Entering 2011, the balance of pitching power so heavily favors the National League that it’s scary. The uncanny predominance of talented pitchers in the NL is reminiscent of the dominance of the NBA’s Western Conference in the early to mid-2000s, or the American League’s recent supremacy in the All-Star Game.
In fact, the NL has top MLB arms like AIG has bailout money, they had a lot before getting a lot more.
Six of the previous nine AL Cy Young award winners now reside in the NL. The last three AL Cy Young winners pitched on teams that failed to crack .500, and two of them will pitch for NL clubs in 2011.
Last year’s Cy Young winner, Felix Hernandez, managed only 13 wins despite a sensational season.
Need more proof? This off-season has seen Cliff Lee, Zack Greinke, Matt Garza and Shaun Marcum all defect to the NL. Meanwhile, the top AL off-season acquisitions have all been position players (i.e. Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Adam Dunn, and Victor Martinez). The last elite pitcher to move to the AL may have been Dan Haren prior to last year’s trade deadline.
In other words, NL clubs know they have to construct their rosters around the elite pitching necessary to compete against the other top rotations. AL clubs know they have to build great lineups to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox.
How do you then rank the top 25 pitchers in the NL?
The criteria one expert values might be different from that of another. In other words, do you prefer Ribeye or Filet Mignon? Picasso or Gaugin? Should the crafty, vertigo-inducing command of Ted Lilly place him ahead of Jonathan Sanchez and his mid-90s heat?
Though it’s clear that calling Adam Wainwright the fourth best pitcher in the National League is like calling Van Gogh, the fourth best Impressionist.
I will bravely forge ahead, offering the 25 best starting pitchers in the National League…