2013 NL Starting Pitcher Tiers: August

We’ve officially reached the calm before the storm. With just a month and a half to go, the National League starting pitcher tiers have finally started to settle in. Once September rolls around, and teams start calling up prospects, it all goes to hell again. While the trading deadline has passed in most fantasy leagues, there’s still a chance to take stock of potential keepers, or cut dead weight for a potentially better player on the waiver wire. With Breaking Bad being such a topical subject, the tiers will be a ranking of the best characters on the show. Please keep in mind the players are tiered. If Homer Bailey and Shelby Miller are in the same tier, that means I value them about the same. It doesn’t mean whichever player is listed first is better. Enjoy.

Tier 1: Walter White

Clayton Kershaw
Adam Wainwright
Matt Harvey
Cliff Lee

The top tier remains unchanged in August. All four players have above-average strikeout rates, and have limited walks at exceptional rates. There’s not much else to say here.

Tier 2: Jesse Pinkman

Madison Bumgarner
Homer Bailey
Shelby Miller
Stephen Strasburg
Mat Latos
Jose Fernandez
Mike Minor
Cole Hamels
A.J. Burnett
Gio Gonzalez
Francisco Liriano

The last six players in this tier are new additions. It’s tough to deny Hamels and Gonzalez entry based on their previous numbers. Minor has a strong track record, and has shown improvement during his second season. Liriano and Burnett are enigmas, but you can’t discount what either has done this season. Moving forward, there’s probably a better chance Burnett stays in this tier, but Liriano has higher upside if he can stay healthy. What Fernandez has done is pretty incredible. At age-20, he has the fourth lowest FIP in the NL. His innings limit will hurt him, but he’s a tier-two guy until he’s shut down.

Tier 3: Gus Fring

Zack Greinke
Lance Lynn
Jeff Samardzija
Jordan Zimmermann
Julio Teheran
Patrick Corbin
Hyun-Jin Ryu
Jhoulys Chacin

There are still some strong pitchers in this tier, but all have their warts. Aside from Lynn and Samardzija, all the other guys have decent, but not elite, strikeout rates. Both Lynn and Samardzija have issues with walks, leading to their ranking in tier three. Chacin finally jumps up the board, but it’s tough to trust his new-found ability to limit home runs. Zimmermann was rated too low months ago, and has struggled since the All-Star break. He’ll stay here unless he can bounce back strong.

Tier 4: Saul Goodman

Andrew Cashner
Travis Wood
Tony Cingrani
Matt Cain
Kris Medlen
Eric Stults
Tim Lincecum
Dan Haren
Gerrit Cole
Alex Wood

Now we’ve hit some pitchers with big questions. Cain, Medlen, Lincecum and Haren are all underperforming veterans, though Haren has shown flashes of effectiveness lately. Most of the other players in this tier have below-average strikeout rates, and don’t have exceptional control. Cingrani is the exception, and could move up higher as long as he’s in the rotation to stay and his innings aren’t limited.

Tier 5: Mike Ehrmantraut

Jorge de la Rosa
Wade Miley
Kyle Lohse
Johnny Cueto
Ricky Nolasco
Mike Leake
Paul Maholm
Dillon Gee
Jacob Turner

This tier is more of the same. Lower-upside pitchers who have so-so peripherals. It should be noted that Miley and Lohse have been much better after rough stretches. Gee fits in that category as well. Maholm will return to the rotation Thursday, and still has limited value in mixed leagues. Cueto hasn’t progressed much since his injury, and is a big question mark. If he comes back, he still will be useful. But his return is somewhat of a question.

Tier 6: Hank Schrader

Jon Niese
Randall Delgado
Marco Estrada
Ian Kennedy
Yovani Gallardo
Zack Wheeler

Delgado and Wheeler are unproven rookies who could be great in future seasons, but have taken a few lumps as rookies. The rest of the tier is comprised of veterans having awful years. The only reason they are being held at this point is hope that they’ll turn things around. It’s worth noting that all four of those veterans will probably be great buy-lows in 2014.

Tier 7: Skyler White

Jeff Locke
Wandy Rodriguez
Kevin Slowey
Edwin Jackson
Jake Westbrook
Trevor Cahill
Brandon McCarthy
Wily Peralta

We’re starting to hit the bottom of the barrel. These players are better left on the waiver wire, but can be used in a pinch in mixed leagues. Rodriguez, Cahill and McCarthy probably have the highest upside, for what it’s worth.

Tier 8: Badger and Skinny Pete

Bronson Arroyo
Kyle Kendrick
Barry Zito

If you have to depend heavily on these guys, you probably are fighting to stay out of last place.




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Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.


44 Responses to “2013 NL Starting Pitcher Tiers: August”

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  1. CabreraDeath says:

    AJ Burnett was labeled an ‘enigma’ last year when he put up very solid advanced stats.

    AJ Burnett is being labeled an ‘enigma’ again this year. He’s put up even better stats than last year.

    He’s not an enigma. He’s a very good pitcher w/ a very good defense and park behind him.

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  2. Rob says:

    Isn’t Garza in the AL now? Also this is a better job that I could have ever done but I don’t understand how you put Samardzija and his declining velo in the same tier as guys like Bumgarner and Fernandez. And finally, I’d have put Saul Goodman ahead of Gus Fring (if for no other reason than at least Saul is still alive).

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    • Chris Cwik says:

      You are correct. Two mistakes there. I had Samardzija in the second tier, but talked about him in the third. That’s been corrected. I also moved Garza off the list, as he’s of no use in the NL.

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  3. Joe says:

    Patrick Corbin needs to be in tier 2 its ridiculous you people don’t give him enough credit. Three 10 stikeout games in the last 45 days. I realize he has had a hiccup or 2 against the heavy hitting teams but so have a couple of guys in tier 1. Samardzija should be dropped to tier 5 its pretty clear 2/3 of the umpires can’t stand him. He couldn’t buy a call on the outsides of the plate to save his life.

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    • Rob says:

      I love Corbin but my guess is that he doesn’t have the same K rate as some of the guys above him.

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      • GilaMonster says:

        It should trend upwards. He is posting a 10.8% SwgStk%. Right next to Sale,Lincecum,Bailey, and Felix. His F-Strike% is 2nd best in the league ahead of Cliff Lee and David Price. His peripherals are just filthy despite not having overpowering stuff.

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    • GilaMonster says:

      The Shark can be elite as he showed last season. Good Ks and GB% get you far. He is a splitter pitcher which can lead to inconsistent control, but when he is on, he is a tier 1 guy as we saw his last start. In fact, he didn’t really use his splitter and was dominate with a fastball/slider combo

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      • Rob says:

        In fairness though a lot of guys can be tier 1 when they are on. Shark is particularly frustrating because he can be so inconsistent. Look at his last 10 starts.

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  4. GilaMonster says:

    ou put Shark in tier 2, but mentioned him in tier 3 blurb. Though, he should be right next to guys like Liriano and Gio…control problem guys.I’d move Corbin up as his SwgStk% suggests a* better K%. Possibly move Matt Cain and Danny Haren up while you move Chacin down.

    Still upset about no Marie tier that has grimace and Barn

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  5. harpago17 says:

    Where would you throw Alex Wood on this list? His numbers have been pretty good, but his opponents haven’t been great. Just wondering.

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    • Chris Cwik says:

      You’re right.

      Put him in Tier 4. Like his potential, but would like to see a larger sample before he goes higher.

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  6. bluetuzo says:

    You have the Shark in Tier 2, but talk about him in the comments of Tier 3. Just FYI.

    I owned the Shark, then dropped him last week to activate Cobb off my DL because of such a string of unimpressive starts (its a redraft 10-team mixed, so a very shallow league)… Oops.

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  7. pirates hurdles says:

    Surprised that Chaz Morton was excluded, he’s been pretty good of late (xFIP of 3.45 on the year) and has the velocity back up post-TJ. I doubt that Wandy will take his spot. I’d expect Cole to work from the pen some if Wandy gets back (and that is a big if since he is still feeling pain in his elbow).

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  8. dtpollitt says:

    First, how the hell is Hank Schrader not tier 2??

    Second, how the hell is Kershaw not his own tier??

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  9. Jasper says:

    No Brandon Beachy. You silly SOB

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  10. Scottttttttttttt says:

    It’s pretty ridiculous that Saul Goodman is ranked above Mike Ehrmantraut. Mike gets no respect.

    I AM ANGRY

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  11. FeslenR says:

    Willy Peralta ranked higher than Arroyo? Aside from the K’s potential, what does Peralta have to offer?

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  12. yosoyfiesta says:

    Jose Fernandez has been a top 5 pitcher in the game since the AS break…don’t be scurred to put the 21 year old where he belongs!

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  13. that says:

    Jesus Christ, Marie

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  14. Rob says:

    Hank definitely needs to be higher. For the first couple of seasons all I could think was how Walter was a genius and then at the end of the series the realization comes: Hank is the real genius. Mind blown.

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  15. Cliff says:

    Some of these rankings just seem ridiculous IMO. First off, you would really take Homer Bailey over Strasburg? Just look at their numbers this year…

    Bailey: 8-10, 3.68 ERA, 3.13 FIP, 1.14 WHIP, .299 BABIP, 96 ERA-, 8.84 K/9

    Stras: 6-9, 2.93 ERA, 3.21 FIP, 1.06 WHIP, .311 BABIP, 79 ERA-, 9.41 K/9

    Strasburg’s numbers suggest that he’s gotten a bit unlucky this year. While his strikeout rate is down a bit, his LD% is also down significantly, while his GB% is up a good amount from last year. His BABIP is 20 points higher than his career average, and he hasn’t really lost any velocity or had fewer whiffs this year. I guess his numbers are fairly close to Bailey, but if someone offered me Bailey for Strasburg, Id decline immediately.

    And I don’t like the Shelby Miller ranking either. In his last 12 starts, he has gone 4-5, 4.40 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 3 QS, 64/24 K/BB. He seems to be fading pretty hard, especially given that he faced Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Houston, Oakland, Chicago(NL), and New York(NL) over that time frame.

    Oh, and which of these pitcher’s stat lines would you want for this year…

    Pitcher A: 5-13, 3.61 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 154 Ks

    Pitcher B: 12-9, 3.40 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 101 Ks

    Pitcher A is Cole Hamels. Pitcher B would be Bronson Arroyo. Article lost credibility when you put Arroyo in the last tier and made some wisecrack about him and the other 2 guys. That’s fine, I mean, its not like he’s ranked as the #27 overall starting pitcher in ESPN standard leagues…ahead of guys like Homer Bailey, Verlander, AJ Burnett, Lance Lynn, Greinke, David Price, Gio Gonzalez, Cole Hamels, etc. Just sayin’.

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    • EmptyTheBench says:

      Yeah, as a Miller owner he’s been worthless since about the middle of May. Factor in he could be looking at an early shutdown and he should probably be about two tiers lower.

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  16. Alfie "Swisher Sweets" Tomlinson says:

    I am a proud Homer Bailey owner in a dynasty league, but putting Bailey > Strasburg is TROLLING at it’s finest. Zero possible rationale. There is not one league in the world where you could execute a trade of Bailey for Strasburg. Nice work!

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  17. Paul says:

    Definitely with you Cliff on pointing out Arroyo. All the dude does is go out there and throw 80 mph pitches (or slower) and get major league batters out. Sure he has had a couple blow-ups, but how many pitchers outside of the truly elite have not? This article grossly undervalues a pitcher who has been more valuable than a bunch of guys ranked way ahead of him. **Cough cough** Matt Cain **cough cough**

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  18. bdsparty32 says:

    Yeah this article lost all credibility when you put Bronson Arroyo in the last tier with guys like Zito and Kendrick. Based on the way you’ve ranked these pitchers, I’m guessing you’re the one that’s fighting to stay out of last place.

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  19. cs3 says:

    Cain had several really terrible starts a couple months back, but Tier 4 seems way out of place.
    Hes on a whole different level than any other pitcher in his tier, and I’d also take him over every pitcher in Tier 3, other than Greinke perhaps.

    He still posts elite WHIP, strong K’s (highest K rate since his rookie season), and goes deep into games. (Last 5 starts have all been 7+ innings and 2ER or less.)

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  20. Matt Cain says:

    This list blows.

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  21. Juan B says:

    Where’s Walt Jr.?!?!

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    • croggs says:

      I was wondering where the Flynn category was!

      Marquis, Zito, Westbrook, etc. He’s still better than Skyler though.

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  22. Wes says:

    God I hate Skyler.

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  23. atari says:

    TYSON ROSS!!!

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    • Chupicobra says:

      I would guess he’s in tier 4 but with the chance to climb up the ladder quickly… He’s got really solid stuff!!

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