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John Dewan's Stat of the Week

Stat of the Week: World's No. 1 Starting Pitcher

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By Mark Simon

Max Scherzer is returning to the Washington Nationals rotation on Thursday after missing nearly a month with a rhomboid muscle strain. This is just in time both for the Nationals' playoff push and for Scherzer to try to regain his status as the top pitcher in Bill James' World’s No. 1 Starting Pitcher Rankings.

Scherzer, who had a 1.17 ERA in 10 starts prior to his injury, was the No. 1 starter in the rankings to begin the year. He had a small lead entering Wednesday, but Justin Verlander passed him with a great start in a loss to the Tigers.

Here is the current top 10.

Bill James World's No. 1 Starting Pitcher Rankings
Rank Name Team Current Score
1 Justin Verlander Astros 550.3
2 Max Scherzer Nationals 547.4
3 Jacob deGrom Mets 522.6
4 Gerrit Cole Astros 516.9
5 Chris Sale Red Sox 504.3
6 Clayton Kershaw Dodgers 497.0
7 Zack Greinke Astros 490.9
8 Aaron Nola Phillies 487.5
9 Stephen Strasburg Nationals 486.1
10 Patrick Corbin Nationals 486.0

The rankings use a system devised by Bill James in which the primary component is a pitcher’s Game Score in each game he starts. Daily updates to the rankings and a comprehensive explanation of the methodology can be found here.

Verlander has survived 33 home runs against him to post a 2.77 ERA. He has 14 starts with a Game Score of 70 or higher. No one else has more than 10. He's one of three Astros pitchers in the top 10. The Nationals also have three pitchers in the top 10.

Several pitchers have made big jumps to get into the top 20 (first number indicates ranking entering March 20):

Charlie Morton (from 34 to 12)
Lance Lynn (66 to 13)
Hyun-Jin Ryu (79 to 17)
Sonny Gray (65 to 16)
Luis Castillo (52 to 18)
Walker Buehler (49 to 15)

Charlie Morton’s ascent has come with a new team, as he signed with the Tampa Bay Rays this offseason. He's used a dominant curveball to lead the AL with a 2.70 FIP and ranks second in the league with a 2.85 ERA.

Lance Lynn is also a free agent signing that paid off for the Rangers. He has a 2.84 ERA in his last 18 starts. Hyun-Jin Ryu has a major-league-leading 1.64 ERA. He’s the healthiest he’s been in a long time, has shown a dominant chanegeup, and will likely make his most starts in a season since he had 30 in 2013.

Sonny Gray had a rough time with the Yankees, but a trade to the Reds has done him good. His ERA is down nearly two full runs from 2018 to 2.92. His teammate, Luis Castillo, has also had a big drop in ERA thanks to one of the best changeups in baseball. Walker Buehler’s ERA is up from 2018, but he’s had two great starts to boost his score, a 16-strikeout complete game against the Rockies and a 15-strikeout complete game against the Padres.

The pitcher who has slipped the furthest out of the top 10 is Corey Kluber, who dropped from No. 5 to 30 after missing most of the season with a fractured forearm. He was getting close to returning from injury, but had a recent setback. Kluber and Chris Sale (currently No. 5) may continue to drop due to their injury-related inactivity.

For more baseball content, check out the Sports Info Solutions Blog or the SIS Baseball Podcast.

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