How does the best pitcher of this era stack up against the greats from the previous three decades?
It’s important, if you want to speak intelligently about baseball in the past or the present, that the past and present don’t stand on equal footing. In absolute terms, baseball players have gotten better over time, and not by any small margin. Even in relative terms, they’ve gotten better: players and the people who support them understand the game better than ever, including the crucial area of anticipating and strategizing against an opponent’s choices and actions.
If you could make every player in baseball history their best selves and have them all play against each other for a year, the WAR leaderboards would include very, very few guys whose career began before JFK was shot. In every way, baseball is better (maybe not as beautiful or as purely enjoyable, at times, but better) than ever. Of course, that kind of thinking can be taken too far.
This list of pitchers is so big. It's huge. Frankly, it's the biggest list to ever come up in this great country.
We, at Baseball Prospectus, have been talking about starting pitchers for a while now (seven days and change to be exact, depending on when you are reading this) and the party continues to rage on. Yet before we rage, we shall calibrate—since rankings aren’t useful without knowing what you’re reading. The list you are about to read here presupposes a 16-team standard (read: 5x5 roto) dynasty format, in which there are no contracts/salaries, players can be kept forever, and owners have minor-league farm systems in which to hoard prospects. So feel free to adjust this as necessary for your individual league, whether it’s moving non-elite prospects without 2016 ETAs down if you don’t have separate farm teams or moving lower-risk, lower-reward players up in deeper mixed or -only formats.
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PECOTA helps pick the best player in baseball for every age, from Julio Urias to Bartolo Colon and all the superstars in between.
I have a vivid memory from my little league days of sitting in the dugout after practice and listening intently as a teammate read Baseball America’s rankings of the best players in the country by age. The best player on our team, who later went on to play Division I ball, was annoyed by the notion of a 13-year-old somewhere else getting so much attention for what couldn’t possibly be (he figured) superior talent. The sixth-best player on our team, who later went on to write this article, found it fascinating that there was a 13-year-old so good at baseball that they were being written about in magazines.
What happens to Clayton Kershaw's shaky playoff reputation if we give him the benefit of the doubt (and better bullpen support)?
One can state that Clayton Kershaw is the most dominant pitcher of his era without receiving much pushback. He’s won three Cy Young awards (and that number could easily be five); he’s led the league in strikeouts three times; in ERA four times; and he’s never posted an ERA higher than 2.91 in a full season. He was said to be the next Sandy Koufax and he has somehow, some way, surpassed that albatross of an expectation.
Welcome to my fourth annual look at retrospective player valuation at Baseball Prospectus. Over the next few weeks, I will be writing a series of articles examining how players performed from a fantasy perspective in 2016. This is the sixth article in a series of six. The first four articles in the series focused on NL-only and AL-only leagues. The final two posts examine mixed leagues, with this article examining pitchers.
Before I dig in, here is a brief description of the charts below. (If you have been reading along for the entire series, note that there are some changes for the mixed league articles).
It's the good stuff. Not like those imitation AL pitchers.
Welcome to my annual look at retrospective player valuation here at Baseball Prospectus. Over the next few weeks, I will be writing a series of posts examining how players performed from a fantasy perspective in 2016. This is the fourth post in a series of six. The first two posts in the series looked at AL-only leagues, the next two shifted their focus to NL-only, and the final two posts will examine mixed leagues.
Before I dig in, here is a brief description of the charts below.
Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen shut down the Cubs, tying the NLCS at 1-1 heading to Los Angeles.
The last time two starting pitchers with ERAs this low faced off in a postseason game, New Coke was still but a twinkle in Don Draper’s eye, and Bobby Kennedy had been dead less than four months. That matchup, as it turned out—St. Louis’ Bob Gibson (1.12) versus Detroit’s Denny McLain (1.96) in the 1968 World Series—wasn’t quite as good as the one we saw last night. Clayton Kershaw (1.69) and Kyle Hendricks (2.13) both acquitted themselves admirably under Wrigley Field’s bright October lights, allowing just a run between them, and together kept this joyful run of remarkable postseason games alive.
On the pitches the best pitcher in baseball has thrown, by one way of measuring it, the worst--and why they didn't hurt him.
An English teacher once gave us a writing assignment: Describe the taste of the best chocolate you ever had, to somebody who has never had chocolate. Without the self-referential crutch (“It tastes like chocolate, but, like, really chocolaty”), how do you convey what makes chocolate good?