Who are the best starters in baseball? That’s a general question that is hard to quantify because there are several factors to consider when answering that question. For the purposes of this discussion, we listed down the Top 10 MLB pitchers with the best ERA during the 2018 season. Now while this may not reflect the absolute best pitchers in all of baseball, this is a good start considering the earned run average (ERA) is one of the most crucial for any hurler in the big leagues.
As of May 16, 2019, there are five pitchers who have an ERA below 2.0. These are Zach Davies of the Milwaukee Brewers (1.54), Hyun-Jin Ryu of the Los Angeles Dodgers (1.72), Luis Castillo of the Cincinnati Reds (1.76), Tyler Glasnow of the Tampa Bay Rays (1.86) and Chris Paddack of the San Diego Padres (1.99). That’s three more than the number of pitchers who finished with an ERA below 2.0 last season.
Let’s take a look at the Top 10 pitchers with the best ERA last season:
1. Jacob deGrom ERA 1.70
Jacob deGrom was arguably the most dominant pitcher during the 2018 season. The New York Mets ace pitcher finished the season with a remarkable run of 24 straight quality starts to best the record of 22 set by Bob Gibson and Chris Carpenter. He finished the 2018 season with a record of 10-9 with an MLB-leading 1.7 ERA and a WHIP of 0.91 and WAR of 9.6 while striking out 269 batters. He was the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year and the 2018 National League Cy Young winner,
2. Blake Snell ERA 1.89
Blake Snell was the Tampa Bay Rays first round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft. He was named as Minor League Player of the Year in 2015 according to Baseball America during a season where he went 15-4 with an ERA of 1.41, WHIP of 1.02 while striking out 163 batters in a total of 134 innings of pitch work. So don’t be surprised why he went 21-5 with an ERA of 1.89 while punching out 221 hitters in 180.2 innings of pitch work last season on his way to winning the 2018 American Cy Young award. He led the American League in ERA and wins while making his first All-Star team selection.
3. Trevor Bauer ERA 2.21
Had he not missed games due to a stress fracture in his right ankle, there was a good chance that Trevor Bauer would have given Blake Snell a run for the American League Cy Young honors. Bauer would end up finishing 6th in the American League Cy Young award voting after going 12-6 in 27 starts. Bauer led the American League with an FIP of 2.44 and also posted an impressive 2.21 ERA. He has cemented his status as a pitcher on the rise and could easily give teammate Corey Kluber a run for the title of Ace of the staff after adding a change-up to his vast arsenal.
4. Aaron Nola ERA 2.37
Aaron Nola was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies with the 7th overall pick in the 2014 MLB draft. After displaying flashes of brilliance in his first three seasons in the Majors, he went from a very good young starter to a pitched with a 10.5 WAR in 2018. Nola started in a total of 33 games last season and finished with a 17-6 record. His 57 runs allowed last season is third best among the pitchers in this Top-10 list. For as long as Nola can stay healthy and keep away from the elbow problems that plagued him at the end of the 2016 season, there is no question that Nola is going to be one of the best pitchers in the majors for years to come.
5. Justin Verlander ERA 2.52
The Houston Astros ace is the second member of its pitching staff on this list after Gerrit Cole. The 36-year old joined the Astros during the August waiver deadline in 2017. Verlander started five games and finished with a 5-0 record with an ERA of 1.06 before playing a key role in Houston’s World Series title run. Last season, Verlander was just as impressive as he led the American League with a 7.8 K/BB ratio. He also finished with a career-best 12.2 K/9 rate while striking out a career-high 290 batters. For the 7th time in his career, Verlander finished in the Top 5 in the Cy Young voting. With Verlander and Cole among the top pitchers in the majors, the Astros opened as one of the top betting favorites to win the 2019 World Series.
6. Max Scherzer ERA 2.53
Max Scherzer failed to win a fourth Cy Young award last season but he added to his resume as one of the top pitchers in the majors with yet another brilliant effort. Given everything he has accomplished in his decorated career, Scherzer led the National league for the third consecutive season with 300 strikeouts ( a new career-high for him) and a 0.91 WHIP. The 34-year old has started at least 30 games in the last seasons and has averaged 206 innings per year. While others in this list have had success only recently, Scherzer deserves compliment for the longevity of his greatness.
7. Miles Mikolas ERA 2.83
Miles Mikolas was the San Diego Padres’ 7th round pick of the 2009 MLB draft. After pitching for the Padres and the Texas Rangers, Mikolas signed with the Yomiuri Giants of the Nippon Professional Baseball in 2015. After a strong three-year tenure in Japan, the St. Louis Cardinals signed Mikolas to a two-year $15.5M deal. He exceeded all expectations after leading the National League in wins while finishing 6th in the Cy Young voting. Aside from his 2.83 ERA, Mikolas led the National League with 1.3 walks per 9 innings. He posted 29 walks and 146 strikeouts in 200.2 innings, which are testaments to his control.
8.Kyle Freeland ERA 2.85
Kyle Freeland was the Colorado Rockies’ 8th overall pick of the 2014 MLB Draft. After entering the starting rotation in 2017 and finishing the season with an 11-11 record, Freeland had a breakout year in 2018 and had perhaps the best season of any pitcher in Colorado Rockies franchise history. He finished the season breaking the franchise record for single season ERA of 2.84 set by Ubaldo Jimenez. He ended the year with a record of 17-7 in 33 starts. Freeland started the season slow. He was 0-3 with an ERA of 5.85 in his first four starts but finished the season with a 17-4 record and ERA of 2.52 the rest of the way. He finished fourth in the Cy Young voting.
9. Mike Foltynewicz ERA 2.85
Mike Foltynewicz was the Houston Astros’ first round pick of the 2010 MLB draft but was traded to the Atlanta Braves before the 2015 season along with Andrew Thurman and Rio Ruiz in exchange for Evan Gattis and James Hoyt. After he was sent down to the Gwinnett Braves in the Triple A, Foltynewicz replaced Trevor Cahill in the starting rotation. On June 1, 2018, he pitched his first career game and shutout against the Washington Nationals. He was named as All-Star in 2018 after owning a 2.37 ERA after 17 starts.
10. Gerrit Cole ERA 2.88
The Houston Astros traded Colin Moran, Joe Musgrove, Michael Feliz and prospect Jason Martin to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Gerrit Cole after the latter had an underperforming 2017 season where he posted an ERA of 4.26 and a WHIP of 1.25. But in his first season pitching alongside Justin Verlander at the top of the Astros pitching staff, he became an ace. Cole’s strikeout rate increased from 8.7 K’s per 9 innings to an American League-best 12.4 K/9. Likewise, his 2.88 ERA was impressive as was his 2.70 FIP or Fielding Independent Pitching. Sure, Verlander is still the Astros’ pitching ace but Cole is definitely an elite pitcher now.