Starting pitcher is arguably the most important position in baseball. If your starter has a bad game, chances are your team doesn’t win. The 2016 season saw the regulars dominate in Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner; it also saw tragedy in the death of young Jose Fernandez.
Below are what I believe are the top ten starting pitchers entering 2017 in MLB. These rankings are based on a number of factors, including ERA, innings pitched, durability, number of starts, and WAR. Starting pitching is crucial to a team’s success, and here are the top 10 starters in MLB right now.
10: Aaron Sanchez, Toronto Blue Jays
Sanchez’s inclusion on this list may be a surprise to some, but since he has been in the big leagues, he has been a dominant starter and reliever. In his first full season starting last year, covering 30 starts and 192 innings pitched, Sanchez had a 3.00 ERA and a 15-2 record. Sanchez, who is still very young, has a incredible fastball to go with a great off-speed pitches and is on his way to stardom.
9: David Price, Boston Red Sox
The left hander had a rough start in Boston, but many think he will rebound. Price is always counted on every fifth day and you know exactly what you will be getting from him every start. With Boston last season, Price started 35 games with a 3.99 ERA, a 17-9 record, two complete games, and a 1.204 WHIP. Price figures to be one of the three dominant starters on the Red Sox
8: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
Continuing with AL pitchers, the King comes in at 8. Hernandez has been one of the best pitchers in baseball for the past several years. He holds a career record of 154-109 with a 3.16 ERA and 2415.2 innings pitched. Last season was an okay year for Felix as he dealt with injuries, which is rare for him as from 2006-15 he started in at least 30 games. In 2015 when Hernandez was healthy, he had a 18-9 record, with a 3.53 ERA and pitched in 201.2 innings.
7: Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs
Arrieta was the ace of a very good Cubs rotation last season which won the World Series. He won the NL Cy Young Award in 2015 with a 22-6 record and a 1.77 ERA in 229.0 innings pitched. That season was definitely hard to duplicate, and Arrieta’s 2016 season was a bit worse, which was expected. Last season, Arrieta finished with an 18-8 record with a 3.10 ERA, and just short of 200 innings. Arrieta figures to help the Cubs again next season as they look to go back to back.
6: Jon Lester, Chicago Cubs
Arrieta’s teammate Lester has been incredible for the Cubs since signing with them two years ago. In his two years with the Cubs, Lester is 30-17 with a combined ERA of 2.89 and over 200 innings in each season. Lester has been an absolute workhorse for the Cubs as he looks to repeat his performance next season in hopes of winning another title.
5: Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox
Not often does a top-five pitcher in MLB get traded, but Sale was one of them, as the Chicago White Sox traded him to the Red Sox this offseason, and Sale comes in already as the second Red Sox pitcher on this list. Last season with Chicago, Sale had a 3.34 ERA with six complete games and a record of 17-10. Sale will look to continue his dominance as he moves to the AL East; the division has several hitters ballparks, but Sale has dominated the Blue Jays and Yankees in the past.
4: Rick Porcello, Boston Red Sox
The third Red Sox pitcher on this list as Boston arguably has the best rotation in baseball. Porcello is also the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner after an incredible year for the Red Sox. Porcello was the unlikely ace for Boston; Price struggled a bit, but Porcello stepped up and led the Red Sox to the top of the AL East. Porcello had a outstanding record of 22-4 along with a 3.15 ERA and 223 innings pitched. It will be interesting to see what the Red Sox do with their rotation and if Porcello and Sale can be the same pitchers as last year.
3: Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals
Scherzer has been the ace of the Nationals since signing that massive contract. He has been lights out starting games for the Nats, as last season he had a 20-7 record with a 2.96 ERA in 34 starts. Scherzer also had one complete game to go with 228.1 innings pitched. It all added up to Scherzer winning the NL Cy Young Award.
2: Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants
This one was a toss up for first place, and MadBum goes into second. Bumgarner has led the Giants to three World Series championships in the past 7 seasons. He has been the ace of the Giants for quite some time now — he hasn’t lost 10 or more games since 2014, and the last season he didn’t win more than 10 games was his first full season in 2010 when he was 7-6. Last season, Bumgarner was 15-9 with a 2.74 ERA in 34 starts while throwing 226.2 innings. He finished fourth in Cy Young voting and 16th in MVP voting.
1: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
The best pitcher in baseball has to be Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw is still young at 28, an age at which many pitchers hit their prime, and Kershaw shows no signs of slowing down. Kershaw is a three-time NL Cy Young Award winner and a one-time MVP winner also. Kershaw has also led the Dodgers to five straight NL West division championships. The only knock on Kershaw is he hasn’t won a World Series yet, but it seems like he could very soon. Last season in an injury-derailed year, Kershaw still started 21 games and pitched 149 innings, finishing with a 12-4 record and a 1.69 ERA.
Justin Verlander: Verlander was robbed of the AL Cy Young last season, but I’m not convinced he can do that again in 2017.
Jose Fernandez: Although Fernandez had a tragic death in 2016, he was a bright spot on the Marlins and would have been on this list if he didn’t pass away. #RIPJF16