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Best SP Since 2005 According To ERA+

Posted by Steve Lombardi on December 10, 2010

A simple list for today. Pitchers with 1,000+ IP since 2005 ranked by ERA+.

Here they are:

Rk Player ERA+ IP Age G GS CG SHO W L W-L% H R ER BB SO ERA HR BF IBB HBP BK WP Tm
1 Roy Halladay 149 1322.2 28-33 181 180 43 13 102 47 .685 1243 466 427 204 1012 2.91 109 5299 14 38 2 20 TOR-PHI
2 Johan Santana 146 1284.1 26-31 188 188 12 7 90 51 .638 1090 452 417 308 1214 2.92 138 5193 11 18 6 31 MIN-NYM
3 CC Sabathia 133 1351.0 24-29 196 196 25 9 103 53 .660 1234 542 489 343 1187 3.26 113 5531 19 45 3 26 CLE-TOT-NYY
4 Felix Hernandez 133 1154.2 19-24 172 172 13 4 71 53 .573 1057 465 410 357 1042 3.20 97 4787 14 35 4 60 SEA
5 Roy Oswalt 132 1276.0 27-32 196 193 15 5 87 56 .608 1228 483 457 290 1000 3.22 111 5264 21 44 4 14 HOU-TOT
6 Matt Cain 126 1095.2 20-25 171 170 12 4 57 62 .479 925 441 420 410 906 3.45 99 4546 24 25 4 46 SFG
7 Carlos Zambrano 125 1141.1 24-29 194 178 5 2 82 45 .646 965 497 458 521 988 3.61 99 4851 18 52 2 37 CHC
8 Dan Haren 124 1343.0 24-29 203 203 11 2 85 64 .570 1291 580 530 285 1176 3.55 158 5546 24 34 2 62 OAK-ARI-TOT
9 John Lackey 122 1205.1 26-31 183 183 10 5 83 49 .629 1201 539 489 354 993 3.65 106 5096 13 60 1 57 LAA-BOS
10 Jake Peavy 121 1011.0 24-29 156 156 8 4 69 50 .580 842 383 369 307 1040 3.28 92 4125 22 30 4 21 SDP-TOT-CHW
11 Tim Hudson 119 1047.2 29-34 162 161 7 3 73 48 .603 1013 439 415 324 642 3.57 90 4374 36 37 3 24 ATL
12 Justin Verlander 118 1064.1 22-27 165 165 10 3 83 52 .615 987 482 450 353 965 3.81 94 4483 17 52 12 48 DET
13 Cliff Lee 118 1167.1 26-31 178 174 20 5 85 49 .634 1184 518 472 241 874 3.64 113 4866 9 26 1 26 CLE-TOT
14 Mark Buehrle 117 1284.0 26-31 195 195 12 3 79 65 .549 1403 617 559 279 706 3.92 144 5371 22 26 9 12 CHW
15 Andy Pettitte 116 1179.2 33-38 191 188 2 1 85 56 .603 1213 551 496 352 897 3.78 112 4971 18 20 2 18 HOU-NYY
16 Ted Lilly 112 1090.1 29-34 182 182 1 1 79 62 .560 998 513 485 338 931 4.00 165 4562 17 24 15 25 TOR-CHC-TOT
17 Derek Lowe 110 1238.2 32-37 204 202 7 2 85 70 .548 1268 591 526 338 810 3.82 110 5208 29 20 9 19 LAD-ATL
18 Josh Beckett 110 1098.1 25-30 172 172 8 3 86 48 .642 1055 539 505 306 1005 4.14 130 4604 8 46 2 30 FLA-BOS
19 Bronson Arroyo 109 1292.2 28-33 204 201 10 3 84 70 .545 1288 635 583 373 851 4.06 170 5465 29 53 2 23 BOS-CIN
20 Jon Garland 108 1241.1 25-30 195 194 8 5 85 63 .574 1316 627 565 352 660 4.10 137 5267 30 37 0 23 CHW-LAA-TOT-SDP
21 Aaron Harang 107 1136.0 27-32 180 176 12 5 61 68 .473 1202 559 524 290 974 4.15 153 4828 25 34 2 41 CIN
22 Javier Vazquez 106 1220.0 29-34 194 188 10 1 74 71 .510 1176 607 576 322 1148 4.25 164 5105 16 44 0 35 ARI-CHW-ATL-NYY
23 A.J. Burnett 105 1125.1 28-33 179 178 11 3 73 62 .541 1061 564 511 445 1063 4.09 118 4823 10 65 4 67 FLA-TOR-NYY
24 Barry Zito 103 1217.1 27-32 202 200 2 0 70 80 .467 1127 611 572 538 877 4.23 134 5232 34 49 4 25 OAK-SFG
25 Doug Davis 103 1006.1 29-34 170 170 3 2 51 60 .459 1031 534 492 478 803 4.40 110 4442 19 25 4 38 MIL-ARI
26 Kevin Millwood 102 1137.2 30-35 186 186 10 0 61 73 .455 1261 605 552 357 806 4.37 136 4953 11 39 2 29 CLE-TEX-BAL
27 Tim Wakefield 102 1005.0 38-43 170 157 7 0 65 61 .516 980 545 508 329 624 4.55 132 4289 8 53 1 51 BOS
28 Ervin Santana 100 1069.0 22-27 173 170 9 5 76 55 .580 1072 558 522 342 856 4.39 138 4569 15 57 4 41 LAA
29 Joe Blanton 100 1194.1 24-29 192 190 6 2 72 60 .545 1274 606 569 333 771 4.29 135 5098 24 29 3 21 OAK-TOT-PHI
30 Jamie Moyer 97 1080.2 42-47 180 175 6 2 75 59 .560 1154 567 537 294 623 4.47 153 4629 15 45 2 12 SEA-TOT-PHI
31 Jason Marquis 94 1034.2 26-31 175 172 6 3 67 70 .489 1083 595 547 394 542 4.76 125 4519 22 54 7 30 STL-CHC-COL-WSN
32 Jeff Suppan 94 1031.2 30-35 189 174 1 0 60 59 .504 1193 583 520 378 553 4.54 131 4570 33 43 2 40 STL-MIL-TOT
33 David Bush 90 1006.1 25-30 177 168 5 2 51 64 .443 1052 578 532 261 680 4.76 149 4306 17 71 2 16 TOR-MIL
34 Livan Hernandez 90 1242.0 30-35 197 197 9 1 71 69 .507 1454 691 655 415 648 4.75 148 5450 35 30 6 12 WSN-TOT-ARI
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 12/10/2010.

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Anything in this ranking surprise you and/or stand out?

This entry was posted on Friday, December 10th, 2010 at 2:43 pm and is filed under Season Finders. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

43 Responses to “Best SP Since 2005 According To ERA+”

  1. Let's give Cliff Lee $150 million.

    Love,

    A Nats Fan.

  2. I love how Matt Cain is 6th from the top in ERA+ and 6th from the bottom in winning pct. Shows you how deceptive the win-loss record is.

  3. as a Brewers fan I can't think of a more fitting final 3 to the list.

    Livan was no Brewer. He's just such a classic #4 starter who gets beat like a drum once a week.

    Interesting that Jeff Suppan has more wins than Matt Cain over that time. And I'm surprised Aarong Harrang did as well as he did. for the past 3 seasons he's been anywhere from bad to horrid.

  4. Three thoughts:

    (1) Pretty big gap after the top 2 -- the step down from #2 Santana to #3 Sabathia is bigger than from #3 to #10.

    (2) Say, isn't that Cliff Lee at #13 with a 118 ERA+ over the past 6 years? But as we all know, when you're making a 7-year contract offer, only the last 3 years are relevant. Right?

    (3) How would those rankings look for just the last 3 years?
    2008-10 ERA+ leaders, min. 500 IP:

    1. 157, Halladay
    2. 155, F.Hernandez
    3. 152, (tie) Lincecum, Wainwright
    5. 143, J.Santana
    6. 141, Lee
    7. 139, (tie) Sabathia, Lester
    9. 135, U.Jimenez
    10. 133, Greinke

  5. (Followup)

    2008-10 WAR Leaders (pitchers):

    1) 20.2, Halladay
    2) 16.8, Sabathia
    3) 16.7, Lincecum
    4) 16.6, Lee
    5) 16.3, F.Hernandez
    6) 16.2, Lester
    7) 16.1, John Danks
    8) 15.6, Greinke
    9) 15.3, U.Jimenez
    10) 14.4, J.Santana
    11) 14.0, Haren
    12) 13.9, Wainwright
    13) 13.5, J.Johnson
    14) 13.0, Cain
    15) 12.8, Buehrle

    A couple things jump out at me here:
    -- Gap between Halladay and #2 is bigger than from #2 to #13.
    -- I like John Danks plenty, but ... #7? WAR seems out of whack with his 125 ERA+ and 608 IP; several pitchers ranked below him are better in both categories.

  6. Um, that's supposed to be an "8" next to Greinke above, not an emoticon.
    (That's what I get for using someone else's computer....)

  7. Paul Alexander Says:

    I love the emoticon in place of the number 8! In fact, I think I'm going to start doing that.

    It's amazing to me how high Zambrano is still even after his last couple seasons.

  8. I just assumed you thought Greinke was really cool.

  9. Paul Alexander Says:

    This is why I shouldn't be writing on here, since I pretty much quit following baseball after June this year. Apparently Carlos was able to turn things around and have a good season. Never mind!

  10. Library Dave Says:

    I think I'm most surprised (saddened?) by the fact that only 34 guys managed to average 166 innings a year over a 6 year period. That's barely one per team. Pathetic.

  11. As a Red Sox fan, this is a mixed bag!

    Lackey's 2010 was his worst in this time span.

    Beckett is flanked by two guys we got rid off (Bronson for Wily Mo Pena- yeah that worked out well); at least Lowe cost more in 2010 ($15M vs $12M)

    Tim Wakefield at #27. I love that.

    Lester looks good in the 3 year stats. We love that guy.

    I'm not complaining or anything, just observing (if I were to complain, it would be about overpaying for Mr. Career-OPS+107). And it's hard to complain when the Adrian upgrade is still fresh. That guy is going to rake next year!

  12. Oh, my final observation- there are only 29 starting pitchers who are above-average over a 6 year period. I would not have thought the number would be so low.

    Consistent starting pitching- a rare commodity, indeed.

  13. dukeofflatbush Says:

    Using only that initial list as a decider (i.e. not age or health or SOs or IP) just the ERA+ list only; giving each of the 30 teams a random hypothetical 'pick' or 'draft' - 1-to-30, would essentially make Jamie Moyer someone's #1. I know he is generally not regarded well on this sight, but it either says something very positive about him, especially at his age, or, it is really saying something bad about starting pitching in baseball.

  14. Johnny Twisto Says:

    (1) Pretty big gap after the top 2 -- the step down from #2 Santana to #3 Sabathia is bigger than from #3 to #10.

    ERA+ doesn't work in a linear fashion. I think the differences get exaggerated the higher they go.

    (2) Say, isn't that Cliff Lee at #13 with a 118 ERA+ over the past 6 years? But as we all know, when you're making a 7-year contract offer, only the last 3 years are relevant. Right?

    People who have studied projections have found there is no extra information to be gained from going back further than three years. (Actually, some may use 4 years.) I'd guess this might be even more true for pitchers, who could change their "true talent" more readily than a batter by virtue of learning a new pitch, for example.

  15. @12: Keep in mind that a 100 ERA+ is really above average for a starting pitcher. Relief pitchers, who do not generally have to face batters more than once a game, on the whole produce lower ERAs than starters. ERA+ is based on 100 as average for all pitchers, so the average relief ERA+ will be higher than 100 and the average ERA+ for starters will be below 100.

    As to the original list, if you reduce the minimum IP from 1,000 to 800, the number of guys over 140 go from two (Halladay and Santana) to six (add two injury guys, Webb and Carpenter, and two younger guys, Lincecum and Wainwright).

  16. I think the fact that the worst guy is at 90 tells us that no one truly terrible racked up a ton of innings. That's probably a good thing, right? Or is even 90 too low for so many innings?

  17. Instead of (or in addition to) the pitcher's own wins and losses, it might be useful to look at the team's wins and losses in the pitcher's starts.

    The point is to help your team win the game, right?

  18. Johnny Twisto Says:

    (1) Pretty big gap after the top 2 -- the step down from #2 Santana to #3 Sabathia is bigger than from #3 to #10.

    ERA+ isn't linear. I think the differences get exaggerated the higher you go.

    (2) Say, isn't that Cliff Lee at #13 with a 118 ERA+ over the past 6 years? But as we all know, when you're making a 7-year contract offer, only the last 3 years are relevant. Right?

    People who have studied projections have found you gain no new information by looking at more than the past 3 years (maybe some people use 4 years). And I'd imagine a pitcher is more likely than a batter to have a big change in his "true talent," for example by learning a new pitch.

  19. So...I wondered where Chris Carpenter was.

    Only 912 IP since 2005--sorta hard when you are basically gone for two years during the stretch. Still though: 145 ERA+.

  20. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Sorry, that third paragraph was meant to be italicized, quoting John Autin again.

  21. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I think the fact that the worst guy is at 90 tells us that no one truly terrible racked up a ton of innings. That's probably a good thing, right? Or is even 90 too low for so many innings?

    Well, no one truly terrible is going to get the chance to keep pitching lots of innings year after year. I think this shows us that a 90 ERA+ (with the seasonal variation above and below it) is about the worst a pitcher can be and continue to get chances as a rotation regular.

  22. Zambrano is the biggest surprise for me. He's been terrible for the last couple of years, yet still is ranked 7th out of the 34 listed. Just shows how good he was prior to 2009.

  23. @17 / point 2, Johnny T. -- I agree re: pitcher more likely than batter to establish a new level of true ability.

    Re: only last 3-4 years relevant for projecting pitcher performance, that's news to me; which is not to say I'm skeptical, only that I have not read up on such things. (Got any suggested reading?) I do wonder, though, what that type of study would suggest about the limits of projecting pitcher performance into the future, at Lee's age. I wouldn't be surprised if the conclusion was that it's quite unwise to invest in a 30+ pitcher beyond 3-4 years.

  24. @21, Dave -- I think I know what you mean in saying that Zambrano has been "terrible" in recent years, but really, he's never had a full-season ERA above 3.95 nor an ERA+ below 117. His innings have been declining, but last year was his first below 169 IP since his rookie season. Recent years have not been what was expected when he signed the big contract extension, but by any measure except durability, they've been pretty good. Last year's 131 ERA+ actually improved his career mark. Though it was too late to do the Cubs any good, he had a 1.41 ERA in 11 starts after returning to the rotation in August.

  25. Johnny Twisto Says:

    John A., I can't think of any links right now, sorry.

    You're right, it's probably not wise to invest in a pitcher too many years in the future. Or any player, for that matter. Nevertheless, that's how the free market works. You pay for 2016 to get the production over the next few seasons.

  26. One of the biggest standouts on the list is "age 42-47" for you know who. So unexpected that one of the most durable starters for a 6 year period would be in that age span.

  27. John - I had completely forgotten about the second half of this year (been in and out of the hospital, so I haven't been keeping up), but last I saw he was getting shelled and pitching out of the bullpen. Looking at the second half numbers, it makes a bit more sense. Just seemed like every time I looked up when he was pitching, he was getting torched.

  28. "Well, no one truly terrible is going to get the chance to keep pitching lots of innings year after year. I think this shows us that a 90 ERA+ (with the seasonal variation above and below it) is about the worst a pitcher can be and continue to get chances as a rotation regular."

    JT-

    I guess that was sorta my point. We often see truly terrible players trotted out there. But it seems they're never trotted out there for TOO long. Or, at least in the time frame looked at, no terrible pitcher was trotted out there time and time again. It also shows that some of these guys, several of whom are much-maligned (Zito, Moyer, Livan) are better than public perception often suggests (though they don't necessarily justify their salaries, as in the case of Zito).

  29. dukeofflatbush Says:

    Report Created on Baseball-Reference.com

  30. dukeofflatbush Says:

    To Johnny Twisto and Autin,

    About being able to predict a pitcher's performance from previous work, looking at the expected Cliff Lee windfall, I built an identical table from the one above, except spanning years 1995-2000. And from this table we can see some guys who are ranked pretty high, were pretty healthy and young, but simply fell apart. Knowing what we know now we'd be nuts to even consider some of those guys to long term deals.

    #4 Kevin Brown, would only throw over 135 innings once over the next 5 years.
    #11 Mike Hampton would have 1000 IP over ten injury plagued shortened, over paid seasons, for a 94+ ERA.
    #13 David Cone would throw only two more very bad seasons.
    #14 Chuck Finley, out of bseball less than 2 years and 200 IP later.
    #17 Kevin Appier, out of baseball in three seasons.
    Other top 25 busts
    Denny Neagle out of baseball in 3 years.
    Andy Benes, Ismael Valdez, Dave Burba, Shane Reynolds. Jeff Fasero, Pat Hentgen, Todd Stottlemyer.
    http://bbref.com/pi/shareit/nAOEZ

  31. @29

    You're missing the point. The point isn't that anyone can tell the future and know who will be a bust--the point is that Lee's performance since '08 is who he is now--what he did before'08 is another part of his career. He is clearly a different pitcher than he was and unlike any player in any sport merely having a career year in his contract year, Lee has been one of the best pitchers in baseball for three years now, long enough to demonstrate that it was not a fluke, that his ability has either been maximized or expanded to an elite level. You sometimes only need a portion of a player's career to see a significant change in skill, regimen/preparation, attitude, health, or substance abuse (recreational or performance-enhancing) that affects the on-field result.

    Barry Bonds, for instance, went from being a clear Hall-of-Famer to clear Hall-of-Fame inner-circle God due to PEDs (allegedly). Cecil Fielder went from being one of the most feared sluggers in baseball (Hello, Jim Rice!) to a bloated man-whale whom inspired jokes, not awe. Ron Santo, almost certainly due to his battle with diabetes and related illnesses, went from an elite, Hall-of-Fame caliber player to finished at 34. Bo Jackson went from an exciting up-and-coming slugger with tremendous speed (and a man who was, I think, if he had only ever played baseball after high school/college, a potential HoF) to a man who needed a hip replacement, thus robbing him of all his speed, though, somehow, amazingly, little of his power.

    ...and so on.

  32. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    Duke@29.

    You wouldn't be nuts to sign some of those guys, not unless you could actually predict the future specifically.

    What is nuts is to not realize that with pitchers in their late 20s, early 30s, for every Andy Pettite or Mike Mussina, there is also a Mike Hampton. If you are going to sign a guy to a contract into his late 30s, adjust your pay accordingly. It would be stupid to sign a 32 year old for the same money and years as you would a guy with similar 3 and 5 year stats at 27.

    But your 1995-2000 lists also contains a lot of guys that any team giving them a deal till 40 for any kind of reasonable money made out very well on. Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens both put up another 5 years at the top of this kind of list in 2000-2005, Maddux dropped off the top but was still excellent, and I also see Mike Mussina, Andy Pettite, Glavine, Smolz, Hudson as guys who continued to perform strongly into their mid-late 30s or 40s. Of course most of the guys who show up in the upper half of two or three straight lists like this (95-2000,2000-2005,2005-2010) are now considered tentative to shoe-in hall of famers. But that's the kind of player you are looking at when you sign a guy near the top of a list like this: somebody who, if all falls into place as it is supposed to for them, will end up in the hall, or at least in the discussion. Of course many times it won't. But you want to have them on your team when it does, so they are worth a lot despite the risk.

  33. Johnny Twisto Says:

    John A., and anyone else....

    Here's Tango's description of his Marcel projections: http://www.tangotiger.net/marcel/ These are the most basic projections, simply taking a weighted average of the past three years, an age adjustment, and regression. You will find that all the more "advanced" projections systems, like ZIPS or Pecota or whatever, may do a little better than Marcel, but not by much. From a purely statistical standpoint, looking at the past three seasons tells you most of what you can know about how a player will do next season. We can add to that if we have scouting reports, medical information, etc. But if we only have the numbers, we don't really gain anything by looking back at a player's entire career.

    There's probably been good articles written on this, I just don't know where to find them right now.

  34. Kudos to Jamie Moyer for turning 43 and then cranking out five seasons in which he was one of the 30 best starting pitchers in baseball, at least according to this rating.

  35. Make that turning 42 and cranking out six seasons. No matter. Still impressive.

  36. dukeofflatbush Says:

    @ Mike E and others,

    I concur. I don't think the '95-00 model is tantamount to proof of the liabilities to long term deals today. I only wanted to offer another illustration, that in my mind was comparable to the one before. I thought, pitching has changed so much decade to decade, that only a 5-15 year difference would be worth talking about. So I chose '95-double-aughts. I know it can't predict coming events, but to look in the past for similar trends, does more for prediction, than individual performance.
    Do the Yankees regret the AJ signing...
    I'm certain.
    Do they think every penny was worth CC.
    I'm certain.
    So, how do you select the initial initially....?
    I don't think there is a barometer.
    While I hope CP (Cliff Lee) enjoys success, I know the blue print of a Kevin Brown, or a Mike Hampton, or a Oliver Perez loom as large as a HOFer.

  37. This just goes to show you how rare it is for good, sustained pitching success. Less than 1 pitcher per team cranking out even an average ERA+ over 6 years.

  38. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Here's what I did: Steve's list looks for guys with an average of at least 166.2 IP over the past 6 seasons. I found there had been 207 pitchers who reached 166.2 IP in any season 2005-2010. I tried to find an equivalent for batters, and there were 207 batters who reached 608 PA in any season 2005-2010. So I then searched for all players with at least 3648 PA (6 * 608) from 2005-2010. Here's the list: http://bbref.com/pi/shareit/y2voe

  39. [...] of you who didn’t see it, the folks over at baseball-reference.com put together a list of the top starting pitchers since 2005, according to ERA+ (an ERA figure that is adjusted to the pitcher’s ballpark, with 100 being [...]

  40. I miss Brandon Webb. Even after missing all of the last two seasons he just misses the IP cutoff , (He has 931 between 2005-2010), He had a 142 ERA+ during that time.

    If you drop the IP to 900 he comes in 4th behind Halladay, Santana, & Carpenter.

    2003-2010, minimu 1000 IP Webb is 3rd behind Halladay and Santana, (Still 142)

    Sure hope he can make a comeback. He was a lot of fun to watch.

  41. The conclusion I draw from this is that the "demise" of Carlos Zambrano has been vastly overexaggerated. One of the most ridiculous comments regarding this was by his own general manager, Hendry, in June of this past season: "He hasn't been up to the standards that he was at before for two years," Hendry said. "If you look at his last 50 starts, he probably ranks in the bottom third in the National League of overall performance. I'm not saying that critically. It's not something I'm tying in with today, but that's part of the decision that was criticized at the time, like we were taking our ace out of the rotation."

    Incorrect, Jim. Though it was one of the worse stretches of his career, it was much like the rest of Zambrano's time with the Cubs: Jekyll and Hyde, great months and abyssmal ones. Any team would love to trot out a starter who is nearly 20% better than league average in allowing runs (which is the name of the game) every fifth day. Or every game, period. I am neither a Cubs fan nor a Zambrano fan. His act gets old for me too. But the guy cares, and he's one of the rare pitchers who actually tries in the non-pitching facets of the game while also excelling at the pitching.

    Is Josh Beckett overrated or what? Goodness, I had no idea he was so far off being an elite pitcher. I guess we all expected big things after his dominance vs. the Yankees in the 03 World Series, and ace-level 07 season, but he's just never gotten there, and probably never will. Must be nice to have that 16+ million a year extension starting this season, though. Will the Red Sox get their money's worth out of that?

  42. [...] recently published a table displaying the best pitchers in terms of ERA+ since 2005 with at least 1,000 innings [...]

  43. [...] Read it and weep, you Zambrano-hating retards. [...]