A starting pitcher’s W-L record is more a reflection of the team than the starting pitcher’s performance in a given season. Detroit is a perfect example of that. They lead the AL in BA, OBP and hits. They’re 2nd in runs scored and SLG%. We’ll show you below how that has their top two starting pitchers look much better than they’ve performed this year.
I’m not wild about quality starts as a stat because if a pitcher did that every time out (6 IP, 3 ER) he’d have a 4.50 ERA. I don’t consider that a quality starting pitcher, but rather a # 4 starter. In a game that probably has too many stats already we at Philly Sports Rant have created our own statistic. We call it the “Winnable Game” (WG). In a WG the starting pitcher goes at least 7 innings and gives up 2 ER or less. This equates to a 2.57 ERA or better. This is a game the starting pitchers team should win.
Now getting back to the Tigers…Max Scherzer, who leads the AL in victories and is the obvious leading candidate for the Cy Young Award has a 17-1 record, but has the same amount of WG’s as Cole Hamels this year – 10. This is not to imply that Scherzer has not pitched well this year as he leads the AL in WHIP at 0.90, is 7th in ERA at 2.84 and 9th in innings pitched with 158.2, but to go 17-1 a pitcher needs a great offense behind him and a little luck.
In Justin Verlander’s eight seasons with Detroit he’s appeared in six All-Star games, has been Rookie of the Year and has also won a Cy Young Award. This year Verlander has a 12-8 record and a 3.57 ERA, but has only 9 WG’s, one less than Hamels. Hamels has really turned on it lately by pitching 7 WG’s in his last 8 starts. What does Hamels have to show for this strong pitching performance (59 IP, 13 ER, 1.98 ERA) over the eight-game stretch? A 3-2 record…this is mostly due to the Phillies inability to score runs when he’s on the mound.
Let’s take a look at the NL’s top seven starting pitchers as measured by ERA. This group includes the two starting pitchers I consider to be the top two pitchers in the NL this year, as well as one of the NL co-leaders in victories. Another honor these seven pitchers share is they were all on the NL’s 2013 All-Star team.
Clayton Kershaw is in my opinion the best SP in baseball. He leads the NL in ERA at 1.88, WHIP of 0.867, innings pitched with 182.1 and is tied for 1st with 25 starts (good for over 7.1 innings per start). Kershaw is also second in SO’s with 174 and is tied for second in complete games (3) and shutouts (2). Although Kershaw has a good record at 11-7, he’s actually having a monster year on the mound. When it comes to winnable games, Kershaw leads the majors with 16.
In my opinion Matt Harvey is 2nd best starting pitcher in the NL. He leads the NL in SO’s with 181, is 2nd with a 2.23 ERA and a WHIP of 0.887, falling just behind Kershaw after allowing 4 ER in 6 innings last night against the Dodgers. Of the top 50 pitchers in IP he has the fewest HR per AB. Harvey has allowed just 7 HR in 165.2 IP (1 HR per 23.67 AB). While pitching for the rebuilding 3rd place Mets in the NL East at 54-62, Harvey has a 9-4 record. Harvey’s tied for 2nd with Madison Bumgarner of the SF Giants in the NL with 14 WG’s.
Unless the Arizona Diamondbacks finish strong they appear to be on the outside looking in at the playoffs. Currently they’re 5.5 games behind the Reds for the 2nd Wild Card. Their pitching staff is lead by Patrick Corbin, who has the 3rd best ERA in the NL at 2.36. Corbin is 4th among NL starters with a 1.02 WHIP, has a 12-3 record and 11 WG’s to his credit.
Jeff Locke of the NL Central Division leading Pirates is 4th in the NL with a 2.43 ERA. Locke has a 9-3 record but his WHIP of 1.26 ranks 33rd among NL starters. Locke is also the only starting pitcher among the top 10 in the NL in ERA that doesn’t average six innings per start. His inability to pitch deep into the games is a big factor in him having only 6 WG’s thus far.
Miami Marlins rookie Jose Fernandez is 5th in the NL with a 2.45 ERA and has a record of 8-5. Considering Fernandez pitches for a team with the worst record in the NL and who is also the lowest scoring team (averaging 3.14 runs per game), his record is actually quite good. The main reason we can see Fernandez has 8 wins and a winning record is his 10 WG’s.
Adam Wainwright is tied with Jordan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals and Lance Lynn of the St. Louis Cardinals for the NL lead with 13 wins. Wainwright is 6th with a 2.71 ERA and 8th in WHIP at 1.051. it comes as no surprise that he’s tied for the league lead in victories. The Cardinals are the NL’s leading scoring team and Wainwright has pulled his weight with 12 WG’s, placing him 4th in the NL and leading the NL with 4 complete games.
As referenced above, the 24 year-old Madison Bumgarner is tied for 2nd in WG’s with the NY Mets Matt Harvey. One of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal season by the World Champion Giants has been the performance of the big left-hander. Along with being tied for 2nd in the NL with 14 WG’s, he’s 3rd in WHIP at 0.994, tied for 5th in SO’s with 154, 7th in ERA at 2.73 and 8th in IP with 158. Bumgarner also has the distinction of having the longest WG streak at nine.
Bumgarner entered his start against the Atlanta Braves on June 14th with a 3.58 ERA and after his 9th straight WG, a 4-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, his ERA had dropped to 2.69. In these nine games Bumgarner pitched 64 innings while allowing only 11 ER (a 1.55 ERA). He averaged over a strikeout per inning with 67 K’s while posting a 6-2 record with 1 no decision. Bumgarner has clearly become the ace of a staff that includes free agent to be and two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, both of whom are having down seasons.
Cliff Lee, the acknowledged Ace of the Phils staff is 10-5 and has 11 WG’s to his credit, only 1 more than Hamels. It’s obvious on a better offensive team and with a little luck, Hamels would have a much better record. As far as I’m concerned you can throw that 5-13 record out the window when talking about Hamels pitching performance this year.
Hamels career ERA of 3.37 and WHIP of 1.144 are both better than the numbers posted by Verlander, Lincecum, Cain, Cueto, Scherzer, Buchholz, Garza, Shields & Josh Johnson. The only pitchers with a similar amount of years pitched (6-10 years of MLB service) who have better career numbers in both stats are Jared Weaver & Clayton Kershaw. Adam Wainwright and Felix Hernandez have a better career ERA, but not WHIP. Based on these two very important stats it’s easy to see why Hamels is considered one of the best SP in the business.
After getting out of the gate with two poor performances Hamels ERA is only .09 points higher than last year’s ERA of 3.05 when he was 17-6. Hamels is NOT one of the problems on this team despite leading the league in losses. His ERA for the three seasons prior to 2013 is 2.97 and his WHIP is 1.095. He’s been a model of consistency over the years and is still one of the best starting pitchers in baseball.