starts.
In those, Hernandez is 9-0 with a 1.40 ERA and an opponents' batting average of .183. Of his five shutouts, one was a perfect game, three came against some of the top offensive teams in the AL in Texas, New York and Boston, and four were accomplished in games that were decided by a 1-0 final.
Look up the term "money pitcher" in the dictionary, and you'll be disappointed to find that it's not there.
But if it were there, there'd surely be a picture of Felix Hernandez.
King Felix's recent dominance has upped his record to 13-5, and he also has an AL-best 2.43 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP. He leads the AL in innings pitched and is third in strikeouts.
According to FanGraphs, King Felix's 2.82 FIP leads the American League. He doesn't have Verlander beat in K/9, but he does have him beat in BB/9 and is right there with him in K/BB and opponents' batting average.
But what it all comes down to, really, is a pretty simple truth:
No pitcher in baseball is pitching as well as King Felix these days. Not even close.
5. Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels
Steady as she goes.
4. Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox
3. David Price, Tampa Bay Rays
Down one this week, but it won't take much for him to get back up to No. 3.
2. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
He may be pushed down a peg next week, but for now he's holding steady.
1. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
He's the Mike Trout of pitchers right now.
Feel free to check out last week's rankings.
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