April 17, 2010
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This generation of players in the MLB has a load of talented pitchers.
It seems like every year another team is boasting that they have the next great pitcher. Since there are so many to choose, I found it necessary to set some guidelines before selecting the top 10 elite pitchers in baseball today.
The two things I look for in an elite pitcher are consistency (meaning the pitcher has no injury concerns and is dominant year-in and year-out), and tenure (meaning I need to be convinced that a pitcher's performance is more than a fluke).
1. Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies
Knowing that consistency and tenure are both important to me, it should be no surprise that I view Roy Halladay as the best pitcher in the game.
After all, Halladay is seemingly always first or second in the league in innings pitched and one of the few starters in baseball that still gets complete games, all while posting a dominant numbers.
Not even the powerhouse offenses of the American League East seemed to bother him, as he constantly put up enviable numbers.
In last five years Halladay has put up a combined ERA of 3.01 and a combined WHIP of 1.106. Simply incredible numbers, which is why this was by far the easiest pick.
2. C.C. Sabathia, New York Yankees
Much like Halladay, Sabathia has earned a reputation for having a rubber arm by pitching 1,889 innings by the time he was 27.
Despite Sabathia’s heavy work load, C.C. has yet to experience any major injuries, and puts up big numbers year after year no matter what division or ballpark he’s in.
Additionally I ranked C.C. at number two because he’s one of the few dominant left handed pitchers in the game, posting a 3.27 ERA and a WHIP of 1.162 in the past five years.
3. Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants
Tim Lincecum is definitely a freak.
Despite his small frame, 5’11" 275 pounds, he has led the league in strikeouts the past two seasons and has improved year-in and year-out.
His past two seasons have been remarkable and has earned him consecutive CY Young awards.
While some may question how much his stadium and league benefit him, his ERA plus of 173 tells us he could achieve greatness anywhere.
If Lincecum keeps it up, he’ll be on top of this list in no time.
4. Johan Santana, NY Mets
Johan Santana, the self proclaimed best pitcher in the majors, is only slated at four because he’s coming off a minor surgery.
If Santana hadn't been injured last year, he would be ranked ahead of both Sabathia and Lincecum, due to his impressive track record.
Despite the fact that Santana’s numbers have been declining, he still has been able to put up CY Young award numbers over the past few years. It can even be argued that he deserved the 2008 NL CY young award over Lincecum. As long as Santana remains healthy, he should be able to put up great numbers especially in the spacious Citi Field.
In the past five years, Santana has managed a 2.91 ERA and a WHIP of 1.072, but perhaps the most remarkable thing about him is that he’s still only thirty years old.
5. Dan Haren, Arizona Diamondbacks
Haren may just be the most underrated player on this list.
While it’s true that he plays in one the worst divisions in baseball, his ERA plus shows that he would excel in any division, as does his dominance over the Yankees and the Red Sox.
Furthermore, he showed similar numbers when he was in the American league, and any pitcher who records a WHIP of 1.003 deserves what he is due.
6. Zack Greinke, Kansas City Royals
Greinke has finally given Royals fans something to cheer about, as it appears the reigning CY young has fully gotten over his anxiety problems, and is playing to his full potential.
While last year was easily his best year, he also was solid in the previous two years.
So there’s should be no question that he’s a fluke, especially if you have ever seen him play. Look for Grienke to compete for the Cy Young Award for years to come.
7. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
At 23, Hernandez is by far the youngest player on this list.
Most Mariners fans believe King Felix will become the next great pitcher in baseball. So far in his five year career he has shown flashes of reaching those expectations.
Hernandez's dominance derives from his large pitch arsenal and his remarkable command.
While most starters are forced to rely on one or two pitches, Hernandez actually has several out pitches. He has a mid-90s fastball, a good changeup, nasty slider, curveball, two-seam fastball, and a nasty split-finger fastball.
His ERA plus almost matches up identically to NL CY Young winner Tim Lincecum’s, which shows just how much potential Hernandez has.
8. Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox
Lester’s past two seasons have earned a spot on this list, as he recorded an ERA of 3.31 in toughest division in baseball.
Additionally, his last season was on par with that of C.C. Sabathia.
Amazingly, despite all his recent success, there are some who still think Beckett is the ace of the Red Sox staff. With his control problems behind him, it seems only a matter of time before Lester gets the recognition he deserves.
Yankees fans should be hoping that he has reached his peak.
9. Cliff Lee, Seattle Mariners
Lee is a shining example of how much mechanics matter to a pitcher.
The first few seasons of Lee’s career were simply horrible; so bad that the Indians sent him back down to the minors at age 28.
In the minors, Lee changed everything about the way he pitched and his new mechanics led him to win the CY young the next year.
Since then, Lee has continued his dominance in both leagues, posting an impressive combined ERA of 2.84 and a WHIP of 1.178, though some fear his high total will lead to a regression.
10. Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals
After a breakout 2009, in which he finished third in the CY Young race, it’s amazing that he was ever being groomed as a reliever.
Wainwright's situation should be a lesson for all teams to not waste their young talent by giving and restricting them to bullpen roles.
Wainwright is a dominant pitcher with excellent control and command.
He will continue to improve and has arguably the best curveball in baseball to go along with a mid-90s fastball, two-seam fastball, nasty changeup, and a nasty slider.
Justin Verlander just missed the list as I need another good season to prove that 2008 was just an aberration.
Other notable starters are Matt Cain, Jair Jurrjens, Josh Johnson, and Clayton Kershaw who all could have enormous potential.
As for veterans who could make this list; Jake Peavy, Beckett, and Carpenter have all proven they have the talent. However Peavy has to prove he can pitch in the AL, Beckett has to learn to be more consistent, for them to make the list, and Carpenter has to stay healthy for another full year.
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