While the 2011 season is just over a month old, several pitchers have already made their mark.
Jered Weaver won six games in the month of April and Francisco Liriano just recorded the season’s first no-hitter.
In this slideshow, I rank the 10 best current starting pitchers in baseball. I don’t use a single stat to rank them, but instead use a combination of the following:
ERA (earned run average)
WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched)
W-L (wins and losses)
BAA (opponents batting average)
K/BB (strikeout-to-walk ratio)
The pitchers are ranked based on their performance this season and their statistics are for games played through May 2.
The season may be young, but here are the 10 best starting pitchers so far.
ERA: 2.45, W-L: 4-0, WHIP: 0.91, BAA: .188, K/BB: 2.25
Josh Tomlin does not pitch with a lot of flash, but he has been solid and consistent in 2011.
While he hasn’t struck out more than four hitters in any game this year, he also hasn’t allowed more than three walks or three earned runs in a game either.
Tomlin made his big-league debut last year and finished the season with a 6-4 record and a 4.56 ERA.
This season Tomlin ranks No. 15 in ERA, No. 7 in WHIP and No. 9 in BAA.
ERA: 2.44, W-L: 4-1, WHIP: 0.83, BAA: .184, K/BB: 3.25
After two injury-plagued seasons in 2009 and 2010, Kyle Lohse is off to a phenomenal start in 2011.
His 2.44 ERA is light years better than the 6.55 ERA he posted last year, and he is on pace to pitch his best season yet.
Prior to giving up five runs in his most recent start, Lohse had only given up a total of four runs in his previous 31.1 innings pitched.
This season Lohse ranks No. 14 in ERA, No. 4 in WHIP and No. 8 in BAA.
ERA: 2.01, W-L: 4-1, WHIP: 1.09, BAA: .198, K/BB: 2.50
Michael Pineda made his major league debut on April 5 against the Texas Rangers and gave up three runs in a loss.
Since that game, Pineda has recorded a win every time he’s taken the mound.
He consistently throws a 95 MPH fastball that occasionally hits triple-digits on the radar gun.
While Pineda holds the No. 5 spot in the rotation, he has been pitching better than the Mariners’ No. 1 guy—Felix Hernandez.
This season Pineda ranks No. 6 in ERA and No.11 in BAA.
ERA: 2.14, W-L: 2-1, WHIP: 0.95, BAA: .211, K/BB: 4.33
Many remember James Shields as a member of the 2008 Rays team that made the World Series.
Shields is a very reliable pitcher who has thrown over 200 innings the past four seasons. He had an off year in 2010, but has bounced back in 2011.
Shields has recorded only two wins this season because his team hasn’t supported him with runs. In his three no-decisions, the Rays totaled only eight runs.
This season Shields ranks No. 7 in ERA, No. 9 in WHIP, No. 16 in BAA and No. 10 in K/BB.
ERA: 2.25, W-L: 5-0, WHIP: 1.15, BAA: .226, K/BB: 2.23
Justin Masterson is one of three pitchers who have won at least five games this year.
He is off to an amazing start in 2011 and is one of the key reasons the Cleveland Indians have the best record in baseball.
For the Tribe to win the AL Central for the first time since 2007, Masterson must continue to pitch at a high level.
This season Masterson ranks No. 2 in Wins and No. 10 in ERA.
ERA: 1.88, W-L: 4-0, WHIP: 1.12, BAA: .214, K/BB: 2.75
Trevor Cahill had a breakout year in 2010. He made the All-Star team, won 18 games and finished the season with a 2.97 ERA.
Cahill has been even better in 2011. Aside from his April 12 match-up against the White Sox, Cahill hasn’t surrendered more than one earned run in any start.
Although the A’s aren’t likely to score a lot of runs for him, don’t be surprised if Cahill is in the mix when Cy Young Award voting comes around.
This season Cahill ranks No. 5 in ERA and No.18 in BAA.
ERA: 2.14, W-L: 4-1, WHIP: 0.99, BAA: .225, K/BB: 6.71
Expectations for Roy Halladay were incredibly high when he joined the Phillies prior to the 2010 season.
Halladay responded by earning his second Cy Young Award and went on to pitch a no-hitter in his postseason debut. Not a bad year for the Doc.
Halladay has continued his dominance in 2011 and is currently on pace to win 20 games for the fourth time in his career.
This season Halladay ranks No. 7 in ERA, No. 13 in WHIP, No. 2 in K/BB.
ERA: 1.23, W-L: 4-1, WHIP: 0.75, BAA: .166, K/BB: 5.43
Dan Haren has thrown over 210 innings and has posted an ERA of less than 4.20 every season since 2005.
He is off to the best start of his eight-year career and is the only pitcher on this list who has made a relief appearance in 2011.
Despite having a phenomenal year, Haren has been partly overshadowed by the success of his teammate Jered Weaver.
This season Haren ranks No. 2 in ERA, No. 2 in WHIP, No. 2 in BAA and No. 4 in K/BB.
ERA: 1.39, W-L: 6-1, WHIP: 0.83, BAA: .174, K/BB: 5.00
Jered Weaver came charging out of the gates this year and is the only six-game winner in Major League Baseball.
While many expected Weaver to be good, few expected him to be this good.
Weaver has two double-digit strikeout games and set a career-high 15 Ks against the Blue Jays on April 11.
With slugger Kendrys Morales on the injured list and Vernon Wells failing to produce, Weaver’s pitching has kept the Angels afloat in the AL West.
This season Weaver ranks No. 1 in Wins, No. 3 in ERA, No. 3 in WHIP, No. 5 in BAA and No. 6 in K/BB.
ERA: 0.88, W-L: 3-0, WHIP: 0.71, BAA: .130, K/BB: 3.55
As badly as I want to put Weaver here, the No. 1 spot belongs to Josh Johnson.
While Weaver has recorded twice as many wins, Johnson has dominated almost every major pitching statistic.
Johnson is the only pitcher in baseball with an ERA below 1.00 and has given up only four runs all season.
Opponents have a batting average of .130 when facing him—the lowest average among any pitcher. His 0.71 WHIP is the best in baseball and is almost half the league average (1.32).
Is it too early to start talking Cy Young?
Maybe, but it’s definitely safe to rank Josh Johnson as the best starting pitcher in this young 2011 season.
This season Johnson ranks No.1 in ERA, No. 1 in WHIP and No. 1 in BAA.