Originally posted on Taking Bad Schotz  |  Last updated 5/20/13
Recently I was watching Baseball Tonight, and the host tasked the analysts with listing the top five starters in the National League.  First up was Doug Glanville, whose list included Patrick Corbin, Shelby Miller, and Matt Harvey, the most tenured of which (Corbin) has thrown only 160.1 innings in the majors.  Miller hasn’t even made ten career starts.  None of these guys have thrown enough big league innings to convince me that they deserve to be amongst the top five starters in the National League.  What these three do possess, is a sub-two ERA so far in 2013.  Glanville’s criteria for his list clearly consisted mostly of current ERA, which, when over a sample as small as the 2013 season, is historically a terrible evaluation of true talent.  I don’t mean to take shots at Doug Glanville; he is a good analyst and I generally enjoy his presence on Baseball Tonight, and the rest of his list consisted of Jordan Zimmerman and Clayton Kershaw, both of which I agree with.  It just seems that this sort of faulty evaluation of players is all too common. This got me thinking, if I were to create a list of the top five starters in the National League, who would make the cut?  So I decided to do just that.  Below is my list, in descending order, of who I believe to be the five best starters currently pitching in the National League.  It was pretty tough to put together, especially once you get to the four and five spots.  I did my best to view each pitcher objectively and without putting too much emphasis on the most recent results.  So here goes: 5) Jordan Zimmerman, RHP, Nationals Zimmerman has been dominant this year, recording a 1.62 ERA and a 2.76 FIP so far. He was excellent last year as well, posting a sub-three ERA and a 3.51 FIP in 195.2 IP. He has also consistently gone deep into games, averaging over 7.1 IP per start this season.  This is probably the biggest reason why Zimmerman’s name appears on this list and not Stephen Strasburg’s.  Over his career, Strasburg has been more dominant, his 2.65 career FIP is pretty impressive, but he is averaging less than six IP per start. 4) Gio Gonzalez, LHP, Nationals The Nationals notch their second starter on the list with Gonzalez, who was worth 5 WAR last year on the strength of a 2.82 FIP and a 9.35 K/9.  So far this season, he has struggled with his command a bit, leading to a slight uptick in walks and home runs resulting in a 3.98 FIP.  However, 12.5% of fly balls have resulted in home runs this year, much higher than his career rate of 9.5%.  You can expect that rate to regress to the mean as the season goes on, which will result in better overall numbers for Gonzalez. 3) Cliff Lee, LHP, Phillies Cliff Lee won only six games in 2012, leading many people to write it off as a poor season for the lefty.  While Lee wasn’t quite as sharp as in the two previous seasons, he was still one of the best pitchers in the NL last year, and continues to be so.  He put up a 3.13 FIP while walking only 1.19 batters per nine innings.  He also threw over 210 innings for the fifth straight season.  He’s continued to pitch at an elite level in 2013, boasting a 3.00 FIP and 1.4 WAR in his first nine starts. 2) Adam Wainwright, RHP, Cardinals While much of the attention has gone to Matt Harvey, Wainwright has been absurdly good this season, leading National League pitchers in both WAR (2.5) and FIP (1.81).  He has increased his strikeout rate compared to last season and reduced his walk and home run rates, although the latter is likely due to some luck in the HR/FB department.  Since 2009, he has averaged around 5 WAR per season, and is on pace to outdo that number in 2013. 1) Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Dodgers Kershaw has been so consistently good over the past few seasons that he was almost a lock to be in the number one spot.  Here are his key stats from 2011-2013: He’s clearly the best pitcher in the National League, and has a legitimate argument for being the best pitcher in all of baseball. -Albright
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