Since I just completed my Top 25 position players for 2011, I found it only fitting to make a Top 25 pitchers article. I think pitchers are more enjoyable to analyze because there are so many things about them that can be dissected compared to a hitter. I hope you do see some surprises on this list because I really plan on not making this a very easily expected list. I hope you enjoy!
Johnny Cueto: Cincinnati Reds
Cueto had a really solid year for the NL Central champs a year ago. While winning only 12 games, his above-average 3.64 ERA and 138 strikeouts make him a relatively good pitcher who at only 24 years old has a lot of gas left in his tank.
Gavin Floyd: Chicago White Sox
At a few points during the season, Floyd had some unbelievable runs which made him the standout pitcher in all of the American League. His 10 starts from Jun. 8 to Jul. 27 saw him post a 4-2 record with a 1.04 ERA, a .202 batting average against him and 58 Ks in 69.1 innings. Pretty damn remarkable if you ask me.
Matt Garza: Chicago Cubs
Since his move to the Windy City, North Siders have tons of hope for this young gun. His success in Tampa was evident and the Cubs are in desperate need of a non-distracted ace. Who knows what Zambrano's deal is but Garza will have to step his game up huge if he wants a chance to make it big.
Cole Hamels: Philadelphia Phillies
The young gun of the Phillies' deadly tandem has really proved that he can match up with the other stars of the rotation. His 3.06 ERA and 211 strikeouts last year prove that he is just a step or two behind his ace, Doc. His loss in the game against San Francisco in the playoffs proved crucial as we all know that one week later the Giants were battling the Rangers for the big hardware.
Opp. Batting Avg.: .220
Trevor Cahill was definitely a surprise for Athletics fans last year. I hadn't really heard of him prior to the season and as the season went on, he led the A's rotation to some pretty unbelievable streaks. Grouped with Braden, Gonzalez and Anderson, this organization has fired up some really young engines. I did an online chat with Harold Reynolds and I asked him what he thought about the White Sox pitching rotation and if it's the best this year. He said he does like their staff, but he believes Oakland's is the best in the AL. Maybe Reynolds will be right, and if he is, what a surprise that will be.
Opp. Batting Avg.: .227
After a stellar playoff run, Colby Lewis really made Rangers fans finally believe in their organization. His 3-0 postseason record with a 1.71 ERA and 24 Ks in 26.1 innings proves that this 31-year-old can really pitch in the toughest of situations. Even though his record was not that good last year, he topped 200 innings for the first time in his career and his 196 strikeouts were good enough for 17th in the entire league and only one behind Cy Young hopeful CC Sabathia.
Strikeouts: 233 (Led MLB)
Opp. Batting Avg.: .222
Weaver, who's never really had a standout season in his career, finally showed up in 2010. Even though his '06 campaign only saw 123 innings, his 224.1-inning 2010 season was a career high and saw the 28-year-old turning some heads all around the league. Nobody would have ever expected that this guy would have led the league in strikeouts. Don't even lie to me, there's no way. The addition of Vernon Wells to his lineup should significantly change his record and the addition of Dan Haren will only make the Angels a tougher team in the AL West.
Opp. Batting Avg.: .251
The reigning NL Silver Slugger was getting it done on the mound and at the plate. His .254 average, four homers and 10 RBI show that he can bring in crucial runs to help himself on the mound. His above average record and solid amount of innings pitched prove that Gallardo can take a lot more than what he has done. His 9.73 K/9 was third in the ENTIRE league behind Tim Lincecum and Jon Lester. Now that Gallardo has two other aces in Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke, this trio should definitely not be overlooked when it comes to competing with the other staffs of the NL Central.
Opp. Batting Avg.: .226
When Clay Buchholz got off to a hot start in 2009, I thought this guy was just having a lucky season. Until his numbers started to drop dramatically and injuries plagued his season to 92.0 innings, I had no idea what to expect from this 26-year-old out of McNeese State University. Well 2011 came and Buchholz started off hot and finished just as hot. His 173.2 innings aren't really that good, but regardless, a 2.33 ERA is something that should never be looked past. His 17-7 record also comes back to the Red Sox' high-powered offense and even then, the losses of Youkilis, Pedroia and Ellsbury last year show that his repertoire has become a huge success.
Opp. Batting Avg.: .217
The Padres had one of the best staffs of all last season. Who would have guessed that guys named Clayton Richard, Wade LeBlanc, Kevin Correia, Jon Garland and Mat Latos would have formed that deadly of a tandem? Well thanks to Latos' hot run from late June to early September, the Padres were in the hunt for October for an awfully long time.
Latos' last five starts last season were all losses and he posted an 8.18 ERA in 22 innings. Not only that, his stellar .217 opponents' average put him tied for sixth place in the whole league. I'm really not too sure what to expect from Latos this year but I'm hoping for good things from this kid.
Opp. Batting Avg.: .204 (Led MLB)
I absolutely LOVE Jonathan Sanchez. Coming into a rotation with a rising Matt Cain and past Cy Young winners in Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum, Sanchez had a lot on his plate. As you can clearly see by his numbers and his postseason performances, Sanchez is a force that WILL have to be reckoned with. I would have said "hell no" if somebody said Sanchez would have a .204 BAA in 2010.
This trio with Cain and Lincecum, aside from the Phillies' freak combo, is without a doubt the best trio in the major leagues and I see some unbelievable numbers about to come in 2011.
Opp. Batting Avg.: .252
The reigning AL Comeback Player of the Year winner had a lot on his plate in 2010. He was acing a lineup with a bunch of washed up, relatively crappy pitchers. Blackburn, Baker, Slowey, Pavano are all pretty mediocre. Apparently, that didn't stop Liriano as this Tommy John surgery veteran came out and had the best season of his career. He saw career highs in innings, wins and strikeouts.
While I personally believe that the Twins taking the AL Central was a success only because of the hitting, I think that this team, if they want to contend with the staff of the White Sox, will need some serious changes to their pitching.
Opp. Batting Avg.: .213
Seeing Roy Oswalt join the Phillies with Hamels and Halladay only got the playoff race scarier. As Oswalt continued his dominance in the postseason with Philly last year, he had no idea that perhaps the best postseason starter in history was about to join his team. To get on focus with Oswalt though, his 10-year career, which has seen a 3.18 ERA and a remarkable 150-83 career record, shows he throws his best when he pitches with the best. His Philly combo is just as deadly as his Houston combo in '05 with retirees Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens. In my personal opinion, I think Oswalt is the most questionable of the Phillies combo and if anybody will be the one to screw up, he'd be the one to do it.
Opp. Batting Avg.: .237
I really think people don't understand how unbelievable a pitcher John Danks is. I know his record was decent, ERA was pretty good and his strikeouts weren't amazing either, but the fire that he has brought to White Sox fans over the past four seasons has been unbelievable. There were five games last season where Danks gave up between 6-8 runs, in less than 6.1 innings. On the complete opposite his first nine starts of the season saw a record of 5-4 with a 2.37 ERA and a .220 BAA. After that he never had a really solid month of the season—always on or off.
It's evident that this guy's ability is there. I have a feeling that we may see him hit around 200 strikeouts and surpass 220 innings for the first time.
Opp. Batting Avg.: .221
While 2010 was not the best season for Matt Cain, he can always say that his staff is loaded with talent and his best numbers are in the near future. This powerful 6'3", 245 lb. righty has pitches to that of his fellow 5'11", 160 lb. ace.
His first time in the postseason was absolutely remarkable. His one start in the NLDS was a one-run win that lasted 6.2 innings. His NLCS win lasted 7.0 innings and only gave up two hits. His most important start in the World Series went 7.2 innings and the Rangers could only get four hits off of him. Matt Cain is going to be an extremely vital part for a possible Giants repeat in 2011.
2010 Stats (with KC)
Opp. Batting Avg.: .260
I'm actually really glad for the Brewers as a whole that they were able to land the 2009 AL Cy Young winner. A rotation that has been struggling since the departures of Ben Sheets and CC Sabathia, the Brewers never had a shutdown solid ace in Gallardo.
Now that Greinke, who has been an ace on a crappy Royals staff, can bring his abilities to Miller Park, Brewers fans have a lot to look forward to with a hell of a lineup and a rotation that just added two great pitchers.
Greinke's record was bad last year but seven of his losses came in games where he gave up fewer than three runs. Now that he's pitching for a great offense, his record might topple out at around 20 wins.
Opp. Batting Avg.: .244
Another Tommy John surgery veteran, Carpenter has really been working hard to return to 2005 Cy Young form. His 35 games started last year which led the MLB (tied with Dan Haren) show he still has the endurance to pitch for a long time at such a high level. His 3.22 ERA was the third best in his career and his 179 strikeouts were his most since 2006. Since '04, Carpenter's ERA hasn't been under 3.46 (unless you want to count one start in '07) and consistently gives the Cardinals a chance during the late months of the season.
Opp. Batting Avg.: .228
It just has to suck for Verlander to be in a league where guys like Johan Santana, CC Sabathia, Zack Greinke, and Felix Hernandez keep winning the Cy Young. Verlander has been one of the best pitchers of the last half decade. His 83-52 record and 3.81 ERA show that he makes the best out of pitching in front of a relatively weak lineup. I was shocked to see that in 2009 he punched out 269 batters, which led the entire Major Leagues. I expect nothing different from Justin this year and his fixed lineup might give him a better chance to win the Cy Young.
Opp. Batting Avg.: .221
Until last year, all the hype about David Price never really sunk in. I knew he was going to be a good pitcher, but no way had I ever realized he would have responded in 2010 after a miserable 2009. Until I saw him pitch one day in the Rogers Centre against the Blue Jays, I had no idea the velocity and ability that this kid has. His stellar 2010 campaign earned him second place in the Cy Young award race and gave the Rays a lot of hope for their staff.
The loss of Garza may prove to be painful but the presence of Wade Davis, James Shields, and rookie star Jeremy Hellickson may just bring the Rays back to their 2008 successes.
Opp. Batting Avg.: .214
How Clayton Kershaw wasn't in the top 12 for Cy Young voting is beyond me. His strikeout total was fifth in the NL, and his opponents' average was fourth in the NL. I think that being left out of the Cy Young award race will only push Kershaw to be even greater in 2011. Even though his staff-mates in Billingsley, Kuroda, Garland and Lilly all have had some moderate success, Kershaw, the youngest of the bunch at only 22, has the most talent and definitely the highest potential of the group.
Opp. Batting Avg.: .209
Seeing Jimenez go 14 starts and go 13-1 with a 1.15 ERA absolutely drove me crazy. How did this guy all of a sudden start the 2010 season with easy Cy Young hopes? It seemed clear cut that a huge drop-off was going to have to happen for this guy to not win.
Well, through the next six starts after the 14-game tear, Jimenez went 2-1 with a 7.64 ERA and 31 hits in 33.0 innings. Once reality finally hit, it was clear that Jimenez isn't a God and his hot start was just a one-time thing.
I believe Jimenez can have another great year in 2011 but I find it too hard to believe his BAA will linger around .209 and his record is that dominant.
2010 Stats (with SEA/TEX)
Opp. Batting Avg.: .240
Once I saw that Cliff Lee was headed back to Philly, I knew things were going to be bad for every team in the NL. A lineup with star veterans in Oswalt and Halladay combined with a young fireballer in Cole Hamels—the Phillies have perhaps the best first-four rotation in MLB history. The funny thing is, if Hamels were on a different team, he could easily be the No. 2 starter, so Hamels being the No. 4 is mind-boggling.
The most impressive part about Cliff Lee is his postseason success. His 7-2 record and 2.13 ERA with 80 Ks in 76.0 innings are remarkable. To give you an idea about just how good he is ESPN has him ranked eighth on the all-time best postseason starters only one slot behind the great Sandy Koufax.
*Note that his 10.28 K/BB ratio was the highest ratio since Curt Schilling's in 2002 and that puts him second on the all-time single season record behind Brett Saberhagen from 1994 with a ratio of 11. The best part of this stat? The second lefty on the list was Randy Johnson from 2004 when he had a 6.59 ratio. Pretty nasty.
ERA: 2.30 (Led MLB)
Opp. Batting Avg.: .229
Josh Johnson's seasons prior to 2010 were a serious hint as to how good this guy was going to be. His 7-1 record and 3.61 ERA in 2008 and his 15-5 combined with a 3.23 in 2009 were only a precursor to JJ's success. Despite starting 28 games last year, Johnson accumulated more strikeouts than he did innings and his 3.88 K/BB ratio was fifth in the league.
The 2011 season will be interesting to see how dominant Johnson can be. The loss of a few bats, including Dan Uggla's can prove to be devastating on his record will turn out.
Opp. Batting Avg.: .239
This 6'7", 290-pound animal as been perhaps the most consistent pitcher of the last decade. His last four seasons have seen him accumulate 961.2 innings. Funny enough, that's only .2 innings ahead of Roy Halladay.
Last season alone, he averaged over 105 pitches per outing and 25 of his 34 outings saw him throw over 100 pitches. Six of those 25 outings lasted under six innings. In a win against KC on Jul. 22, Sabathia went 6.1 innings, gave up three ER and threw 120 pitches for nine strikeouts. The stamina that this Bronx Bomber has on the mound is one of a kind and at 29 years old, he is currently 14th on the active players list for innings pitched.
Opp. Batting Avg.: .224
Over the last five seasons, Adam Wainwright has been silent and extremely deadly. Even though he pitched only 75 innings in 2006, his 66-35 career record and 2.97 ERA are far superior to most pitchers of today. It's quite a shame that Wainwright couldn't win the Cy Young in 2010. He posted numbers just as good as Halladay's but there's no debate that Wainwright will improve on those stats this year.
I believe he can eclipse 250 innings and maybe end up with 230 strikeouts. At only 29 years old, Adam Wainwright is entering the top of his game.
Opp. Batting Avg.: .220
I really hope this is the surprise that everybody was looking for. I know he came back from cancer a few years back, but the rebound he has made since then has been unbelievable. Other pitchers who have overcome mid-career cancer stints haven't had rebounds like Lester. His last three seasons, which included 621.2 innings and 602 strikeouts in that time, have been really consistent and it is only a matter of time before he breaks out for an even bigger season. His 225 Ks last year were third in the AL and his K/9 at 9.736 was the best in the entire American League.
Opp. Batting Avg.: .242
I saw Timmy pitch in Pittsburgh and I must say that seeing a man of a 5'11", 170 lb. stature throw the ball as he does is truly amazing. Although his 2010 campaign didn't look as similar as his Cy Young-winning years, he still led the NL in strikeouts and K/9 ratio.
Let's compare Lincecum's first two Cy Young seasons with Greg Maddux's first two Cy Young seasons in 1992 and 1993:
Lincecum: 33-12, 452.1 IP, 2.55 ERA, 526 SO
Maddux: 40-21, 535.0 IP, 2.27 ERA, 396 SO
Maddux was 26 when he won his first Cy Young, Lincecum was 24. The hitting today is a heck of a lot better than it was in the early 90s, and the strikeout comparison isn't even a comparison. While both of these stars are completely different pitchers, I believe Lincecum will become a legend similar to Maddux.
Opp. Batting Avg.: .212
King Felix had one of the most interesting Cy Young seasons in recent memory. His 13 wins were the lowest for a starter all time. I found several relievers who had low win totals, but their innings were barely half of Felix's.
The presence of this star in Seattle should revamp the hope that the Mariners had going into last season. They did believe the additions of Milton Bradley, Chone Figgins, Cliff Lee and Casey Kotchman would finally be a help for them. We all know Bradley and Figgins and Kotchman had subpar seasons. Lee was a whole different story on his own, and due to that, Hernandez was left to ace a staff while being the youngest of the group. He joins Mat Latos and Clayton Kershaw as the youngest of the rotation and could be the No. 1 starter.
Opp. Batting Avg.: .245
The best pitcher of the last decade made 2010 a sure season to remember. Throwing a perfect game during the season and then a no-hitter in the postseason proves that no matter where, when or how tense the situation, Doc will come out and gave 150 percent every single time. At 33 years old, Halladay clearly has a lot left in his tank. The Phillies have him through 2013 and we may see him pitching until he hits 38 or 39 years old and will end on a high note.
While I would like to see a few other NL pitchers take home the Cy Young, I think that it's inevitable to go into a season and believe that this veteran is going to win it. He has finished in the top five in the Cy Young race for the last five seasons and he shows no signs of slowing down. The only other pitchers to be in the top five for the Cy Young race in five consecutive seasons are Johan Santana who did it from 2004-2008 (he finished seventh in 2003), and Greg Maddux who did it all seven years from 1992-1998.
All of this put together proves that Doc should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and a star who will be talked about for years to come.