The Top 5 pitchers in the game.

This will be the most difficult ranking, but five worthy pitchers will be chosen…

Pitchers aren’t always easy to evaluate, because some of their “success” is attributed to the defense that is backing them up.  A pitcher with a great defense can appear to be a little better than he actually is, especially if his outs are recorded via the defense more of the time.

So we strip it down to K’s, BB’s, and HR’s allowed.  Then a pitcher will come out, strikeout a bunch of hitters, walk some, but not many, and allow only 19 home runs.  But with a great defense behind him, this same pitcher will end up with an ERA+ of 105.

105?  Yes, that isn’t exactly great.  So there has be some consideration put into more than just ERA, more than just K/BB. 

And this ranking is going to have some debating I assume.  Just like every other ranking, each person will want their pitcher to be on the list.  And I try to do my best when ranking them, or if not my best than “better than my worst.”  🙂

2008 ERA+ included.

  • Johan Santana:  ERA+ 166:  Not sure who else to go with in this spot.  If I needed a pitcher to pitch in 2009 for an AL East team, then maybe I choose someone other than Santana.  However, Santana, after an ERA+ of 166 last season, is the safe bet at number 1.  According to that one stat, that was the second best season that Santana has had.  That is debatable, but it was great regardless.  Johan is going to go down as one of the greatest pitchers that the game has ever seen.  His career ERA+ of 144 will probably decrease, but Santana made the move to the less difficult National League, and now he has the ability to keep it pretty close to that for a while (or until the quality of players in the NL begins to improve some). 
  • Roy Halladay: ERA+ 154:  Like Santana, Halladay could have won the Cy Young in 2008, and I would have had no problem with it.  The problem with Roy is that he plays in Toronto, not Boston, not New York, not Chicago.  Underrated is an overrated term to use, but in this situation it is perfect.  During five of the past seven seasons, Halladay has thrown 220 innings of more, including one season in which he threw 266 innings!  It still might be wise to trade Halladay, but that is a touchy subject, and is not meant to diminish his “greatness” at all.  
  • CC Sabathia:  ERA+ 162:  There is a reason that the Yankees spent so much money on CC.  One of the reasons is because they have more money than anyone else.  The other reason is because Sabathia is a great pitcher, and deserves to be one of the highest paid in the game.  People often point to his playoff failures, but you have to get there first.  Sometimes that gets lost within the mix.  Is anyone else so great in the postseason that they are clearly a more viable candidate than Sabathia?  I didn’t think so…I do know that the Yankees would be wise to try and keep his innings down to the 215-220 range if either Kennedy or Hughes show that they are worthy of giving quality spot starts this season.
  • Brandon Webb:  ERA+ 139:  Say what you want about Brandon Webb, but he is a great pitcher.  Sure, I would rather have Josh Beckett pitch a meaningful game, but that is partially because I have seen it so often at the highest level.  Webb has put up six straight seasons of ERA+’s 126 or better.  In 2006 and 2007 both were greater than 150.  Webb, like Halladay has a great ability to make the opposing hitter put the ball on the ground.  But both have very passable K rates, and that isn’t even the main skill that they possess.  Webb does play in the NL West, so the offenses he has faced are fairly weak.  He is also semi-reliant on a defense to field his groundballs, So I understand where some might take a pitcher who strikes out more batters.  But Webb racks up enough K’s AND has the greatest ability to “dupe” the batter into hitting a ground ball (or the second greatest ability of doing so).  
  • Roy Oswalt:  ERA+ 120:  I know this is debatable, and I understand.  But Oswalt has been a really great pitcher, and even though he had a “down year” last season, I believe that it was an outlier.  His K rates are still legit, although not what they were earlier in the decade.  And Oswalt didn’t walk any more batters.  Oswalt does put the ball on the ground a good amount of the time, so he is reliant on his defense some, especially for a pitcher that is thought by many outside of Houston to be simply a “strikeout pitcher.”