Predicting Top 15 Starting Pitchers for 2013 MLB Season

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Predicting Top 15 Starting Pitchers for 2013 MLB Season

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The 2012 Major League Baseball season certainly saw its fair share of talented starting pitchers with R.A. Dickey becoming the first knuckleball pitcher to win the Cy Young Award. David Price also finally walked away with his first Cy Young Award in the tight American League race. Where will these two winners rank among the top 15 starting pitchers for the 2013 season?

It is always difficult to rank players in baseball, especially pitchers, when there are so many various injuries that can affect the outcome. Also, if a starter is not getting good offensive support because their team is not performing well, that typically has a huge effect on where that pitcher will be ranked at the end of the season. Baseball is the No. 1 sport in which an individual player must have their team succeed behind them if they want to record an individual accomplishment.

Almost every starter on this list placed somewhere among the top starting pitchers in 2012 but none of them rank in the exact same position. Just because Dickey and Price were Cy Young Award winners last season does not mean they will rank No 1 and No. 2 on the list for top starters in 2013. In fact, it is very rare for starting pitchers to consistently stay at the top of the rankings in all of baseball year in and year out. However, Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw are two starters who have been able to do this over the last few years.

Click through the slideshow to see where your favorite starting pitcher ranks among the top 15 starters for the 2013 season.

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#15 Kyle Lohse

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Kyle Lohse ended the 2012 season with career-highs in wins (16), win-loss percentage (.842), ERA (2.86), WHIP (1.09), strikeouts (143) and innings (211). In fact, Lohse’s ERA ranked eighth in all of baseball while his win-loss percentage was the best. It is tough to say where Lohse will rank on the list of top pitchers in 2013 because he is a free agent with no home quite yet. However, I find it very hard to believe the 34-year-old will be able to repeat anywhere near the same success that he had this past season.

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#14 Cole Hamels

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Cole Hamels finished the year with some of the best statistical numbers of his career after he signed a six-year, $144 million contract halfway through the season. The deal was the second highest ever for a pitcher in Major League history behind C.C. Sabathia’s seven-year, $161 million contract. Hamels finished tied for seventh in the majors in wins (17) and 11th in ERA (3.05) among pitchers who started at least 30 games. The 29-year-old has consistently been one of the top pitchers around but I expect him to fall off a bit in 2013, especially with the Philadelphia Phillies losing talent on offense.

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#13 C.C. Sabathia

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Sabathia had another dominate year for the New York Yankees even though he dealt with injuries. The 32-year-old has been a consistently great pitcher for the past seven years and continues to impress with the Yankees. Sabathia posted a 15-6 record in 28 starts with a 3.38 ERA and 197 strikeouts. It will certainly be difficult to face the fact that the left-hander will most likely be unable to sustain his great success going forward.

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#12 Chris Sale

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Chris Sale’s first year in the starting rotation was a success as he posted a 17-8 record with a 3.05 ERA and a career-high 192 strikeouts in 192 innings. The left-hander’s future certainly looks bright as the first-time All-Star will remain in the rotation and be a huge factor in 2013. I fully expect the 23-year-old to move up this list over the next few years and become a dominant pitcher in the American League.

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#11 Felix Hernandez

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Felix Hernandez pitched another solid season in which he was selected to his third All-Star team and tossed a perfect game on Aug. 15. The 26-year-old may have only had a 13-9 record but most of that can be written off due to limited offensive production behind him. The eight-year professional posted a 3.06 ERA and 223 strikeouts (second most in his career) in 232 innings. Not to mention, “King Felix” had 4.6 wins above replacement, which proves how valuable he is to the Seattle Mariners.

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#10 Zack Greinke

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No matter who Zack Greinke pitches for in 2013, they are sure to have a successful season. Greinke split time between the Milwaukee Brewers and Texas Rangers in 2012 due to a trade in July. The 29-year-old did not have his best season to date but it was statistically his best year since his Cy Young Award with the Kansas City Royals. With a 15-5 record, 3.48 ERA and 200 strikeouts, Greinke was not atop any major categories this past season but I believe that will all change once he gets his monster contract.

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#9 R.A. Dickey

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The 38-year-old Dickey finished 2012 with the best statistical season of his career and because of it won the NL Cy Young Award. Dickey had the second most wins (20), the fourth best ERA (2.67) among starters who pitched in at least 30 games and the third most strikeouts (230) in all of baseball. He was named the National League strikeout, as well as, shutout champion. Even though Dickey has pitched well the last three seasons, it just seems impossible for someone of his age to keep it up going forward, even if he does throw a nasty knuckleball.

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#8 Johnny Cueto

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Johnny Cueto had a monster season in 2012 that was filled with career highs across the board. The 26-year-old posted a career-high in wins (19), win-loss percentage (.678), strikeouts (170), innings (217) and starts (33). Cueto also had a 2.78 ERA that ranked fifth in all of baseball this past season. Not to mention, his 19 wins was good for third in the NL and was a huge reason why the Cincinnati Reds ran away with the NL Central. Next year will be Cueto’s sixth season as the right-hander still has plenty left to prove in his young career.

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#7 Jered Weaver

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Jered Weaver followed up his outstanding 2011 campaign with another phenomenal season in 2012 in which he went 20-5 with a 2.81 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 142 strikeouts in 30 starts. Weaver’s 20 victories were tied with David Price for the most wins in the AL while his 2.81 ERA ranked third. The 30-year-old right-hander is the second pitcher on this list to hurl a no-hitter in 2012 as he accomplished the feat on May 2. I fully expect Weaver to pitch just as strong in 2013 as he did this past season, which means he could very well move up this list.

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#6 Stephen Strasburg

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The extra rest at the end of last season should give Stephen Strasburg an extra edge in 2013. The 24-year-old sensation was elected to his first All-Star game this past year and won his first Silver Slugger Award. There is no question the ace of the Washington Nationals has a bright future ahead of him after posting a 15-6 record with a 3.16 ERA and 197 strikeouts in 28 starts. The right-hander has a chip on his shoulder after being shut down before the postseason so expect to see Strasburg bring the heat next year.

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#5 Matt Cain

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Matt Cain is the second player on this list to throw a perfect game this past year and the third to toss a no-hitter. Cain was also an All-Star and a World Series champion with the San Francisco Giants. If that was not enough, the 28-year-old set career highs in several statistical categories. Cain set a career-high in wins (16), win-loss percentage (.761), ERA (2.79) and strikeouts (193). To be fair, Cain did post a 2.33 ERA in his first season in the majors but it was in only seven starts, not 32 like this past year. The right-hander is a huge star and has plenty of potential to accomplish many more feats over the course of his career.

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#4 Gio Gonzalez

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The Nationals have a bright future with Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez at the top of their rotation among many other talented pitchers. Washington acquired Gonzalez in a big trade last December and the move clearly paid off for our nation’s capital. Gonzalez led the majors in wins (21) while he also set other career-highs in ERA (2.89), WHIP (1.13), wins above replacement (4.5) and strikeouts (207). If Gonzalez’s ERA were a little better, he would have given Dickey a run for his money at the NL Cy Young Award. Of course, there is always next year.

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#3 David Price

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David Price tied for the most wins in the AL (20) while his career-high 2.56 ERA ranked second in all of baseball among pitchers who made at least 30 starts. He also had a 6.5 wins above replacement and struck out over 200 batters for the second consecutive season. For all of this he was awarded the AL Cy Young, a trophy he has come close to winning before. However, the 27-year-old left-hander appears to take every other season off by not putting up anywhere near the same solid numbers which means it will be interesting to see how he handles the pressure next year.

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#2 Clayton Kershaw

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Kershaw is setting new standards for consistency among starting pitchers as he posted an under 3.00 ERA for the fourth straight season. Kershaw was an All-Star and the Roberto Clemente Award winner while he also was named the MLB ERA champion. The 24-year-old went 14-9 with a 2.53 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 229 strikeouts and 6.3 wins above replacement in 33 starts. It is amazing what the left-hander has been able to accomplish in five seasons, which is why he is my favorite to win the NL Cy Young Award in 2013.

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#1 Justin Verlander

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The No. 1 starting pitcher in 2013 will be Verlander. The 29-year-old right-hander is the best starter in all of baseball and has shown no signs of slowing down. After winning the AL MVP, AL Cy Young Award, AL Pitching Triple Crown and recorded the most wins in the AL last season, Verlander followed it up with another stellar year in which he placed second in the Cy Young voting. Verlander posted a 17-8 record with a 2.64 ERA (third best in the majors), and 7.5 wins above replacement in 33 starts. He also led all of baseball in strikeouts (239) and innings (238 1/3). Verlander is my favorite to win the AL Cy Young next season, as I believe he will once again put forth a dominant performance.