Off Day Filler: #1, #2, #3, #4 and #5 NL Starters Thus Far

I wrote a similar post last year. The first paragraph describing the methodology is pulled right from that post.

When describing starting pitchers, people often say things like "he's an ace" or "he's a #4 pitcher". A pet peeve of mine is the wrongful labeling of a pitcher to a certain rotation spot, based on subjective perception rather than objective fact. Poll a group of baseball fans about this topic and you will likely receive a vast array of opinions. My take, which is similar to the ones shared in this post and this post, is that if a pitcher is in the top 1/5 of starters in his league, then he should be called a #1 starter. The next 1/5 are #2's, the next 1/5 are #3's, etc. I pulled some statistics from FanGraphs to devise a quick and dirty way of classifying National League starters at this point in the season.

A total of 8,047.2 innings were thrown by 123 different NL starters through Wednesday. I put together a spreadsheet of all these pitchers, their innings pitched, and their FIP (fielding independent pitching). Dividing 8,047.2 by five, I created five groups of 1609.2 innings. Beginning with the pitcher who boasts the best FIP (Stephen Strasburg, 1.77 FIP through 36.2 innings pitched), I summed innings until reaching 1609.2 to determine #1 pitchers. I did the same all the way through the bottom spot on the list, filled by Fernando Nieve and his 15.63 FIP. Standard caveats apply here -- FIP doesn't account for batted balls like tERA, it isn't park adjusted, etc., but it's better than ERA for evaluating a pitcher's performance. Here are the results, showing pitcher classification, the number of pitchers that fit that classification, and the corresponding FIP:

Rank Pitchers FIP Range
1 23 0.00-3.41
2 18 3.42-3.86
3 18 3.87-4.33
4 24 4.34-4.73
5 40 4.74+


Of the top 23 pitchers, only 12 have thrown 90+ innings. Here is how Mets starters stack up:

Pitcher IP FIP Rank
R.A. Dickey 58.1 3.01 Mid #1
Johan Santana 120 3.67 Mid #2
Mike Pelfrey 108 3.82 Low #2
Jon Niese 89.2 3.95 High #3
Hisanori Takahashi 49 4.72 Low #4
John Maine 39.2 5.83 Mid #5
Oliver Perez 33.33 6.07 Mid #5
Fernando Nieve 2 15.63 Low #5

Check out the spreadsheet for the rest of the league's starters.

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