N.L. Starting Pitcher Ranks

The voices from on high have heard your plea for updated NL pitcher ranks and I shall deliver them to you. The tiers are sorted by how great it would be to have one of these things in your town.

The Pyramids of Giza

Roy Halladay
Clayton Kershaw
Cole Hamels
Cliff Lee

These guys have given you a strong season from first pitch on and they don’t show signs of breaking down anytime soon. While Phillies fans are obviously rooting for their team to win the NL East by as many games as possible, owners who are relying on one or more of Halladay, Hamels, and Lee might quietly root for the Braves to keep the division close. A large lead increases the likelihood that the top of the rotation will be rested down the stretch.

The Eiffel Tower

Johnny Cueto
Tim Lincecum
Madison Bumgarner
Matt Cain
Daniel Hudson
Jaime Garcia

You could make an argument for Cueto in the top tier and I would listen. 14 quality starts out of 16 speaks for itself; he’s never killing your team, even when he has a relative off day. The only thing that keeps him from rising is a relatively low strikeout rate, 5.5 per 9, the lowest of any of the top 30 pitchers. Hudson has been good, and none of his peripherals portend regression, but he’s already way past his previous MLB innings and they’re only getting more intense from here, just something to keep an eye on.

The Space Needle

Ian Kennedy
Matt Garza
Zack Greinke
Chris Carpenter
Anibal Sanchez

Greinke appears to have conquered the big inning issues that plagued his first half, but his home run rate is still far too high to push him higher than this. Nevertheless, he’s the type of pitcher who can give you double-digit Ks and won’t kill your WHIP even if his ERA is higher than owners might want.

The Millennium Bridge

Tommy Hanson
Edwin Jackson
Ricky Nolasco
Tim Hudson
Chad Billingsley

Nolasco’s dropped less because of his recent disaster start and more because of concerns regarding his falling strikeout rate. If he shows that his last three starts were blips rather than the new norm, he could jump up to the tier above.

The Expansive Suburban Mall

Ryan Dempster
Tim Stauffer
Jordan Zimmermann
Yovani Gallardo
Hiroki Kuroda
Jonathon Niese

Gallardo hasn’t been bad, but he has been disappointing for owners. The good news is that, like Greinke, he isn’t likely to be skipped down the stretch with the Brewers in the heat of a pennant chase. Zimmermann has been better than this ranking would indicate, but he’s rapidly approaching his inning cap, which makes him less valuable.

The Adequate Hospital

Roy Oswalt
Shaun Marcum
Brandon Beachy
Ryan Vogelsong
Jair Jurrjens
Paul Maholm

The hope with Oswalt is that his extended layoff will bring back the pitcher who made Oswalt’s first nine starts of the season and banish the imposter who made his last four starts to the land of wind and ghosts, but there’s no guarantee that will be the case. Jurrjens is seeing regression come in a brutal way, and he still has a BABIP of just .263. This rollercoaster isn’t done yet.

The Well-Loved Pub

Mat Latos
Vance Worley
Chris Narveson
Kyle Lohse
Derek Lowe

Latos has settled into a rhythm in his last few starts, but it isn’t particularly encouraging. Three earned over six or so innings pitched is technically a quality start, but it’s not going to win any beauty contests. I’d gladly put Worley above him on performance, but I have some concerns over how the Phillies’ rotation is going to settle out, especially as they set up for the playoffs.

The Park Without a Playground

Bud Norri
Jhoulys Chacin
Mike Leak
Josh Collmenter
Juan Nicasio

With Ubaldo Jimenez gone and Jorge de la Rosa on the DL, Chacin is the ace of the Rockies staff. If he’s the ace of your staff as well, I’d give you the same shot as the Rockies of making the playoffs, which is to say, virtually nil. Collmenter has been solid, but a minuscule strikeout rate and some uncertainty in the Diamondbacks rotation lowers his value for now.

The Dirty Diner

Wandy Rodriguez
Dillon Gee
Cory Luebke
Javier Vazquez
John Lannan

Rodriguez might be a little better than this ranking indicates, but it’s close, and the fact that he’s going to have a hard time winning games — unless he’s traded or claimed off waivers — means he’s the king of this level. Vazquez has been a decent option since the middle of June, but has been even better since the All-Star break. He’s still a mediocre option, but the beginning of the season was particularly unkind to him.

The Abandoned Factory

Jonathan Sanchez
Carlos Zambrano
R.A. Dickey
Jason Marquis
Livan Hernandez

If you’re in dire straits, Sanchez is still getting a ton of strikeouts, but will do terrible things to your WHIP. He could be an interesting handcuff to someone like Collmenter, who isn’t racking up strikeouts, but who isn’t allowing baserunners either. Marquis and Hernandez are a game of Russian roulette: typically they won’t kill your team, but every so often they just might. Such are the ways of BABIP, vengeful god of the groundball pitchers!

The Unkempt Lean-to

Aaron Harang
Charlie Morton
James McDonald
Chris Capuano
Ted Lilly
Jordan Lyles
Randy Wells

If you’re digging this deep, you’re better off going by match up than settling on one starter. There are more than just these seven at the bottom of the barrel, so be creative, because, seriously, it’s unlikely they’ll do much worse.

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Dan enjoys black tea, imperial IPAs, and any competition that can be loosely judged a sport. Follow him on Twitter.

39 Responses to “N.L. Starting Pitcher Ranks”

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  1. Bob says:

    You need to fix the links.

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  2. Pretentious Polyester Poodle says:

    Aaarjhasdghg the hyperlinks

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  3. Robert says:

    The list seems pretty solid except for the fact that Hanson should be at LEAST one tier higher.

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    • MajorDanby says:

      tommy hanson in the same tier as edwin jackson and chad billingsley – not sure about that.

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    • Daniel says:

      Ya I would put him at the top of the next tier, Beachy, Latos, and Wandy are also pretty low.

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    • Kyle says:

      Agree, but Shaun Marcum and Wandy Rodriguez should be a tier or two higher as well.

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  4. Kevin says:

    If you love FIP so much why don’t you marry it?

    Seriously, Dempster has a 4.96 ERA . How can you ignore that?

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  5. Max says:

    Going down this list, it is easy to see why it is almost always smart to wait on starting pitching during the draft. There are so many adequate-to-solid arms lower on the list…and this is only the National League! Many of those guys were taken very late in drafts, or even left undrafted altogether to be picked up later by the savvy manager.

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  6. The Dude says:

    I am not sure I agree with everything here – but it was a great read. Thanks.

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  7. J.B. says:

    I’d rather have Vogelsong start a play-off game than E-Jack or Oswalt. Where’s the love for the NL era leader? 6th tier? No way.

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  8. BryanL says:

    Hanson belongs at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

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  9. Fat Spiderman says:

    So is there a thing where if a pitcher has been disappointing recently they get the last letter of their last name removed?

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  10. Gaupo says:

    Jeff Karstens has the 2nd best ERA in the league. He needs to be mentioned. Not at the top…. but at least be mentioned.

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  11. ExileInCleveland says:

    This is third SP ranking where Daniel Hudson is ranked ahead of Ian Kennedy. Now I see if you use the WAR statistic you would arrive at this conclusion. Hudson has the edge with a 4.1 to Kennedy’s 2.9, but analysis of the peripherals tells a much different story.

    Kennedy has more K’s, more innings, .11 lower WHIP, 0.5 lower ERA, .033 lower B AVG against, lower xFIP and more actual wins, but apparently theoretical wins are more valuable than actual wins.

    It turns out the dramatic difference in WAR value is due to Hudson’s low HR/FB ratio of 4.7% to Kennedy’s 9.5%. Or in real terms Hudson has given up 8 HR vs. Kennedy’s 16 HR which makes a huge difference to the calculations of FIP and hence WAR.

    I’ve watched both pitch several times and IMO Kennedy is the better pitcher right now. With that said I think Hudson has a slightly higher ceiling b/c he is 3 years younger.

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  12. Frankoo Frank says:

    Interesting rankings. My only two gripes would be this:

    1. Hanson is better than a 4th tier pitcher. Others have already mentioned this.

    2. Cueto is 4th tier at best. He helps in two categories (ERA, WHIP). He really really hurts you in K’s, especially if you are in a league with an innings cap. Kind of like how your classic low batting average slugger helps you in RBI and HR but kills your batting average. Those guys can’t be top tier players. They don’t help you in enough categories and they really hurt you in another. Even if you want to say that Cueto also helps in Wins as well (which I think is hard to really say with any kind of firmness due to the wackiness of that stat), he only helps you in 3 categories at best. I’d rather go for other pitchers with good ERAs and WHIP (or underlying peripherals) that also have high K’s. There’s a huge difference between having no value in a category and having negative value in a category. Cueto is a big negative for K’s. K-rate is a big deal. Seeing him ranked ahead of Lincecum is madness. You would really take Cueto over Lincecum for ROS? Really? It’s not even worth thinking about in my opinion. I think there is a huge gap there in Timmy’s favor. You can find plenty of pitchers that help you in 2 or 3 categories in the lower tiers, and that’s where Cueto belongs. I’d much rather have the following: Hanson, Greinke, Gallardo, Cain, Hudson, Kennedy, Sanchez, and Billingsley. As far as lower K pitchers go, I’d go with Carpenter and Kuroda over Cueto based on the previous track record. And if I studied the numbers more closely on some of the lower tier pitchers listed here I’m sure I would probably be able to add several more names to that list that I would prefer over Cueto. Perhaps I just have a giant boner for K’s. But even if I didn’t have that K-Boner, Timmy after Cueto is still insane.

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    • Hawaii 0-5 says:

      I found it very strange that the author ignored Cueto’s cratering K rate while simultaneously downgrading Nolasco because of a handful of low K starts. Where’s the consistency?

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  13. Andrew says:

    Agreed that Cueto belongs nowhere near the top tier. His excellent ERA this season is owed entirely to a .219 BABIP and a 5.1% HR rate. His 3.82 xFIP is below average. Yes, the 15.9% LD rate is low, but he’s still mediocre at best. His strikeout rate is horrible.

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  14. humdinger says:

    I think having any of those other things in my neighborhood would be cooler than having the Eiffel tower.

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  15. Telo2 says:

    unreal…you have Derek Lowe ahead of Chacin and Norris…What is this? Have you seen R.A. Dickey in his previous 10 starts?

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  16. JKB says:

    These are the best rank names I’ve seen so far. Still would like to see how my AL pitchers rank side by side with my NL pitchers though.

    If Fangraphs wants to split the SPs into AL vs. NL because of space issues for the purpose of the article that makes sense, but build a master ranking sheet containing both AL & NL SPs with uniform category definitions and then divide it up into two articles. When Fangraphs has different writers ranking AL vs. NL SPs separately using different category definitions it makes the two lists hard to use for people in mixed leagues, which I think is the largest percentage of the reader base (not to mention negatively impacting statistical reliability and validity of the rankings themselves).

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  17. Hayves says:

    I’m a bit surprised that Randy Wolf isn’t on there at all considering the inclusion of Wells

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  18. Chris Bowyer says:

    I know it’s usually lame to complain about rankings…but seriously, that Hanson ranking is *insane*. I normally never complain about rankings, and wouldn’t even dream of it if this one weren’t, like, totally inexplicable.

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  19. D Wade says:

    You are the best ranker

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  20. razor says:

    Is it just me or is J Chacin getting hosed here? How much better do you want a kid to perform the last two years pitching in carnival-land half the time?

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  21. Lou says:

    i wish the Hanson owner in my league thought he belonged in the same tier as Nolasco.

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  22. Shaun Catron says:

    how about Strasburg if he returns this season? velocity seems to be good and he hasn’t even rehab started yet. Tier 2?

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  23. SF 55 for life says:

    Is this list supposed to be ranked based off of future results or past results? I see no reason to put Jordan Zimmermann on the list at all if its the latter, he only has 3 starts left.

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  24. Josh says:

    these articles are borderline useless. they keep getting worse.

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  25. jkaye says:

    Latos is ridiculously low. He’s behind Paul Maholm!

    There’s no way I wouldn’t draft him over any of the end of the 3rd/4th tier, except Hanson (who really should be 2nd tier). Otherwise, solid rankings;

    SP is very subjective but in a couple of cases when there are guys that clearly have higher odds of a delivering 3.00 ERA/1.2 WHIP, high K season than most (Latos and Hanson), you just can’t put them even or behind with lower-upside, low K options such as Worley or Niese, and even guys like Edwin Jackson or Billingsley (who are just as volatile with less upside).

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  26. Veritas says:

    This might be the worst article I’ve seen on fangraphs so far. There is so much wrong with this article I’m not sure where to begin. I’ll give it a go: Luebke in the same category as Lannan, jesus……Greinke should be in the 1st tier obviously….Cueto side by side with Lincecum!!!! are you out of your mind….Latos and Lohse side by side. Ok I’ll stop here, I feel like I’m rebutting a 6 year old with some of these rankings

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  27. jkaye says:

    Yeah, the Cueto thing is tough. Yes you can say “14/16 QS speak for themselves.”

    You can also say the 3.99 SIERA, 3.57 FIP and 3.97 xFIP speak for themselves. He is a very solid pitcher who probably should be swapped with Hanson (3.08 SIERA, 3.66 FIP, 3.20 xFIP) in the rankings. But if Cueto is being put on par with Lincecum because he has a 2.06 ERA, then this cannot possibly be projecting forward.

    And the funniest part is Cueto NOT Lincecum is the one given the chance to jump to the first tier IF ONLY it wasn’t for his 5.5 K9! Which is part of the reason his xFIP and SIERA are so much higher than his luck induced ERA in the first place

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  28. mattmaison says:

    Jake Westbrook should probably be in here. At least The Park Without a Playground tier.

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  29. R M says:

    You can’t even rank buildings…..Abandoned Factory definitely goes above Park without a Playground.

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  30. R M says:

    At least homeless people can sleep there.

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  31. R M says:

    And they burn down once in a while, making for great news stories.

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  32. jonasjack says:

    not a fan of this one…

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