Starting pitching is like gold in baseball can’t ever have enough of it. It’s the most important aspect of a team because while the goal is to score more runs than the opponent run prevention is just as key so your offense has a chance to put runs on the board. Today major league baseball has a ton of quality starting pitcher’s littered from coast-to-coast.
Pitchers that hitters may ask out of the lineup because they have a slight soreness or “cold” when in reality they just don’t want to have to face the nasty stuff of that night’s starter. In 2016 baseballs ace pitchers have stepped up to another level. Who knows where some of these teams would be if they didn’t have the ace stopper on the team. There are many great choices, but here are my top 10 starting pitchers right now!
- Clayton Kershaw
Clayton Kershaw is not only the best pitcher currently in the game, but he has become a once in a generation type player that will be talked about for decades. Kershaw is already in the Hall of Fame discussion just eight years into his illustrious career. He has put unthinkable numbers making baseball look way too easy.
He has a career record of 125-57 with a microscopic 2.37 ERA, numbers that will be hard to duplicate on a videogame. Absolutely incredible he is a magician on the mound continuously making his opponents look silly start after start. It’s hard to believe that Kershaw a five-time All-Star, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, and an NL MVP can improve but that’s the case for Kershaw in 2016.
The season he has taken his game to another level he has had 11-1 record with 1.82 ERA! To put this historic season in perspective here some numbers he has walked just eight batters the entire season. Additionally, he has six starts with 10+ strikeouts and no walks. The Dodgers would be sunk this season and many others without the dominance of Kershaw the team is 14-2 with him on the mound.
Unfortunately, Kershaw has been sidelined with a herniated disc in his back since June 30 and it’s unknown if he will return in 2016. Which is a massive blow to the Dodgers playoff hopes, however the team has stayed afloat with an 18-10 record and currently hold the top wild card spot.
That being said I don’t see the Dodgers going very far in October even if they land a top-flight starter in the next 17 hours because Kershaw is on another planet from every other starter and is irreplaceable. Additionally, their starters just keep dropping like flies and I don’t think they have the depth and trust in their healthy pitchers. We’ll see what happens, I just don’t see the Dodgers making it very far without the best pitcher in baseball.
2. Madison Bumgarner
The San Francisco Giants are one of the most consistent teams in baseball in World Series contention year after year. A big reason why is the staff ace Madison Bumgarner since making his debut in 2009, he is a three-time World Series champion and has become one of the most reliable starters in the big league right now. In just seven seasons Bumgarner has become one of the best lefties to ever take the mound in the big leagues. He is 95-64 with 2.93 ERA. Those numbers prove he’s an amazing pitcher and is constantly baffling hitters.
However, the moment the baseball world really appreciated and understood how good Bumgarner is was the 2014 World Series when he put his team on his back and single-handedly won the championship. He a rubber armed bulldog on the mound pitching a record 52 2/3 innings posting a ridiculous 0.25 silencing the Kansas City Royals to win the teams third World Series in the last six years. This performance supplanted Bumgarner’s legacy no matter what the rest of his career holds.
He’s continued great success in 2016 with a 10-6 with a microscopic ERA of 2.25 ERA, which he continues to improve year after year. The mark of a legendary hurler is they are never satisfied with themselves and look to improve in every aspect of their game and that is Madison Bumgarner in a nutshell is a big reason I put him at number two on this list.
3. Stephen Strasburg
The perceived Savior of the Washington Nationals has finally become what everyone expected him to be coming out of San Diego State in 2010. It made be a slight shock to people that he ranks this high because of his injury history. However, the reality is he’s having a breakout season and should be recognized for his historic work in 2016 and overall he’s been pretty darn good throughout his career.
A big reason for Strasburg’s success in 2016 I believe is the new leadership in the Nationals dugout. Manager Dusty Baker has brought a calming influence to everybody, including Strasburg telling him to smile more and enjoy going to the mound every fifth day. I think he’s taken that to heart he has a 15-1 record with a 2.63 ERA thus far in 2016.
It’s amazing, especially in baseball considering you might not have your A+ stuff every time you go out on the mound. Despite that Strasburg has given his team a chance to win every time out. Strasburg is proving the Nationals right and giving him the seven-year contract extension as he is finally reaching the potential everybody expected. I think he is finally trusting that he is fully healthy and can just focus on pitching without the fear of something flaring up.
His confidence is at all time high 2016 could be the start of something very special for Strasburg and the Washington Nationals. Strasburg looks to have figured it out and that is not a good thing for the rest of baseball.
4. Chris Sale
Chris Sale drafted 13th overall pick in the 2010 draft out of Florida Gulf Coast University. In his six years he has quickly become one of the most dominant left-handed pitchers in baseball. He is an astounding 71-43 with 2.95 ERA. What he has been able to do is absolutely amazing because the majority of his work has been done against the American League with the DH.
Additionally, he pitches in a bandbox of a home ballpark at US cellular Field making these numbers even more remarkable. He has continued his dominance in 2016 posting a 14-5 record with a 3.12 ERA witch makes him the leading candidate for the American League’s sister CY Young award despite the teams’ struggles.
The White Sox might have to sell this deadline, but Sale better stay put because he is a franchise player and they need someone to build around dominant lefties like him don’t grow on trees. As a baseball fan, I hope the White Sox will be able to contend soon so I can watch Sale in a position that he deserves because he is too talented not to experience postseason play.
5 José Fernandez
Major league baseball has seen an influx of young flamethrowers that have made the game very exciting to watch. The Miami Marlins have one of those in 23-year-old José Fernandez. In his three years he has shown us what an ace looks like, but also how to have fun while doing your job. It’s refreshing to see a young guy have success and tip his cap when he gets beat.
He is getting the last laugh the majority of the time. He is 34-14 with a 2.52 ERA with a remarkable 25-2 record at Marlins Park. It’s crazy that Fernandez has just three years of experience he looks like a grizzled veteran. If he’s able to stay healthy many records will get broken by Fernandez while on the mound.
The great success has continued in 2016 he is 12-6 with 2.87 ERA making it a very long day for opponents in the batters box. He is a strikeout machine recording over 500 strikeouts in just a little over 400 innings. I know strikeouts are just another out and don’t matter in the game of baseball anymore to hitters, but it’s insane the pace that Fernandez is on. He is also the first pitcher to record multiple 14 strikeout games. Putting that in perspective that is 4 1/2 innings without contact and no contact means no runs, giving Fernandez and the team an amazing chance to win every time he toes the mound.
The Marlins are very lucky to have found him, but they better take advantage of this playoff situation that they currently find themselves in because I honestly doubt Fernandez will be a Marlin for life because he is a client of Scott Boras and that usually means testing the free-agent market.
That being said, the Marlins need to do everything they can to reach the playoffs while they have this horse on their staff because it might not last. Fernandez is an incredible pitcher and starting pitching is like gold and every team would welcome a pitcher of his caliber. I’m saying the marlins better not waste this chance and talent. Fernandez has brought new energy to the pitcher’s mound and he is fun to watch.
6. Jake Arrieta
The Chicago Cubs are relevant again because of their young studs and their staff ace Jake Arrieta. The journey to the top Arrieta was a roller coaster ride. Prior to finding the magic in the Windy City he pitched for the Baltimore Orioles, whom he struggled to find consistency because they tried to change his mechanics and take away his cutter, which made his performance mediocre.
This resulted in a trade to the Cubs where Arrieta found his footing becoming an NL CY Young award winner and the leader of the staff as they try to break the curse that is Chicago Cubs baseball. Last year’s second half was historic as he posted 0.82 ERA and was compared to greats like Bob Gibson and Greg Maddux. He ended 2015 with 22-6, record with an untouchable 1.77 ERA a feat that is hard to accomplish in video games let alone real life with the best baseball players in the world.
He’s backed it up quite nicely in 2016 with a 12-5 record with a 2.75 and a no hitter thrown in. He is a little farther down than he would’ve been except he’s struggled a little bit in the second half with consistency and sometimes throwing too many strikes and some opponents have taken advantage.
However, I think he and the team have righted the ship and are best equipped for a long postseason run in October so long as they stay healthy. Arrieta is a story of perseverance and a lesson for teams if a guy has talent don’t try to change them, let them show you what got them to that position in the first place. Be patient you might be able to mold Cy Young winner and a perennial All-Star.
7. Johnny Cueto
Once again the San Francisco Giants struck gold with the off-season signing of Johnny Cueto to a six-year $130 million contract. Which to this point looks like one of the biggest steals because the Giants have formed a deadly one-two punch at the top of the rotation that has them poised to make another World Series run in an even year.
Cueto is just coming off the World Series championship with the Kansas City Royals. He was the brilliant ace they needed to put them over the top as he threw two complete games to help them secure their first World Series title since 1985. He’s carried that momentum out West posting a 13-3 record with a 2.73 ERA. Cueto is one of the most imaginative pitchers in baseball with an array of wind ups constantly keeping opponents off balance.
That is a unique quality in a pitcher because traditionally a pitcher has one set of mechanics and if they get out of wack struggles will likely happen. That is not an issue for Cueto because he changes his approach mid hitter depending on situation giving him an edge against opponents.
I believe the trade to the Royals was a great thing for Cueto to experience postseason pressure and success because I think he got in a bit of a rut with the Reds. Now with renewed confidence he has once again become one of the most reliable pitchers in baseball. Setting up the Giants for a long postseason run as they try to continue the even year magic.
8. J.A Happ
The Toronto Blue Jays are currently in a dogfight for the AL East crown as they sit ½ a game back of the Baltimore Orioles. The Blue Jays have relied heavily on their offense to get in their current position. However, this year they’ve had a little bit more consistency in their rotation with a breakout year for left-hander J.A Happ.
Happ has finally put it all together in his second tenure with the Blue Jays posting a 14-3 record with a 3.18 ERA putting Happ him right in the middle of CY Young award conversations. An amazing feat considering his home ballpark is a launching pad and normally a pitcher’s nightmare. However, that has not been the case for Happ in 2016, he is 9-1 with 3.02 ERA, proving you can have success in hitter friendly ballparks.
It’s really great to see a journeyman type player have great success after some mediocre seasons recently for Happ. As for the organization this is one of the biggest bargains of the off-season as they signed Happ to a three-year $36 million deal. He’s gone from a great veteran presence to deepen their rotation to a prime CY Young candidate.
9. Cole Hamels
The Texas Rangers currently sit atop the AL West by 6 games over the Houston Astros led by the forgotten ace Cole Hamels. Hamels was dealt to the Rangers at the deadline last July and hasn’t missed a beat the former world champion has put together a quiet 12-2 record with a 2.84 ERA putting him in Cy Young conversation.
Hamels has been one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball for 10 years being the ace for two different clubs and helps lead the Phillies to a championship in 2008 as I mentioned. Since putting on the Rangers uniform he is 19-3 and amazingly he hasn’t been talked about as much as he should because he is out West.
I think that’s been a great benefit for Hamels because although he is the ace he is not “the guy” as he was in the latter part of his Phillies career. Therefore he is not putting as much pressure on himself and is just pitching free and easy. Additionally he is closer to his family, which is also a benefit for any athlete.
He looks very comfortable in a Ranger uniform and the production continues to get better just like a fine wine. A great quality Hamels possesses is the fact he is an innings eater averaging 195 innings per season preserving the bullpen a manager’s dream. Showing that he’s a bulldog on the mound and will fight tooth and nail to stay in the game.
Hamels helped lead the Rangers to a playoff berth in 2015 he looks to do the same this season with a ring at the end of this year. Also he still has two years left on his contract with an option in 2019. It’s a dream situation for both the Rangers and Hamels.
10. Chris Tillman
The Baltimore Orioles are in a dogfight for the AL East crown they currently sit half a game of the Blue Jays with the Red Sox nipping at their heels as well. They’ve used the long ball and a breakout year from right- hander Chris Tillman. This is another guy that has come out of nowhere and become the ace of the rotation. He is 14-3 with a 3.46 ERA.
This is an incredibly impressive season, Tillman is putting together considering he is pitching in what I think is the toughest division in baseball and a bandbox of a home ballpark in Camden Yards. I think Tillman has been the MVP of the Orioles this season, I struggle to imagine what their season would look like without him in the rotation because there is been quite a bit of inconsistency and injury that they’ve had to deal with. Tillman has saved the Orioles and the rest of the rotation as collectively the other four starters have amassed just 14 wins combined.
This breakout year from Tillman is exactly what the doctor ordered for the Orioles because without him I don’t think they are anywhere near the top of the division without the breakout year from Tillman. Tillman has spent his entire 9-year career in Baltimore and has had a pretty consistent career with 70-45 record with a respectable 4.06 ERA. He is a guy that you don’t hear much about because he’s not one of the big names in baseball, but in 2016 he is forcing people to notice him.
If the Baltimore Orioles want to have success in October Tillman must continue to pitch well and they must hit home runs if that happens, they will be a contender in the postseason as they have the best setup-closer combination in baseball with Brad Bach and Zach Britton if they are able to get the lead late in the game anything can happen in postseason baseball.
These are my top 10 starting pitchers right now! This list is one of the reasons I love baseball you can be an ace from the beginning of your career or you can go from mediocrity to greatness with perseverance and hard work. This list has a great mixture of those stories. Do you agree?