ESPN’s Buster Olney listed his choices for the top 10 starting pitchers in Major League Baseball.
Cole vs. deGrom ?
— ESPN (@espn) January 2, 2020
A New York vs. New York top 2 wouldn’t surprise anyone even if it was not merited. Long as ESPN had an east coast bias. This time around, Mr. Olney has a good case. Spoiler alert, he went with the controversial choice. It could be easy (and right) to pick a back to back Cy Young award winner instead of a Cy Young award runner up. Buster Olney did not do that, he picked the money. Thankfully, this is DodgersNation.com and we don’t have to throw pitchforks for the Mets fans who are sure to be upset.
Get To It, Are There Any Dodgers On the List?
The sands of time stop for no man. The fact that there is an article like this that does NOT feature Clayton Kershaw is jarring, but accurate. Clayton Kershaw is not a top 10 pitcher in MLB anymore. Buster Olney did feature him as an honorable mention, though. This is a fair assessment, I believe. Greatness is measured against greatness. When you measure what we have expected from Clayton Kershaw versus what he produces now, it does feel meager. When you judge it at face value, he’s still a top 15 pitcher in the major leagues.
Clayton Kershaw having a 3.6 WAR season with a 16-5 line, an ERA just a tad above 3, and a WHIP just barely cresting over 1, is a season many middling pitchers would call a career year. Accepting that our franchise player and sure-fire first ballot hall of famer is on the 2nd half of his storied career is not a bad thing. It is a good thing, actually. It means we can temper our expectations of him and be grateful that we have him. Expectations cloud what we are given at face value. He deserves the honorable mention.
Yes, our Buehl-Dog is on here. After all, one MLB writer predicted he would win the Cy Young in 2020. The only NL pitchers ahead of Buehler are Jake Degrom, Stephen Strasburg, Max Schezer, and Jack Flaherty. If I was making my own list, Flaherty may not have been ahead of Walker Buehler. The overall numbers were better for Flaherty, but his season was a new event. Buehler has better stuff and a better postseason pedigree, which based on the rest of the list does count for a little. The biggest issue for Walker Buehler in terms of rankings is the consistency. He often would have two outings where he’d look like a Cy Young award winner, followed by two rough outings. This messed with his overall statistics, making him look far worse than he was.
WAR was not kind to Walker Buehler, but WAR is known for its issues in terms of measuring pitchers. The big key to seeing that Walker Buehler was better than his stats, is that his FIP was lower than his ERA. For those who do not understand these statistics as well, I’ll simplify it. When a FIP is lower than a pitchers listed ERA, it often means the results said pitcher received should have been better. Basically, it means Walker’s stuff was better than the numbers may show.
What’s It Mean For 2020?
Even coming into 2019, most people viewed Walker Buehler as the ace above Clayton Kershaw. Before we got Hyun-Jin Ryu’s near Cy Young season, most people viewed Walker Buehler as the Dodgers new ace. This is essentially not a debate anymore, going into 2020. Walker Buehler is no longer the “Dodgers pitching future.” He is the NOW. May, Urias, Gonsolin–those guys are now the discussion in terms of the future.
Clayton Kershaw should be viewed as our number 2. There is nothing wrong with this. This writer is as big a Clayton Kershaw apologist as any. I believe in Kershaw. In reality, he could be even better than 2019 if he makes a few adjustments.
With the loss of Hyun-Jin Ryu, it’s up to one of our youthful prospects to become true rotation pitchers. There are few who doubt this will happen, and the future is bright.