Loyal Full Spectrum Baseball readers may remember an article I wrote a while back about an innovative new stat, one I call Starting Pitcher Valuation (SPv). For a brief introduction to the statistic for those who have not read the article, SPv is a stat that encompasses 1) the number of base runners a starting pitcher has allowed, 2) how many earned runs he’s allowed, 3) how many batters he strikes out as opposed to how few batters he walks 4) and how well he can lead his team to a victory.
I have taken all these stats and “blended” them together, creating a pitching stat that ranks starters (not relievers) on a scale of 100%-0%. This gives analytically-minded fans like you the chance to see one stat that is “easy-to-digest” as opposed to reading a long line of the 10-15 most commonly used statistics. I wrote this article in hopes of providing a weekly “leaderboard” of SPv and to also give my opinions and some notes about how they (starting pitchers) have done of late. Here are your season-to-date SPv leaders (as of August 12th). Enjoy!
1) Jered Weaver (84.87%)- The Angels’ ace has been dealing this year, even in an offensive powerhouse division like the AL West. He’s only lost one game this year and with the offensive production of the Halo’s lineup, he doesn’t seem to have that much pressure on him. With guys like Mike Trout (.340 AVG) and Albert Pujols (Did you hear about his 24 homeruns?? Talk about coming back after a slow start…), any pitcher would feel relaxed on the hill. His fastball isn’t Aroldis Chapman caliber but it’s enough to get the job done.
2) R.A. Dickey (81.19%)- The Tim Wakefield impersonator has looked slightly more human of late, with his ERA going up .74 points since his second consecutive one-hitter. Remember, he still has the best SPv in the senior circut, meaning he is on track to have the best season a knuckleballer has ever had, statistically. His 15 wins are tied for the most in the the bigs, he still makes batters look silly, and he is still very likely in line to win the NL Cy Young Award.
3) Chris Sale (80.96%)- The lanky southpaw for the Chicago White Sox has given his rotation a big boost, even with his young, inexperienced arm. He puts on a show with the radar gun and can shutdown powerful lineups. He does have an advantage of facing some weaker offensive teams in the AL Central, however. Six of his 13 wins have come against the Royals, Indians and Twins. He is a great pitcher but needs a little more experience to convinced me. The addition of Jake Peavy helped him greatly and Francisco Liriano will give him more of an advantage.
4) David Price (79.77%)- The three-time All-Star is on pace to get the most wins of his career and as far as the AL Cy Young Award voting is concerned, he is breathing down the neck of Sale and Weaver. The only thing he actually lacks is a big bat to support him offensively. Evan Longoria coming back will hopefully help with that problem. If any pitcher can help Tampa Bay get a playoff spot from the A’s it will be Price. He WILL have a Cy Young Award on the wall before his career is done.
5) Justin Verlander (78.62%)- Finally on the list, Verlander comes in at fourth place in the junior circuit, quite surprising for the Detroit Tigers ace. In my opinion, he is the most overrated pitcher in baseball. Sure, he has a blazing fastball. Sure, his ERA is under two and a half. But, he has been inconsistent at moments and is on pace to have the most losses in his career since 2008. I will give him credit, however, because he tends to dominate one of my favorite statistics (WHIP).
6) Stephen Strasburg (77.71%)- The Strikeout king is now on the list and he is very deserving. In seven of his twenty three games this year, he has struck out nine batters or more! That is 30.4% of the time. Looking for a whiff? He’s the guy you have to call. His innings limit has been in the news lately and I think if the Nationals want to keep winning he must be in the rotation. We’ll have to wait and see how this all plays out.
7) Matt Cain (76.7%)- “Mr. Perfect”, “Cain-O Insane-O”, “The San Fran Man”…regardless of what you call him, he is still a dominant force on the hill out on the west coast. His ERA is under 3 for only the second time in his career but he’s currently regarded as the best pitcher in the Giants’ stacked rotation. This is due mostly to Tim Lincecum‘s recent struggles, and the fact that most of the rotation is considerably “young talent”. One of his statistics which catches my eye the most is the fact that his walks per 9 is the lowest in his career.
8) Felix Hernandez (76.44%)- “King Felix” is one of my favorite pitchers and I feel he is very underrated. Although he may only have 10 wins, he already has 3 shutouts, leading the league. He continues to strikeout batters (he is nearing his 1,500th strikeout) and his ERA is staying low. His division rivals include the Texas Rangers and the LA Angels, two huge offensive teams. Hernandez continually gets the job done, though.
9) Madison Bumgarner (76.4%)- When looking at the ERA leaders, you could easily think his fellow teammate Ryan Vogelsong has the edge. However, Bumgarner has a higher SPv for a couple of reasons. One, he strikes out more batters and walks less, as opposed to Vogelsong. And secondly, Bumgarner has a better WHIP. Walks plus Hits divided by Innings Pitched is a crucial statistic in the makeup of SPv. The first round pick in the 2007 draft is off to a good start in his career and he makes a good #2 behind Matt Cain.
10) Kyle Lohse (76.27%)- I was very surprised when I realized Lohse had made the Top 10. When we look at his stats, he has the second most wins on the St. Louis Cardinals staff (12, just behind Lance Lynn‘s 13) against only has 2 losses. He hasn’t had much popularity since 2008 when he had 15 wins but the baseball community should know that Kyle still has his stuff. His WHIP and ERA are at career bests and along with Jake Westbrook and Lance Lynn, they are filling the hole left by the Chris Carpenter injury quite nicely.
11) Johnny Cueto (76.18%)- I can truly say that in my mind, Cueto is the best pitcher in the packed NL Central. I say this because he doesn’t allow many base runners, keeps batters guessing and even when things do get out of hand, he can still often get the win. This is because of an offense led by Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Brandon Phillips. These athletes, led by Cueto, will help the Reds gain an even larger lead over Andrew McCutchen and the Pittsburgh Pirates as the season winds down.
12) Jordan Zimmermann (76.14%)- I know I say the word underrated too often, but it’s one of the few words that describes Zimmermann accurately. The reason I feel he hasn’t had instant stardom is due to the fact that, earlier in the year, he lacked run support. At one point he had a losing record with an ERA under two and a half. He doesn’t strikeout very many batters but he doesn’t walk many either. This keeps men off the base, keeping his WHIP low. If anyone on this list will win the NL Cy Young Award in dramatic fashion, it’s Zimmermann.
13) Cole Hamels (75.75%)- This southpaw has been the talk of trade rumors year in and year out, but he remains in Philly, being the only pitcher to have double-digit wins for the Phillies. He also has the most strikeouts, most innings pitched, leads in ERA+ and the lowest hits per nine innings. Once the #2 pitcher to Roy Halladay, he is now the ace of the struggling team. He just signed a huge, $153 million contract, so expect him to stick around for a while.
14) Clayton Kershaw (75.17%)- “The Claw” is the same man as he has been his whole career but isn’t quite as dominant as he was last year. He is in the very pitching dominant NL, hurting his chances of winning back-to-back Cy Young Awards. He strikes out a whole batter less per 9 inning than he did last year but he still has a WHIP of 1.027. He leads the league in shutouts (2), is still the ace for the NL West leading (tied) Los Angeles Dodgers and no longer has to face Melky Cabrera due to a 50 game suspension.
15) CC Sabathia (75.06%)- CC has been on the DL for an extended period of time. I think the Yankees are in a good enough position to where they can retain first place in the AL East without him. If you asked me a year earlier, I would’ve told you that New York couldn’t have competed without Mariano Rivera and with Sabathia out, however, that’s exactly what they are doing. Yankees’ fans just need to hope that C.C. can bounce back from the injuries, and continue on the pace where he left off.
16) A.J. Burnett (74.81%)- I would’ve expected the Pirate’s righty to be higher on this list, with 14 wins and a new beginning in Pittsburgh, however, he is not. Like many of the pitchers ranked above him, he doesn’t possess a high number of K’s. Through 21 starts, he already has the most wins in his career since 2008 in Toronto. Not only does he have a career low WHIP (with 21+ games started), but he has a one-hitter under his belt.
17) Ryan Vogelsong (74.64%)- The reason this guy may not quite be a household name is because he hasn’t performed in the past, as he is just showing signs of greatness. The last season that he had 25 or more starts before San Fransisco, he had an ERA of 6.50 with a 6-13 W-L record. He has redeemed himself, however, in his second stint for the Giants. His two years back have been astounding, posting 249 strikeouts and a 23-13 record. He does walk a few too many, but nothing to worry about. Expect him to have more than one all star selection in his career.
18) Scott Diamond (74.35%)- I consider this young man the only “stud” in the Minnesota Twin’s rotation. He isnt like many of the guys on this list as far as strikeouts are concerned (5.0 strikeouts per 9 innings), but he makes up for it because he doesn’t walk many either (1.3 walks per 9 innings, a league lead). He’s only pitched 18 games, and I really don’t expect the trend to continue, as he allows almost a home run a game. That’s low enough to be a quality pitcher, but not to consistently be on this list.
19) Gio Gonzalez (74.15%)- Gio is one of the best parts of the Washington Nationals “Big 3″ (Strasburg and Zimmerman included). He has the most wins out of all of them (15, 2 away from a career high), he has the league lead in home runs per 9 innings (0.4), and the league lead in hits per 9 innings (6.9). His wicked curveball is similar to those of fellow teamate Stephen Strasburg and Barry Zito. With Strasburg supposedly being out of postseason play, Gio is the man who needs to step up even further, if possible. This would be by walking less and staying consistent.
20) Ryan Dempster (73.62%)- The Texas new-comer is lucky to even be on this list. His ERA has gone up 79 points in 4 games, but I think he still has some success in him. He is aging, however, and is struggling to get wins. He is a great #3 or #4 in the Rangers rotation, and run support won’t be an issue anymore, as it was with the Cubs.
Think one of your favorite pitchers deserved to be on the list or would you like to just discuss Starting Pitching Valuation, contact me on Twitter @pitchingstats or use the comments section below. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have about about this list, how to calculate SPv and/or how to apply its usage to fantasy baseball. Thanks for reading and be sure to check back next week.