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 BRANDON J. SMITH, Couchsideshow.com blogger
Dare I say I believe in the Philadelphia Phillies?
Philadelphia does too, apparently. Despite the NFL season starting up and many Philly fans shifting their fandom into the usual griping about Andy Reid’s atrocious play calling and Michael Vick, the Phightin Phils are staying relevant.
Expectations in March were nothing short of contending in the East while Ryan Howard and Chase Utley rehabbed their way back into the lineup, and they’d let the pitching staff carry the load. Much to the surprise of everyone, the offense was nothing short of awful for much of the season, Cliff Lee couldn’t buy a win, and Roy Halladay was struggling.
By the All-Star break, this team was dead and buried, they had traded popular Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence, the pitching staff was up and down, and the investment in Jonathan Papelbon wasn’t quite working out.
With a 3-1 win earlier Wednesday over the Miami Marlins led by embattled ace Lee, the Phillies are a game over .500 at 72-71 and seemingly have new life. Is this surge the result of the players putting their foot down and deciding to play like the team that led baseball with 102 victories, or the convenience of having a healthy Howard, Utley, and Halladay healthy at the time? (more…)
BY BRANDON J. SMITH, Couchsideshow,com writer
Predictions are a great waste of time. They provide opportunities for petty arguments that will last from now until the end of time, now that the season is on our doorstep, it’s time to prophesize the 2012 winners and losers.
• Reasoning: The slightly biased Dbacks fan in me is fearful of a regression by the Snakes. After a modest overachieving season in 2011, whereas the Giants lost all semblance of offense in the stretch run, San Francisco is expecting a full season of superstar Buster Posey, along with the best starting staff west of the Mississippi. A normalized progression of events along with an improved Rockies bunch will make this west particularly wild.
• Reasoning: In all honesty, you can interchange the top three teams in the central, and you’d have a legit chance of making bank in Vegas. The Cardinals lost first baseman Albert Pujols, but they come into the season with a strong team, and ace Adam Wainwright as he returns from Tommy John surgery. The Reds had a busy offseason where they traded for the solid Padre Mat Latos, while signing closer Ryan Madson who is now out for the season. To sure up the back end of the pen, they acquired underrated lefty Sean Marshall, who will see plenty of end game action. And not to forget, they just resigned the premier first basemen in the NL in Joey Votto, who will be in Cincy for years to come. What’s wrong with the Brewers? Not much, I’m having a hard time pegging their success; they are returning the same roster minus Prince Fielder and adding Aramis Ramirez. Aside from that, the pitching staff is still very good, but for some reason, the Cardinals still feel like the team to beat in this division to me. Oh, and let’s not forget they are the reigning World Series champions. (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.