Top 15 Starting Pitchers in MLB

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Top 15 Starting Pitchers in MLB

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Over the last few seasons, the value of a starting pitcher in MLB has increased drastically. We now see more pitchers getting $100 million contracts compared to position players, with the recent signings of Zack Greinke over the winter and the record-breaking contracts that Felix Hernandez received, only to be eclipsed by Justin Verlander's deal a few weeks later.

Contracts are not the only thing that has been on the rise in this era of the pitcher. We have seen the number of no-hitters thrown increase as well. Since the beginning of the 2010 season, there have been 15 no-hitters thrown in MLB, including six perfect games. This is proof that starting pitchers have been dominant and have an increased amount of value over the past few seasons.

It would have been crazy to think that someone who plays only every fifth day like a starting pitcher would be someone that would be named the Most Valuable Player, but that is exactly what Verlander did. He showed more dominance in his 30-plus starts than any other position player that plays every day. That shows how much we value starting pitchers in MLB today.

With new statistics that are available today, it is now easier to evaluate the performance of a starting pitcher and compare it to other performances from other pitchers around the league.

There are so many outstanding starting pitchers in baseball right now and it is hard to condense a list to 15, but here are my Top 15 Starting Pitchers in MLB.

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15. Stephen Strasburg

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I didn’t want to include Stephen Strasburg on this list because he still has not thrown a complete season in the major leagues. The only reason he is here is because he probably has the best “stuff” in baseball. Expect him to rise on this list if he throws a complete season.

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14. Gio Gonzalez

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Gio Gonzalez probably has the best curveball in the major leagues, and he used that pitched to rack up 207 strikeouts last year. Gonzalez has had some noted control problems (91 walks in 2011) but he has improved to only walking 76 batters last season.

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13. Madison Bumgarner

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Madison Bumgarner has shown very good consistency over his first three MLB seasons, posting an ERA just over 3.00 in each year. Bumgarner also boasts a 2-0 record with no earned runs allowed in his two starts in the World Series.

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12. Roy Halladay

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I understand that Roy Halladay’s career is obviously on the decline, but I still think he is one the best pitchers in baseball. Injuries were a hindrance last year, as Halladay only made 25 starts. If healthy, Halladay will return to form in 2013.

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11. Josh Johnson

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If Josh Johnson had never been injured in his career, he would be number one on this list hands down. But, injuries have shortened more than one season for Johnson. He will enjoy pitching for the Blue Jays because they will provide him some run support, something that he rarely got pitching for the Miami Marlins.

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10. Johnny Cueto

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Johnny Cueto was only six innings away from winning an ERA title in an injury-shortened 2011 season, where he posted a 2.31 ERA in 156 innings. He followed that with an incredible season last year, recording 19 wins with a 2.78 ERA and finishing fourth in NL Cy Young voting.

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9. Cole Hamels

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Cole Hamels is one the many pitchers on this list that have received a contract north of $100 million. Hamels finally emerged as the No. 1 pitcher in this rotation when he started on Opening Day over Halladay and Cliff Lee.

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8. Jered Weaver

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Jered Weaver has been a threat to win the AL Cy Young award ever year for the three or four seasons. He added to his long list of accolades when he threw his first career no-hitter last season against the Minnesota Twins.

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7. Cliff Lee

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Although Cliff Lee only recorded six wins in 30 starts last season, the veteran left-hander still pitched very well, posting a 3.16 ERA in 211 innings. 2012 marked the fifth consecutive season that Lee threw 200+ innings with an ERA below 3.25.

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6. David Price

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David Price finally proved to me that he is a legitimate ace with the performance he had in the 2012 season. Price posted a 2.56 ERA in 211 innings and won 20 games, and has potential to jump on this list if he continues to develop.

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5. C.C. Sabathia

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C.C. Sabathia is the definition of consistency. In the first 12 years of his career, Sabathia has not had a season where he recorded less than 10 wins, and he has only posted an ERA over 4.00 four times in his career.

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4. Matt Cain

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Matt Cain may not have the individual accomplishments that some other pitchers have, but he has something that nobody other than his Giants teammate Madison Bumgarner has, and that is two World Series rings. With Tim Lincecum’s struggles over the last two seasons, Cain has established himself as the ace of the Giants staff.

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3. Felix Hernandez

Kyle Terada- USA TODAY Sports

Felix Hernandez is a seasoned veteran at this point in his career, but he is only 27-years old. Hernandez is one win away from recording 100 for his career and he is only a few strikeouts away from 1500. “King Felix” has been dominating hitters since he was a teenager and has not shown any signs of slowing down.

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2. Justin Verlander

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Justin Verlander is probably the only pitcher that has the ability to throw a no-hitter every time he takes the mound. Verlander has thrown 200+ innings in each of the last six seasons and has recorded more than 100 wins in that time frame.

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1. Clayton Kershaw

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Many people say that Clayton Kershaw and Verlander are interchangeable as the best pitcher in MLB, but I disagree. In my mind, Kershaw is the superior pitcher, both looking at past performances and projecting for the future. Kershaw has posted an ERA below 3.00 in each of the last four seasons, and has led the NL in ERA in the last two.