I typically come in here flinging jokes and happiness around like a monkey with his poo, but this week I’m distraught. This list is decimated. As most of you know by now, I don’t rank injured players, and with that angle there are plenty of shlubs at the back end of the list that are barely rosterable even in deep mixers. At this point, I can’t even just say that about the back end. The grossness keeps rising. This week alone we’ve lost (take a biiiiig breath): Chris Sale, Trevor Bauer, James Paxton, Ross Stripling, Kenta Maeda (to the pen), Tyler Skaggs, Jeremy Hellickson, Dereck Rodriguez, Marcus Stroman, Mike Montgomery, and Carlos Martinez (to the pen like Maeda). To make matters worse, we are approaching September when virtually no one is placed on the DL – they just get skipped. That reminds me of what Big Pun’s catchphrase would be if he were a pitcher; instead of “I ain’t a player I just crush a lot” he would tell folks “I ain’t on the DL I just get skipped a lot”. Catchy tune. So anyway, it’s pretty hard to trust anyone on this list beyond the top 15, and I just can’t remember a year when pitching was this bad. But we will not go quietly into the night. We will not vanish without a fight. We’re going to live on. We’re going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!!
- Rich Hill, LAD (+14) – This dude is impossible to rank. I was flabbergasted when the Dodgers sent both Stripling AND Maeda to the bullpen instead of Rich Hill, but of course they had their reasons. Namely money, for Maeda, but it makes sense to limit Stripling’s innings. Hill would normally make the most sense as a candidate to move to the pen given his limited arsenal and an injury history that rivals the page count of War & Peace. Fortunately for Hill (and those who rostered him), he picked a great time to return from the DL and string together five very good starts. In his 30.1 innings since July 20th, he has compiled a 1.78 ERA / 1.02 WHIP, 8.9 K/9, and 3.0 BB/9. He could very well continue this and pitch like a top 15 starter the rest of the season, or he could get injured after his next pitch (which is tonight, as I’m writing this – he could be on the DL by the time this is even posted). I’ll keep raising him as he keeps pitching well, but no matter where I put him it isn’t likely to be a proper ranking for long. With such little season left, I’d be riding him in every league and taking my chances.
- Trevor Cahill, OAK (+15) – As I’m putting this together, Cahill himself is putting together seven innings of one-hit ball and I’m thinking he should be even higher. Cahill has regained some of his velocity loss from last year, which has helped his fastball be less terrible. He is also using it less, since it’s still not good, instead opting for more sliders. It’s a move that has worked out exceptionally well for him, pushing his swinging strike rate over 13% for a career high. Health is the primary concern here, but as with Hill, there’s so little season left (or pitchers left) that you are riding him everywhere until he breaks down.
- Robbie Ray, ARI (-12) – Robbie Ray, you are no southern gentleman. Despite your unassuming name, you have criminally damaged my ERA and WHIP, sir. I was encouraged by his first start off the DL, which was against the Marlins, where he gave up just two walks over six shutout innings. In his nine starts since then, however, he has a 5.55 ERA / 1.49 WHIP with a 4.8 BB/9. Sure, the strikeouts are great at 10.1 K/9, but that’s the only thing keeping him as high as he is. He has also allowed over 40% hard contact, so whenever he’s not missing bats he is usually missing the strike zone or getting crushed. Plenty of starters give up ~35% hard contact, but it’s hard to do that while also walking the farm. His 4.91 BB/9 on the season is the worst of his career, so while I think he’ll improve in that regard, it’s hard to start him until you actually see it.
- Luke Weaver, STL (-12) – Manager Mike Shildt has come out and said that Weaver’s spot in the rotation is secure for now, which is kind of surprising considering how bad Weaver has been. Not only does he have the 4.67 ERA on the year, he hasn’t been tossing enough innings to qualify for the wins or quality starts we desire. In three of his last five starts he’s lasted four innings or less. He gets the Dodgers his next time out, which is a matchup I want no part of. It’s hard to see him regaining enough value to ensure a rotation spot when Michael Wacha returns, so I’d be looking for other options if I had Weaver.
- German Marquez, COL (SP76) – The “Coors Kielbasa” as I like to call him is more than welcome on this list. It’s overdue, in fact. His 4.51 ERA on the year doesn’t inspire confidence, but he’s been quite good over eight starts since June 30th. Over that span he has produced a 2.91 ERA / 1.01 WHIP with a remarkable 10.6 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9. The whiff rates on his slider and curveball have doubled since the start of the season, which is even more impressive since he has pitched plenty at home over the recent months. Coors notoriously hurts breaking pitches, but Marquez appears dead set on succeeding anyway. He could make another big jump next week with another solid start.
- Sean Reid-Foley, TOR (SP87) – It was Touki Toussaint who had the more impressive debut last week, but he’s looking like more of a spot starter down the stretch. Reid-Foley seems to have a rotation spot laid out for him, so long as he doesn’t pitch his way out of it. He sure tried to do just that today with eight earned runs over 4.1 innings, but it did come at the hands of a tough Yankees offense. He’s just 22 so perhaps more seasoning at Triple-A is to come, and while he’s up I don’t expect much more than back-end numbers out of him in 2018. He does feature a solid four-pitch mix and a big frame that ensures he’ll remain a starter, but he is apt to be maddeningly inconsistent. I’d only give him a look if I were desperate in a deep league.
The Top 100 Starting Pitchers
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