BP: The best NL pitcher is ...

May, 27, 2010
5/27/10
11:00
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A few weeks back, we put forth the idea this could be the Year of the Pitcher in the National League. Little has changed since then.

But with the calendar nearing Memorial Day — the traditional one-third mark on the baseball season — the question is: Who is the best pitcher in the NL?

To weed through the very strong field to determine the answer, we'll use three Baseball Prospectus metrics that measure starters, counting only those who have pitched at least 50 innings, and awarding points in the same manner of the new Cy Young voting system that will be unveiled in November by the Baseball Writers Association of America — 10 points for first place, seven for second, five for third, three for fourth and one for fifth.

First, let's look at SNLVAR (support-neutral league value above replacement),which gauges how many more wins a starting pitcher provides throughout the course of the season than would a replacement-level player, which represents someone who could be claimed off waivers or purchased off a Triple-A roster:

Next, we will look at FRA (fair run average). This is a simple statistic: It measures how many runs per nine innings a pitcher allows while also including the number of baserunners a starter bequeaths to his bullpen when pulled in the middle of an inning.

Finally, we'll take into account BP's newest pitching metric, SIERA (skill-interactive earned run average). This stat estimates ERA through walk rate, strikeout rate and ground ball rate while eliminating the effects of park, defense and luck.

Tally the three metrics up with the scoring system and the top three are: Jimenez (20 points), Lincecum (16) and Halladay (15). In case you're wondering, Jimenez is ninth in SIERA with a 3.35 mark.

Jimenez would certainly be the pick of the BBWAA if voting were held today because he is putting up eye-popping numbers in the traditional statistical categories. The Colorado Rockies right-hander shut out the Arizona Diamondbacks for eight innings on Wednesday night to raise his record to 9-1 and lower his earned run average to 0.88 through 10 starts. The 26-year-old has allowed just 42 hits in 63 1/3 innings to go with 61 strikeouts and 24 walks.

So whether you look at it through the prism of the new statistics or the old ones, Jimenez has clearly been the NL's best pitcher through the first third of 2010 season.

John Perrotto is editor-in-chief of BaseballProspectus.com.

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