By Christian S. Kohl
Starting pitching in the National League is off to a ferociously hot start. The days of inflated home run totals and offensive power statistics appear well behind us, as a 2.01 ERA in the National League is currently good for tenth place among starters with 30 IP or more. Yet, which starters are the true elite standouts in the early going?
A special note for individual performance vs. actual results should go to Chicago’s Ryan Dempster. Don’t be deceived by his 0-1 record: Dempster is pitching to a league leading 1.02 ERA over 35 innings without managing to record a win. He also sports 36 K’s in 5 starts in addition to a .85 WHIP. The wins will come soon if he continues at that rate.
Dodgers lefty Ted Lilly finds himself off to a red hot start this season, sporting a 4-0 record and a phenomenal 1.41 ERA. The former Yankee prospect has performed expertly so far in the early going, striking out nearly twice as many hitters as he walks.
Twenty-six year-old stud Johnny Cueto is also turning heads for Cincinnati early in the year. Fresh off a CG against the Pirates, Cueto sports a 4-0 record along with a 1.23 ERA. He has been a model of consistency so far, with each of his six starts going at least 5, and allowing more than one run only once.
Even though he’s not lighting up the leaderboard just yet, phenom Steven Strasburg is always lighting up the radar gun. With an absolutely electric and overpowering fastball in addition to an array of devastating offspeed pitches, Strasburg finds himself pitching to a 1.66 ERA, striking out one batter for every inning he has pitched so far. The biggest issue with Strasburg will be his health, and whether or not his thunderbolt of an arm can endure the strain of the first one, and ultimately multiple full major league seasons.
With over a month of the major league season behind us, the early favorite for Cy Young consideration would have to be the St. Louis machine Lance Lynn. The 24 year-old righty is off to a blazing 6-0 start with a 1.40 ERA and 37 K’s. St. Louis has scored 4 or more runs in all of his starts, and he has yet to allow more than 2 in an outing. With that much run support from the offense and that much dominance on the mound from Lynn, so far this year, a Lynn outing is synonymous with a Cardinal win.
One would think that pitchers like Roy Halladay and other elite mainstays of the NL starting pitcher’s guild will begin to warm with the summertime. For the time being however, the names above are setting the pace for pitching dominance in the National League. The years where the 50 home run season felt pedestrian may be well behind us, but that doesn’t mean there’s not endless amounts of excitement to be felt in this current era of pitching prowess. After watching Strasburg throw 99 on the black for strike two and then buckle kneecaps with a putaway 12-6 hook, it really is hard not to be a baseball fan. Stay tuned to see which starter reigns supreme by season’s end.
Christian S. Kohl is a writer and filmmaker based in New York City. Find out more about him at DailySpew.com.