Last night, Corbin Burnes threw 7 1/3 innings against the Giants, allowing two runs on four hits, striking out 10.
In doing so, Burnes took over the No. 1 spot in Bill James’ World’s No. 1 Starting Pitcher Rankings.
Burnes, the NL’s reigning Cy Young winner, has a better ERA in 2022 (2.14) than he did in 2021 (2.43), even though his peripherals are not as good (his K per 9 are down, and both his BB per 9 and HR per 9 are up). His 95 MPH cutter is one of MLB’s top run-saving pitches for the second straight season.
You can find the current rankings for World’s No. 1 Starting Pitcher and an explanation of the methodology at Bill’s website.
The system utilizes the Game Score stat that Bill devised in the mid 1980s and rewards consistent excellence over an extended time. It uses multiple years of pitching performance to evaluate pitchers, which explains why some pitchers having great 2022s, like Shane McClanahan of the Rays, don’t rank No. 1.
The No. 2 pitcher, Sandy Alcantara of the Marlins, will try to re-take the lead from Burnes and hold off No. 3 pitcher, Max Scherzer of the Mets, when he pitches tonight against the Phillies.
Alcantara leads the majors in Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement (5.0) and innings pitched (130 1/3), and he ranks second in ERA (1.73). Yet, among pitchers with at least 60 innings pitched, Alcantara ranks 59th in strikeout percentage and 52nd in percentage of swings that missed (23% – Burnes leads in this stat, 36%).
Though Alcantara throws a fastball and changeup with average velocities of nearly 98 and 92 MPH, respectively, these are not high-end swing-and-miss pitches. He throws his 4-seamer, sinker, changeup, and slider all at similar rates, keeping hitters guessing at what will come next. His success is more about unimpressive contact than missed swings.
Alcantara has allowed the lowest line drive rate in MLB (14%) and has the 5th-highest ground ball rate (57%). He ranks 8th in MLB’s barrel per PA, which measures how often a hitter records an optimal combination of exit velocity and launch angle. Coincidentally, his rate (3.2%) is the same as Burnes’.
Alcantara brings two streaks into his final start before the All-Star Break – 19 straight scoreless innings and 12 consecutive starts of at least 7 innings pitched, during which his ERA is 1.24. If he continues those runs tonight, he’ll almost surely be the World’s No. 1 Pitcher heading into the All-Star Break.