The MLB All-Star Game is less than a month away, thus kicking off one of my favorite pastimes…. speculating who will be the starting pitchers for each league. It probably has to do with the fact that the A’s usually have someone in the running – Josh Outman is 2nd in BAA! All kidding aside, it’s the NL that has me intrigued this year. There are five distinct candidates; few could argue that. Although I certainly don’t consider it to be the end all gauge for pitchers, look no further than the NL ERA rankings to find these five.
The first guy I rule out is Johnny Cueto. To be honest, I wouldn’t even include him had I not known he has the lowest ERA. His numbers are solid, but the 6-4 record is far from sexy and let’s be real, we just don’t hear a lot about this guy. He’s pretty much this year’s version of Edinson Volquez, and look where that got him.
The next guy I rule out is Matt Cain. A friend actually told me today he thought Cain is the front runner right now. His reasoning was that Cain leads the league in complete games (three), wins (nine), and is third in ERA. All good points, but I see some things that cancel those out. The glaring fault I see is his K:BB ratio. 68 Ks to 34 BBs. That’s 2:1 folks. Not only is that obviously the worst among these five guys, he’s also got the worst BAA and WHIP, not to mention the least amount of innings pitched. That 9-1 record looks a lot luckier to me now having said that. I’m happy for the guy though. He’s had notoriously poor run support the last few years, so it’s good to see him make up a few wins.
The other three guys, in my opinion, all deserve it, but I reluctantly cross out Chad Billingsley next. I’m a pretty firm believer in the old practice of taking the best pitcher on the best team. Billingsley and the Dodgers are that. His 9-3 record helps, but the numbers just don’t stand out above the rest of the group. A lot of his numbers, in fact, are similar to Lincecum’s, but Timmy comes out ahead in just about every category. Billingsley has also walked the most batters, however his 93 Ks keep his ratio out of Matt Cain territory. Aside from the win-loss records, choosing Billingsley over Lincecum just can’t be justified.
Speaking of Lincecum, I like him a lot for the fact that he’s the reigning Cy Young winner. Sure, that’s reflective of last season, but to me, that makes him the defending champion i.e. the “top guy.” He’s got 10 more Ks than the next guy on this list and his overall numbers are solid. That win total of six might be his undoing though. To his credit, I can see at least three starts that should’ve/could’ve ended in wins. I would give the nod to Lincecum if it weren’t for……
Dan Haren. Has a 5-4 pitcher ever been named the starter for the All-Star Game? There’s a good chance the answer is no. But, if you take a look at how he got to 5-4, you quickly realize he is FAR better than the record indicates. He has four starts where he went 6+ innings (7 in three of them) and only gave up 1 run. With any reasonable offense, he would be 9-2. Beyond the wins and losses though, you’ll find superior numbers. His 2.20 ERA is second only to Cueto, and he is head and shoulders above all these guys in WHIP (0.81) and BAA (.181) Those numbers are unreal! You know what else is unreal? 90 Ks to only 13 walks. That’s 6.92 K:BB people! Throw in 94 IP – second only to Josh Johnson‘s 98 – and Haren is the clear cut favorite for the All-Star Game start. The best part is… there’s still a month to go and this race could have five completely different guys!