The 15 Best Right-Handed Pitchers in MLB
The Top 15 Right Handed Pitchers in Major League Baseball
There have been a few huge contracts given to right handed pitchers this off-season, and in my opinion two of the three are undeserved.
Anibal Sanchez was given a five-year, $80 million deal to be the No. 2, No. 3, or maybe all the way down as the No. 4 starter for the Detroit Tigers.
My next undeserved contract is going to get some heat. Zack Greinke was given a six-year $158 million deal to pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers. This made Greinke the highest paid right-handed pitcher ever before the third big contract this off-season.
Felix Hernandez was given a five-year $134.5 million dollar extension on top of the final two years of his current contract. All said, Hernandez will make $175 million over the next seven seasons. This is the only one that I believe was completely deserved
The reason I think Sanchez doesn’t deserve it is because he is being paid that much to be arguably the third-best pitcher on the Tigers staff. Greinke doesn’t deserve his because he isn’t as good as everyone believes. He wins games, but he isn’t an ace in my mind due to his peripheral stats.
I am a Seattle Mariners fan so maybe I am a little biased with the Hernandez deal, but he is one of the top three pitchers in the league overall and the second-best right-hander. Also, Hernandez is the only player that can consistently bring fans to Safeco Field.
There are many right-handed pitchers making less than these guys who are better than them. So lets find out who.
This ranking will be completely based on my opinion so if you disagree let me know.
#15 Ryan Vogelsong
My 15th-best right-handed pitcher in the league is Ryan Vogelsong. This San Francisco Giants righty pitched to a 14-9 record with 158 strikeouts in 189.2 innings. Those stats aren’t great but Vogelsong is on here because of how impressed I was with his postseason last year.
In four starts, he threw 24.2 innings while only giving up 16 hits and a 1.09 era. He doesn’t pretend to be young at age 35, which is his main difference from most of the top guys on this list, but his journey to the majors has been amazing.
Vogelsong impressed me enough in the postseason that I can look past the slightly above mediocre regular season numbers.
#14 Zack Greinke
Oh my goodness, Zack Greinke is already on here? Yep, this is how much lower I rate him compared to most people. Now let me explain why before you wright me off as crazy or stupid.
I do appreciate that Greinke eats innings. He has only had one season under 200 innings, which was 2011 when he had some injury issues. But he has a 3.77 career ERA and other than his Cy Young season, he has never had one under 3.4.
People like him because he eats innings and strikes out a lot of hitters, but he has only been in the top-10 in the league in strikeouts once.
He had one fantastic season and has been riding the fame ever since.
#13 Mariano Rivera
This list includes closers because I appreciate how much they mean to their teams. I have watched talented teams in Seattle that couldn’t win games because the closer situation was awful.
Mariano Rivera is the best closer of all time, but he is getting up there in age and is coming off of a torn ACL in his knee. He is still going to get his opportunities to close games with the New York Yankees, and his cutter doesn’t need to be mid to upper-90s to be effective.
I know he isn’t the Rivera of old but he will still be incredible for the Yankees.
#12 Jake Peavy
Jake Peavy has been riddled with injuries in his career but when healthy he has been one of the best pitchers in the league. When healthy he has always thrown 200 innings and never has an ERA above 3.5.
He is on the wrong side of 30, but is still fighting for an opening day start against a great young pitcher in Chris Sale. Sale has even been quoted as saying that Peavy deserves the opening day start.
Peavy has the same great stuff as he always had and is still one of the best pitchers in the league.
#11 Doug Fister
Alright, I might have a bit of a soft spot for Doug Fister, a former Mariner who I saw pitch in his last start for the Mariners Triple-A affiliate Tacoma Rainiers, and his first career start in Seattle.
But, Fister is definitely deserves to be on this list. When traded to the Detroit Tigers in 2011 he - with much respect to Justin Verlander’s amazing 2011 - carried that team. Obviously Verlander had an amazing final couple of months in 2011 but you can not win with only one pitcher, no matter how good.
Last year, Fister had some injury issues but I believe that he will come back this year and be the Fister who the Mariners and Tigers fell in love with in 2010 and 2011.
#10 Kyle Lohse
Oh, Kyle Lohse is back in one of my articles.
The only game-changing free agent left still doesn’t seem to have any market around him as of March 4. But last season, Lohse proved that he is an ace as he led the Chris Carpenter-less St. Louis Cardinals back to the playoffs, and he won the first ever National League wild card game.
Lohse is 34 and may have some trouble getting ready for opening day if he waits to much longer to sign, but he will lead almost any rotation he joins and can mentor any young pitchers with the knowledge he gained by working with Dave Duncan.
#9 Johnny Cueto
Johnny Cueto is pretty young at 27, but he has been in charge of his Cincinnati Reds rotation for a couple of seasons now. Along with Mat Latos, Cueto led the Reds rotation to 66 of the teams 97 wins.
Cueto’s 2.78 ERA and 19 wins easily make up for the fact that last year was the first season he threw 200 innings. He only struck out 170, but I don’t think strikeouts are the best evaluator.
Strikeouts work well to project most pitchers but there are many exceptions like Derek Lowe and Brandon McCarthy who are ground ball pitchers. Because of these big exceptions, I have never used strikeouts as an evaluator. Its nice to have a lot, but they are unnecessary to production.
Cueto will once again lead this rotation and I believe he can repeat how well he did last season and take the Reds back into the playoffs.
#8 Yovani Gallardo
Yovani Gallardo is the only legitimate pitcher in the Milwaukee Brewers rotation, but he may make up for one or two of the others.
Gallardo has thrown 200 innings the last two seasons and has double digit wins the last four. His ERA has never been under 3.5 in a full season but it has never been over 3.85.
Gallardo isn’t the pitcher that fans in other cities will go to a game to see, but he has been incredibly consistent over the last few seasons and is the definite leader of the Brewers rotation. He will need to help mentor the younger pitchers, but that may be somewhat difficult being that he is only 27 himself.
# 7 Stephen Strasburg
The youngest starter on this list is Stephen Strasburg. Everyone knows about all of the injury issues Strasburg has had, but nobody denies that he has the ability to become the best pitcher in baseball.
He won't become the best this year, but give him a couple of seasons and he will. His upper 90s fastball, wicked curveball and very deceptive change up probably give Strasburg the best pure “stuff” in the league.
#6 R.A. Dickey
Last year's National League Cy Young award winner is only sixth on my list.
Dickey was fantastic last season for a terrible New York Mets team, pitching to a 20-6 record with a 2.73 era. He threw 233.2 innings and had 230 strikeouts. It was probably the best season thrown by a knuckleballer of all time.
Don’t get me wrong, I love what Dickey is doing and sixth on this list is nothing to be ashamed of, but I am worried if he can repeat last season when he moves into a much more hitter-friendly park, division and league.
He is going to be pitching in the American League East, where every ballpark is a hitters park. He does have a much better team behind him for run support, but he will be pitching against much more offensive teams who are going to disrupt that sub-three ERA.
I would love to see Dickey continue with what he has done the last couple of seasons, but I am afraid he will revert back to the man he was when he was with my Mariners in 2008, when most fans didn’t want to see him come in for any other reason than to see his struggling knuckleball.
#5 Craig Kimbrel
The only other closer on this list, Craig Kimbrel easily deserves to be here. He had a historic season for a closer. His unheralded 1.01 ERA and jaw-dropping 0.65 WHIP were amazing.
Kimbrel is to the Atlanta Braves what Rivera used to be to the Yankees. As soon as he enters the game, its over. Hitters don’t stand a chance against his upper 90s fastball and electric, late-breaking slider. He can throw them both for strikes and has the control to do whatever he wants with them.
Barring injury, Kimbrel may end his career as better than Rivera, and as the best closer of all time.
#4 Jered Weaver
I don’t like Jered Weaver all that much as a man, but when you can miss three or four of your starts and still win twenty games, your doing something right. If he wasn’t hurt last season, Weaver would have had his fourth-straight season with over 200 innings.
Weaver doesn’t strike out a lot of guys normally. He has struck out 174, 233, 198 and 142 in the last four seasons. Yes, those are large amounts, but when you consistently pitch more than 30 more innings than you have strikeouts, you don’t strike that many out.
Weaver’s sub-three ERA over the last two seasons along with his 1.01 WHIP qualifies him to be one of the top right handed pitchers in baseball.
#3 Matt Cain
This Giants righty has easily surpassed his rotation-mate Tim Lincecum. Last year, I would have had Lincecum here and Cain somewhere lower, but Cain really proved himself last year, which even included a perfect game.
He has thrown 200 innings in all of the last five years, and has been over .500 the last four. He has about a 1.05 WHIP with a sub-three ERA over the last four seasons.
I don’t think there is any argument against having Cain up very high on this list.
#2 Felix Hernandez
I would say that some of my bias is coming through by having Hernandez as No 2, but I really don’t think it is. I want to put him No. 1, but that would be a pretty intense mistake.
He has thrown over 230 innings over the past four years with at least 217 strikeouts in each. His ERA has had some inconsistencies with a 2.49, 2.27, 3.46 and 3.06 over the last four seasons.
Hernandez does deserve to be No.2. There was a stretch in July and August last season where Hernandez did not have a start where he pitched under than seven innings. He threw four shutouts, one of which was a perfect game, and won eight of nine games for a team that did not give him very much run support.
In his four shutouts, Hernandez got a total of ten runs - seven of them came in one game. Hernandez has proven that he deserves to be here.
As I said, I would like to have Hernandez No. 1, but there is no chance any righty is better than...
#1 Justin Verlander
Nobody would question who occupies the number one spot on this list. Justin Verlander has been the best pitcher in baseball for the last two seasons. He has only thrown under 200 innings in a full season once. And that year, (2006) he threw 186.
Verlander hasn’t won less than 17 games in any of the last four seasons, and he won 24 in 2011. He never strikes out less than 220 and his ERA has been under 2.5 in the last two seasons.
This 30-year old is ridiculous and will most likely surpass Hernandez to become the highest paid pitcher of all time in the next couple of seasons (at least until Clayton Kershaw signs a new deal).
If you disagree with the order of my list, or have players you think I snubbed and rated to0 high, tell me and we can discuss.