In a time where players all across the MLB seem to be understanding that the baseball that they are using is juiced, the actual league is not accepting the blame or coming clean on this topic. While baseballs are being smashed out of the park at a high rate, one that has never been seen in the sport of baseball, there is one position grouping that is still enjoying success even with the offense taking on more of a precedent.
Pitchers, more specifically starting pitchers, are doing their best to ruin the days of their rival hitters, mixing in pitches that should not be able to physically move as much as they do with pinpoint accuracy, to confuse and befuddle the hitters up to a point where there is a ‘Sword of the Week’ award given out on a weekly basis by the Pitching Ninja.
Offense always has been the sexier play in baseball, but pitching is what is keeping the game progressing, as the mixture of pitches, arm angles, arm slots, pitch placement, and windup techniques are keeping batters on their toes. From the inverted windup that Marcus Stroman employs, sometimes altering on a pitch-by-pitch basis, to the straight-gas approach that the likes of Aroldis Chapman and Josh Hader use, being a pitcher still rules.
For pitchers who earn their money in starting rotations, their durability has become a question more frequently than not. With bullpens built as they are current day, managers are more susceptible to take the ball from the hands of their starter for that day just to hand it over to a reliever who just got warmed up, only to be lit up by the first batter he sees.
With the old stalwarts like Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Madison Bumgarner ruling every fifth day, combined with the new arms like Luis Castillo, Brandon Woodruff and Mike Soroka, and the sport of baseball has their strong players in just the right places. The likes of Mackenzie Gore, Casey Mize, and Forrest Whitley are also on the horizon, so even the future of baseball has a ton of high-octane, super-young pitching prospects ready to blow your socks off.
Currently, as we speak, there are certain combinations of starting pitchers that currently dominate the sport of baseball as we know it with their no. 1 and no. 2 starting arms – here they are.
#3 – Justin Verlander & Gerrit Cole, Houston Astros
Like a fine wine, Justin Verlander seems to get better with age, which is quite unfair for the rest of the league whenever they have to face him. The former Tiger seems to just be hitting his stride in his age-36 season, which is unheard of for a long time.
With Dallas Keuchel suiting up as an Atlanta Brave, the task to lead the rotation fell solely on Verlander’s shoulders, which he has not only ran with but excelled with as well. An 11-4 record, supported by a sub-3.00 ERA and an All-Star game start, Verlander is helping lead the Astros to run away with the American League West divisional title yet again.
Coupled with Verlander is Gerrit Cole, the former Pittsburgh Pirate ace who has also come into his own after joining the Astros. While very successful with the Buccos in the National League Central, Cole’s full potential was unable to be reached and thus was falling short of the type of player he could become.
For Cole, his 9-5, 3.23 ERA means he is no slouch either, and he has been helping carry the load for the rotation along with Verlander, helping this team remain solid even with the loss of Keuchel and Marwin Gonzalez, as well as long trips to the injury list for both Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve.
#2 – Patrick Corbin & Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals
Loading up on starting pitching because their franchise savant decided to leave for a divisional rival, the Washington Nationals seems pretty set in terms of their starting rotation. Besides both veteran stalwart Max Scherzer and offseason signee Patrick Corbin, they still have Stephen Strasburg on their team, forming what looks to be the best three-headed starting rotation monster in the league.
However, this article is only about the best 1-2 punches and not the best 1-2-3 punches, so they sit second on this list. Let me explain.
Both Corbin and Scherzer are high leverage, big-money pitchers who know how to show up in the moment. However, Corbin has been forced to take on a bigger load in the rotation with Scherzer fighting a back injury that is currently keeping him on the shelf.
The two have combined for 16 wins, 10 losses and an average ERA of 2.85, with Scherzer boasting the best ERA of the two at 2.30 across 19 starts. While both are superstars and are paid as such, they do fall short of one combination of starting pitchers.
#1 – Clayton Kershaw & Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers
As fans are used to hearing, the Los Angeles Dodgers keep winning games and are running away with the NL West divisional title. Wash, rinse, and repeat.
But this year, their pitching staff seems to be carrying the load a bit more than usual, as both franchise savant Clayton Kershaw and Cy Young leader Hyun-Jin Ryu look to have been on point for the first half of the season and more.
Kershaw, who has been able to avoid any long stays on the injury list so far this season, is pitching like the Dodgers pitcher everyone knows him to be. 8-2, 3.00 ERA in 16 starts and 105 innings is a solid start to the season, and he should reach 15 wins before the entire regular season is over and done with.
For Ryu, his sparkling 2019 season has all been about his ability to miss bats, as his average pitch speed and average exit velocity both sit under the MLB average. The Dodger for life, so far at least, has made his sixth season with the club his best to date and is well on his way to setting career highs in victories, lowest ERA and strikeouts in a season.
10-2, 1.78 ERA and only 23 earned runs allowed, Ryu is the clear-cut front runner for the NL Cy Young award this year, and he should not be knocked off of his leadership post, provided he keeps up at this blistering pace.
For the Dodgers to make it back to the World Series this year, Ryu will need to bring his A-game again, and his performance in the playoffs will show just how far the Dodgers are able to go in a quest to make up for their quick defeat at the hands of the Boston Red Sox last year in the WS.