Spring Training Teasers: Couch Side’s top five MLB pitchers for 2012
As pitchers and catchers reported to their respective camps during the past few days, Couch Side also has Spring Training fever.
And with the Major League Baseball season about a month away, we’ve decided to begin a look into the top players at each position. So here is our fist in a series of 12 blogs in which we will break down the top five players at each position during the next few weeks. Couch Side’s own Trevor Gould appropriately chose to start our series off with starting pitchers. Here is who he sees as this year’s movers and shakers from the hill.
1. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
Last year, Justin Verlander almost singlehandedly redefined the definition of domination. The right-handed fire-baller posted a league high 24 wins along with a stellar 2.40 ERA, scintillating 250 punch-outs, and a .92 WHIP, the lowest in the league. Major League Baseball rewarded Verlander handsomely for his accomplishments by handing him both the AL Cy Young and league MVP award. Verlander’s pitches often exceed 100 MPH, and he is able to accurately pinpoint all areas of the strike zone, keeping hitters constantly guessing. Thanks to the Tigers’ offensive potency and the recent addition of power bat Prince Fielder, Verlander has a very good chance of racking up an equally gaudy number of wins this season.
2. Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies
In the world of professional baseball, Roy “Doc” Halladay is the very definition of a consummate professional. The 6-foot-6, 230 pound two-time Cy Young winning pitching guru finished off the 2011 season with a 2.35 ERA, 220 strikeouts, and a 19-6 starting record. Doc’s dedication towards physical fitness along with his tireless work ethic has helped cement him as one of the most consistent and dominant hurlers in the game today. He stands fearlessly atop the mound and throws some of the nastiest stuff in the league.
3. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
Steady statistical progression indicated Clayton Kershaw was due for a huge 2011 campaign, and he did not disappoint. The 23-year old southpaw went 21-5 while posting a superb 2.28 ERA and fanning 248 batters on his way to winning the NL Cy Young Award and breaking Tim Lincecum’s stranglehold of dominance over NL hitters. Kershaw is young and his dynamic arsenal of pitches is lethal, especially his deadly curve ball, one of the game’s best. What makes his success that much more extraordinary is that he was able to pull out 21 wins with the weak Dodgers offense sputtering behind him. Kershaw is no fluke, he is here to stay, and gives Los Angeles a young stud pitcher to place their hopes and dreams upon.
4. Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies
Just because he is playing second fiddle to Roy Halladay in the Phillies’ pitching rotation doesn’t mean Cliff Lee is a pushover. The 6-foot-3, 190 pound veteran lefty hurler sports some of the best control and precision in the league, and is virtually immune from getting emotionally rattled. In 2011 Lee compiled a 2.40 ERA, striking out 238 while boasting a WHIP of 1.03, while going on to achieve a 17-8 record. His wide variety of pitches: 4-seam fastball, 2-seam fastball, slider, circle change, and knuckle curve cause nightmarish guessing problems for even the best hitters in the league. Expect him to continue to deliver some of the best pitching in baseball.
5. Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants
From a physical appearance standpoint, Tim Lincecum is a complete conundrum. He is lanky individual with long, wavy black hair who weighs no more than 175 pounds and stands slightly below six foot. But appearances can be incredibly deceiving, and no pitcher has done more to prove that theory then Lincecum. Ever since stepping into the league he has been a strikeout machine, his unorthodox delivery and potent pitching arsenal winning him back-to-back NL Cy Young Awards and helping the Giants to a World Series Championship in 2010. His split-changeup is absolutely filthy, and is infamously difficult to make contact with. Despite experiencing a career high 86 walks in 2011, Lincecum still managed to fan 220 batters and finish the regular season with a 2.74 ERA. His mediocre 13-14 record was due mostly to lackluster Giants’ bats, and while many have dubbed 2011 as a down year for Lincecum, it just shows how high the bar has been raised for him. Even in a “down year” Lincecum deserves to me mentioned amongst the league’s elite hurlers.