Pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer (Photos by The Associated Press)

Top Ten Cumulative Pitching Leaders of the 2010s

As we sit here on Valentine’s Day 2018, pitchers and catchers have reported and we are just a month and a half away from the start of the new season. The last time we saw any real MLB action was all the way back on November 1st. On that date, the Houston Astros won their first World Series championship defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 7. This already feels like a lifetime ago, and the slowest off-season in generations has not been helping fans cope.

To get back into the swing of things I decided I wanted to take a look at how this decade of the MLB, starting in 2010, has gone so far. I have no thesis or theory for this series, just pure baseball stats to enjoy. I will be starting off by taking a look at the top ten cumulative leaders from 2010-2017, then take a look the best individual seasons in that time frame.

We are likely to see the names we all know on these lists, players like Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Mike Trout, Joey Votto, etc… However, I will be interested to see the surprise names that show up on these lists. I will be curious to see which players I have forgotten or never knew were so good. Ultimately, I am hungry for the MLB season to start and browsing stat pages is how I get through the off-season.

Today we are starting off with starting and relief pitcher top ten leaders, moving on to top ten individual pitching seasons next.

The Pitchers Cumulative 2010-2017 Top Ten Stat Leaders

Starting Pitchers   Relief Pitchers
     
Top Ten Starting Pitcher fWAR Leaders   Top Ten Relief Pitcher fWAR Leaders
     
1. Clayton Kershaw – 52.1   1. Craig Kimbrel – 17.5
2. Max Scherzer – 39.7   2. Kenley Jansen – 17.3
3. Justin Verlander – 39.6   3. Aroldis Chapman – 15.7
4. David Price – 36.0   4. David Robertson – 12.8
5. Zack Greinke – 34.4   5. Greg Holland – 10.9
6. Chris Sale – 33.6   6. Andrew Miller – 10.5
7. Felix Hernandez – 33.0   7. Koji Uehara – 10.2
8. Jon Lester – 31.1   8. Dellin Betances – 9.7
9. Cole Hamels – 30.5   9. Mark Melancon – 9.2
10. Madison Bumgarner – 29.4   10. Jonathan Papelbon – 9.0
     
Top Ten Starting Pitcher FIP Leaders   Top Ten Relief Pitcher FIP Leaders
     
1. Jose Fernandez – 2.44   1. Craig Kimbrel – 1.81
2. Clayton Kershaw – 2.45   2. Kenley Jansen – 1.84
3. Noah Syndergaard – 2.61   3. Aroldis Chapman – 1.96
4. Cliff Lee – 2.80   4. Andrew Miller – 2.19
5. Stephen Strasburg – 2.83   5. Ken Giles – 2.25
6. Corey Kluber – 2.93   6. Dellin Betances – 2.27
7. Chris Sale – 2.96   7. Sean Marshall – 2.29
8. Jacob deGrom – 3.07   8. Wade Davis – 2.37
9. James Paxton – 3.09   9. Greg Holland – 2.45
10. Adam Wainwright/Lance McCullers – 3.14 10. Sean Doolittle – 2.48
     
Top Ten Starting Pitcher ERA Leaders   Top Ten Relief Pitcher ERA Leaders
     
1. Clayton Kershaw – 2.20   1. Zach Britton – 1.58
2. Jose Fernandez – 2.58   2. Wade Davis – 1.65
3. Noah Syndergaard – 2.90   3. Craig Kimbrel – 1.80
4. Cliff Lee – 2.95   4. Mariano Rivera – 1.95
5. Kyle Hendricks – 2.95   5. Kenley Jansen – 2.08
6. Jacob deGrom – 2.98   6. Chris Devenski – 2.14
7. Chris Sale – 3.02   7. Andrew Miller – 2.15
8. Madison Bumgarner – 3.02   8. Aroldis Chapman – 2.21
9. Johnny Cueto – 3.03   9. Jonny Venters – 2.23
10. Felix Hernandez – 3.06   10. Mike Montgomery – 2.29
     
Top Ten Starting Pitcher Innings Pitched Top Ten Relief Pitcher Innings Pitched
     
1. Justin Verlander – 1705.0   1. Tyler Clippard – 587.2
2. Max Scherzer – 1670.2   2. Luke Gregerson – 524.0
3. Clayton Kershaw – 1656.1   3. Matt Belisle – 518.2
4. James Shields – 1636.0   4. David Robertson – 513.1
5. R.A. Dickey – 1627.2   5. Brad Ziegler – 510.2
6. Jon Lester – 1626.1   6. Jim Johnson – 497.2
7. Cole Hamels – 1622.2   7. Fernando Rodney – 491.0
8. Felix Hernandez – 1597.1   8. Joe Smith – 483.0
9. David Price – 1594.1   9. Joaquin Benoit – 477.1
10. Zack Greinke – 1567.2   10. Kenley Jansen – 477.0
     
Top Ten Starting Pitcher K/9   Top Ten Relief Pitcher K/9
     
1. Jose Fernandez – 11.25   1. Aroldis Chapman – 14.85
2. Yu Darvish – 11.04   2. Craig Kimbrel – 14.77
3. Chris Sale – 10.55   3. Dellin Betances – 14.47
4. Stephen Strasburg – 10.54   4. Andrew Miller – 13.98
5. Robbie Ray – 10.51   5. Kenley Jansen – 13.98
6. Danny Salazar – 10.51   6. Edwin Diaz – 13.54
7. Noah Syndergaard – 10.31   7. Michael Feliz – 12.79
8. Max Scherzer – 10.28   8. Carlos Marmol – 12.76
9. Lance McCullers – 10.28   9. Carl Edwards Jr. – 12.62
10. Clayton Kershaw – 9.97   10. Corey Knebel – 12.51
     
Top Ten Starting Pitcher BB/9   Top Ten Relief Pitcher BB/9
     
1. Cliff Lee – 1.24   1. Edward Mujica – 1.34
2. Josh Tomlin – 1.27   2. Dan Otero – 1.37
3. Carl Pavano – 1.51   3. Mariano Rivera – 1.39
4. Bartolo Colon – 1.54   4. Koji Uehara – 1.43
5. Masahiro Tanaka – 1.68   5. Wilton Lopez – 1.54
6. Dan Haren – 1.74   6. Evan Scribner – 1.54
7. Roy Halladay – 1.75   7. Roberto Osuna – 1.69
8. Jeff Karstens – 1.77   8. Seth Maness – 1.71
9. Hisashi Iwakuma – 1.79   9. Sean Doolittle – 1.75
10. Josh Collmenter – 1.80   10. Casey Fien – 1.78
     
Top Ten Starting Pitcher HR/9   Top Ten Relief Pitcher HR/9
     
1. Tyson Ross – 0.59   1. Sean Marshall – 0.31
2. Jose Fernandez – 0.59   2. Javier Lopez – 0.31
3. Clayton Kershaw – 0.60   3. Zach Britton – 0.32
4. Jarred Cosart – 0.61   4. Brad Ziegler – 0.35
5. Chad Billingsley – 0.61   5. Jonny Venters – 0.35
6. Lance McCullers – 0.64   6. Mike Montgomery – 0.36
7. Adam Wainwright – 0.66   7. Kyle Barraclough – 0.39
8. James Paxton – 0.66   8. Wade Davis – 0.39
9. Josh Johnson – 0.66   9. Bobby Parnell – 0.41
10. Garrett Richards – 0.67   10. Luis Avilan/Rafael Perez – 0.41
     
Top Ten Starting Pitcher Wins   Top Ten Relief Pitcher Saves
     
1. Max Scherzer – 132   1. Craig Kimbrel – 291
2. Clayton Kershaw – 131   2. Kenley Jansen – 230
3. Justin Verlander – 123   3. Fernando Rodney – 230
4. Zack Greinke – 122   4. Jonathan Papelbon – 217
5. Jon Lester – 117   5. Aroldis Chapman – 204
6. David Price – 116   6. Huston Street – 195
7. Gio Gonzalez – 110   7. Francisco Rodriguez – 194
8. Madison Bumgarner – 104   8. Greg Holland – 186
9. Rick Porcello – 104   9. Mark Melancon – 179
10. Felix Hernandez/Johnny Cueto – 102 10. Jim Johnson – 165

Thoughts On These Leaders

  • fWAR Top Ten Leaders

    • On the starting pitcher side, everyone makes sense to be there, but it’s interesting to see Cole Hamels there as someone who was never really a top guy, but has been consistently good for a long time.
    • For the relievers, starting with Kimbrel, Jansen, and Chapman, anyone else being up there would be a shock. These three pitchers are the pinnacle of relievers post-Mariano Rivera. What is surprising, however, is seeing David Robertson fourth on the list, and by a good amount. Another surprise is seeing Koji Uehara 7th on the list. Uehara was a very underrated reliever during this decade, and this could be because he never had more than 26 saves in a season.
  • FIP Top Ten Leaders

    • It is interesting to see younger, less heralded pitchers such as James Paxton and Lance McCullers on this list ahead of guys like Roy Halladay (3.17), David Price (3.17), Max Scherzer (3.18), Zack Greinke (3.20), Felix Hernandez (3.24), Justin Verlander (3.32), and some other top pitchers in that time frame.
    • Cliff Lee may not have a HOF resume, but has one of the best peaks of this generation. Lee comes in at fourth on the FIP list with a stellar 2.80 FIP despite never quite having the same ace reputation as guys like Verlander, Scherzer, Kershaw, or Halladay.
    • Seeing Sean Marshall on this list reminds me of just how great he was for a four-year stretch after becoming a reliever for the Cubs and one year on the Reds, and it’s a shame he pitched just 24.1 innings pitched after his age 30 season.
    • Sean Doolittle has been one of the more under-the-radar reliever pitchers of the decade, putting up several valuable seasons (four at 1.6 fWAR or higher since 2012). There are several other relievers I would have believed to have a better FIP in that time, but Doolittle keeps proving how good he actually is each season.
  • ERA Top Ten Leaders

    • Once again we have pretty much all of the usual suspects on the starting pitchers list, being lead by a country mile with Clayton Kershaw and his insane 2.20 ERA. Next up is Jose Fernandez at 2.58, and no one else until Noah Syndergaard all the way up to 2.90. It’s always sad to see Fernandez on these lists for what could have been and what ended up happening.
    • Kyle Hendricks is really the only lone surprise on the starting pitchers list, appearing tied for fourth with Cliff Lee with a 2.95 ERA, beating out many excellent pitchers.
    • Looking at the relief pitchers, it is a bit of a shock to me to see Zach Britton leading the pack with a minuscule 1.58 ERA. If I had to bet money, I would have gone with Wade Davis or Craig Kimbrel.
    • In the “what could have been” category, Jonny Venters is ninth on the list with a 2.23 ERA. In the early 2010s, no bullpen scared me more than the Braves. They had Eric O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters, and Craig Kimbrel closing out games. These guys were the real deal and any lead for the Braves seven innings in looked locked down. Sadly for Venters, injuries kept him out of the league from 2013-2015, and he has pitched just 27.2 innings in the Rays farm system with no MLB appearances over the last two seasons.
  • Innings Pitched Top Ten Leaders

    • Would you have believed that James Shields and R.A. Dickey are fourth and fifth in innings pitched the last eight seasons? I knew both were known for their durability, but it’s still a little odd to see them with so many innings in that time.
    • On the relief pitcher list, there are a couple of great pitchers, but when looking at the names you see more reliability than greatness.
  • K/9 Top Ten Leaders

    • Jose Fernandez leads the starting pitchers with a ridiculous 11.25 K/9, with newly signed Yu Darvish just behind at 11.04. Nothing surprising on this list, seeing all guys who throw heat and have awesome stuff. I understand why Robbie Ray is there after watching him strike out approximately 47 Dodgers in one game during last season.
    • K/9 is where Aroldis Chapman earns his money, striking out nearly 15 per 9 innings at 14.85. Craig Kimbrel and Chapman’s teammate Dellin Betances are just behind him thought at 14.77 and 14.47 K/9, with star relievers Andrew Miller and Kenley Jansen just a bit behind them at 13.98 K/9. You look at the top five here and just nod your head just thinking about their sheer dominance the last eight or so seasons.
  • BB/9 Top Ten Leaders

    • BB/9 is where you start to see less great pitchers, and a lot more control artists. Guys like Josh Tomlin, Carl Pavano, Bartolo Colon, Jeff Karstens, and Josh Collmenter are not bad pitchers but don’t do a lot of other things all that well in comparison to not allowing walks.
    • There are definitely some great pitchers on this list, leading off with Cliff Lee’s incredibly low 1.24 BB/9, as well as Masahiro Tanaka at 1.68 BB/9, Dan Haren at 1.74 BB/9, and Roy Halladay at 1.75 BB/9.
    • Much like the starting pitcher’s list, the relief pitcher list is a mixed bag with Edward Mujica, Evan Scribner, Seth Maness, and Casey Fien appearing on it, while seeing great relievers in Uehara, Mariano Rivera, Roberto Osuna, and Sean Doolittle.
  • HR/9 Top Ten Leaders

    • This list has some very interesting names on it as far as the starting pitchers. Tyson Ross leads it off tied with Jose Fernandez at 0.59 HR/9, followed closely by Clayton Kershaw at 0.60 HR/9. Anyone who watched Fernandez and Kershaw knows that one of the things they do best is not allowing home runs, but seeing Ross lead the list is pretty cool. I’m sure Petco helped, though.
    • After those three, seeing Jarred Cosart, Chad Billingsley, Josh Johnson and Garrett Richards is something. Outside of Cosart, the other three were All-Star levels pitchers but faced either inconsistency year-to-year or injuries keeping them off the field. While Billingsley and Johnson’s careers are over, and sadly they did not get to have the great careers everyone envisioned, Richards is still young enough to attempt it if he can stay on the field.
  • Wins and Saves Top Ten Leaders

    • If there was a re-draft of the 2006 MLB draft, it is very likely the top two wins leaders, Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw, would absolutely be the consensus one and two selections. That is really saying something when you also have another two-time Cy Young winner in Tim Lincecum, a star 3B in Evan Longoria, and an elite shutdown reliever in Andrew Miller.
    • The wins list is filled with almost everyone you would expect, all perennial All-Star and Cy Young contenders. The most puzzling name on the list to me is Rick Porcello, and perhaps oddly so. While Porcello does have a Cy Young award to his name, no one expected it nor expects him to get back to that point again. Then again, wins as a stat don’t properly show how good or bad a pitcher is, so it doesn’t really matter too much.
    • On the saves side, a stat just as important (or not) as wins, Kimbrel leads the pack by an insane 61 save margin over Kenley Jansen and Fernando Rodney. The list has pretty much everyone you would expect, though I must say it’s a bit surprising to see Francisco Rodriguez still chugging along after so long and at his age.

When it comes down to it, this decade of pitching has been dominated by Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Cliff Lee, Craig Kimbrel, Kenley Janson, Aroldis Chapman, and a few others. We see these names littered on these top tens in just about every category. What this is more about is seeing the other names surrounding them, and who managed to be a leader while not getting nearly the attention the names listed previously get.

As I said before, there isn’t much of a purpose to this series outside of getting back into baseball mode and seeing if we can learn anything new. If anything, it has just made me remember some pitchers who had some great potential but never fully met it, and pitchers who were taken down by injuries and never got to become the star they could have been. Lastly, while writing this, it has gotten me just that much closer to opening day. March 29th cannot get here fast enough.

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