Pitching is the variable that we all struggle with from season to season. Predicting any players future performance based on the past is always filled with uncertainty, and only good detective work can get us close to predicting something that we really can’t predict with 100 percent accuracy. That quest for prediction perfection is even more difficult when it comes to pitchers than it is with hitters. That’s just the nature of the beast. Therefore, don’t be too hard on anyone who makes a mistake or two along the way – it’s just not that easy to do.
Back in March I posted my Top-100 Starting Pitchers article. In PART I I’ll discuss some of my “hits” while saving my “misses” for Part II.
NOTE: Please remember that while some of these “calls” seem obvious, they really weren’t back in March of 2011.
Clayton Kershaw (#7): The NL’s Triple Crown winner tied Ian Kennedy for the league lead with 21 victories, posted a major league best 2.28 ERA, and whiffed 248 batters, just two behind Justin Verlander for the major league lead. He was everything we all knew he could be, an at just 23 years old, it’s scary to think that Kershaw could repeat this effort for years to come.
James Shields (#24): I took a lot of heat for putting Shields in my top-25 after he went 13-15 with a 5.18 ERA for the Rays in 2010. Consider me vindicated. Shields pitched more innings (249.1) at greater effect than he had at any point in his career. Shields led baseball with 11 complete games (only Roy Halladay had more than six, he finished with eight), and his four shutouts tied Derek Holland for the AL lead. Shields also finished third in the AL in ERA (2.82) and strikeouts (225) and was fifth in WHIP (1.04). Spectacular.
Josh Beckett (#26): I wrote all about why Beckett would rebound in Is Josh Beckett Finished? Did you read the article and buy into what I was selling?
Clay Buchholz (#52): I warned everyone to be careful with Clay who was being over drafted because he was a Red Sox and because he posted a sterling 2.33 ERA in 2010. His ERA was still solid at 3.48 and his WHIP of 1.29 wasn’t bad at all, it just wasn’t good enough considering where he was drafted by some (not to mention that injuries limited him to just 82.2 innings).
Scott Baker (#53): He was everything I said he would be this year for the Twins. Baker had a career best 8.22 K/9 mark which led to a career best tying 3.88 K/BB ratio, and some sterling ratios (3.14 ERA and 1.17 WHIP). Unfortunately the injury bug struck once again as he was limited to just 23 appearances, 21 starts, leading to only 134.2 innings.
Jordan Zimmerman (#54): The skills were on full display this year with only the Nationals innings pitched limit, he was coming back from Tommy John surgery, to slow him down. Jordan had a 3.18 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and superb 4.00 K/BB ratio because he simply refused to issue a free pass. He’s good enough to have a whole bunch of efforts like this one.
Bud Norris (#72): He made 30 starts for the first time in his career (31 actually), and posted 176 Ks in the process. His WHIP also came down to 1.33 as he cut a full batter off his walk rate getting it down to nearly the league average at 3.39. I’m considering him a “hit” even though he won just six games because his ERA went down a run, his BB/9 down 1.12, his WHIP was down 0.15 and his innings went up 33.2 from 2010.
Justin Masterson (#76): This guy owns a nice combo of strikeout/ground ball stuff, the ideal makeup for a starting pitcher. He threw a career best 216 innings leading to a career-high 12 victories, and even though his K/9 fell to a career worst 6.58 causing some trepidation, he cut nearly a batter off his walk rate leading to his first K/BB ratio better than two at 2.43. He also keep the grounders coming, 55.1 percent of batted balls, and should be in line for a long and successful career.
Tim Stauffer (#78), Aaron Harang (#82): You can find my season ending review of both of these guys in Pitcher Profiles: 2011 Review.
By Ray Flowers