2013 NL Starting Pitcher Tiers: July

We’ve reached the halfway point. With the All-Star game looming just around the corner, there’s probably not much to debate with most of the National League pitcher rankings. The biggest areas of contention of the struggling studs and the surprising breakouts. While July seems like a long way through the season, smart owners know that luck can carry this far into the season. Struggling studs will rebound, and early breakouts will turn into flameouts. How should we value these players? Let’s turn to the rankings. This month, the tiers will be characters from the show Lost, one of my first television obsessions.

Tier 1: John Locke (not Jeff, the pitcher. He comes later)

Clayton Kershaw
Adam Wainwright
Matt Harvey
Cliff Lee

Matt Harvey and Cliff Lee jump into the elite tier this month. Harvey may lack the track record of these guys, but his performance can’t be ignored at this point. It will be fun to see him start the All-Star game in his home park. The only thing holding him back would be a potential innings limit, but there doesn’t seem to be too much of a concern about that yet. There should be no argument with Lee being here. He’s as consistent as they come.

Tier 2: Ben Linus

Madison Bumgarner
Homer Bailey
Shelby Miller
Zack Greinke
Stephen Strasburg
Mat Latos
Jeff Samardzija
Hyun-Jin Ryu
Mike Minor
Jordan Zimmermann

Madison Bumgarner basically joins the next group of guys, as his performance has not been far and away better than most players in this list. After under-rating Jordan Zimmermann last month, he jumps into a crowded second tier. There’s some concern that he won’t get as many strikeouts as the other players in this tier, but he shows a tremendous mastery of his stuff and deserves to be here.

Tier 3: James “Sawyer” Ford

Lance Lynn
Gio Gonzalez
Julio Teheran
A.J. Burnett
Patrick Corbin
Jose Fernandez
Kris Medlen
Matt Garza
Johnny Cueto
Cole Hamels

This tier is slightly more thinned out. The biggest additions were Matt Garza and Julio Teheran. Garza has pitched well upon returning, and there’s no reason to expect that to stop. Teheran has really come around since a rough start to the year, though home runs still remain an issue. I’m still holding out some hope for a Cole Hamels revival.

Tier 4: Desmond Hume

Andrew Cashner
Travis Wood
Tony Cingrani
Matt Cain

Matt Cain drops another tier, putting him in some strange company. Andrew Cashner may have altered his approach in order to become a successful starter, but the lack of strikeouts has made that swap a lot less exciting. Travis Wood is basically in the same boat. He’s effective, but won’t give you strikeouts. Tony Cingrani has a chance to rise, but it will depend on whether he can remain in the rotation.

Tier 5: Daniel Faraday

Tim Hudson
Ricky Nolasco
Francisco Liriano
Tyler Chatwood
Mike Leake
Paul Maholm

There’s an argument to be made that Francisco Liriano is way too low. He’s been great this year, and should be higher based on his performance. But there’s a major question about whether he can sustain it. Given his past tendencies to turn from stud to waiver-wire material in a few starts, I’m cautious to put him much higher yet. I feel the same way about Tyler Chatwood. The rest of the guys are solid, but don’t typically provide strikeouts.

Tier 6: Jack Shepard

Eric Stults
Tim Lincecum
Dan Haren
Jon Niese
Marco Estrada
Ian Kennedy
Yovani Gallardo
Ross Detwiler
Gerrit Cole

There are a lot of problematic guys here with a few promising pitchers mixed in. The three that could move higher in future tier posts are Tim Lincecum, Ross Detwiler and Gerrit Cole, in my mind. Lincecum has been on fire lately, and needs to show he can still produce despite diminished stuff. Both Detwiler and Cole need more time to prove themselves this year, and could use some more strikeouts.

Tier 7: Hugo “Hurley” Reyes

Jeff Locke
Wandy Rodriguez
Kevin Slowey
Edwin Jackson
Jake Westbrook
Jhoulys Chacin
Jacob Turner
Jorge de la Rosa
Trevor Cahill
Brandon McCarthy
Dillon Gee

Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge de la Rosa rank much higher according to FIP, but I can’t buy into the abnormally low home run rates. Their strikeout and walk rates are fine, but you expect more long-balls from Colorado pitchers. Regression hasn’t hit Jake Westbrook hard yet, but it will. That will happen when your strikeout and walk rates nearly match. Edwin Jackson is likely by both FIP and xFIP, but he’s done himself no favors thus far.

Tier 8: Richard Alpert

Bronson Arroyo
Wade Miley
Kyle Lohse
Kyle Kendrick
Barry Zito

The players in this tier just don’t do enough to make them worth rostering consistently. They can be useful in short stretches.

*And, of course, the final tier is reserved for players who are still proving themselves in the majors.

Zack Wheeler
Tyler Skaggs
Randall Delgado

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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.

41 Responses to “2013 NL Starting Pitcher Tiers: July”

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  1. liz says:

    kris medlen a bit too high i guess?

    im a medlen and owner and a believer and hopefully he perfomrs like tier3 pitcher.

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  2. Matthew Santoro says:

    What about Jeremy Hefner, he has been one of the most suprising pitchers this year, especially during the last 2+ months. He should be mentioned somewhere in this chart, especially if dillon gee is incorporated

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  3. Benzedrine says:

    Feldman is with the Orioles now.

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  4. marjinwalker says:

    Wily Peralta?

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  5. yosoyfiesta says:

    Liriano’s numbers are absurd and even though you acknowledge that he’s probably way too low, it still doesn’t do his success justice. He’s never pitched in the NL before, so there’s some argument that the first time through teams will struggle against him, but his velo and his command have been there and he’s missing bats at an awesome clip. His F-strike% is up to 56.7% this year, he’s got a 14.7% SwStr%, his contact rate is down, his BB% is down, and he’s not getting any BABIP help which means that his 2.66 FIP and 3.00 xFIP may very well be sustainable. He’s still ‘only’ 29 even though he’s been around forever. How many guys on tiers 1 & 2 own swinging strike rates and contact rates like Liriano? Very few. He easily belongs in tier three and there’s an argument to be made for tier two. Tier five is weak, the man deserves better and he’s got a bag full of K’s to prove it.

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    • liz says:

      i agree. ill take liriano over either cingrani or cashner any given day.

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    • dacure says:

      Yeah. Liriano was quietly projected to have a solid season in Pitt by Steamer (which seems like a very pessimistic projection system IMO). If there is a way to go back to preseason projections youll be shocked that nothing was said about Steamer projecting him to be the Ace of the Pittsburgh staff. There are people out there (like me)who drafted him extremely late in deep leagues despite the injury because the rebound seemed more than possible. The peripherals are there, no signs of slowing, the man is revived in the NL!

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  6. Jabronies says:

    Jack Shepard below Daniel Faraday? not even close!

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    • Ryan Seacrest says:

      Jack is way too low. Locke, Jack, Desmond, Ben, Sawyer top 5. And no Sayid mention? C’mon man.

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    • stretchfest says:

      Jack sucked pretty hard seasons 3-5 so you have to dock some points. Faraday was straight-up badass.

      The problem I see is that the lower tier characters are still people I’d want on my team. The lowest tier should be Paolo and Nicki, maybe Ana Lucia right above. And you gotta include Sayid, that’s just not right.

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      • zt4949 says:

        It just isn’t (Adam Wainw)right for you to rank Sawyer turd on your list. Which of these characters would jump off a Cliff (Lee) or a helicopter for that matter? Quit being (Matt) Harvey Dent two-faced and rank Sawyer in the appropriate place or I’ll be forced to go on to a (howard) bender (article).

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    • Ruki Motomiya says:

      I was more saddened by Hurley being so low. Hurley is cool.

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    • ihefowj says:

      I cant we are just ignoring the explosivesness of Arzt in this entire column? Are you guys even watching the same series as me?

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  7. Giovani says:

    Not really sure why Greinke gets a pass with his declining skills and peripherals while guys like Hamels and Garza slot behind him despite superior peripherals and skills looking consistent with previous seasons.

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    • Will says:

      I agree with this. He had his amazing season years ago and has since been held too high; it’s been long enough now that he should be rated based on what he’s been doing more recently.

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  8. Adam Shapiro says:

    At what point does Kyle Lohse get some credit for the last 2.5 seasons? Other than Liriano, he’s as good or better a bet for the rest of this season in a redraft league as anyone from Tier 5 downwards.

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  9. GilaMonster says:

    I think it should be Locke,Sawyer,Desmond,Jack,Faraday,Ben, Kate. Sawyer is personally my favorite character as he is consistently awesome. Locke kinda starts to bumble nonsense later on.

    I’d move Lincecum and Liariano up to tier 4. Lincecum has settled at something between 2011 and 2012. He is going to be widly inconsistent. He’ll pitch like a ace and than Jonathan Sanchez the next start. Liriano has his best career F-Strike% since 2010. He is going to be just like Lincecum, with a bit more in the tank.

    I’d move Cain into tier 3 as I believe he is ok. He just has some sort of mechanical problem and is hanging his slider too much. I’ll assume his LOB% regresses to his career average and his HR/FB% regresses to league average.

    I’d move Hamels into the button of tier 2. His SwgStk% and Contact% suggest a higher K% is in the cards. The the only major problem I see is the LOB%. Perhaps the GB% could be a bit better.

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  10. lonewolf371 says:

    Hyun-Jin has been a little shaky lately. While still pretty good, his pitches are too hittable. I guess he’s on par with the other guys, but thinking long-term I like Jose Fernandez better. If these rankings are just for this season then I could see Hyun-Jin being higher since he may not have an innings cap.

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  11. Joey says:

    Jered Weaver???

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  12. Steve says:

    No Verlander?

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  13. pudieron89 says:

    Ryu is more like tier 3, his home/away splits while not terrible are indicative of him benefitting from a large park. 4.41 away xFIP means he’s pitching over his head.

    Cashner is wayyyy too high. Just because he’s a statboy darling doesn’t mean he’s been impressive this year. He halved his strikeout rate, which is now a putrid 5.4/9, for modest gains in BB/9 (lower K/BB than 2012, ick) and no change in his GB%. Velocity trending in the wrong direction all season long, hasn’t hit 100 once–is he injured? Throw in that he pitches on a mediocre-to-bad team and I don’t see the fantasy appeal as anything more than a streaming option in a redraft league, maybe he has slightly more value in a keeper if you believe he’s pitching around a shoulder injury this season based on previous velocity/strikeout performance.

    Last quibble is with Chatwood, I really don’t see the fantasy appeal. Sure he gets groundballs in a pitchers’ park, but a K/BB of 2 is almost worth dropping him from consideration at all. I think he’s a much better real-life pitcher than fantasy pitcher, and he’s been great for a Rockies club that has zero identity pitching-wise. But again, don’t see him as anything more than stream fodder.

    Otherwise good list, thanks.

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  14. Brosdale says:

    No Mike Leake or am I just missing it?

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  15. Jaker says:

    Ryu over a guy like Hamels?


    I love me some Ryu but he’s been on a rapid decline after an exceptional — and obviously unsustainable — first month. He went from a 30% K% in Mar/Apr to 15.4% in May and now down to 11.5%. In similar fashion, his BB% has increased practically each month since April. And you have him a tier above Hamels?

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  16. Atreyu Jones says:

    In a mixed league for 2013 only, should I trade David Ortiz straight up for J-Zimmerman? A wins/whip/ERA pitchers fits my needs, but replacing Ortiz in my lineup would be some combo of Wil Myers/Arenado/Gyorko/Melky (OBP and TB league instead of HR and AVG).

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  17. Paul says:

    I just traded Trumbo for Bailey. Whoa!

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  18. Edward says:

    greinke too high! gio too low!

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  19. Clifford says:

    How has no one said anything about Homer Bailey being ranked over Strasburg? Is that supposed to be a joke?? And what exactly does Jose Fernandez have to do to get recognized ala Shelby Miller? Get traded out of Miami? Sorry, but these starting pitcher ranks have been way off IMO.

    And how is the Smoke Monster not #1?

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  20. TheTinDoor says:

    Nationals pitchers don’t seem to fare well here.
    After a rough April, Gio has pitched a 2.21 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 0.91 K/IP. He’s had 4 CONSECUTIVE YEARS of an ERA around 3. JorZim the same, 3 straight years with an ERA around 3, WHIP under 1 this year. These guys have proven for multiple years that this is the kind of pitcher they are. The Nats bats have woken up and Wins are in place. What’s not to like?

    I’d take both of them over Greinke, Bailey, Samardzija, Minor…combined, those guys don’t have ONE SEASON better than Zim/Gio have posted every year in the past 3, including this one. I just don’t get it.
    combined, those 4 don’t have one season in the past 3 that match what Gio/Zim have done

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