MLB Power Rankings: The 25 Best Left-Handed Starters In Baseball

Jim BerdyszCorrespondent IJanuary 25, 2011

MLB Power Rankings: The 25 Best Left-Handed Starters In Baseball

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    The lefty. Some of baseball's most notable pitchers over the last century have been left-handed. From Warren Spahn to Sandy Koufax to Randy Johnson, these are just a few of the many left-handers that have changed the way many baseball fans view lefties in the game today.

    But what exactly is special about southpaws? Well I'll just put it to you this way: How many other sports do you know of where a left-handed player plays as much of an important role on a team, than a left-handed starting pitcher in the Major Leagues? None.

    In baseball's early years, many thought that pitchers who were left-handed did in fact have somewhat of an unique edge against their opponents. We still see somewhat of a similar type of edge today between left-handed hitters facing left-handed pitchers, especially in a manager's call to the bullpen late in a game to get a juicy lefty-lefty match-up.

    No closers or relievers in this list though. Here now are the best 25 left-handed starting pitchers in the game of baseball today. Enjoy.

     

25. Barry Zito (San Francisco Giants)

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    Age: 32

    2010 stats (33 starts)

    Record: 9-14

    ERA: 4.15 ERA

    Innings pitched: 199.1

    84 BB / 150 SO

    The former Cy Young Award winner with the Oakland Athletics just hasn't found his stride since being in the National League. 

    He did manage to go 4-0 with a 1.53 ERA in five starts last April, but was left off the Giants postseason roster in October after struggling down the stretch. Regardless, he still brings a veteran presence to the Giants young pitching staff.

24. J.A. Happ (Houston Astros)

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    Age: 28

    2010 stats (16 starts)

    Record: 6-4

    ERA: 3.40

    Innings pitched: 87.1

    47 BB / 70 SO

    The centerpiece of the Phillies-Astros trade that sent Roy Oswalt to Philadelphia, Happ was successful in his first stint with Houston, which included throwing a shutout against the St. Louis Cardinals back on August 30.

    Look for him to have even a bigger impact with Houston in his first full season as a starter in 2011.

23. Jorge De La Rosa (Colorado Rockies)

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    Age: 30

    2010 stats (20 starts)

    Record: 8-7

    ERA: 4.22

    Innings pitched: 121.2

    55 BB / 113 SO

    Although he missed all of May and June during the 2010 regular season due to injury, De La Rosa still managed to put up decent numbers returning right before the All-Star break.

    From August 1 through the end of the season though, the Rockies left-hander went a respectable 5-4 with a 3.69 ERA, striking out 65 in 78 innings. With a healthy 2011, De La Rosa could once again win 12-15 games for Colorado.

22. Ted Lilly (Los Angeles Dodgers)

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    Age: 35

    2010 stats (30 starts)

    Record: 10-12

    ERA: 3.62

    Innings pitched: 193.2

    44 BB / 166 SO

    Yes, even at 35 years old, Ted Lilly has been pitching as good as ever since coming over to the National League. The veteran southpaw didn't miss a beat in 2010, even after being acquired by the Dodgers before the July trade deadline.

    He won't be leaving L.A. anytime soon either, after signing a three year, $33 million contract with the Dodgers in October. 

     

21. Wandy Rodriguez (Houston Astros)

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    Age: 32

    2010 stats (32 starts)

    Record: 11-12

    ERA: 3.60

    Innings pitched: 195

    68 BB / 178 SO

    Even without Astros ace Roy Oswalt in the Houston pitching staff, Rodriguez still managed to put up his fourth straight season of 25+ starts, and his third straight season finishing with an ERA under 3.65.

    That in itself is a huge accomplishment, considering that the Astros have averaged just 77 wins the past four seasons.

20. Clayton Richard (San Diego Padres)

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    Age: 27

    2010 stats (33 starts)

    Record: 14-9

    ERA: 3.75

    Innings pitched: 201.2

    78 BB / 153 SO

    The former centerpiece of the trade that sent Jake Peavy to the South Side of Chicago, Clayton Richard was virtually outstanding in first full season both in the Majors and the National League in 2010. The Padres left-hander threw over 200 innings, and was tied with teammates Mat Latos and Jon Garland for the most wins on the team with 14.

    With Garland moving up the coast to L.A., Richard now has the opportunity to make a household name for himself in San Diego in 2011.

19. Brian Matusz (Baltimore Orioles)

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    Age: 24

    2010 stats (32 starts)

    Record: 10-12

    ERA: 4.30

    Innings pitched: 175.2

    63 BB / 143 SO

     In just his first full season in the Majors, Orioles lefty Brian Matusz definitely showed some signs of the type of pitcher he can become for Baltimore in the near future. In his last 11 starts in 2010, (from August 4 through the end of the regular season) Matusz went 7-1 with a 2.18 ERA in 62 innings pitched, walking 16 and striking out 52.

    The former first round pick (fourth overall selection) in the 2008 MLB Draft also lead the Orioles pitching staff in strikeouts in 2010 with 143.

18. Mark Buehrle (Chicago White Sox)

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    Age: 32

    2010 stats (33 starts)

    Record: 13-13

    ERA: 4.28

    Innings pitched: 210.1

    49 BB / 99 SO

    The most dominant White Sox starting pitcher of the past decade, Mark Buehrle has been everything Chicago could ask for in his 11 years with the organization. He has not only recorded double-digit wins in each of the past 10 seasons, but has also thrown 200+ innings over that time span as well.

    And who can forget Buehrle's most notable performance: Throwing a Perfect Game against the Tampa Bay Rays on July 23, 2009.

17. John Danks (Chicago White Sox)

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    Age: 26

    2010 stats (32 starts)

    Record: 15-11

    ERA: 3.72

    Innings pitched: 213

    70 BB / 162 SO

    Mark Buehrle may have been the most dominant pitcher for the White Sox over the past decade, but teammate John Danks could very easily become Chicago's best pitcher of this decade. Danks, a former piece of the Brandon McCarthy trade to Texas has been very successful in his last three seasons with the ChiSox.

    Over those past thee seasons he has averaged over 13 wins and a sub-par ERA of 3.60. I'm sure many White Sox fans agree, they hope to see Danks on the South Side of Chicago for a long time. 

16. Brett Anderson (Oakland Athletics)

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    Age: 23

    2010 stats (19 starts)

    Record: 7-6

    ERA: 2.80

    Innings pitched: 112.1

    22 BB / 75 SO

    The youngest of three lefties in the Oakland rotation, Brett Anderson battled a fair share of injuries in 2010. By the end of July, Anderson had just 7 starts under his belt on the season. When he came back though, the Texas native pitched outstanding.

    In his last 12 starts, which spanned from August 4 through the end of the season, Anderson went 5-4 with a 2.60 ERA in 76.1 innings, walking 18 and striking out 52. It should be interesting to see what kind of numbers the 23 year old can put up with a healthy 2011 season.

15. C.J. Wilson (Texas Rangers)

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    Pool/Getty Images

    Age: 30

    2010 stats (33 starts)

    Record: 15-8

    ERA: 3.35

    Innings pitched: 204

    93 BB / 170 SO

    Who would have ever thought C.J. Wilson would be a successful starter in the Major Leagues, or let alone start a World Series game? This was exactly the case in 2010, as Wilson started 33 games for the AL West Champion Rangers during the regular season, proving to be a key asset down the stretch.

    His 15 wins in 2010 was tops on the entire Rangers pitching staff, a year in which he also recorded three complete games. With former Texas Ranger Cliff Lee going back to Philadelphia, Wilson will need to provide a similar spark now as the ace of the starting rotation.

     

14. Madison Bumgarner (San Francisco Giants)

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    Pool/Getty Images

    Age: 21

    2010 stats (18 starts)

    Record: 7-6

    ERA: 3.00

    Innings pitched: 111

    26 BB / 86 SO

    Ranked by Baseball America in 2010 as the 14th best prospect in the entire Minor Leagues, Madison Bumgarner quietly made a name for himself throughout the Giants postseason run. In five September starts, Bumgarner went 2-2 with a ridiculous 1.13 ERA in 32 innings, striking out 32 while walking just four.

    What is even more amazing is not only did Bumgarner start Game 4 of the World Series, but he became the fourth youngest pitcher to ever win a World Series game. The 21 year old went eight strong innings, giving up just three hits, walking two and striking out six against the AL Champion Rangers. Things will only get better for Bumgarner, as he could really blossom into a potential All-Star in 2011.

13. Ricky Romero (Toronto Blue Jays)

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Age: 26

    2010 stats (32 starts)

    Record: 14-9

    ERA: 3.73

    Innings pitched: 210

    82 BB / 174 SO

    With longtime Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay in Philly, Romero will now anchor Toronto's young pitching staff as the the new go-to starter heading into the 2011 season. Romero has pitched well so far in two years in the big leagues, owning a career record of 27-18 with a 3.99 ERA.

    His most notable game in 2010 came on May 15, where the southpaw struck out 12 Ranger hitters and eventually throwing a shutout against the would be AL Champs. 

12. Jamie Garcia (St. Louis Cardinals)

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    Age: 24

    2010 stats (28 starts)

    Record: 13-8

    ERA: 2.70

    Innings pitched: 163.1

    64 BB / 132 SO

    Finishing third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting this past season, Jamie Garcia proved he can be a key member of the Cardinal pitching staff for a longtime to come. A native of Mexico, Garcia finished with the National League's fourth best ERA as a rookie in 2010.

    As if the Cardinal rotation couldn't get any better with Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, Garcia provides St. Louis with a greatly needed and solid left-handed starter. Now lets just hope he doesn't catch the sophomore jinx. 

11. Dallas Braden (Oakland Athletics)

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Age: 27

    2010 stats (30 starts)

    Record: 11-14

    ERA: 3.50

    Innings pitched: 192.2

    43 BB / 113 SO

    The oldest of the three Oakland left-handers, Dallas Braden pitched very well for the Athletics in 2010. Who could forget his magical Perfect Game against the Rays on Mother's Day? With that game, Braden became the 17th Major League pitcher to accomplish such a feat in just his seventh start of the season.

    He will once again lead the A's rotation in 2011, a starting staff that looks like it could be a very fun rotation to watch. Let's just hope no player crosses Braden's mound this season.

10. Cole Hamels (Philadelphia Phillies)

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Age: 27

    2010 stats (33 starts)

    Record: 12-11

    ERA: 3.06

    Innings pitched: 208.2

    61 BB / 211 SO

    Definitely an ace on almost every other team in the big leagues, Cole Hamels has had a pretty successful career in Philadelphia in his five years with the organization. The former MVP of the 2008 World Series finished sixth in the National League in strikeouts with 211.

    What is even more worth noting about the Phillies lefty is his career postseason record. Hamels is a career 6-4 with a 3.33 ERA in 12 playoff starts that spans over 75 innings pitched. With a rotation lead by 2010 NL Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay and recently signed Cliff Lee, Hamels could very well be a powerful dark-horse in the Philly rotation in 2011.

9. Francisco Liriano (Minnesota Twins)

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Age: 27

    2010 stats (31 starts)

    Record: 14-10

    ERA: 3.62

    Innings pitched: 191.2

    58 BB / 201 SO

    Three years removed from Tommy John surgery in 2007, Francisco Liriano showed signs of his dominant rookie campaign in 2006. The Minnesota ace finished fifth in the AL with 201 strikeouts and was second on the Twins in wins with 14.

    Liriano was ridiculous in April, starting out of the gate with a 4-0 record and a 1.50 ERA in his first five starts in 2010. He will once again lead the Minnesota staff in 2011, as the Twins will once again look to become one of the premier clubs in the AL Central--a place where they have averaged 88+ wins over the last five years.

8. Johan Santana (New York Mets)

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Age: 32

    2010 stats (29 starts)

    Record: 11-9

    ERA: 2.98

    Innings pitched: 199

    55 BB / 144 SO

    Arguably the best left-handed starter in recent history, Santana was once again a strong force for the Mets in 2010. The former Minnesota ace has gone eight straight seasons recording double-digit wins and hasn't finished with an ERA above 3.33 in that time span.

    The Mets couldn't have nabbed a better southpaw when they traded for him in 2008, as Santana has averaged 13+ wins and a 2.88 ERA in three seasons in New York. Expect to see the same success from two-time Cy Young Award winner in 2011.

7. Gio Gonzalez (Oakland Athletics)

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Age: 25

    2010 stats (33 starts)

    Record: 15-9

    ERA: 3.23

    Innings pitched: 200.2

    92 BB / 171 SO

    Probably the most underrated starting pitcher in the game today, Gio Gonzalez is yet another outstanding left-handed starter on Oakland. The White Sox should have hung on to this southpaw as Chicago traded Gonzalez twice over three seasons. He was most notably a part of the trade that sent outfielder Nick Swisher to the ChiSox back in 2008.

    Gonzalez finally broke out in a big way in 2010, leading the A's with 171 strikeouts in just his third season in the Majors and holding opposing batters to a .229 batting average. He is definitely one of the best young starters in the game today, as he could easily become Oakland's future ace in the next few years.

6. Jonathan Sanchez (San Francisco Giants)

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    Age: 28

    2010 stats (33 starts)

    Record: 13-9

    ERA: 3.07

    Innings pitched: 193.1

    96 BB / 205 SO

    Sanchez finally stepped up and shined when he needed to the most in 2010, as he helped the Giants in a big way throughout the regular season, leading them to their first World Series Championship in 56 years. He was almost unhittable in September, going 3-1 with a sick 1.17 ERA in five starts down the stretch.

    What's even more astounding is what Sanchez did against the opposition, holding batters to a low .204 batting average in 33 starts. It should be interesting to see Sanchez if he can put his previous four years behind him and pitch like 2010 next season. Many fans certainly hope so. 

5. Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers)

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Age: 23

    2010 stats (32 starts)

    Record: 13-10

    ERA: 2.91 ERA

    Innings pitched: 204.1

    81 BB / 212 SO

    Clayton Kershaw is everything you would want from a 23 year old left-handed starter in the Major Leagues. He not only finished fifth in the NL in strikeouts in 2010, but also finished in the top 10 in ERA as well. Kershaw has also recorded two straight seasons below a 3.00 ERA, turning into real L.A. star.

    Making his debut with the Dodgers in 2008, he easily became the youngest player in the Majors. Things can only get better for the southpaw, as he will most likely become a multiple year All-Star and even a potential Cy Young award winner throughout the decade.

4. C.C. Sabathia (New York Yankees)

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Age: 30

    2010 stats (34 starts)

    Record: 21-7

    ERA: 3.18

    Innings pitched: 237.2

    74 BB / 197 SO

    The American League leader with 21 wins in 2010, Sabathia had a stellar second season with the Yankees, which included his second consecutive year throwing 230+ innings. The big left-hander also finished sixth in the AL in ERA with a 3.18 ERA.

    Sabathia has yet to finish a season without reaching double-digit wins, a personal record that has been going on since 2001. In 2009 he helped New York win their first World Championship since 2000, after leading the Yanks with a 3-1 postseason record and a 1.98 ERA in five playoff starts.

    If he keeps up his current pace, Sabathia (currently at 157 career wins) could easily become a 300-game winner when it is all said and done.

3. Cliff Lee (Philadelphia Phillies)

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Age: 32

    2010 stats (28 starts)

    Record: 12-9

    ERA: 3.18

    Innings pitched: 212.1

    18 BB / 185 SO

    Would arguably be the best left-handed starter on many lists, Lee is about as good as you could get when it comes to starting pitchers in all of baseball. His seven complete games were tops in the AL and he has virtually become one of the best postseason starters in baseball history. He owns a career 7-2 playoff record with a 2.13 ERA in 10 playoff starts.

    As if that wasn't enough, Lee's strikeout to walk ratio in 2010 was absolutely off charts! Walking just 18 batters in 212.1 innings pitched, Lee will now be teamed up with NL Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay and former World Series MVP Cole Hamels in 2011.

    And don't expect Cliff Lee to leave the City of Brotherly Love anytime soon either--signing a 5-year, $120 million deal this off-season.

2. David Price (Tampa Bay Rays)

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    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Age: 25

    2010 stats (31 starts)

    Record: 19-6

    ERA: 2.72

    Innings pitched: 208.2

    79 BB / 188 SO

    The former first round pick (first overall selection) in the 2007 MLB Draft, Price absolutely burst out on to the scene in 2010. His 2.72 ERA was third best in the AL and his 19 wins was second best in the American League as well. The 25 year old lefty also started the 2010 All-Star Game, where he pitched two innings of shutout ball.

    With so many players that have left Tampa Bay this off-season, Price will need to pitch just as good for the Rays in 2011 in order for them to be successful. Regardless of what may happen one thing is for certain: David Price could very easily become the next Randy Johnson of this decade.

1. Jon Lester (Boston Red Sox)

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    Age: 27

    2010 stats (32 starts)

    Record: 19-9

    ERA: 3.25

    Innings pitched: 208

    83 BB / 225 SO

    When it comes to left-handed starters, I honestly cannot think of a better all around pitcher than Jon Lester. After over coming cancer back in 2007, he has been virtually unstoppable in just about every pitching aspect of the game. Lester finished in the American League's top 10 many categories, including second in wins with 19, third in strikeouts with 225, and ninth in ERA which was 3.25.

    Lester's most notable pitching performance came on May 19, 2008 against the Kansas City Royals, where the southpaw threw a remarkable no-hitter. May also proved to be Lester's best month during the 2010 regular season as he went 5-0 with a sensational 1.84 ERA in six May starts.

    Over the past three seasons, Lester has averaged over 16 wins a season, a 3.29 ERA, and has thrown over 200 innings each year in that time span as well. The Red Sox lefty has also put up two straight seasons of 225 strikeouts, a feat that is very tough especially pitching in the AL East.

    There is no doubt that Lester has future Cy Young Award winner written all over him, as he is the best left-handed starter in the game today.