Who are the most consistentlyGOODstarting pitcherstoday? I do not mean solid, butGOODgood. 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:
- Clayton Kershaw
- Max Scherzer
- Zack Greinke
- 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 1stat 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 (1st3, 2nd2, 5th2), won 1stCYA at 23 and 3rdat 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 (1st3, 5th2), won 1stCYA at 28 and 3rdat 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 (1st2, 3rd1), won 1stCYA at 28 and 2ndat 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 (2nd1, 3rd1, 4th1, 5th2). 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 (1st1, 2nd2, 3rd1, 5th2); won his CYA at 28.
Porcello– 1 CYA at age 27, Only Top 5 finish.
Price– 1 CYA at age 26. 3 Top 5 finishes (1st1, 2nd2)
Lester– 3 Top 5 CYA Finish (2nd1, 4th2). 1stTop 5 at age 26.
Strasburg– Best year 2017 at 28.
Bumgarner– 2 Top 5 CYA Finishes (4th2). 1stTop 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 1stCYA 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 1sttime CYA vote getter at 26.
Overall conclusion? Pitchers becomeGOODwhen they do.