History Unblurred: The 10 Best Starting Pitchers from the 2000s

Michael WCorrespondent IINovember 28, 2009

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 04:  Pedro Martinez #45 of the Philadelphia Phillies looks on against the New York Yankees in Game Six of the 2009 MLB World Series at Yankee Stadium on November 4, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

Now that the decade of the 2000s has just ended, I thought it would be a good time to make a list of the best starting pitchers from this era.

Now keep in mind, this list is a list of the best careers, so far. Pedro Martinez is certainly and obviously the best starting pitcher from this era. However, he's NOT the best right now, as he's past his prime. This needs to be kept in mind while reading this list.

A minimum of 200 games is required to be considered for this list. There are easily a good half dozen that have not yet reached 200 games that appear to be on their way to great careers. Having not yet reached 200 games, they will not be considered for this list.

There were 98 starting pitchers from the 2000s that reached at least 200 games. That is more than any other era.

Some are still Pitching, some aren't. If a player does not appear on this list of 98, then they either haven't reached 200 games or I consider them a starting pitcher from the 1990s. The 1990s will be covered in a separate article. Starting pitchers will only be in one decade. For example, Pedro Martinez will appear in my 2000s article. So, he will NOT appear in my 1990s article, which I will write later.

An Explanation of the Stats

The statistics that I include will be Games Pitched, Games Started, Innings Pitched, ERA, ERA+, W%+, H/9 (OBA), WHIP (OOB%), SHO/40 (per 40 Games Started) and K/BB (ratio). I will also letter grade their length of career. Most of these letter grades for length of career are so far, since most are still Pitching.

First , I will include their raw career numbers first. These are simply their career numbers, to this point.

Second , I will include their adjusted career numbers, if they have had a long career (which most haven't). Adjusted career is this: Let's take Jamie Moyer for example. Moyer has had a long career. So in order to find his real numbers, I have to exclude some late seasons during his career to find the numbers that he really carried during his career, since he has pitched past his prime.

With Moyer, I'd exclude his 2004, 2007 and 2009 seasons. That is his adjusted career. Again, this can only be done with long career players. If I don't list an adjusted career under a player's raw career numbers, then it means they haven't played long enough to adjust for their long career or it means they haven't had any bad seasons yet.

Third , I will include peak career numbers. Many like short peaks, not me. I include the best seasons equalling at least 200 games for a peak. It takes away the possibility of a pitcher having one or two lucky seasons. The 200-game peak will tell us how good the pitcher was at his best.   

Note: W%+ is a statistic that I have invented. It takes the teams W% into account. It is very complicated as different weights go more or less on seasons depending on how many Games and Innings Pitched a Pitcher Pitched during a single season. Having said that, here's the simple version.

If a starting pitcher has a career .500 W% and that Pitcher Pitched for the Yankees. Well, .500 is not good. But, if that pitcher pitched for the Royals, then .500 is good. This is the reasoning behind W%+. It is to W% what ERA is to ERA+. It's not full proof, but either is ERA+, just another piece of the puzzle and far, far more important then raw W%. OK.

The 98 Starting Pitchers

Here are the 98 Starting Pitchers from the 2000s that reached at least 200 games (listed in alphabetical order): Bronson Arroyo, James Baldwin, Josh Beckett, Kris Benson, Mark Buehrle, A.J. Burnett, Paul Byrd, Chris Carpenter, Matt Clement, Bartolo Colon, Doug Davis, Ryan Dempster, Adam Eaton, Scott Elarton, Shawn Estes, Josh Fogg, Casey Fossum, Freddy Garcia, Jon Garland, Roy Halladay, Mike Hampton, Aaron Harang, Jimmy Haynes, Rick Helling, Mark Hendrickson, Dustin Hermanson, Livan Hernandez, Orlando Hernandez, Tim Hudson, Jason Jennings, Jason Johnson, Randy Johnson, Joe Kennedy, John Lackey, Cory Lidle, Jon Lieber, Ted Lilly, Jose Lima, Esteban Loaiza, Kyle Lohse, Derek Lowe, Jason Marquis, Pedro Martinez, Joe Mays, Gil Meche, Kevin Millwood, Eric Milton, Brian Moehler, Matt Morris, Jamie Moyer, Mark Mulder, Mike Mussina, Brett Myers, Hideo Nomo, Tomo Ohka, Ramon Ortiz, Russ Ortiz, Roy Oswalt, Vicente Padilla, Chan Ho Park, Carl Pavano, Jake Peavy, Brad Penny , Odalis Perez, Andy Pettitte, Joel Pineiro, Sidney Ponson, Brad Radke, Mark Redman, Nate Robertson, Glendon Rusch, C.C. Sabathia, Johan Santana, Jason Schmidt, Aaron Sele, Ben Sheets, Carlos Silva, John Smoltz, Steve Sparks, Jeff Suppan, John Thomson, Brett Tomko, Steve Trachsel, Ismael Valdez, Claudio Vargas, Javier Vazquez, Tim Wakefield, Jarrod Washburn, Jeff Weaver, Kip Wells, Jake Westbrook, Woody Williams, Randy Wolf, Kerry Wood, Jamey Wright, Jaret Wright, Carlos Zambrano and Barry Zito. 

The Honorable Mentions

Here are the 10 Starting Pitchers that just missed the top 10 for various reasons. I will list them in alphabetical order: Mark Buehrle, Bartolo Colon, Jake Peavy, Andy Pettitte, C.C. Sabathia, Jason Schmidt, Javier Vazquez, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano and Barry Zito.

The Top 10

10. Tim Hudson (1999-Present) Career Length Grade: D+ (so far)

Raw Career: 311 G, 310 GS, 2,059.2 IP, 3.49 ERA, 126 ERA+, 118 W%+, 8.6 H/9, 1.26 WHIP, 1.4 SHO/40 and 2.2 K/BB

Peak Career: 208 G, 207 GS, 1,404.2 IP, 3.17 ERA, 139 ERA+, 119 W%+, 8.4 H/9, 1.21 WHIP, 1.5 SHO/40 and 2.4 K/BB (exclude his 2000, 2005, 2006 and 2009 seasons)

Between Oakland and Atlanta, Hudson has quietly had a great career to this point. He was injured for much of last season, but he'll be back and in form next season. That is the hope. He pitched less than 10 games last season.

We'll see what happens next season. Hudson has a great sinker ball, split fingered fast ball, and change up. These three pitches are the main reasons that he makes $15.5 million per season, and he's worth it.

This final spot was tough because the difference between Hudson and some of the HM players was purely academic and it came down to length of career against some of them. Sabathia and Peavy have had shorter career's than Hudson, to this point, but they are arguably just as good, just a shorter career. We'll see how long and how good they pitch in the future.

Hudson's 126 ERA+ and 118 W%+ are great numbers for any decade. He helped lead his teams to the playoffs during five of the first six seasons of this decade. Led the league with 20 wins and a .769 W% during the 2000 season. He's a winner.

In fact, he has never had a losing season. He's had at least a .520 W% during all 11 of his seasons to this point. He also led the League in SHO during the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

He's the real deal, quietly.

9. Jamie Moyer (1986-Present) Career Length Grade: A+

Raw Career: 667 G, 609 GS, 3,908.2 IP, 4.22 ERA, 105 ERA+, 109 W%+, 9.3 H/9, 1.32 WHIP, 0.6 SHO/40 and 2.1 K/BB

Adjusted Career: 570 G, 518 GS, 3,344.4 IP, 4.07 ERA, 109 ERA+, 111 W%+, 9.3 H/9, 1.31 WHIP, 0.7 SHO/40 and 2.1 K/BB (exclude his 2004, 2007 and 2009 seasons)

Peak Career: 225 G, 212 GS, 1,429.4 IP, 3.54 ERA, 128 ERA+, 123 W%+, 8.7 H/9, 1.20 WHIP, 1.1 SHO/40 and 2.7 K/BB (include his 1993, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002 and 2003 seasons)

I have hills in my backyard that are younger than Moyer. He's been playing forever and will likely pitch next season. 2009 was one of the worst seasons of his career. But so was 2007, and he came back in 2008 and pitched fine. The same thing could happen again. 2009 was bad, but he still went 12-10 with a .545 W%. A lot of starting pitchers would have taken those numbers.

Here's a quick little story about Moyer that I like. I'll give you the quick condensed version. After the 1991 season, he'd pitched in just under 150 games at that point in his career. Many around him told him to hang it up. They said you're OK, but really not that good, maybe you could coach or something.

Moyer didn't pitch in 1992. He came back and pitched one of the best seasons of his career in 1993, and, between 1993 and 2003, he was quietly one of the best pitchers in the league. That's the quick condensed version. I've always wondered if people telling him he didn't quite have it motivated him. Either way, he was a great starting pitcher when he came back in 1993, and really has been ever since.

Moyer is a great attitude in the club house. He's an "A+" length of career pitcher, but he'll do what the team needs. He's a starter, but he'll pitch a game in relief here and there, whatever the team needs, and he won't complain about it, really. It's the kind of guy Moyer is, a class act. An old school pitcher in a new school league.

His numbers have slipped ever so slightly because of his long career. You can see, his adjusted numbers are a bit better than his raw numbers. He was really never the calibre starting pitcher that Tim Hudson in 10th is, but that "A+" length of career puts him ahead of Hudson.

Though, when Moyer was at his peek, the calibre difference actually wasn't that much different.

What a career, so far, we'll see what he does in 2010.

8. Derek Lowe (1997-Present) Career Length Grade: C- (so far)

Raw Career: 567 G, 289 GS, 2,135 IP, 3.84 ERA, 117 ERA+, 101 W%+, 9.1 H/9, 1.29 WHIP, 0.4 SHO/40 and 2.3 K/BB

Adjusted Career: 533 G, 255 GS, 1,940.1 IP, 3.75 ERA, 121 ERA+, 100 W%+, 8.9 H/9, 1.27 WHIP, 0.5 SHO/40 and 2.3 K/BB (exclude his last season)

Peak Career: 214 G, 66 GS, 631.1 IP, 2.81 ERA, 163 ERA+, 115 W%+, 7.6 H/9, 1.07 WHIP, 0.6 SHO/40 and 3.1 K/BB (include his 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2008 seasons)

Lowe just had arguably the worst season of his career last year, we'll see what happens. I think he'll bounce back. He still went 15-10 with a .600 W%, guess it wasn't that bad. But most of his other numbers were down. But the season before, 2008, was arguably the best season of his career. We'll see what happens in 2010.

He was mostly a relief pitcher during his first five or six seasons. He's been a starter ever since. He's now pitched 13 seasons. Spring chickens are certainly younger than Lowe and he likely only has one or two good seasons left in him. So he needs to bounce back from his subpar season and quickly.

How about his peek career. His peak is two seasons of relief and two seasons as a starter. Check out those numbers. A 2.81 ERA, 163 ERA+, 115 W%+, 7.6 H/9, 1.07 WHIP and 3.1 K/BB. Those numbers are nearly off the charts. Obviously, when he's on, he's among the best of the decade.

He's a two-time All Star, including his 2000 season as a relief pitcher when he led the league with 42 saves. He also led the league in Wins in 2006. Really, he should have made the All Star team four or five times. He's always kind of fallen under the radar with many casual fans.

But managers and owners know he's the real deal; it's why he's making $15 million out there in Atlanta right now. Though, they didn't pay him $15 million to pitch like he did last year, we'll see what happens.

7. Roy Oswalt (2001-Present) Career Length Grade: D- (so far)

Raw Career: 283 G, 271 GS, 1,803.1 IP, 3.23 ERA, 135 ERA+, 127 W%+, 8.8 H/9, 1.20 WHIP, 0.9 SHO/40 and 3.6 K/BB

Peak Career: 221 G, 209 GS, 1,413.1 IP, 3.07 ERA, 143 ERA+, 128 W%+, 8.7 H/9, 1.20 WHIP, 0.8 SHO/40 and 3.6 K/BB (exclude his last 2 seasons)

His 135 ERA+ is 13th all time in the history of Major League Baseball for a starting pitcher. He's tied in 13th with the Hall of Fame starting pitchers Christy Mathewson, Grover Alexander, and Rube Waddell. Need I say more. ERA+ is arguably the most important starting pitching stat that exists, and he is tied in 13th with three of the most respected and highly rated starters ever.

This is what you can not say about starters like CC Sabathia. Sabathia is great, don't get me wrong, but Oswalt is better, it's just the way it is. It's why Sabathia is on the HM list and Oswalt is in the top 10. Sabathia is more famous, but Oswalt, well...he's more better, as my three-year-old niece would say.

It's not just his ERA+ that is great. They're all good, his W%+, WHIP and K/BB, they're great too.

Having said that, Oswalt has just had the two worst seasons of his career during his last two seasons. He's still good, but the numbers are down relative to Oswalt numbers. He had a dismal 119 ERA plus in 2008. That's amazing, bad for Oswalt is a 119 ERA+, great for most Starters. He needs to turn it around and put up the old Oswalt numbers.

6. Mike Mussina (1991-2008 ) Career Length Grade: B+

Raw Career: 537 G, 536 GS, 3,562.2 IP, 3.68 ERA, 123 ERA+, 116 W%+, 8.7 H/9, 1.19 WHIP, 1.7 SHO/40 and 3.6 K/BB

Adjusted Career: 479 G, 479 GS, 3,231 IP, 3.57 ERA, 127 ERA+, 118 W%+, 8.6 H/9, 1.17 WHIP, 1.8 SHO/40 and 3.7 K/BB (exclude his 2005 and 2007 seasons)

Peak Career: 232 G, 232 GS, 1,583.2 IP, 3.13 ERA, 143 ERA+, 129 W%+, 8.3 H/9, 1.14 WHIP, 2.1 SHO/40 and 3.5 K/BB (include his 1991, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001 and 2008 seasons) 

Many fans were surprised after Mussina retired after the 2008 season. He had a nice long career, but the surprise was because he Pitched arguably the best season of his career in 2008, his last season. He hung it up while he was still on top.

He pitched arguably the worst season of his career in 2007 and many were begging him to retire after the 2007 season. Came back and arguably had the best season of his career in 2008 and those same fans were begging him not to retire. It's the way the fans are, huh?

Mussina was a work horse with an arsenal of pitches. He threw three or four different types of fastballs, which were all good, two seamers, four seamers, cutters. And he threw twp or three different types of curveballs, which were all good, too.

One of his curveballs was held, more or less, like a knuckleball, but it acted as a curveball. His pitch arsenal was incredible, just his fast and curve ball arsenal, and he threw other pitches, too.  

I already miss watching him pitch; what a player.

5. Roy Halladay (1998-Present) Career Length Grade: D+ (so far)

Raw Career: 313 G, 287 GS, 2,046.2 IP, 3.43 ERA, 133 ERA+, 132 W%+, 8.8 H/9, 1.20 WHIP, 2.1 SHO/40 and 3.3 K/BB

Peak Career: 206 G, 204 GS, 1,471.1 IP, 2.94 ERA, 153 ERA+, 140 W%+, 8.3 H/9, 1.09 WHIP, 2.4 SHO/40 and 4.6 K/BB (exclude his 1999, 2000, 2004 and 2007 seasons)

Halladay is a Hall of Fame Starting Pitcher, as long as he Pitches a bit longer. And he should, he should have a good five or six seasons left. His 133 ERA+ is 18th all time in the history of Major League Baseball for a starting pitcher. It amazed me that the Yankees picked up his teammate, A.J. Burnett because they could have gotten Halladay.

Burnett and Halladay are the same age. They payed Burnett $16 million, Halladay make $14 million. Burnett is good, but not nearly as good as Halladay. Who's complaining, the Yankees won the World Series with Burnett. With that Yankee offense, you don't need Halladay, Burnett will do.

Halladay has good numbers all around. Obviously, his ERA+ is one of the 20 best of all time and his W%+ is as good as they get, he's one of the greats of this era, unquestionably.

4. Johan Santana (2000-Present) Career Length Grade: D- (so far)

Raw Career: 310 G, 234 GS, 1,709.2 IP, 3.12 ERA, 143 ERA+, 128 W%+, 7.5 H/9, 1.11 WHIP, 1.0 SHO/40 and 3.7 K/BB

Peak Career: 207 G, 167 GS, 1,194.1 IP, 2.77 ERA, 161 ERA+, 129 W%+, 7.1 H/9, 1.04 WHIP, 1.2 SHO/40 and 4.1 K/BB (exclude his 2000, 2001, 2007 and 2009 seasons)

Easily one of the 20 best left-handed Starting Pitchers in the history of Major League Baseball. Right now, he's a "D-" in the length of career category. The longer he Pitches, the more you will hear historians talk about him. He'll likely move up to third on this list by the time it's all said and done.

He should have seven or eight seasons left. He did have an arm injury last season; I hope he recovers well. We'll see.

He's a two time Cy Young award winner and a four-time All Star.

His 143 ERA+ is sixth all time in the history of Major League Baseball for a starting pitcher. That's incredible.

He's actually tied in sixth with Roger Clemens, tied without the fancy vitamins! Sixth behind only these five Starting Pitchers: Walter Johnson, Ed Walsh, Pedro Martinez, Lefty Grove and Smoky Joe Wood. Those five are kind of a who's who of great starting pitchers. A litmus test that most fail.

His 1.11 WHIP is 16th all time in the history of Major League Baseball for a starting pitcher and his 7.5 H/9 is 20th all time in the history of Major League Baseball for a starting pitcher.

So, he's in the top 20 all time in three of the most important starting pitcher stats in history. And he's done it during the single worst decade in the history of Major League Baseball for starting pitcher stats, the 2000s.

It's why it amazes me when fans bad mouth Santana. What are they watching? What are they wanting?

He's led the league in WHIP four times, ERA three times, ERA+ three times, H/9 three times, Ks 3 times and Wins once.

Because of his dominance, he's fourth on my list, even with his short career thus far.

3. John Smoltz (1988-Present) Career Length Grade: A- (so far)

Raw Career: 723 G, 481 GS, 3,473 IP, 3.33 ERA, 125 ERA+, 103 W%+, 8.0 H/9, 1.18 WHIP, 1.3 SHO/40 and 3.1 K/BB

Adjusted Career: 708 G, 466 GS, 3,395 IP, 3.26 ERA, 127 ERA+, 105 W%+, 7.9 H/9, 1.17 WHIP, 1.4 SHO/40 and 3.0 K/BB (exclude his last season)

Peak Career: 202 G, 66 GS, 594.4 IP, 2.69 ERA, 163 ERA+, 119 W%+, 7.5 H/9, 1.04 WHIP, 2.4 SHO/40 and 5.3 K/BB (include his 1996, 1998, 2003, 2004 and 2008 seasons)

Smoltz has had a long career and it wasn't until this last season that he finally had a bad season. That's impressive. His peek career includes five seasons, three as a starter and two as a reliever. What an incredible peak. 2.69 ERA, 163 ERA+, 1.04 WHIP, and 5.3 K/BB. That's an amazing peak.

He's a former Cy Young award winner that has led the league twice in Wins, twice in W% and twice in Ks. An eight-time All Star and he'll be a Hall of Famer, too. The question is, will he pitch next season after finally having a bad season in 2009?

2. Randy Johnson (1988-Present) Career Length Grade: A (so far)

Raw Career: 618 G, 603 GS, 4,135.1 IP, 3.29 ERA, 136 ERA+, 124 W%+, 7.3 H/9, 1.17 WHIP, 2.5 SHO/40 and 3.3 K/BB

Adjusted Career: 481 G, 471 GS, 3,309.5 IP, 3.04 ERA, 147 ERA+, 130 W%+, 6.9 H/9, 1.16 WHIP, 3.1 SHO/40 and 3.3 K/BB (exclude his 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009 seasons)

Peak Career: 200 G, 198 GS, 1,457.1 IP, 2.45 ERA, 190 ERA+, 137 W%+, 6.8 H/9, 1.04 WHIP, 3.2 SHO/40 and 4.7 K/BB (include his 1995, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002 seasons)

His peak career is off the charts, just look at it again. Wow.

Randy Johnson is the best left-handed starting pitcher in the history of Major League Baseball, even better than Lefty Grove and Sandy Koufax. I'll admit, never been a Johnson fan.

Never got over that Yankee/reporter fiasco when he signed in New York. I'm probably being unfairly hard on the guy. Funny, the things that stick with you. The things you forget and the things you don't.

Like him or not, he's the best lefty of all time and one of the 10 best starting pitchers ever...righty or lefty.

His 136 ERA+ is 12th all time in the history of Major League Baseball for a starting pitcher. The fact that he has put up these numbers during the single worst era in the history of Major League Baseball for starting pitcher numbers makes it even all the more impressive.

He hasn't pitched well during his last couple of seasons. I think he'll pitch next season and then hang it up. We'll see.

1. Pedro Martinez (1992-Present) Career Length Grade: C+ (so far)

Raw Career: 476 G, 409 GS, 2,827.1 IP, 2.93 ERA, 154 ERA+, 125 W%+, 7.1 H/9, 1.05 WHIP, 1.7 SHO/40 and 4.2 K/BB

Adjusted Career: 424 G, 357 GS, 2,541 IP, 2.72 ERA, 166 ERA+, 129 W%+, 6.8 H/9, 1.02 WHIP, 1.9 SHO/40 and 4.3 K/BB (exclude his 2006, 2008 and 2009 seasons)

Peak Career: 206 G, 204 GS, 1,436 IP, 2.21 ERA, 212 ERA+, 140 W%+, 6.5 H/9, 0.95 WHIP, 2.2 SHO/40 and 5.6 K/BB (include his 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2007 seasons)

His 154 ERA+ is the best ERA+ in the history of Major League Baseball for a starting pitcher. What else can you say? His 1.05 WHIP is fourth all time in the history of Major League Baseball for a starting pitcher and his 7.1 H/9 is eighth all time in the history of Major League Baseball for a starting pitcher.

So he's in the top 10 all time in three of the most important stats for a starting pitcher and he's done it during the single worst era in history for starting pitcher numbers.

His peak career is up there with the best of all time...period.

He's simply one of the ten best starting pitchers to ever grace the fields of Major League Baseball, even with his "C+" length of career, thus far.

He hasn't pitched well during his last couple of seasons and his days of dominance are likely over. He did go 5-1 last season, but his other numbers were down. He's still good, don't get me wrong, he's just not good compared to the Pedro of old. He'll likely pitch a couple more seasons and then hang it up.

There you go. The 10 best starting pitchers from the 2000s.