As far as pitching is concerned, the National League is full of studs. I take a dive into some of the league leaders in 2018 and try to find out who the best pitchers are going into the 2019 season. For this list, I will be using 10 different categories assigning value to those who finished in the top 10. At the end, the winner is determined by how many points they accumulate. The max score is 100.
Let me preface this by saying the pitchers I have compiled on this list are from those who were qualified pitchers at the end of the year. Unfortunately this means names like Jack Flaherty, Noah Syndergaard, and even Clayton Kershaw will not make this list due to not meeting the innings necessary. So with that being said, Kershaw, Syndergaard, and Flaherty are among my “honorable mentions” list. Kershaw and Syndergaard have both missed time due to injuries the past few seasons while Flaherty spent the early part of 2018 in the minor leagues. I’m not saying they can’t make their way into the top 10, but they will have to show that they belong there. So let’s get started.
10. Jameson Taillon – 14/100 – Pittsburgh Pirates – 32 GS | 14-10 | 3.20 ERA | 191.0 IP | 1.17 WHIP
Jameson Taillon is turning into quite the pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Coming off a mediocre 2017 season, Taillon improved on his walk rate and hit rate, while maintaining a solid strikeout rate to have by far his best season in the Major Leagues. He threw two complete games including a shutout of the Cincinnati Reds on April 8th. With Chris Archer and Taillon in the Pittsburgh rotation, the Bucs could certainly make the NL Central a little more difficult.
9. Zack Wheeler – 20/100 – New York Mets – 29 GS | 12-7 | 3.31 ERA | 182.1 IP | 1.12 WHIP
The Mets arguably have one of the best 1-2-3 punches in their rotation with DeGrom, Syndergaard, and Wheeler. What I find very impressive with Wheeler is that he has over 180 innings pitched in just 29 starts. He didn’t suffer quite as much as Jacob DeGrom in terms of his record, but his 12-7 record doesn’t reflect how well he pitched for the Mets in 2018. He posted similar numbers in his 2016 season, so I don’t find this season to be a fluke. He’s definitely one of the best pitchers in the NL moving forward.
8. Zack Greinke – 28/100 – Arizona Diamondbacks – 33 GS | 15-11 | 3.21 ERA | 207.2 IP | 1.08 WHIP
2018 marks the 8th season in which Zack Greinke has reached 200 or more innings. That’s impressive. The 35 year old hasn’t really lost a step despite losing velocity. Greinke was among the league leaders in walks, showing off his impressive control. He’s been an absolute horse over his career and I expect him to continue next season.
7. Mike Foltynewicz – 33/100 – Atlanta Braves – 31 GS | 13-10 | 2.85 ERA | 183.0 IP | 1.08 WHIP
Last season was certainty Foltynewicz’s breakout year. The 27 year old had career highs in innings pitched, K/9, H/9, and WHIP. He finished 8th in the NL Cy Young voting and he will be sure to try and exceed expectations going into the 2019 season.
6. Kyle Freeland – 38/100 – Colorado Rockies – 33 GS | 17-7 | 2.85 ERA | 202.1 IP | 1.24 WHIP
When it came down to do this list, numbers 4-6 could have been placed anywhere and I wouldn’t have argued with it. Freeland had a fantastic 2018 season with the Rockies. It’s just his second season in the bigs, but he has surely made a name for himself. He finished 4th in the Cy Young voting this past season. All of his numbers look solid, but an inflated WHIP seems to have been what moved him down my list. He tends to put a lot of batters on base.
5. Patrick Corbin – 49/100 – Washington Nationals – 33 GS | 11-7 | 3.15 ERA | 200.0 IP | 1.05 WHIP
Corbin had showed promise throughout his career, but it all seemed to come together in 2018. So much so that he received a 6 year contract from the Washington Nationals worth $140M. He hit 200 innings for the second time in his career and was one of the league leaders in FIP. If his defense could have backed him up on a more regular basis, Corbin could have finished even higher in the Cy Young voting. But I’m sure he is a happy with a 5th place finish.
4. Miles Mikolas – 55/100 – St. Louis Cardinals – 32 GS | 18-4 | 2.83 ERA | 200.2 IP | 1.07 WHIP
Coming off a 3 year stint in Japan, not many people knew who Mikolas was when he signed a 2 year deal with the Cardinals. But a strong 2018 campaign now has fans calling for an extension for the 30 year old. Mikolas isn’t a strikeout guy, but he makes up for it with exceptional control. He was the only starter in the Major leagues with more starts than walks. His numbers in Japan show that this season may not be a fluke, and Mikolas could return just as strong in 2019. As I said before, 4-6 could be in any order and it would be perfectly reasonable. All three pitchers finished between 4-6 in the Cy Young voting in 2018.
3. Aaron Nola – 76/100 – Philadelphia Phillies – 33 GS | 17-6 | 2.37 ERA | 212.2 IP | 0.97 WHIP
This is where we start to see a separation. Before this the biggest gap was just 11 points, but Nola comes in at 21 points ahead of Mikolas for the #3 spot. At just 25 years of age, Aaron Nola looks to be one of the best young pitchers in all of baseball. Nola actually led the National League in WAR for pitchers with 10.0 WAR. That’s impressive. His strikeout and walk rate have remained relatively consistent throughout his career, but his hit rate dropped tremendously in 2018 allowing Nola to have a fantastic season where he finished 3rd in the Cy Young as well as 13th in the NL MVP vote.
2. Max Scherzer – 78/100 – Washington Nationals – 33 GS | 18-7 | 2.53 ERA | 220.2 IP | 0.91 WHIP
If we were looking at multiple seasons, Scherzer might get the nod, but alas, he comes in at #2. Scherzer as usual was an absolute machine in 2018, leading the league in innings pitched, strikeouts, and WHIP. He’s going into his age 35 season, and while he could regress, I don’t see it being by much. Expect Scherzer to be in the Cy Young conversation once again after finishing 2nd in 2018.
1. Jacob DeGrom – 89/100 – New York Mets – 32 GS | 10-9 | 1.70 ERA | 217.0 IP | 0.91 WHIP
The story behind DeGrom’s tremendous 2018 season is that despite having an absolutely filthy 1.70 ERA, the Mets could not get anything together behind him, and DeGrom finished with a 10-9 record. But forget about that, because DeGrom was a beast in 2018. His FIP was also ridiculous coming in at just 1.99. While some could argue that Scherzer could take the top spot, I feel confident in saying that DeGrom is the #1 guy going into 2019. Until somebody takes it from him that is.
So there you have it. My Top 10 NL Starting pitchers going into 2019. I know some of you might argue that Kershaw should be on the list, but he didn’t fit the parameters that I had set up. It’s entirely possible that he comes into 2019 and shuts me up completely, but until that happens, this is my list. Where there any you think I missed?
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