We’ve finally made it to the workhorses of the SSG OOTP league: the starting pitchers. In case you’ve missed them, I’ve already ranked the best catchers, first basemen, second basemen, shortstops, third basemen, and relief pitchers in the league. In the current high run-scoring environment, limiting damage by having a really good starting pitcher is very important. As you’ll see, teams with several of them have been very successful. There were a lot of guys who just missed the top 20 and I will mention a few of them as I go through the list.
20) Andy Walker (26), SSG Padres 2019 – 34 GS, 201.1 IP, 3.58 ERA (128 ERA+), 1.23 WHIP, 8.9 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 4.60 FIP, 5.1 RA9-WAR
As mentioned, There were a lot of really good players who were in consideration for the last spot on this list. Walker wasn’t the only Padre among them, as Antonio Pacheco got strong consideration as well. However, while Pacheco’s talent is unquestioned and he should finally be unleashed for a full year in 2020, I couldn’t rank him until he actually puts up the numbers. Walker, meanwhile, has two good full seasons under his belt. He does walk too many guys and gives up too many home runs in a pitcher-friendly park, but he’s still young and I think he will figure it out and keep improving.
19) Jose Berrios (26), SSG Twins 2019 – 33 GS, 158.1 IP, 4.38 ERA (108 ERA+), 1.20 WHIP, 8.8 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 3.90 FIP, 3.0 RA9-WAR
Berrios’s ERA may have been a bit inflated last season and it was his highest in his first 3 full seasons in the big leagues. However he has actually developed his skills a lot in that time, particularly his command; his K/9 improved from 7.8 to 8.8 between 2018 and 2019, but his BB/9 remained steady at 2.3. And at 26 his best years could still be ahead of him.
18) Robert Stephenson (27), SSG Reds 2019 – 33 GS, 193.2 IP, 4.51 ERA (104 ERA+), 1.07 WHIP, 11.7 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, 4.46 FIP, 3.3 RA9-WAR
Robert Stephenson may be the most talented guy in the Reds rotation, but he has not been able to minimize the home runs (2.0 HR/9) and thus his ERA was inflated in 2019 after a very solid 3.20 ERA in the previous season. His K/BB ratio has been very impressive, though.
17) Marcus Stroman (29), SSG Blue Jays 2019 – 32 GS, 174.0 IP, 4.29 ERA (110 ERA+), 1.23 WHIP, 9.1 K/9, 1.4 BB/9, 4.02 FIP, 3.4 RA9-WAR
Stroman hasn’t gotten back to the peak that he reached in his Cy Young 2017 season, but he has still been very good. Control and command have been his strong points; he has led the AL in BB/K ratio in 3 consecutive seasons, and he led the AL in BB/9 in 2017 and 2019 and finished second in 2018. We’ll see more Blue Jays later so he’s not the best arm in their rotation, but his prolonged success paired the fact that he’s spent his whole career with the team make him arguably the face of the franchise.
16) Bernardo Garcia (25), SSG Diamondbacks, 2019 – 32 GS, 167.1 IP, 3.93 ERA (124 ERA+), 1.28 WHIP, 9.7 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 4.05 FIP, 3.9 RA9-WAR
Garcia’s big league career has gotten off to a great start between 2018 and 2019. Last season he improved his WHIP, K/9, BB/9, and WAR from the year before. Also as a bonus he won the Silver Slugger. Arizona has had little to cheer for in recent years and their playoff drought extended to 8 straight seasons in 2019. Their offense was the reason they improved by 20 games between 2018 and 2019 as their pitching staff went from a terrible 5.21 ERA to a horrid 5.95 ERA. Garcia has been and should continue to be one of their only bright spots on the mound.
15) Madison Bumgarner (30), SSG Blue Jays 2019 – 32 GS, 175.0 IP, 3.45 ERA (137 ERA+), 1.11 WHIP, 8.5 K/9, 1.7 BB/9, 4.13 FIP, 4.4 RA9-WAR
One of the best postseason pitchers ever, Bumgarner has been really good in the regular season too. He led the AL in WHIP last season, which helps to limit the damage that one can accrue via the home run at Toronto’s pitcher-friendly home ballpark. He has come just shy of taking home hardware for his efforts in the past two seasons, finishing third in AL Cy Young voting in both 2018 and 2019. We’ll talk even more about the Blue Jays later.
14) Jacob Turner (29), SSG Rockies 2019 – 33 GS, 190.2 IP, 3.45 ERA (145 ERA+), 1.16 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 4.47 FIP, 5.4 RA9-WAR
The Rockies locked Turner to their payroll for 8 years before last season, but so far so good. Despite moving to Coors Field he had one of the best seasons of his career. He’s also very durable, and he’s made at least 31 starts in each of the last 4 seasons.
13) Hyun-Jin Ryu (33), SSG Nationals 2019 (with SSG Dodgers) – 32 GS, 191.2 IP, 3.38 ERA (135 ERA+), 1.17 WHIP, 6.9 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, 3.95 FIP, 4.9 RA9-WAR
The former World Series hero for the Dodgers leaves the west coast and heads to D.C. for 2020. He’s coming off of one of his best seasons in 2019, but his age still concerns me. However, he doesn’t need to be an ace for the Nationals to be effective, as they already have a very strong rotation full of guys who just missed out on the top 20.
12) Wily Peralta (31), SSG Rockies 2019 – 33 GS, 200.2 IP, 4.22 ERA (118 ERA+), 1.35 WHIP, 6.9 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 3.76 FIP, 4.9 RA9-WAR
Peralta has been very solid for the Rockies since he arrived in 2016. The front office has been so pleased with Peralta that they gave him a 6 year extension in the off-season. As good as their lineup is, more reliable starting pitching (which the team has had a hard time finding since their inception in 1993) has probably been the biggest reason that they have won 4 straight division titles and a world championship since Peralta joined the team.
11) Jon Moscot (28), SSG Reds 2019 – 33 GS, 188.0 IP, 3.16 ERA (148 ERA+), 1.22 WHIP, 6.9 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 3.69 FIP, 5.0 RA9-WAR
Moscot finished 6th in the NL in ERA, and he plays half of his games in what is basically a Little League-sized stadium in Cincinnati. He somehow gave up less than a home run every 9 innings (0.8 HR/9) in 2019, which is really impressive considering his home park.
Thanks to the awesome comment contributions from the GMs in the league (which you will see in part two) this article got very lengthy very quickly. Therefore, I decided to break it into two parts. Later this week we will talk about the best of the best in the top 10. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned!