Editor’s note: Couch Side is very pleased to bring back its annual MLB preseason position power rankings. This year, we will offer two positions every Wednesday and Friday. Each blog ranks the top 10 players at each position and is written by some of Couch Side’s best bloggers. The following is part one of what will be a 12-part series. Enjoy!
BY BRANDON J. SMITH, Couchsideshow.com senior blogger
It’s not too hard to identify who the top starting pitchers in baseball are. High strikeout, high innings counts are the biggest factor when ranking the elite talent in the game. Taking age and past performance to account is extremely important when compiling a list, especially since pitcher health can be extremely volatile.
I’ll start off my briefly mentioning by 6-10 on this list. Names I had to leave off, but probably fit into 11-15 are CC Sabathia, Matt Cain, Yu Darvish and RA Dickey.
10. Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels (20-8, 2.81 ERA, 188 IP, 142 Ks, 3 WAR — 2012 stats) – Excellent control pitcher who generates a lot of fly ball outs.
9. Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies (17-6. 3.05 ERA, 215 IP, 216 Ks, 4.5 WAR — 2012 stats) – Great veteran lefty with an even greater change up.
8. Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies (6-9. 3.16 ERA, 211 IP, 207 Ks, 4.9 WAR — 2012 stats)– Don’t let 2012 record fool you, Lee still has pinpoint control.
7. David Price, Tampa Bay Rays (20-5. 2.56 ERA, 211 IP, 205 Ks, 5 WAR — 2012 stats) – Reigning AL CY Young award winner is only 27 and getting better every year.
6. Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies (11-8. 4.49 ERA, 156 IP, 132 Ks, 0.7 WAR — 2012 stats) – An injury ached 2012 doesn’t erase recent dominance from a future Hall of Famer.
5. Zack Greinke, L.A. Dodgers (15-5, 3.48 ERA, 212 IP, 200 Ks, 5 WAR)
I’m willing to take some flak for this one, but I’m betting highly on Greinke’s upside to put him in my top 5. He has elite stuff, can hurl it up to 95 with a devastating change up and slow curveball. One problem with defending Greinke is that he’s had recent years of ERAs nearing 4, despite his high strikeout output (career 8 strikeouts-per-9); some of it can be explained by the stat Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP). FIP calculates ERA based solely on pitcher walks, strikeouts, and home runs allowed, without factoring things out of the pitchers control like the play of his fielders behind him. So in theory, FIP says what your ERA should be in a perfect world, even while admitting that baseball is never perfect. Here are Greinke’s ERA and FIP the past three seasons.
2010: 4.17 ERA, 3.34 FIP
2011: 3.83 ERA, 2.98 FIP
2012: 3.48 ERA, 3.10 FIP
His ERA being consistently higher than his FIP despite his ability to get strikeouts is odd. For some reason Greinke hasn’t been able to prevent blowup innings, which some might chalk up to his mental fragility. I’m not going to play this card, because Greinke received a massive contract to pitch most of his games in Dodger Stadium, and other favorable pitchers parks in the NL West. Getting to face some weaker lineups can easily boost his numbers to the point where he’s looked at as a true elite pitcher.
BY ROB WHITE, Feedcrossing.com syndication
April is in the books and the Dodgers have led the charge in the NL. The Cardinals have found life without Pujols is not so bad and the Nationals sure can pitch, but can they score some runs?
As is always the case, some players have come from out of nowhere to surprise with their production while others have been flat out terrible. We’re only one month in so much will change, but with a full calendar month now in the books it’s time to nominate April’s National League all-position team.
• Catcher – Buster Posey, Giants – Posey has been nothing short of brilliant in his return from last year’s devastating injury. His .353 batting average was 4th best in the NL during the season’s opening month. He has also swatted 4 homers to go along with 9 RBI. (runner up: Yadier Molina)
• First Base – Freddie Freeman, Braves – Back in March we pegged Freeman as the NL East’s top first baseman. He now exits April as the top first sacker in the league. Freeman is batting .283 with 4 long balls and 18 RBI. (runner up: Adam LaRoche)
• Second Base – Jose Altuve, Astros – Altuve has been scorching the ball to the tune of a .360 batting average. He has also swiped 4 bases, scored 15 runs and driven in 10 for the offensively challenged Astros. He is likely to come back to earth a bit, but there is no denying he was tremendous in April. (runner up: Daniel Murphy)
• Shortstop – Starlin Castro, Cubs – He finished April with a .33 batting average and an MLB best 10 stolen bases. He hasn’t homered yet, but he has 5 doubles, 2 triples and 14 RBI. Castro is also an outstanding defensive player. (runner up: Rafael Furcal)
• Third Base – David Freese, Cardinals – He hasn’t cooled off after his incredible October. Freese ranks 3rd in the NL with 23 RBI. He has also belted 6 home runs and is batting a crisp .333. (runner up: David Wright) (more…)
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.