By: Chris Larson
If you're a fan that loves dominate starting pitching and watching true aces in action, then what happened Tuesday night around baseball, was right up your alley. In today's game, it seems as though starting pitching is becoming less and less important and the bullpen is becoming more and more important (the statistical trends would help to back up that argument), but every now and then starting pitchers prove exactly why teams need to continue to buy stock in them and that's exactly what the takeaway from last night was.
In case you missed any of the action, let's recap the biggest starting pitching performances from last night.
1. CC Sabathia Dazzles in the Desert - Heading into yesterday's game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Yankees starting pitcher, CC Sabathia, knew that he needed three more strikeouts before his true 2019 regular season could begin. Sabathia even stated that himself post game in the locker room. Sabathia attempted to surpass that plateau last week in Anaheim against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, but was unsuccessful. However, it didn't take long on Wednesday night as CC Sabathia locked down his 3,000th career strikeout against Diamondbacks catcher, John Ryan Murphy, who later offered to sign Sabathia's baseball as a momento for his house. Altogether, Sabathia now has a career WAR of 62.7, over the span of 3,490.1 innings pitched, along with an ERA+ of (117) - an indication of how valuable he has been over his entire big league career. If there's any doubt that CC Sabathia isn't a Hall of Fame starting pitcher, that has all been erased now that he has accomplished this feat.
2. Zack Attack Can Do More Than Just Swing the Bat - Yes, Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher, Zack Greinke, hit for the cycle in the month of April and had a batting average of .500, but he also continues to prove how he could potentially be considered for the Hall of Fame down the road. Currently, among active qualified starting pitchers, the aforementioned, CC Sabathia, leads the charge with 3,002 strikeouts, but Zack Greinke isn't far behind - coming in fifth overall with 2,481 strikeouts behind Justin Velander, Max Scherzer, and Felix Hernandez. Beyond that, over the last three seasons, Greinke continues to put up a strikeouts percentage of at least 23%. In 2017, he finished the year with a 26.8% strikeout percentage, last year it was 23.7%, and so far this season through 44 innings of work, Greinke has posted a strikeout percentage of 27.2%. When you add everything that Greinke has done throughout his career together, it equates to a 62.1 WAR, which is fourth place among active qualified starting pitchers.
3. Cole Train Comes Through Big - Those of you who picked Gerrit Cole to win the AL Cy Young Award, like we did on here, might be onto something. Currently, the Cole Train leads all active qualified starting pitchers in games with at least 10 strikeouts, with 4. Last night alone, Gerrit Cole struck out 11 Minnesota Twins batters and continued to prove exactly why the Houston Astros made the trade to pair him, with Justin Verlander, almost two years ago. Overall on the season, Cole leads all of baseball with an overall strikeouts-per-9 rate of 13.50 and ranks ninth with an overall Opponent Batting Average Against of (.190). Given the fact that Gerrit Cole is right in the midst of his peak (he's 28 years old) and the fact that he's a free agent following this season, he could be on his way to setting himself up for a nice payday following this season, unless the Houston Astros are able to reach a contract extension with him before then. Regardless, if the Houston Astros want to return to the promise land, they will need Gerrit Cole to come through big and that's exactly what has happened thus far.
4. Porcello Tosses Eight Shutout Innings - Ever since Boston Red Sox starting pitcher, Rick Porcello, won the AL Cy Young Award back in 2016, things have been a struggle for the 30-year old pitcher, but last night could have indicated that there are potentially bigger things yet to come this season. During his start last night, Porcello tossed eight shutout innings against the Oakland Athletics with 8 strikeouts overall. The good news is that his recent success didn't just happen last night either. Porcello has now put together two quality back-to-back starts as indicated by his, 1.93 ERA over 14.0 innings of work, over the past 7 days. With the way the Boston Red Sox have been playing so far this season and with the incredible struggles of their starting rotation, a return to potential Cy Young form for Porcello would be a welcome relief for Boston. If Porcello is able to continue pitching like he has over the past 7 days and if David Price can continue to do what he has been doing, then Boston might be able to dig themselves out of their current hole and find a way to get back in the race for the American League East Championship.
5. There's a New Sheriff in San Diego - San Diego Padres starting pitcher, Chris Paddack, who has coined himself the nickname "The Sheriff" has certainly been a bright spot for the Padres so far this year and last night was no exception. During last night's start against the Atlanta Braves, Paddack recorded 5 strikeouts over 6 innings and continued his impressive ERA, which currently sits at 1.91 over 33 innings of work. Outside of that, over the bigger picture, Paddack has 35 strikeouts so far this season along with a 0.70 WHIP and leads all of baseball with the lowest BABIP (.160), among qualified starting pitchers. It's hard to believe that the Miami Marlins traded Chris Paddack to the San Diego Padres, a few years ago in exchange of relief pitcher Fernando Rodney because he could certainly be shaping himself to be the next ace in Miami, but now is focused on becoming the San Diego Padres next big stud. Beyond all of that, one of the most interesting things about Paddack is that he is a three-pitch pitcher with a fastball, curveball, and changeup in his pitch repertoire, all of which are thrown at various velocities. His fastball averages 93.8 MPH, while his curveball averages 74.6 MPH and his changeup averages 83.6 MPH.