Best Every Day: Most Consistent Players in MLB
There's always talk of All-Star players in MLB.
But there's a level of players that are one step above that. Those are the players who are the most consistent in the entire league.
Every time they go out there, you know these players are almost definitely going to have their best stuff that night and give their team a chance to win.
So who meets that criterion?
As I went through and looked at all of the players, I decided to expand it beyond just what hitters do at the plate and what pitchers do on the mound. I also wanted to include fielders who grab everything in their area.
That means there will be some selected not necessarily for their offensive prowess but for what they do in the field.
With that said, here's a look at the most consistent players in baseball.
Note: All stats are taken from baseball-reference.com, unless otherwise noted.
Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
Miguel Cabrera is obviously selected for what he does at the plate.
The Detroit Tigers third baseman has been getting it done like no other for a long time. He's batted lower than .320 only three times in his 11-year career, with two of those coming in his first two seasons.
Since 2009, he's had a batting average range from .324 to .349 (this year) and had at least 30 home runs and 100 RBI in each season.
Last year Cabrera won the Triple Crown, batting .330 with 44 home runs and 139 RBI. This year, he's having an even better statistical season—.349 with 43 home runs and 133 RBI. However, he does sit six home runs behind Chris Davis, which means Cabrera likely won't win the Triple Crown again unless he goes on a tear at the end of the year.
But if anyone is going to go on a tear, Cabrera's your best bet.
According to FanGraphs, when looking at Cabrera's plate discipline, the numbers are astonishing. He's making contact 69.7 percent of the time when he swings at pitches outside of the strike zone, while making contact with pitches 87.3 percent of the time when pitchers are inside the strike zone.
Making those numbers even more impressive is the fact that he only sees 42.5 percent of pitches inside the zone. So for Cabrera to do the damage he's doing, he's having to go out of the strike zone a lot.
Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
While still only in his second year, Mike Trout has already made a name for himself in baseball.
Having another great season statistically, Trout is currently batting .335 with 23 home runs and 85 RBI. His 8.6 WAR is the best in all of baseball.
He goes up to bat with a disciplined mind, only swinging at 38.6 percent of all pitches, according to FanGraphs. And when he does swing, he's making contact 82.6 percent of the time.
But it's not just what Trout does at the plate; it's also what he does in the field. He's only made two errors this year and has recorded over 300 putouts once again.
Trout seems like he's always going to be in the debate for a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger and MVP. He's that talented.
Unfortunately, with the way Cabrera is playing, the latter award likely won't happen until Cabrera cools off.
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
When it comes to pitchers, there are none better in baseball than Clayton Kershaw.
Despite not receiving the wins like he deserves, Kershaw is still throwing smoke at a very high rate for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The last time Kershaw had an ERA over 3.00 was during his rookie year. Since then, 2.91 has been his highest mark. But in the last three years, Kershaw has had marks of 2.28, 2.53 and 1.92.
So what has made Kershaw so successful?
For starters, he maintains a fastball velocity between 88.3 and 95.2 mph, according to FanGraphs. But it's more than that.
No one pitch is his strikeout pitch. This year, he's gotten 71 strikeouts apiece using the slider and the curve, with 65 coming via the fastball. For hitters, that is tough—Kershaw doesn't have a particular "out" pitch to avoid.
When Keshaw takes the mound, he's almost a guaranteed quality start. He's had a few hiccups this year, but his consistency across the board is the reason why the Dodgers will eventually make him the highest-paid pitcher in the game.
Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
When it comes to the best backstops in the game, none are better than Yadier Molina.
Sure, he ranks 18th in the league in having only thrown out 16 would-be base stealers, but that's also because only 48 guys have tried to run on him this year. That's the lowest for any everyday catcher.
Molina's .421 caught-stealing percentage ranks second in the league. But what's even more impressive is his catcher's ERA is at 3.23, which ranks third in the league.
And Molina has done that consistently over his entire career. Last year, he threw out 47.9 percent of would-be base stealers.
Throw in the fact that he consistently has one of the best bats for a catcher in baseball and you have someone you can confidently throw out there safely for 120-130 games a year. It's no surprise that his new contract pays him $14 million this season.
Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta Braves
Andrelton Simmons makes the list because of what he does at shortstop. Any time a ball is hit near this kid, he's going to go get it.
Most people look at his struggles at the plate and don't think twice about him being a great shortstop, but when it comes to great defense, there may be no one better in the game today.
For starters, his defensive WAR is 5.1, which is more than double of any other shortstop in the league. In fact, third baseman Manny Machado is the next closest to him in defensive WAR, at 4.0.
Of course people will point to his 10 errors, but how many of those errors are because he got a tough ball (whereas many wouldn't have) and made an error trying to complete a near-impossible play?
According to FanGraphs, Simmons has made 58 plays out of the shortstop's zone this year and has saved 36 runs with his defensive play. Because of that, you can live with the 10 errors he's made, as he's always trying to make plays on the ball.
Simply put, there has been no better defensive player in 2013 than Simmons...period.
Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers
He may only be in his second year in MLB, but Yu Darvish is slowly becoming one of the most consistent starters in the game.
This year, he's 12-8 with a 2.84 ERA and 246 strikeouts. His ERA and strikeouts are better than last year. He also has the chance at becoming the first pitcher since Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in 2002 to have more than 300 strikeouts in a season.
Darvish has notched fewer than six strikeouts only three times this season, having reached double digits 11 times.
For those who questioned his dominance in Japan before he came over, Darvish is proving he can be successful in the majors.
The one knock on him is that he has a tendency to give up the long ball, having allowed 24 homers this year. But they also tend to come in bunches, as he's had eight games where he's given up multiple home runs for a total of 17 long balls.
Other than that, you have to like the way Darvish is pitching. He's putting himself in the conversation for the AL Cy Young.
Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
Andrew McCutchen is one of those players who goes quietly about his business and gets the job done every year.
This year, McCutchen is batting .326 with 19 home runs and 79 RBI. His home run total is down from a year ago (31), but the Pirates are playoff bound in the midst of the race for the NL Central. And a lot of that has to do with McCutchen.
McCutchen is also a pretty good base stealer and great defender, putting him with Mike Trout as two of the best five-tool threats in baseball.
He can get back on the ball and has a really good arm should someone try to test him. How good? How about nine outfield assists, which ties him for third among all center fielders?
While he struggled early in his career to be consistent, McCutchen has showed that consistency in the last two years both at the plate and in the field.
Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins
He may only be in his first year, but Jose Fernandez has absolutely been the most consistent pitcher behind Clayton Kershaw in 2013.
Fernandez just wrapped up his season due to an innings limit, but he was dominating all sorts of opponents this year. He's second in MLB with a 2.19 ERA and 187 strikeouts.
He rarely gives up more than two earned runs in a start. In fact, of his 26 starts this year, only five have seen him give up three or more runs. And of those, four came in the first two months of the season.
Since then, Fernandez has given up a total of 20 earned runs in 18 starts. If that's not consistent, I don't know what is.
It's understandable that some would call for Matt Harvey in this spot as opposed to Fernandez, but a tear to his UCL finished his season and will likely cut into most of next season. For that, he couldn't be named one of the most consistent. Had he stayed healthy, then he too would have been on the list.
Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves
Kimbrel leads all of baseball in saves with 46 and has the best ERA (0.91) among closers.
He's been so good that it's been since July 4 that he's given up a run. That's 28.1 innings of spotless relief work. If you want to go even further back, before the July 4 game, Kimbrel hadn't given up a run since May 7. In fact, he's only given up six earned runs this year.
With all of the injuries the Atlanta bullpen has had to deal with this year, having Kimbrel to close things down has been great.
Last year was much of the same for Kimbrel, as he earned 42 saves and had a 1.01 ERA.
Kimbrel has shown he is the best closer in the game. And when Mariano Rivera retires, he will officially take on that role. Speaking of Rivera...
Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees
While he has had his struggles this year, there's no question Mariano Rivera is as consistent as they come in the bullpen.
Sure he's blown seven saves this year, but he's still got 43 saves to his name.
For a player who is having his ninth 40-save season in his career, Rivera still knows how to get the job done on a consistent basis.
This year has seen him give up 15 earned runs, but he's also approaching 60 appearances once again. The only difference between this year and years past is the fact that he's 43 years old.
Rivera will go down as the greatest closer in baseball history. Although there have been a few struggles this year, there is nobody you would rather have on the mound for you in the ninth inning with the game on the line—especially in the playoffs, where he's posted a 0.70 ERA and allowed just two home runs in 141 innings.