When Do Pitchers Come of Age?

Who are the most consistently GOOD starting pitchers today?  I do not mean solid, but GOOD good.  Jon Lester is solid, but has only received CYA votes in 3 years.  His best finish was #2 to Max Scherzer in 2016; the year that was being dominated by Kershaw until he hurt his back.  Madison Bumgarner is solid, but his best CYA vote was #4 (twice – 2014 & 2016).  I also do not mean CYA winners.  Rick Porcello won the 2016 AL CYA and I do not consider him consistently good.  The same is true with Jake Arrieta, the 2015 NL CYA winner.  His career has been more solid than Porcello, but he has had only one Top 5 CYA finish.

 

IMO, the most three most consistently good starting pitchers today in each league are:

 

NL

  • Clayton Kershaw
  • Max Scherzer
  • Zack Greinke

 

AL

  • Corey Kluber
  • Chris Sale
  • Justin Verlander

 

There are certainly others that have been good for stretches…Dallas Keuchel and Stephen Strasburg deserve merit, but have not been consistently good.  David Price was good early on, but has not pitched well since 2015.  As earlier indicated, Jon Lester and Madison Bumgarner should merit some consideration but have not crossed that threshold as the best.  Chris Sale is included even though he has never won a CYA.  However he is one of three to be voted in Top 5 for the past five years.  The other two are Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer.  To me Top 5 CYA vote getters for the last 5 years is consistently good.

 

This topic came to me because the two 2017 CYA winners were both multiple year winners, but won their 1st at the age of 28…Max Scherzer and Corey Kluber.  In contrast, Clayton Kershaw won 3 by the age of 26. So I thought I would see if I could find any similarities to draw any conclusions.

 

I think there is very little argument that CK and Scherzer are the two best pitchers today; Corey Kluber and Chris Sale not far behind.

 

Kershaw – Career 144-64; 2.36 ERA; 1.002 WHIP; 1935 IP, 2120 K, 507 BB, 9.9 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 4.18 SO/W;

3 CYA, 7 consecutive years Top 5 (1st 3, 2nd 2, 5th 2), won 1st CYA at 23 and  3rd at 26.

Scherzer – Career 141-75; 3.30 ERA; 1.119 WHIP; 189 IP, 2149 K, 534 BB, 10.2 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 4.02 SO/W;

3 CYA, 5 consecutive years TOP 5 (1st 3, 5th 2), won 1st CYA at 28 and 3rd at 32

Kluber – Career 76-48; 3.13 ERA, 1.086 WHIP; 1091 IP, 1201 K, 243 BB, 9.9 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 4.94 SO/W;

2 CYA, 3 out of last 4 Top 5 (1st 2, 3rd 1), won 1st CYA at 28 and 2nd at 31.

Sale – Career 91-58; 2.98 ERA; 1.05 WHIP; 1324 IP, 1552 K, 303 BB, 10.5 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 5.12 SO/W;

0 CYA, 5 consecutive years Top 5 (2nd 1, 3rd 1, 4th 1, 5th 2).  He has a sixth         year at #6, so he actually has 6 consecutive years in Top 6.  He was 28                 when he came in #2 in 2017.

Greinke – Career 172-107; 3.4 ERA, 1.181 WHIP; 2455.2 IP, 2236 K, 594 BB, 8.2 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 3.76 SO/W;

1 CYA, 3 Top 5 finishes (2 out of last 3), won his CYA at 25

Verlander – Career 188-114; 3.46 ERA; 1.184 WHIP; 2545 IP, 2416 K, 771 BB, 8.5 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 3.13 SO/W;

1 CYA, 6 years in Top 5 (1st 1, 2nd 2, 3rd 1, 5th 2); won his CYA at 28.

 

OTHERS:

Porcello – 1 CYA at age 27, Only Top 5 finish.

Price – 1 CYA at age 26. 3 Top 5 finishes (1st 1, 2nd 2)

Lester – 3 Top 5 CYA Finish (2nd 1, 4th 2).  1st Top 5 at age 26.

Strasburg – Best year 2017 at 28.

Bumgarner – 2 Top 5 CYA Finishes (4th 2). 1st Top 5 at age 24.

Arrieta – 1 CYA at age 29.  Only Top 5 Finish.

 

It would seem that most top pitchers were good early but flourished around the age of 28. Scherzer, Kluber, Verlander, all won their 1st CYA at 28.  Porcello was 27 and Arrieta was 29.  Chris Sale’s and Stephen Strasburg’s best year was at age 28.  Kershaw is clearly the outlier with 3 CYA by the age of 26.  Sale and Bumgarner have been good at early ages as well, but not at the level of CK.  MadBum turns 28 for 2018 and with a chip on his shoulder, I would expect him to have a great year.  The same for Strasburg at 29.  CK, Scherzer, and Sale should continue their excellence.  I could not pass up an opportunity to bring up my favorite pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood turns 27 next year, and was a 1st time CYA vote getter at 26.

 

Overall conclusion?  Pitchers become GOOD when they do.

 

Posted by Always Compete

This article has 13 Comments

  1. It was obvious that Wood had a breakout year and lost some velocity down the stretch. His performance on the WS stage showed he can rise to the occasion. When he keeps the ball down and throws strikes he is hard to hit. With Hill at 37 and Wood at 27 there is an interesting contrast in age and style. Kershaw as the #1 gives the team a solid foundation to build off of. Who slots in at 4 and 5 will be interesting but my favorite would be Ohtani and Maeda, 2 RHP to give the rotation more balance. Ohtani may be the best value signing this off season, he will be posted Dec 1st and teams will have 3 weeks to make their deal with him. I have heard so much about the Yankees being the front runners but feel the Dodgers may have a real shot. The free agent starting pitchers don’t impress me that much and neither do the bats, and moves will be either trades, from within or free agents with no QO. Winter meetings are Dec 10 to 14 in Orlando and there will be some fireworks. On Jan 10th arbitration is filed and 13th numbers exchanged but the team has a history of settling early with most players. It’s quiet right now but will get louder in the next 2 weeks.

    1. I like Alex Wood a lot too, but I wonder which Alex Wood he is:

      1. The Pre-All-Star Game version who blew people away with Hard Filthy Stuff; or

      2. The guy who pitched in the WS who wasn’t as fast or filthy but painted the corners and “pitched.”

  2. Another good job AC!

    I will say this, Kershaw could learn a lot from what Wood did in the World Series, this year!

    Because Kershaw seems to stop pitching when he gets in trouble, in the post season!

    Because when Kershaw gets in trouble in the post season, instead of slowing himself down, and making good pitches, he rushes back on the mound, and starts heaving mainly fastballs!

    And even though Wood doesn’t have the ammo Kershaw does, and Wood didn’t have the command he would have wanted in the World Series, he pitched in every inning, in that game, he started, and by doing that, he willed this team, to win that game!

    And whether Kershaw has to change his game up, or see a good sports analyst, something needs to change for Kershaw in the post season, because what he is doing, is not working, in these important games, in the post season, when he is challenged.

  3. I am thinking of bringing on a new writer by the name of Don’t Compete.

    That way we can have some AC-DC.

    But seriously, folks…

  4. Certainly kershaw has been the most consistently great regular season pitcher maybe ever. A sure hall of fame. His consistency has been the best and it is not even close. Having said that can you imagine Koufax blowing a 4 run lead in a World Series game or really a 7 run lead. How many runs would he have given up if Roberts hadn’t took him out? The dodgers score 12 with kershaw starting and still can’t win. Of course you say you are measuring him against arguably the greatest ever in Koufax. Ok how about Fernando, hershiser, Sutton, or even osteen for God’s sake. That is not the first time either, ask the cards. I’m sorry I know the board is going to jump to his defense but facts are facts. I would much rather see ryu in game 7 as kershaw. I think his consistency may be his problem. In the playoffs most great players can shift into another gear. His regular reason is already in his top gear while others can focus at another level. Probably nonsense but I have run out of excuses.

  5. Cy Young voting is before the playoffs so Clayton has benefited from that. It also disrupts his routine in post season by either having too much time between starts or sometimes not enough. But in an age of video study he does not really do it, he pitches his game and believes it will be enough while other teams zero in on his pitching patterns. When he faces a team a second or third time in a series he still pitches the same way but the batters adjust. Sometimes his curve is working and he does not go to it enough. The key seems to be his slider: when it’s on he fools hitters and when it is not they sit on his fastball. Neither the catcher or Honeycutt have been able to get him to change things up or pitch hitters differently to exploit their weak areas of plate coverage. During the season he can pitch that way but in a longer series against better hitters he has not pitched to his regular season numbers.

    1. One thing is true, Kershaw seems to lose his slider, and his curves, in these tough situations, or he just doesn’t go to them.

      And he was pitching more like a pitcher four runs down, then a pitcher, with a four run lead.

      And he did the same thing in the next inning, after he was given a three run lead, and after he had already gotten two outs.

  6. Hey Mark and AC, great posts the past week or so on the Dodgers. After digesting some of your articles, I reached a few conclusions:

    The market is going to be hot and heavy for Morrow and Darvish, and while it would be nice to have them back, we all know a couple of teams are going to go full on D=BAG, and throw Greinke like money at them and totally overpay for past performance. FAZ won’t budge, thank God.

    The previous thread that AC posted about the Giants is reality 101. They HAVE to get Stanton, they are so all in the next couple of years with all those long contracts, they can’t rebuild or even do a trade with their depleted farm system. Talk about being hamstrung. They are screwed.

    It seems like it only takes about 2 years after teams sign some of these free agents to mega money contracts(Pujols, Greinke, Stanton,) that they can’t wait to get out from under the contract, it’s like they get that adrenaline rush when your buying a new car. After 6 months, the new car smell goes away. The contract doesn’t.

    For the first time since I can remember, and this is all FAZ, the front office has positioned themselves is a place of power, not need, as far as players. Look at what we have been talking about for almost a full year. We resigned our core guys(Turner, Hill, Jansen), we have one of the top farm systems in baseball, which always seems to have some young pitcher or position player ready to come up, we have stayed away from bad contracts(Agon, Crawford, Ethier, Kemp), and we have total flexibility.

    Final conclusion is that we are totally spoiled, guys. I checked out one of the Giant blogs a couple of weeks ago, and the only positive thing he had to offer on his site, and he did mention as much, was watching the Dodgers lose the World Series, he even compiled a video of all the key Astro moments when they beat us. No lie, check it out. How would you like to be THAT guy, knowing that you are years from being a threat again. So, all in all, it’s all good, even when it ain’t sometimes. I will take the Dodgers position any day.

  7. It took Koufax a few years to find his control, but look at his record from 26 years old until retirement. Can you believe retiring after winning 27 games at age 30? Too bad the medical doctors didn’t have a fix for him!

  8. For me Kershaw needs only one thing to reach the next level of success that has so far eluded him. In a word he needs a truly effective CHANGE-UP.

  9. I agree with most of the comments on Kershaw. He does need to make some changes. I think he will. Brooklyn you are right he needs a change up. MJ you are right when you say he needs to slow down and use all of his pitches when he is in trouble. Kershaw is a smart man and he will adjust. In looking at AC analysis, it is obvious he is the best. I just hope we can resign him.

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