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NL Starting Pitcher Ranks

Posted By Dan Wade On September 7, 2011 @ 2:16 pm In Starting Pitchers | 13 Comments

The second — and last — regular season edition of the NL Starting Pitcher ranks is here. The top remains largely the same, but the bottom has changed quite a bit. The rankings are for the rest of the season — hence no Jordan Zimmermann — and are tiered to AFI’s top 100 film villains with a few of my favorites thrown in.

The Dr. Hannibal Lector Tier
Roy Halladay
Cliff Lee
Clayton Kershaw
Cole Hamels
Tim Lincecum

The best of the best, these pitchers have anchored real and fantasy rotations all year long. The Phillies haven’t said anything about skipping starts to keep Halladay et al. fresh for the postseason, but the possibility of that does make me a tick nervous. The fact that none of their trio is a particularly young arm bodes well for owners.

The Darth Vader Tier
Madison Bumgarner
Matt Cain
Ian Kennedy
Matt Garza
Daniel Hudson

There’s no such concern about skipping starts in this group. The West is the NL’s closest divisional race and until the gap widens, both the Diamondbacks and Giants are going to putting their best team out there, youngish starters included. Garza owns a top-10 WAR and a top-3 K-rate, yet I can’t help but feel he’s been largely forgotten this season; he could be a bargain on draft day next year.

The Sauron Tier
Zack Greinke
Tim Hudson
Stephen Strasburg
Brandon Beachy
Yovani Gallardo

Strasburg looked fantastic on Tuesday, but the Nats haven’t thrown off the reins just yet. He’d be higher, but pitch counts will hurt his ability to get wins and could make for a bad line if he has one really rough inning. Greinke is still giving up more runs than it looks like he ought to be, but the majority of his remaining starts look to be at Miller Park, where he’s been nearly unbeatable. I may be a bit bullish on Beachy, but his strikeout numbers have been good and, as one of the few healthy arms the Braves had right now, they aren’t going to clip his innings.

The HAL 9000 Tier
Roy Oswalt
Johnny Cueto
Chris Carpenter
Mat Latos
Javier Vazquez

Oswalt makes the big jump here, proving that he’s healthy and effective in returning from his back injury. Cueto’s WHIP and ERA both went up in August, but his strikeouts rose as well, so he doesn’t drop as far as he might have. Vazquez is obviously the wild card here, but he had a fantastic August and those strikeout numbers are for real.

The Harry Lime Tier
Vance Worley
Cory Luebke
Shaun Marcum
Ryan Dempster
Anibal Sanchez

Worley hasn’t lost time since Oswalt’s return, and he’s the least likely of the Phillies starters to be skipped during the playoff prep, unless they’re going to try to transition him into a bullpen role for the playoffs; it’s something to keep an eye on. Luebke could be a tier up, but I’m worried about fatigue with him. He’s walking more batters than he did in July and while I still like him, it’s enough to just tip him one run lower.

The Joker Tier
Hiroki Kuroda
Edwin Jackson
Chad Billingsley
Tim Stauffer
Ricky Nolasco

Apart from his shelling on Aug. 3, Jackson has been pitching well for the Cardinals, dropping his ERA in six consecutive starts. I must confess, I thought a move to the NL would do his strikeout numbers some good, but it hasn’t helped as much as I’d hoped. Nolasco seems to be fading as the season wraps up; he’s still performing passably, but he’s been pretty pedestrian of late.

The Auric Goldfinger Tier
Wandy Rodriguez
Ryan Vogelsong
Kyle Lohse
R.A. Dickey
John Lannan

Rodriguez had an up-and-down month of August, but his lows weren’t terrible and he posted solid strikeouts while staying Houston. Vogelsong’s calling card was his low ERA, which rose a bit in August. He’s still turning in solid outings, but he’s no longer as compelling as he was a month ago. As much as I love the knuckleballer, Dickey scares me. He had a strong August, it must be said, but I’m stuck feeling like the other shoe is going to drop.

The Agent Smith Tier
Ted Lilly
Josh Collmenter
Randy Wells
Jaime Garcia
Chris Narveson

After what has been a rough year for Wells, he turned it on August and had a solid month. He’s still allowing far too many HR and striking out too few to rise much higher than this, but if you’re digging deep, he’s been playable of late. I’ve mentioned my expectation that both Lilly and Garcia will regress already and I’m sticking by that.

The Hans Gruber Tier
Aaron Harang
Dillon Gee
Jhoulys Chacin
Derek Lowe
Henry Sosa

Chacin has already surpassed his career high in innings, and doesn’t show signs of slowing down, which concerns me not only for the end of this year, but also for next year. I’d be higher on Lowe — and more tolerant of his poorer turns — if he was going deeper in his starts. As it is, there’s just too little upside with him to make it worth sweating through starts like he had on Monday. Gee has been ebbing and flowing between good and terrible starts, allowing 1, 8, 1, and 6 ER in his last four outings. He provides solid value when he’s good, but the downside is a severe punishment.

The Major General Donald McClintock Tier
Randy Wolf
Mike Leake
Bud Norris
Esmil Rogers

Like Gee, Wolf split his time between great and execrable, but Wolf had fewer strikeouts to soften the blow of his more Mr. Hyde-like outings. The book on Norris in August is the same as it ever was: too many baserunners, too many runs, but a very nice strikeout rate. Expect the same in September from both him and Rogers.

The Wicked Witch of the East Tier
Jonathon Niese
Jair Jurrjens
Johan Santana
Tommy Hanson

I think there’s a fair chance that none of these four pitches in the regular season, which makes them virtually valueless. Unlike the guys below them, there’s at least a chance, so if you’ve got the free DL spot, you can hold on to them and hope. However, if you’re in a roster crunch, you’re probably safe dropping any one of them.

Off the list:
Jordan Zimmermann
Jason Marquis
Livan Hernandez
Carlos Zambrano
Jonathan Sanchez
Paul Maholm

Hernandez and Zimmermann made their exit from the rotation gracefully, Zambrano less so, but most of the rest of these guys fell out of the rankings due to a season-ending injury. If one of these guys is still on your roster in redraft, set them free, they won’t be back this year.


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