By: Zach Miller
With the first half of the MLB season in the books, here are my top five pitchers from the National League going into the second half of the baseball season.
#1. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
This is a no brainer. Kershaw could go down as one of the best of all time at this rate. At 28 years old, it looks like there’s no slowing him down. Currently at 1891 career strikeouts, Kershaw is on pace to become one of three pitchers to reach 2,000 strikeouts before turning 29. The only other player in the last 35 years to hit 2,000 K’s under the age of 30 is King Felix Hernandez.
Besides a minor 15-day stint on the DL, the first half of this season has been nothing short of spectacular for big Clayton. He holds an 11-2 record with an outstanding 1.79 ERA, posting 145 strikeouts through 121 innings. Here’s the real kicker – Kershaw has only walked nine batters through 121 innings. NINE BATTERS. This marks his K/BB ratio at 16.11. I’m getting excited just typing it. The best thing about watching Kershaw pitch is his ridiculous curveball; it looks like something straight out of a video game.
Let’s see what else Kershaw can do throughout the second half of the season. I couldn’t tell you the last time I have seen a pitcher so dominant in recent years. I remember growing up and seeing pitchers mid-end of their careers putting up great stats, but we are witnessing Kershaw dominate from start to finish, and at this rate who knows when we’re going to start seeing a decline in his performance. I can’t wait to see what he can do for the remainder of the year, and hopefully the dodgers can hold on to the wild card spot and get Kershaw to the playoffs.
Side note: Kershaw is one of the most all around likeable guys in professional sports. Just a good person with a great attitude.
#2. Madison Bumganer, San Francisco Giants
Mister “I don’t need a DH” can also pitch the lights out. It’s tough pitching in the NL – everything you do will be overshadowed by Kershaw, but Bumgarner is the next best thing to watch. Always electric and has so much passion for the game.
The Giants, led by the 26-year-old Bumgarner, finished off the first half very hot by claiming the best record in baseball at 57-33. Bumgarner has posted a 10-4 record with a 1.94 ERA through 129.2 innings pitched, and he also has 146 K’s. Every time you watch him on the mound you know something great is going to happen. MadBum has the maturity and poise on the mound of a pitcher who has been around for 10+ years. His intensity is unparalleled when you watch him on the mound. One area where he has really shined this year is at the plate – he’s batting .160, which isn’t awful for a NL pitcher who has started 19 games this year (one notable game was against the A’s where he said he didn’t want a DH and hit a double to prove his point). MadBum also has two home runs and five rbi’s on the season; for comparison’s sake, he’s only given up 12 homers and 28 earned runs.
Everyone knows the story with the Giants – they won in 2010,2012,2014….2016? It almost seems as if they are destined to win another World Series this year. When you have an ace like Bumgarner, it seems like the wheels are already in motion for us to see another Giants World Series run.
#3. Stephen Strausburg, Washington Nationals
As a Mets fan, it pains me to put a Nats pitcher in this list; but you have to give credit where credit is due. Strausburg went from the fireballing phenom throwing 100mph fastballs to a pitcher with sensational control. He still gets his fastball up to 97 on occasion, but his precision is really what has made him stand out this year. And the boy can hit his spots.
A 12-0 start for Strausburg has helped place the Nationals atop the difficult NL East division (along with some absurd hitting from Daniel Murphy). A 12-0 record with a 2.62 ERA through 106.2 innings and 132 K’s so far – not bad at all, and definitely what the Nationals need since Scherzer can’t get any run support. Who knows when Strausburg will be handed his first loss. He has 12 wins through 16 starts, and it’s definitely something to keep an eye on throughout the second half. I forgot to mention – he’s only 27 years old. Welcome to the age of amazing young pitchers ladies and gents.
#4. Johnny Cueto, San Francisco Giants
Johnny Cueto, that’s right….Johnny Cueto. Johnny had hit a big rough patch at one point during his career, but he really caught fire in the playoffs last year and has carried that through the first half of this year. Everyone worried about his consistency, but I guess that isn’t much of a worry anymore since Johnny has posted a 13-1 record through 131.1 innings this season with his new team – the Giants.
I love this though. Johnny Cueto is the pitcher with the most swag in baseball (aside from ol’ crooked hat Fernando Rodney), and he’s killing it again like his young days on the Reds. This time around, he’s on a team that actually has a chance to do things. So maybe Johnny has found his stride again, or it could just be the luck of the San Francisco Giants. Second half of the year is going to be great for the Giants if MadBum and Johnny continue to dominate this way.
#5. Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins
This last spot was a real tough one to pick, but I think Jose Fernandez really deserves to be on this list. At a whopping 23 years old, this Cuban phenomenon is LIGHTS OUT on the mound. Fernandez burst onto the scene in 2013 at just 20 years old, and from that moment on you knew he was going to be something extremely special.
Okay so this year Fernandez and the Marlins have been sneaking around the NL East under the radar. Fernandez is 11-4 with a 2.52 ERA through 107.1 innings. He has the second most strikeouts in the majors at 154, only trailing Scherzer who has 20.1 more innings pitched than Jose. Astonishingly, Fernandez lost his first game at home in his young career which is an impressive statistic since his career record is 33-13 through 64 starts. He has an INSANE slider. Not many in the MLB have figured it out yet and it looks like nobody is going to. He has good heat on the fastball and a powerful curveball that really make him shine. Watch out for Jose and the Marlins in the second half of the year as a possible second wild card team if they can stay hot.
Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets: A 23-year-old behemoth of a man from Mansfield Texas. If this was me picking my favorite pitchers in baseball right now, Thor would be no. 1 on this list. He’s 9-4 with a 2.56ERA and 128K’s on the year. And he has only walked 18 batters. Trust me, you will hear from me again about Syndy.
Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs: He’s shown stints of his 2015 dominance, but when you have an offense like the Cubs have you’ll get bailed out. He’s 12-4 with a 2.68 ERA and 121K’s on the season, but a couple of off games kept him off the list.
Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves: Don’t let the 3-8 record fool you – Teheran is still a stud with a 2.96 ERA and 107 K’s. Just a good pitcher stuck in a tough situation. Started off the year slow, but he’s picked up steam and I expect that to continue into the second half of the season.
Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals: Scherzer is 10-6 with a 3.03 ERA and he leads the league in Strikeouts with 164.
Zach Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks: Started off abysmally with a 5.50 ERA in April, but Greinke is now 10-3 with a 3.62 ERA.
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