With the season winding down, let’s take a look at the National League starting pitcher tiers. September is near, and that brings the promise of prospect call-ups once rosters expand. While one or two September call-ups could make a difference down the stretch, the rookies who may decide your league have likely already been in the majors for a while now. Where do they rank among the top players at the position? Let’s find out.
Before we start, you’ll notice this is the NL post, so you won’t see Chris Sale ranked. Despite this, someone in the comments will say “where’s Chris Sale, you idiot?” Don’t be that person. The tiers should be viewed as tiers, not straight rankings. If I have Madison Bumgarner and Cole Hamels in the same tier, but Hamels is ranked higher in the tier, that doesn’t matter. Being in the same tier means I perceive those players to have similar value.
That’s it. Tier 1 is just two players. Am I a jerk for not including Johnny Cueto or Stephen Strasburg in this tier? Maybe. At the same time, I don’t think you can argue against the consistency and performance of both Kershaw and Wainwright.
Zimmermann is the one player who is not like the others here. His strikeout rate, while good, is not elite. While the other players in this tier may rack up more strikeouts, Zimmermann closes the gap by being extremely stingy with walks. There’s not much else to say about the other players in the tier. If you were bold enough to take an early shot on Hamels, good for you. Shoulder injuries are always worrisome, and he came with a ton of risk entering this season.
This tier actually starts to get rough. Ryu and Teheran do a great job limiting walks, but the other three players in the tier have a tough time keeping men of base via the free pass. Despite Kennedy’s increased strikeout rate this season, Lynn is probably the best of the “high-walk” bunch here. Ross is obviously a good pitcher, but there are games where he can’t hit the strike zone to save his life. I’m just as shocked as you are to see Arrieta this high, but he’s been awesome.
We’ve hit a point where you already see serious deficiencies in some of these players. At this point, one skill is enough to make these guys viable. For Roark, Eovaldi, Colon, Leake, Lohse and Gallardo, the ability to limit walks outweighs their lower-than-average strikeout rates. They are still capable of posting high-strikeout games, but it’s not something you can count on. Wheeler has issues with his control, but his strikeout potential puts him in this range. Bailey is trying to get back after an awful start to his season, but his recent injury should cause him to miss a few more starts. Both Bailey and Vogelsong have similar, and good, numbers, but it’s hard to have faith in either when throwing them out there. Jimmy Nelson could make the leap forward, but sample size is an issue at the moment.
Jorge De La Rosa
A fair amount of these players just won’t give you strikeouts. While Miley has actually upped his k-rate, he’s giving up way too many homers. Morton and Koehler are solid, but give up more walks than you would like. I’m just going to throw my hands up in the air with Lincecum. I have no idea what the expect from him moving forward. FIP thinks there’s room for improvement, but color me skeptical. Trevor Cahill may deserve to be higher based on his stats, but I’ve been bitten by him too many times. The performance has been great for Hendricks, but it’s likely a mirage. Enjoy while you can. Wada might deserve to be higher, but it would be nice to see a larger sample before we overreact. The same can be said for Chase Anderson and Vidal Nuno.
Walks are bad. They’ve really hurt both Wood and Burnett this season. Volquez has been good, it’s exactly dependable.
Danger. Danger. Abort.
There’s a good chance I forgot a few players. Let me know who I missed and I’ll add them.
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