Top 5 Starting Pitchers Currently In The A.L. & N.L.
1. Jon Lester - Boston Red Sox
Jon Lester has quickly established himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball during the past three seasons. He came into the league in 2006 but didn't play in a full season until 2008 because of health problems.
During the past three seasons, Lester has won 68.5% of his starts, posting a 3.29 ERA, 139 ERA+, and a 1.23 WHIP.
Lester utilizes a four-pitch mix as a starter. He has a plus fastball from 90-95 mph that he sometimes cuts in on right-handed hitters. He also mixes in a slider, a tight curveball and a plus changeup with excellent movement.
2. Justin Verlander - Detroit Tigers
Verlander has been a full-time starting pitcher since 2006. During those five seasons, he has had only one down year in 2008. Aside from that poor season, Verlander has been an a total ace for the Tigers.
During the past two seasons, Verlander has won 67% of his starts while posting a 3.41 ERA, 128 ERA+, 1.16 WHIP with a K/9 ratio of 9.5. He has also struck out over 200 hitters in each of the past two seasons.
Verlander possesses an ace's repertoire with free and easy velocity from a three-quarters arm angle. He uses a four-seam fastball from 95-99 mph and a tailing two-seamer from 92-95. Along with his dominating fastballs, he throws a hard, tilted slider and a slurvy curveball and changeup.
3. C.C. Sabathia - New York Yankees
Sabathia has always possessed ace-type stuff but really just started putting things together in 2006. He has been a full-time starter since breaking into the league at 20 years old in 2001.
Since 2006, Sabathia has won 67% of his starts while posting a 3.13 ERA along with a 141 ERA+, 1.15 WHIP and a K/9 ratio of 8.
He has a power repertoire which is unusual for a left-handed pitcher. He throws a 92-97 mph fastball and commands it to both sides of the plate. He throws two types of curveballs which he changes the speed and break of and has a good changeup with excellent arm speed and movement.
4. Felix Hernandez - Seattle Mariners
"King" Felix broke into the league at the tender age of 19 in 2005. Besides going through the normal growing pains of someone learning on the job, he has been pretty much dominating since entering the league and hasn't looked back.
Hernandez has really started to put things together the past two seasons and has become more of a pitcher instead of just a thrower. He has won 65% of his starts the past two seasons and this is pitching for a Mariners team that has been awful and given him no run support. During these past two seasons, he has posted an tiny ERA of only 2.38 with a 173 ERA+, 1.09 WHIP, and K/9 ratio of 8.3. It's safe to say he has been the best pitcher in the American League the past two seasons.
Hernandez definitely has ace-type stuff. When he first came into the league, he used to just try and throw the ball by hitters with a fastball that regularly touched 98 mph. Hernandez has a smooth, high three-quarters delivery and creates good deception by turning his back on hitters during his windup. He commands two- and four-seam fastballs at 92-96. He gets outstanding run and sink with his two-seamer and rides his four-seamer up late in the count to get strikeouts. His other three pitches are all outstanding with a power curveball that has tight downward break, a sharp, late-biting slider and a hard changeup with two-seam action on it.
5. David Price - Tampa Bay Rays
He has been in the league only a short time, and has been a starting pitcher an even shorter amount of time, but Price has established himself as a force to be reckoned with. He is the bona-fide ace of the Rays staff now.
Price is a power lefty that put everything together in 2010 and forced himself into the Cy Young discussion. In 2010, he posted a 2.72 ERA along with a 145 ERA+, 1.19 WHIP, and a K/9 ratio of 8.1. At only 24 years old and less than 3 years of major league experience, Price is learning fast.
He attacks hitters with an over the top delivery. Throws a four-seam fastball at 94-98 mph that he rides up in the zone and a two-seamer at 92-94 that he runs away from right-handed hitters. Complements his fastballs with a tightly-rotated curveball that keeps biting, a cutter-like slider and a changeup that fades from right-handed hitters.
1. Roy Halladay - Philadelphia Phillies
I'm sure it comes as no surprise to see Halladay on this list. He has been one of the best pitchers in baseball for quite some time. Even though Halladay has been a great pitcher for a long time, it's only in the past three seasons that he has started to become a big strikeout guy. He has posted over 200 strikeouts in each of the past three seasons and before that he had never done so.
During the past three seasons, two of them with Toronto and one with the Phillies, Halladay has won 65% of his games. He has posted a 2.67 ERA, 158 ERA+, 1.07 WHIP and a K/9 ratio of 7.7 during that span. Incredible numbers for a guy that was just coming out of his prime years.
Halladay is a premier starter that pitches from a three-quarters angle. He commands an 89-93 mph fastball with excellent late sinking movement to both sides of the plate. He keeps hitters off balance with a sweeping curveball that keeps on biting and a plus changeup that has late sink.
2. Cliff Lee - Philadelphia Phillies
It's almost not fair that the Phillies get to have two of the best pitchers in the game in their starting rotation. Having just signed with the Phillies during this off-season, Lee will form a formidable 1-2 punch with Halladay. Lee is a guy that was almost written off following the 2007 season but he turned himself into one of the best pitchers in the game.
From 2008-2010, Lee was one of the most consistently good pitchers in the game even though he was bounced around between four different teams. During that span, Lee won 66% of his games while posting a 2.98 ERA, 142 ERA+, and a 1.12 WHIP. Lee strikes out his fair share of hitters but has never been a premier strikeout guy instead relying on inducing groundball outs.
Lee is a supreme control pitcher with a deceptive over the top delivery. He commands two- and four-seam fastballs from 89-93 mph to both sides of the plate. He makes excellent use of a cutter that bites like a quick, small slider. He is able to command this cutter to both sides of the plate and throws it to both left-handed and right-handed hitters. He takes hitters off his fastball with a tightly-spun curveball and a solid changeup.
3. Josh Johnson - Florida Marlins
Josh Johnson sort of flies under the radar playing for the little-watched Marlins but he is all that and more. He was coming off an injury mid-way through the 2008 season and has just been getting better and better ever since.
From 2008-2010, Johnson won an astounding 73% of his games while posting a 2.94 ERA, 145 ERA+, 1.17 WHIP and a K/9 ratio of 8.5.
Johnson is an elite power pitcher with a big, strong pitchers body. Johnson comes at hitters with an over the top delivery. He throws a powerful 94-98 mph fastball that jumps at the end and he will sometimes cut it as well. He complements his fastball with a sharp, tilted slider that he changes the speed on. He also throws a late-sinking changeup to catch hitters out in front.
4. Tim Lincecum - San Francisco Giants
Lincecum has been a big-time winner ever since getting called up to the big leagues. He won both games he started in the World Series last year over the potent Texas Rangers lineup. Even though has has suffered a mysterious drop in velocity, he is still managing to win a lot of games and strike out large numbers of hitters.
During the past three seasons, he has won 69% of his games while playing for a Giants team that has never had a potent offense. During this span he has posted a 2.83 ERA, 151 ERA+, 1.16 WHIP and a K/9 ratio of 10.3. He has also posted well over 200 strikeouts in each of the past three seasons.
Lincecum came into the league as a power pitcher but doesn't rely on power as much anymore. As I stated before, Lincecum has suffered a mysterious drop in velocity since he first entered the league. He used to regularly throw his fastball 94-97 mph but now usually sits 89-94. He employs an unorthodox delivery and creates deception by turning his back on the hitter during his windup. He takes hitters off his fastball with a power slider that has late bite, a big downer curveball and a deluxe changeup that fades from left-handed hitters. He shows excellent arm speed with his changeup.
5. Adam Wainwright - St. Louis Cardinals
Wainwright broke into the league as a relief pitcher but quickly transformed himself into one of the best starting pitchers in baseball. As a relief pitcher, Wainwright played a big role in helping the Cardinals win their last World Series in 2006. Obviously the Cardinals knew what they were doing when switching him to a starter even though he had great success as a reliever.
From 2008-2010 Wainwright has won 69% of his games while posting a 2.68 ERA, 152 ERA+, 1.14 WHIP and a K/9 ratio of 7.8. He has only been starting a full slate of games during the past two seasons and has stuck out over 200 hitters in each of those seasons.
Wainwright has a compact delivery and pitches from a high three-quarters angle. With a height of 6'7, he has great natural leverage when he pitches. He commands an 89-93 mph fastball that has late life and he moves it to both sides of the plate. His best pitch by far is a deluxe curveball that has tight, downward bite and he will throw it at any time during the count. He mixes in a cutter-like slider and changeup that he throws with good arm speed.