A major league baseball team will only go as far as its pitcher will take them. Although hitting homeruns may make the highlight reel more often than a nasty curveball, the men on the mound are the most important players on the field.
During the 2014 MLB playoffs, it was particularly clear that pitching was the factor, and will always be the factor, in winning and losing. Even though starting pitchers only pitch every five games, without an ace, or even two aces, that team is bound to fail.
During the history of baseball, how many teams have suffered due to the fact that they had too many good pitchers? Not many. Still, at the end of the day and during the heat of free agency, teams are always spending too much money to bring in a homerun hitter that won’t help them win a game when it counts. If a pitcher can allow the opposing team to fewer than three runs every game, their team is going to win more often than not. Pitchers make or break baseball teams, and if you ask any fan of a team that didn’t make the playoffs last season, they’re going to tell you that the lack of pitching was the reason towards their demise.
This list isn’t about the greatest pitchers of all-time or even the best pitchers in the past few seasons. It is compiled of pitchers who you would want to have starting on your team right now at this very moment.
Who do you think is the best pitcher in the MLB right now?
15 Jordan Zimmermann, Washington Nationals
Don’t let Jordan Zimmermann confuse you with the Canadian baseball player Jordan Zimmerman, who only pitched in the MLB for two months in 1999. In a rotation that features Stephen Strasburg and Doug Fister, Zimmermann has proven himself to be the ace of the Washington Nationals rotation during the past two seasons. Although Zimmermann was on the bubble of this list, his no-hitter to end the regular season, followed up by an 8.2 innings pitched, one run performance in the playoffs, proved his worthiness.
14 Garrett Richards, Los Angeles Angels
Richards could very well be higher on this list, but his recent surgery is a little scary. Although the 26-year-old right-handed pitcher is still very young, he’s in the middle of recovering from a torn patellar tendon in his left knee. Injury aside, Richards was a stud last season going 13-4 with a 2.61 ERA and 1.04 WHIP, while only allowing five home runs. As Richards approaches his third true season as a starting pitcher, he should continue to grow and define himself as one of the deadliest pitchers in the American League.
13 Zach Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers
For a 31-year-old pitcher in the MLB, Greinke has a tallied a lot more miles than most. Most pitchers take a little longer to reach the majors, but Greinke jumped into the league at a tender 20-years-old. Greinke has continued to showcase his talents, compiling a 17-8 record, with a 2.71 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, while striking out 207 strikeouts last season. Although these numbers are great and Greinke is still an elite starting pitching the MLB, he continues to play second fiddle behind another Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher, which isn’t really a bad thing.
12 Doug Fister, Washington Nationals
This 6’8” beast from California has slowly transformed himself into an ace, giving the Washington Nationals one of the deepest rotations in baseball. Although he only started 25 games last season (he started the season on the DL), Fister was one of the most effective pitchers in the MLB, recording an impressive 1.08 WHIP and a 2.41 ERA, which were fifth and fourth best in the National League respectively. For a 30-year-old pitcher, Fister looks to be on the rise, but one season of greatness is not particularly good enough to put him higher on the list.
11 Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies
204.2 innings pitched, 198 strikeouts, a 2.46 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and a 6.6 WAR. These don’t sound like the statistics of a pitcher that went 9-9 do they? Put Cole Hamels on a good team and that win/loss ratio would flourish. However, as a starting pitcher, the win/loss column doesn’t affect your credibility as a pitcher, as long as your other numbers are solid. The 30-year-old left-hander is still a prime pitcher in the league and if the trade rumors are true, Hamels should be making another team very happy soon.
10 David Price, Detroit Tigers
Price’s win/loss record has never been consistently spectacular during his seven-year career, but he’s always been one of the top pitchers in the American League. The 2012 Cy Young award winning left-hander is incredibly valuable for his ability to go deep into games, having compiled three complete games last season. Although Price’s hits per nine innings has risen slightly from his Cy Young winning season, Price struck out a league-high 271 batters last season and is a very valuable starter for any club.
9 Jon Lester, Chicago Cubs
Although the newest member of the Chicago Cubs is getting paid as the second highest pitcher in baseball, he only ranks 9th on our list. From a career basis, the 30-year-old left-hander may be worth every penny, but there are still better pitchers in the league. Lester is a very effective pitcher, recording a 2.46 ERA last season, which was the first time he sunk below a 3.00 ERA in his career. Lester was arguably a top-five pitcher in the American League last season, as he finished sixth in the AL with 219.2 innings pitched, fifth in the AL with 220 strikeouts, and seventh in the AL with a 1.10 WHIP.
8 Max Scherzer, Free Agent
At the end of the 2013 MLB season, Scherzer may have been the best pitcher on the planet. His numbers digressed a little after his Cy Young winning season, but he is still one of the best pitchers in the game. Scherzer struck out a career-high 252 batters in 220.1 innings pitched in 2014, while recording a 18-5 record with the Detroit Tigers. The most important number for Scherzer was probably his 6.0 WAR, which ranked eighth among pitchers and as a result, he is bound to get a serious pay raise, as he is currently a free agent.
7 Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians
In terms of surprise stories for the 2014 MLB season, Corey Kluber is probably at the top of the list. The 28-year-old pitcher from Birmingham, Alabama was not on anybody’s radar to win the American League Cy Young last season, but he surprised the league by having a fantastic season. Kluber compiled three complete games, a 2.44 ERA, 7.4 WAR, 1.09 WHIP, and 269 strikeouts in 235.2 innings pitched. Kluber may be a strong candidate to regress in the 2015 MLB season, but for right now, Kluber deserves his spot on this list.
6 Adam Wainwright, St Louis Cardinals
There are not too many pitchers in the MLB that have been better than Adam Wainwright since 2009. Last season was no different as Wainwright pitched 227.0 innings, with a 2.38 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and a 6.1 WAR. Wainwright is a machine and if it weren’t for Clayton Kershaw, Wainwright would probably be the favourite to win the National League Cy Young every season. Although Wainwright is a great pitcher, he is just shy of being in the top-five at this very moment.
5 Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds
Not only would Johnny Cueto make the top 15 list of best hair in baseball, but Cueto is also a monster on the mound. At only 28-years-old, Cueto is in the prime of his career and he showed that during the 2014 season. Cueto hit career highs in many different categories with 243.2 innings pitched, 242 strikouts and 20 wins. He was also sixth in the MLB with a 6.4 WAR, and was only one of four pitchers who compiled a WHIP below 1.00, recording a 0.96 WHIP in 34 starts. Cueto has been linked to trade rumors lately, although the Cincinnati Reds would be crazy to trade him.
4 Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants
Bumgarner had one of the best playoffs of a MLB pitcher in the history of baseball during the San Francisco Giants World Series run last postseason. There may never be a better pitching performance than what he did, as he deservedly won the NLCS MVP, and followed it up with a World Series MVP. Not only can he chug multiple beers at one time, but Bumgarner looked like a cyborg on the mound making hitters look incredibly silly. His regular season numbers were good, but they didn’t blow people away. However, his World Series numbers alone of pitching 21 innings, with a 0.43 ERA, while earning two wins and a Game 7 save make Bumgarner one of the best pitchers on planet earth.
3 Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox
The 6’6” left-hander from Lakeland, Florida is probably the best young pitcher in the American League. At only 25-years-old, Sale was near the top of almost every important pitching category during the 2014 season. In 26 starts, Sale was only able to capture 12 wins, but his 2.17 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and 6.6 WAR were all near the top of the leaderboard. If it wasn’t for an injury during the beginning of the 2014 season, Sale could have easily been the top candidate to win the American League Cy Young award. Sale has a long career ahead of him in the MLB and is the second best pitcher in the American League, right behind this guy…
2 Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
Felix Hernandez has definitely lived up to his nickname “King Felix” over the past few years, and was once again a dominant force in the MLB last season. In 236.0 innings pitched, King Felix struck out 248 batters, while recording a 0.92 WHIP and a 6.8 WAR. Although he can get wild at times, Hernandez had an impressive 27 quality starts, and is the second best pitcher in the majors right now.
1 Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
Forget the disappointing 2014 postseason that Kershaw had. There is no pitcher in the MLB that any team would rather have than Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw was unstoppable last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, winning the National League Cy Young, as well as the National League MVP. With Cy Young’s in three of the past four seasons, Kershaw has proven himself to be the best pitcher in baseball. In 27 starts last season, Kershaw had an amazing 1.77 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, six complete games, and a 7.5 WAR, while striking out 239 batters. Did we mention he’s only 26-years-old? Kershaw is the best pitcher in the game, and should continue to be for a long time.