2013 NL Starting Pitcher Tiers: June

Young starting pitchers continue to make their presence known this year. Since the last NL pitcher rankings, owners have seen Tyler Skaggs, Michael Wacha, Gerrit Cole and, soon, Zack Wheeler reach fantasy-relevance. And that’s just in the National League. Some of those players will play major roles on championship-winning teams this year. How should they be valued? Let’s turn to the rankings. This month, I’m using Iron Chefs for the tiers. So, please allow me to introduce a veritable pantheon of baseball giants.

Iron Chef Michael Symon

Clayton Kershaw
Adam Wainwright

Wainwright joins Kershaw in the elite tier this month. Wainwright can post a nice strikeout rate, and has refused to walk anyone this year. We’re now in June, and Wainwright is on pace for the seventh lowest walk rate since 1900. That’s pretty incredible. There’s no reason to worry about Kershaw. He’s as consistent as they come.

Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto

Matt Harvey
Cliff Lee
Madison Bumgarner

Tier two gets a bit smaller this time around. Harvey deserves to be in this position based on how he’s performed this year. Slightly better control and a little more experience is the only thing that separates him from the other National League rookie phenoms. Lee and Bumgarner are good, and remarkably consistent. Tough to ask for much more from either of them.

Iron Chef Bobby Flay

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

Admittedly, I had no idea Bailey was performing so well. It took a couple of seasons, but Bailey has finally lowered his walk rate, and increased his strikeout rate enough to be considered a near elite starter. Strictly based on stats, he should be in the second tier, but let’s see if the strikeout rate holds before moving him up too much. Miller is in a similar situation. The stats say he’s better than this tier, but it would be nice to see it a little longer. I haven’t been a big Ryu supporter all year, but it’s time to start buying into the performance. He’s outperformed the scouting reports thus far. Strasburg would be higher if health weren’t a question. Latos is consistently good, but rarely elite. Samardzija’s strikeouts make up for a slightly elevated walk rate. He’s still homer-prone, but Minor has limited walks and home runs better this season. He’s taken a big step forward this year.

Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian

Jordan Zimmermann
Matt Cain
Cole Hamels
Johnny Cueto
Lance Lynn
Gio Gonzalez
Ian Kennedy
A.J. Burnett
Patrick Corbin
Jose Fernandez
Kris Medlen
Andrew Cashner
Yovani Gallardo
Tony Cingrani
Matt Garza

The only thing missing from Zimmermann’s game is strikeouts. It could be a result of his approach on the mound, as he’s shown an ability to strikeout batters more in the past. It seems like he could be more interested in going deeper into games, as opposed to striking out hitters. Whatever he’s doing is working, so it’s hard to complain. Cain, Hamels and Gonzalez have all struggled more than expected, but you shouldn’t give up hope yet. Cain and Hamels are having home run issues, but have still maintained solid strikeout and walk rates. Gonzalez’s walk rate has gone backwards, and he’s not a top tier guy when he walks four hitters per nine innings.

Iron Chef Jose Garces

Kevin Slowey
Ricky Nolasco
Wandy Rodriguez
Josh Beckett
Scott Feldman
Michael Wacha
Francisco Liriano
Mike Leake
Marco Estrada
Dan Haren
Jon Niese
Paul Maholm
Tim Hudson
Julio Teheran
Ross Detwiler
Tim Lincecum
Gerrit Cole

Most of this tier is comprised of dependable, lower strikeout guys like Feldman, Hudson and Leake. Haren and Estrada have strong walk and strikeout rates, but have both been killed by homeruns. It could be that their stuff just isn’t good enough to fool major-league hitters right now, and not just bad luck. Jon Niese needs to get healthy before he moves any higher. Based on his numbers, he should be lower on this list.

Iron Chef Marc Forgione

Edwin Jackson
Jake Westbrook
Jhoulys Chacin
Tyler Chatwood
Jorge de la Rosa
Trevor Cahill
Eric Stults
Brandon McCarthy
Travis Wood
Bronson Arroyo
Wade Miley
Jacob Turner
Kyle Lohse

Jackson has a horrible strand rate, which has overshadowed his solid 3.39 FIP. He’ll get better. Chacin and de la Rosa have been surprising this year, but their home run luck will regress, and de la Rosa is a big injury risk. Cahill has gone backward, his strikeout rate is unacceptable and his walk rate is not great. That’s a bad combination. Stults does enough good things to be useful. It doesn’t hurt that he pitches in Petco.

Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli

Kyle Kendrick
Barry Zito
Jeff Locke
Dillon Gee
Shaun Marcum

This is the bottom of the barrel in shallower leagues. You probably don’t want to rely on these guys, though you might consider them for spot-starts. All can pitch effectively, but probably won’t over a long period, and lack upside.

*Alex Guarnaschelli is only down here because she hasn’t had enough time to establish herself yet. Let’s look at some pitchers who could still establish themselves this year for the final tier.

Zack Wheeler
Tyler Skaggs
Jameson Taillon

Keep an eye on those guys. They could still play a big role on their clubs this year.




Print This Post

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.


57 Responses to “2013 NL Starting Pitcher Tiers: June”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. Joseph says:

    Garza?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Nice work Chris, Ian Kennedy is doubled up …. where should he be? Cheers

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Chris Cwik says:

      Updated to include Garza and Liriano. Also made it so one Ian Kennedy was on the list.

      Thanks for letting me know

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. JTS says:

    R.I.P. Francisco Liriano… Enjoy your own tier in hell.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. Josh says:

    Kennedy is on here twice.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. salakind says:

    Michael Symon is your top tier? Clearly, Morimoto is THE Iron Chef. Bobby Flay should be somewhere in the minor leagues until he starts winning some battles. He can’t even win on his own show. I know, wins are an overrated stat, but…wait…whats this post about again?

    +19 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Jason B says:

      Yeah, I would prefer more original (Japanese) Iron Chefs, fewer of the bastardized American version. And toally agreed on Morimoto. There are no American Iron Chefs without standing on the shoulders of their predecessor, period.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. Big Sexy says:

    I love when Rotographs does the tiers. With that said, this tier is maybe the most absurd of the year (im rapping now).
    Having Lance Lynn & Patrick Corbin in the 4th tier makes me question if you play fantasy or just watch baseball. However, having Jordan Zimmerman in the 4th tier?!?! That flat out punts the credability of this list.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Giovani says:

      Says the guy who makes absolutely no effort to back up his wild accusations.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Big Sexy says:

        Espn Fantasy Player Rater….check it out dude….very helpful for when you start playing fantasy baseball at somepoint

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Dancing Homer says:

      Zimmerman’s measly K’s… Corbin’s lack of track record… Lynn’s HR/FB a paltry 3.8%. Regression is coming for Lance and Patrick.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Big Sexy says:

        My only point in Head to Head is that K’s is one category. Just 1. Wins, ERA and Whip are 3. Im not even wasting my time discussing Zimmerman. But since Lynn became a starter last year what has suggested he has been anything but studly in those 3 categories. Also, he will throw in games of higher K numbers every now and then. He is backed by an outstanding offense and great defense.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. Walk the dogg says:

    Glanced at the article and rushed to my free agent list to search for Masaharu Morimoto.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. Dan says:

    I dunno if you’ve been Yovani or Garza lately–each of them hold about as much weight as Walter Frey’s word.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. Jason Castro's mother says:

    A top 5 fantasy starting pitcher in ALL of the majors, Jordan Zimmermann, is the 14th best pitcher in the NL. Fangraphs is trolling now.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • James says:

      These lists project their value the rest of the season, not their value up to this point.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Jason Castro's mother says:

        What would suggest Zimmermann will regress ROS more than other pitchers?

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • James says:

        Nothing.

        Regression to the mean isn’t about all good players getting worse. It’s about all players, good and bad, “regressing” to what their expected performance was.

        So a guy like J Zimm will probably do worse than he has been, while a guy like Matt Cain will do better than he has been.

        These lists are about gauging RoS value going forward. That doesn’t mean we take the exact current season values and duplicate that list. It’s about predicting who will fall off their abnormal pace (Zimm) and who will pick things back up.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Dancing Homer says:

      A 5.8 K/9 isn’t something to hang your hat on. .229 BABIP this year vs career mark of .284

      This is fangraphs, don’t you guys look at numbers before hopping up and down about a ranking?

      Oops, I forgot about Wins. Most important pitching stat there is.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. l1ay says:

    The second best pitcher (Zimmerman) in standard 5×5 formats so far this season is in the Fourth Tier?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Nick says:

      .229 BABIP and well below average strikeout rate

      +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Big Sexy says:

        K rate could be higher. But if we are knocking down pitchers for 1 category every pitcher above him should be adjusted……The conversation regarding Zimmerman starts and stops with his Wins, ERA and WHIP.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • James says:

        “The conversation regarding Zimmerman starts and stops with his Wins, ERA and WHIP”

        All of which are likely to regress as the season moves on.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. Kevin says:

    Bobby Flay is way too high up there. Zakarian > Flay all day

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. Nick says:

    Marcum’s ranking is absurdly low IMO; I’d put him in the Garces tier. He still has a decent strikeout rate and has better control than half of the guys in there. BABIP and LOR% (.330;60) should regress and he’s in a pitcher friendly park which should help with the HR/FB rate.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. Dick says:

    No Justin Verlander?

    Okay

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. ettin says:

    I’m sincerely disappointed you didn’t go with all of the original Japanese Iron Chef names. Shame on you!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. Will says:

    You are right that Zimmermann is intentionally going P-to-contact to go deeper (and be damn effective). Going deep leads to a better chance of a W, and if you look closer (either watching him pitch or even at his Z-swing vs. Z-contact, etc.) you’ll see that he is painting the edges, and with enough movement to get really weak contact (and predictably strong ERA and WHIP). All of which is to say that he is once again underrated.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Giovani says:

      Yeah, but this is for fantasy, and “P-to-contact” isn’t a category in fantasy baseball – but strikeouts are.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Nick says:

      .229 BABIP is silly even for an extreme flyball pitcher, which he is not. Also, while there may be some skill involved regarding popup rate, 18.1% has to be at least a few standard deviations away from the mean and will be mighty difficult to sustain.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  16. Shlum says:

    Where’s king Felix?

    OK

    -5 Vote -1 Vote +1

  17. Lawrence Corvette says:

    How can you leave out The Chairman? He’s so damn good, he’s the #1 bad guy on Hawaii Five-0 and he makes all these chefs cook for him every week.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  18. Jason Castro's mother says:

    Wheres Christopher Tillmans?

    OK

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  19. Bill Lee's Spacemen says:

    What about Max Scherzer?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  20. Jason Castro's mother says:

    What about Jeremo Williams?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  21. Ruki Motomiya says:

    Love the naming theme, but even with the American Iron Chef theme, how can you leave out Hiroyuki Sakai and Rokusaburo Michiba off this? We’re talking a guy with a 70-15-1 record and a guy so cool they had a tribute episode to him! The ORIGINAL Iron Chef Japan! Even if you like or prefer the American version (I like the American version, but prefer the original), these two are simply great Chefs who are head and shoulders above Bobby Flay.

    Also, Morimoto > Flay.

    But I was glad to see the naming theme at all and am glad to see the effort put into this every month. :)

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • shapular says:

      Literally using W-L record on Fangraphs. Have you seen his xFLAVOR? He’s bound to regress sooner or later.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  22. steex says:

    Chris – where would you put Patrick Corbin? He is absent from your rankings and has certainly been a huge boon to fantasy rotations.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  23. Fedee_ says:

    Very nice rankings. I’d put Latos up a tier though. Almost 50 GB rate, highest SwStr% of his life (admittedly it’s not that much higher than before). Hasn’t lost at home in over a year (I think), he is a real life and fantasy ace IMO

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  24. Brian says:

    Nice rankings. A couple questions:

    Would you really rather have Jon Niese (pitching like he’s hurt, lost velocity, no curveball anymore) than Julio Teheran?

    Kevin Slowey (terrible team, 4.12 FIP) rather than Paul Maholm (good team, 3.83 FIP)?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  25. nickatl says:

    your rankings gave some comfort, as i am bemoaning, ejax, questioning slowey, doubting gallardo and glad i have kershaw, baumgarner and gio. i would probably drop either ejax or slowey if i pick up beachy, but was leaning toward slowey. i was also thinking of trading 1 for g cole. your ranking s suggest things aren’t so bad in my own backyard, though my ststs bely that. atlnick

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  26. mt says:

    The nationals have 43 more games against the Marlins, Mets and Phillies. If you play H2H, the nationals schedule is obviously loaded with those divisional games.

    Zimmerman’s BABIP may be much lower than his career average, but to his advantage he’s also playing crappy team.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  27. skip says:

    where would you put Brandon Beachy?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  28. Jon NY says:

    I just wanted to say that I wholeheartedly agree with your prediction that Zack Wheeler will play a major role in the Mets’ championship-winning team this year. They’re just an outfield and a couple of other pieces away…

    Not sure what that minor-leaguer Skaggs is doing in that sentence.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  29. Luke says:

    Why is Ian Kennedy up so high? His walks are up, his Ks are down and his already low ground ball rate is even lower. He’s also giving up a career high line drive percentage. Yeah is 5.49 ERA is partly due to some bad luck, but it’s not like he’s lighting the world on fire (4.20 SIERA, 4.55 xFIP). Are those really third teir numbers?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  30. Bazoonga says:

    Where’s Dan Straily?

    OK

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  31. Ritornello says:

    Where’s Cheick Kongo?

    OK

    Vote -1 Vote +1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>