No Free Passes: The 10 Best Control Pitchers in MLB
Unless you have been living in a "baseball bubble," you must be aware that Ubaldo Jimenez is having an incredible season. In 14 games pitched, he's 13-1 with a 1.15 ERA. This puts him on pace to win 30-plus games this season.
But no matter what his record is, or how dominant he's been thus far, he has not done enough in his career to prove that he's trustworthy in a big game.
In his previous two seasons, he's combined to go 27-24, while giving up roughly three and a half runs per game. Not to mention his postseason performances, where he's been dreadful, and has yet to win a postseason game.
By no means am I discrediting Jimenez's 2010 season, but get back to me in October.
If he continues this pace, then my opinion will change. Until then, he's just another pitcher off to a remarkable start.
Let's see how the rest of his season turns out, but in the meantime, I present "No Free Passes: The 10 Best Control Pitchers in MLB."
These are baseball's best pitchers, who I would trust most with a full count and the bases loaded to throw that crucial strike.
Is your most "trustworthy" pitcher on here?
Let's find out...
10. Roy Oswalt
Walks Per Nine Innings: 2.0700
Strikeouts Per Nine Innings: 7.4159
Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio: 3.5826
Although Roy Oswalt doesn't have the frame of CC Sabathia or Roy Halladay, he is one of baseball's hardest throwers, and frequently appears among the league leaders in innings pitched.
Oswalt's primary pitches are: a fastball, two overhand curveballs, a straight changeup, a slider, and on occasion, Oswalt will throw a cut or a two—seam fastball.
As the trade deadline approaches, Oswalt has been at the center of trade talks. But let's not overlook the stellar career he's had while playing his entire career with the Houston Astros.
As of 2009, Oswalt has compiled a 137-70 record with a 3.23 ERA and a 3.58 K/BB ratio in 1803.1 IP.
He posted a 20-12 record in 2005 with a 2.94 ERA, repeating his 20-win performance from 2004. In the 2008 season, Oswalt pitched in 208 2/3 innings, his fifth consecutive year of 200 or more innings pitched. He also finished the season with a 17-10 record, an ERA of 3.54, and 165 strikeouts.
Oswalt has finished third in the Cy Young voting once, and fourth three times.
While pitching in Houston the three-time All-Star has never got the national recognition he deserves, but still has been an elite pitcher for many years.
Whether he stays in Houston or finishes the season someplace else, Oswalt still has the pitching ability to play a pivotal role for a playoff contender down the stretch.
Let's hope he gets that opportunity. He definitely deserves the chance.
9. Chris Carpenter
Walks Per Nine Innings: 2.6191
Strikeouts Per Nine Innings: 6.8955
Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio: 2.6328
At 6' 6", 230 pounds, Chris Carpenter is a force on the mound, and is off to another incredible start to the season.
As of June 20, 2010, Carpenter is 8-1 with a 2.83 ERA.
He's known to have five quality pitches and consistently throws a two and four-seam fastball in between 92-96 MPH.
Carpenter has one of the better curveballs in baseball and has shown excellent command of his cutter and circle-change up. Carpenter will throw any of his pitches at any time during the at-bat.
The 2005 Cy Young award winner, who went 21-5 to go along with seven complete games, a 4.14 K/BB ratio, a career best 2.83 ERA and a career high 213 strikeouts, has been the ace of the Cardinals staff since he joined the team in 2004.
In his first six seasons with the Cardinals, he has gone 68-24 and his .739 winning percentage is the highest in team history through 2009.
At the age of 35, Carpenter will soon be passing the torch of the "Ace of the Staff" to the other superstar of the Cardinals rotation Adam Wainwright. But for now, Carpenter is still at the top of his game.
Every time Carpenter steps onto the mound, the city of St. Louis and Cardinal fans alike have the privilege of getting to watch one of the best pitchers in baseball.
He doesn't have many years left, so enjoy his dominance now.
When Carpenter hangs up the cleats, there will be a huge void in the Cardinals pitching rotation—a void that might not be able to be filled.
8. Jonathan Papelbon
Walks Per Nine Innings: 2.5
Strikeouts Per Nine Innings: 10.2
Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio : 4.13
Boston Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon relies mostly on his fastball that usually clocks in between the 93-97 MPH range (and occasionally reaches 99 MPH on the radar gun), to go along with a nasty slider, and a devastating split-finger-fastball.
Papelbon, who is a four-time All-Star, holds the Major League record for most consecutive scoreless innings to start a postseason career with 26, and the record for saves by a rookie closer with 35 in 2006.
Papelbon was named the 2007 DHL Delivery man of the Year, and recorded the final strikeout to capture the 2007 World Series championship.
After converting all three save opportunities in the World Series, while not walking a single batter, and recording a WHIP of .462, Papelbon was named the 2007 Babe Ruth award winner.
If you're a Yankee fan, you don't like his personality, or his pre-pitch stare down, but there's no denying Papelbon is one of the most reliable pitchers in baseball.
He certainly has the track record to prove that.
7. CC Sabathia
Walks per nine innings: 2.8158
Strikeouts per nine innings: 7.5664
Strikeout-to-walk ratio: 2.6871
The 2007 Cy Young award winner, who's known for his baggy uniform and sideways brim is not the prototypical athlete, but he is one of the most dominating pitchers in baseball.
In 2008, CC Sabathia single-handedly led the Milwaukee Brewers to the playoffs after finishing the season with an 11-2 record, throwing seven complete games, three shutouts, 128 strikeouts, recording a 1.003 WHIP, and compiling a 5.12 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Sabathia's pitching repertoire includes a fastball, slider, and a devastating changeup. He also exhibits good command of his pitches, as he posted a 5.65 K/BB ratio in 2007.
By no means is Sabathia known as a control pitcher, and I would never describe him as one.
He throws a fastball in the mid-90s, and throws the best changeup in the American League.
Sabathia can be lights out on regular rest, or as proven in the 2009 ALCS against the Los Angeles Angels in Game Four, he can be dominant on short rest too.
He has the ability to spot his fastball on both sides of the plate, and his changeup has become a nightmare for right-handed hitters.
So when it's a 3-2 count, and whether catcher Jorge Posada is calling for a change-up or a fastball, it doesn't matter what pitch Sabathia chooses to throw, because he'll always throw that crucial strike whenever it matters most.
6. Johan Santana
Walks Per Nine Innings: 2.5127
Strikeouts Per Nine Innings: 8.9517
Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio: 3.5626
The two-time Cy Young award winner has a pitching repertoire that includes a 88-93 MPH fastball, a slider, and a circle change-up that's simply un-hittable.
Johan Santana is a four time All-Star, 2007 Gold Glove award winner, and won the 2006 Pitching Triple Crown after leading the AL in wins, ERA, and strikeouts.
Santana currently ranks in the top 10 among active strikeout leaders (1,792), and has also led the AL in strikeouts in 2004 and 2005.
Although Santana has been superb in the regular season over his career, the one blemish to a magnificent resume has been his inability to perform in the postseason.
In five postseason series, Santana has a losing record of 1-3, an ERA of 3.97, a 1.324 WHIP, and has recorded 32 strikeouts in 34 IP. All of his playoff appearances have been as a member of the Minnesota Twins, and is still seeking his first postseason appearance as a member of the New York Mets.
Throughout Santana's career, he has never had the run support of a offensive powerhouse similar to the 2009 Yankees, but has excelled no matter where he's pitched.
Although Santana's regular season stats are great, until he can perform at an elite level in the postseason, he'll always be a tier below the greatest pitchers in baseball history.
Met fans are hoping this is the year they get to see Santana pitch in October, but knowing the Mets and their recent collapses, they might be waiting a long time for that to happen.
5. Josh Beckett
Walks Per Nine Innings: 2.7684
Strikeouts Per Nine Innings: 8.5230
Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio: 3.0787
The 2003 World Series and 2007 ALCS MVP, Josh Beckett, has made a living pitching in the postseason.
In nine postseason series, Beckett has a win-loss record of 7-3 to go along with a 3.07 ERA, while pitching three complete games and three shutouts. He has recorded 99 strikeouts, a .940 WHIP, 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings, and an impressive 4.71 K/BB ratio.
But his most impressive postseason performance might have come during the 2003 World Series against the New York Yankees while pitching for the Florida Marlins.
This was a performance where Beckett became a superstar.
During the series, his two great pitching performances came on short rest, but it was during Game 6 at Yankee Stadium where Beckett performed like a future Hall of Famer. He pitched a complete game shutout while striking out nine and made the clinching series tag for the final out.
Boston's ace is currently on the disabled list, and his return is still unknown. Beckett has struggled in 2010, posting a record of 1-1, with a 7.29 ERA in eight starts, but the Red Sox have been treading water without him, as they sit only one game back in the AL East division behind the New York Yankees.
Beckett primarily uses his 4-seam fastball to get ahead in the count, and also throws a dominant 12-6 curve ball. Although he doesn't use his changeup often, he does use it as an off speed pitch. Beckett excels at painting the corners and changing speeds. His combination of elite pitches and excellent control has made him one of the best pitchers in recent years.
The Sox are proving they can win without Beckett in the regular season, but if they make the playoffs, they will certainly need one of the greatest pitchers in postseason history if they plan on making a run at another World Series title.
4. Tim Lincecum
Walks Per Nine Innings: 3.3
Strikeouts Per Nine Innings: 10.2
Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio: 3.08
Sandy Koufax, Jim Palmer, Tom Seaver, Bob Gibson, Randy Johnson are all multiple Cy Young award winners, and pitchers a manager would trust most with a full count and the bases loaded.
Just as any manager would most likely put his faith in the aforementioned Hall of Famers and future Hall of Famers, the 2008 and 2009 Cy Young award winner, Tim Lincecum, should be added to the list - no questions asked.
3. Cliff Lee
Walks Per Nine Innings: 2.3899
Strikeouts Per Nine Innings: 6.8282
Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio: 2.8571
The 2008 Cy Young award winner joined the Philadelphia Phillies a few days prior to the 2009 trade deadline.
In five games with the Phillies, Lee amassed a 5–0 record, 39 strikeouts in 40 innings pitched, and a 0.68 ERA.
After posting a 2-0 record in the first two rounds of the playoffs, in Game One of the 2009 World Series, Lee performed brilliantly on the biggest stage in all of baseball.
Lee became the first pitcher since 1903 to pitch a complete game in the World Series while recording 10 or more strikeouts and not walking a single batter.
Although Lee wasn't as brilliant in Game 5, he earned another victory allowing five runs and three walks while striking out three in seven innings.
Lee's 2009 postseason performance was phenomenal proving that even on the grandest of stages, he's able to perform at his best.
2. Roy Halladay
Walks Per Nine Innings: 1.9683
Strikeouts Per nine innings: 6.6236
Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio: 3.3652
The six-time All-Star, Roy "Doc" Halladay has been one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball since 2002.
In 2003, Halladay was awarded the American League Cy Young after finishing the season with a 22-7 record, to go along with nine complete games, 204 strikeouts, and a 1.071 WHIP.
Until he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies during the 2010 off-season, Halladay compiled a record of 148-76, while pitching for a mediocre Toronto Blue Jays team.
Halladay has never had the opportunity to pitch in the postseason, and there is no doubt, he's hoping the 2010 season will mark the start of a great postseason career.
In his 13 seasons in the league, Halladay has thrown 13 complete games, and has started over 300 games, including pitching the 20th perfect game in MLB history.
Over the past several seasons, Halladay has become more of a groundball pitcher with a good K/BB ratio, while working on keeping his pitch count down.
He threw 200-plus strikeouts in 2008 and 2009, ranking amongst the AL leaders in that category.
Halladay's pitching arsenal includes a four-seam fastball (95 MPH), a two-seam sinking fastball (92–94 MPH), a curveball (77 MPH), a cutter (90–92 MPH), and in 2006, Halladay added a lethal changeup to his repertoire.
Doc has the stats, the Cy Young award, and the resume to prove that if any team were one strike away from winning the World Series, the "Doc" would certainly be on call.
1. Mariano Rivera
Walks Per Nine Innings: 2.1118
Strikeouts Per Nine Innings: 8.3015
Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio: 3.9310
Call it a bias choice. Call it a bold choice.
There is only one pitcher I'd want on the mound with a full count and the bases loaded.
Let's just call him, Mo.