Official K-Zone Ranking Mike’s Ranking Ian’s Ranking Mojo’s Ranking Guti’s Ranking
1. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) Clayton Kershaw (LAD) Clayton Kershaw (LAD)  Clayton Kershaw (LAD) Clayton Kershaw (LAD)
2. Max Scherzer (WSH) Chris Sale (BOS) Chris Sale (BOS) Corey Kluber (CLE) Max Scherzer (WSH)
3. Corey Kluber (CLE) Max Scherzer (WSH) Corey Kluber (CLE) Max Scherzer (WSH) Corey Kluber (CLE)
4. Chris Sale (BOS) Corey Kluber (CLE) Max Scherzer (WSH) Chris Sale (BOS) Chris Sale (BOS)
5. Steven Strasburg (WSH) Stephen Strasburg (WSH) Noah Syndergaard (NYM) Stephen Strasburg (WSH) Stephen Strasburg (WSH)
6. Noah Syndergaard (NYM) Luis Severino (NYY) Stephen Strasburg (WSH) Noah Syndergaard (NYM) Noah Syndergaard(NYM)
7. Luis Severino (NYY) Zack Greinke (ARI) Luis Severino (NYY) Luis Severino (NYY) Luis Severino (NYY)
8. Zack Greinke (ARI) Madison Bumgarner (SF) Madison Bumgarner (SF) Madison Bumgarner (SF) Zack Greinke (ARI)
9. Madison Bumgarner (SF) Chris Archer (TB)  Zack Greinke (ARI)  Zack Greinke (ARI) Madison Bumgarner (SF)
10. Chris Archer (TB) Noah Syndergaard (NYM) Chris Archer (TB) Kyle Hendricks (CHC) Kyle Hendricks (CHC)
Sleeper Aaron Nola (PHI)

Rich Hill (LAD)

Aaron Nola (PHI)

Trevor Bauer (CLE)

Tyler Chatwood (CHC)

Jacob deGrom (NYM)

Rich Hill (LAD)

Carlos Carrasco (CLE)

Carlos Carrasco (CLE)

Trevor Bauer (CLE)

Aaron Nola (PHI)

 

Starting pitchers are likely the single most important individual in any game. The top tier of starters involves a “big four,” although the order in which they can go is heavily debated. The K Zone unanimously chose to lead off with Clayton Kershaw, who has topped this list for years and years past. Last year he held a 2.31 ERA with 10.39 K/9 and only 1.49 BB/9, a low walk rate perhaps being the calling card of the older version of Clayton. Nationals’ ace Max Scherzer ranks at a contested second. He had a 2.51 ERA with a 2.90 FIP and and 34% K rate last year. Scherzer is the oldest pitcher in the big four, but shows no signs of slowing down, as 2017 actually marked his best season in terms of ERA and strikeouts. Corey Kluber is the #3 starter in baseball, with a 2017 xFIP of 2.52, 11.71 K/9, and 1.59 BB/9. In the second half, Kluber’s ERA was only 1.79, although his more detailed statistics are similar in both halves despite the crazy run. Chris Sale put up almost identical numbers to Kluber in 2017, but ranks one spot below him. Sale’s FIP totaled 2.45 and he struck out batters at a 36% rate, while limiting walks to less than two per nine innings. Steven Strasburg heads the next tier of starting pitchers, beginning at #5. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that when Strasburg is on the field, he can really pitch, like he did in 2017 with a 2.52 ERA, 2.72 FIP. He posted similar strikeout and walk rates as the big four, and allowed even fewer home runs than most of them. Noah Syndergaard missed nearly all of 2017 with a lat strain, but was excellent as a 23-year-old the year before, when his 2.29 FIP was even lower than his ERA. Noah’s 6.9 WAR was near the top of the league, including hitters. Luis Severino has the opposite story, struggling in 2016 but breaking out in a big way come last year. Severino had remarkably a similar 2.98 ERA, 3.07 FIP, and 3.04 xFIP, while approaching a 1/3 K rate. He was assisted on balls in play by his 50.6% ground ball rate. Zack Greinke has returned to grace after pitching to a 3.20 ERA and 3.34 xFIP in 2017 with the typical high strikeouts and low walks for this tier. His 2017 numbers match his career stats well, signifying that there’s a good chance the 34-year-old can continue to help his team. A dirtbike accident cost #9 SP Madison Bumgarner much of 2017, and he wasn’t the same when he came back (although the command stayed, with 1.62 BB/9). However, before then, he was not only one of the most durable, but one of the most consistently strong pitchers in baseball. In every season since his debut, his ERA has been within a reasonable margin of his 3.01 career mark, and every year he has added strikeouts. Tough-luck Ray Chris Archer struck out an elite 11.15 batters in nine last year, leading to a 3.35 xFIP, even though the ERA did not agree. For three of the past four seasons, Archer ‘s FIP has been under 3.40, but a 19-loss 2016 and two years of a high ERA have cost him a lot of attention.

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Sources:
Fangraphs
Baseball Reference

Images Attributed to:
Orange County Register
Getty Images
MLB
Sports Illustrated

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