Top 20 Starting Pitchers of 2022


By Cooper Woodward, Reporter

The starting pitcher is the most important position in the entire 9 that takes the field. They oversee the baseball and where it goes, and it is their job to make sure the no runs come across to score. The work that goes into perfecting the craft of a Major League pitcher is unmatched. That being said, there are 20 players who do it better than the rest. 

20: Charlie Morton (RHP, ATL) 

Charlie Morton is (in my opinion) the 20th best pitcher in Major League baseball. He uses a 5-pitch combo, using his curveball and fastball the most (35.7% CB, and 35% FB respectively). If this was a pitch list, then Morton would be in the top 3 behind Tyler Glasnow’s curveball and a Devin Williams changeup. Morton’s curveball had generated only 35 hits with only 8 going for Extra base hits. What makes his curveball stand out from the rest is its velocity and how much his pitch drops. The average curveball has a velocity of 75 mph with a spin rate of 2530 RPM’s. In 2021 Morton through his curveball with an average 82 mph velocity, and a 3053-spin rate putting him in the 99th percent tile in curve spin and 90th in curveball velocity. Also, his mental toughness is absolutely crazy. In the second inning of game 1 of the world series, Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel hit a ground ball off of Morton’s leg, the ball ended up breaking his fibula and would cause him to miss the rest of the World Series. Morton did eventually leave the game but not before recording 3 outs (2 by the way of the strikeout). 

19. Shohei Ohtani (RHP, LAA) 

Shohei Ohtani had one of the best seasons for a player in recent memory. I can go on and on about his hitting stats, but this is a pitching article, so we have to talk about that. Normally a hitter who pitches would come in during blowouts or games where the bullpen is incredibly overworked. That isn’t the case with Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani used 5 pitches in 2021, primarily using his fastball, slider and splitter the most. Ohtani’s standout pitch is his splitter which is one of the best current ones in baseball behind arguably Kevin Gasman of the Blue Jays. For context most splitters don’t spin all that much. Most are thrown with a similar grip to a fastball, but the pitch simply drops with gravity given that it has little to no topspin. In 2021, when Ohtani threw his splitter, opponents had a .090 batting average against him, and they only gathered 11 hits and only 2 went for extra bases. Along with those insane stats, his splitter averaged around 1500 RPMs, and he went through it with an average velo of 87 MPH. For some context the average velo for a splitter is 83 with an average spin rate of 1290 RPMs.

18. Nathan Eovaldi (RHP, BOS) 

Nathan Eovaldi made a huge jump from 2020 to 2021 in his stats, pitch usage, and command. If you look at a start from 2020 and a start from 2021, you can tell how Eovaldi improved over the 2 seasons. In 2021 the league average velocity on a fastball was 96 mph. The slowest fastball Eovaldi threw reached a speed of 97, consistently averaging a velocity within the high 90s or low 100s. He also used his fastball a lot (around 45% in 2021). Take the wild card game vs the Yankees as an example. Out of his 71 pitches, nearly half of them were fastballs, with the other portion of his pitches coming from his cutter, slider, curveball, and splitter. Similar to Ohtani’s splitter, Eovaldi’s splitter has a spin rate in the mid 1500s range. Along with the crazy spin stats, his splitter earned the 3rd most swings and misses over his entire arsenal of pitches, just behind his slider with 39% and his curveball with 35%. 

17. Blake Snell (LHP, SDP)

The Padres sent quite a package to the Rays to acquire Snell, forming a monster rotation consisting of Snell, San Diego native Joe Musgrove, and the Japanese phenom Yu Darvish. That rotation never really panned out in 2021, but Musgrove had a solid year despite the no-hitter he threw, Darvish having one of the worse years of his career, sporting an earned run average over 4.00 for only the 3rd time in his ongoing 9-year career, and Snell really never finding his footing in his first year in San Diego. Despite that he did show some promise this season that showed he’s not that far from bouncing back to another Cy-Young potential season. Over time he realized that his slider was getting more whiffs, swings and misses, so he upped the usage of his slider while decreasing the use of his curveball and changeup as batters continued to figure out how often he would use said pitches. 2021 was a year to forget for Snell.  

16. Lance Lynn (RHP, CWS)

Lance Lynn is weird. Logic says he shouldn’t be as good as he is, given he only throws 95% of his pitches as variants of his fastball (4 seam, cutter, sinker) and as shown with guys before him on this list, you will most likely need a pitch that moves to elevate your play. That isn’t the case with Lynn. While fastballs don’t normally move all that much, the 3 that Lynn throws do. His 4 seams have had -0.8 inches of vertical movement (meaning it stays as still as it possibly can be), his cutter moves around -2.9, and his sinker moves around 3. The average movement on a fastball is around 0.5 inches. Despite the challenge of having to work with 3 variants of fastballs, Lynn shined in 2021, sporting an 11-6 W/L record, a 2.69 earned run average, and 176 strikeouts over 157 innings pitched 

15. Robbie Ray (LHP, SEA) 

This is going to be a controversial opinion given Ray is coming off a Cy Young award season. Ray improved drastically after his dismal 2020 with both the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Toronto Blue Jays. While Ray relies on his fastball as his main pitch, his swing and miss pitch is his slider which coming from a left-handed pitcher is incredibly hard to hit. For some context, sliders normally are hard to hit from either side due to their ridiculous movement paired with its velocity. But receiving a slider from lefties like Chris Sale, Taylor Rodgers, Carlos Rodon, makes it even harder to get a hit on it, especially given that (depending on the placement) the pitch can run in on your hands or incredibly inside of you if you are a right-handed batter. Ray’s slider has a 2189 rpm spin rate with a 45.8% whiff rate, and a high 80s low 90s velocity. The average slider has a 2430 rpm with a mid 80’s velocity 

14. Carlos Rodon (LHP, SFG) 

Rodon had a incredible 2021 after an average to below average last few seasons. He stayed with the white sox all throughout his career but never really seemed to find his footing in the later parts of his career, sporting an era over 3.75 throughout most of his career. Rodon was nearly sent down to the Birmingham Barons (MiLB Affiliate of the white sox) due to a poor 2020 and a poor spring training. The White Sox made the choice to keep Rodon on the 40 Man roster for opening day and he made it count, a ridiculous stat line of 13-5, 2.37 era over 24 starts, with 185 strikeouts and throwing a no hitter in the process vs the Cleveland Guardians. The biggest jump for Rodon was his use of his fastball which he tinkered and tooled with over the offseason. Although the lowest whiff rate on any of his pitches is his fastball, he continues to be dominant with it striking out 40% of the batters he faced. Rodon has some promise going into 2022. It seems like he finally figured it out. But will he prove it in 2022.

13. Clayton Kershaw (LHP, LAD)

It’s a debate if the future hall of famer is even going to play with his dodgers in 2022, but what I can say with certainty is that he is not done with the sport of baseball. While his playing ability may be questioned, his skill level cannot be questioned as he has continued to perform at a high level through his 14 years as a dodger. Kershaw relies on 3 main pitches, a fastball, a slider and a curveball. As stated previously, sliders from a lefty are incredibly difficult to hit and Kershaw has more than proved this point with a 44% whiff rate paired with a 2546 rpm slider, and his curveball is arguably even better than his slider. Nicknamed Cooperstown Curveball (Home of the baseball HOF), his curveball starts at the exact same path as his fastball but drops about 6.5 inches of vertical movement (average) to the bottom of the strike zone. A hammer of a curveball to say the least.

12. Freddy Peralta (RHP, MIL) 

Peralta would be the best pitcher in about 90% of pitching rotations, except in the Milwaukee Brewers’ rotation (his team) and New York Mets’. Used as a reliever in 2019 and 2020, Peralta needed to find a 3rd pitch to go with his dominant fastball and wonky curveball. Instead of just adding one pitch to his arsenal, he added 2: a slider and a changeup. He mainly used his reliable fastball and slider the most, his slider being his swing and miss pitch. Unlike some other sliders on this list, Peralta’s slider moves a lot: 3.9 inches vertically and 14 horizontally to be exact. Peralta showed promise in 2021, his first season as a starter, but he’ll need a lot of improvement to cement himself in the top 10 pitchers in the MLB.

11. Chris Sale (LHP, BOS)

Sale is coming off a tommy john recovery season where in 9 games, Sale posted a 5-1 record, a 3.16 earned run average, 52 strikeouts, and threw an immaculate inning (where you throw 9 straight strikes for 3 strikeouts to end the inning). In a start against the twins, Sale also has a ridiculous slider. Because of his wonky delivery, similar to Giant’s reliever Tyler Rodgers, his pitches are a lot harder for batters to get their bat to. Although it has a low spin rate compared to average sliders, he generates a ton of swings and misses, as his slider has a 35% whiff rate. Sale has a chance to finally win himself a cy young this season coming off tommy john surgery and a season where he performed as well as he could, and he has a shot to do it in a full 162. I find it hard to see a situation where he doesn’t bounce back in a great way.

10. Julio Urias (LHP, LAD)

Urias is a weird pitcher, he doesn’t have this standout pitch that wows everyone, although his curveball is incredible and dubbed a sweeping curve by how much vertical movement it has (42.9 inches to be exact). What he does have is heart and work ethic. Urias grinded as a reliever in the Dodgers system and in a Dodgers uniform, spending the 2016-2019 season as a reliever, before finally getting his chance to start in the 2020-2021 season. He made that chance count, sporting an E.R.A below 3 in both starting seasons, as well as in closing out the 2020 world series, 2020 NLDS, and the game that gave the Dodgers a playoff spot in 2021. Urias is a good pitcher who relies majorly on a 4-seam fastball, curveball, changeup, and sinker, throwing his fastball and curveball the most. I could go into long detail about his stats and how stupidly good his curveball is (top 3 in my opinion), but it would be useless as his pitch is quite literally unexplainable.

9. Logan Webb (RHP, SF) 

It’s hard not to fall in love with Logan Webb if you are a baseball fan. He gets ground balls, swings and misses, and whiffs – all of which are a manager’s dream. Webb’s arguably best performance was in the 2021 playoffs, where he carved up the Dodgers not once but twice, where in game 1 he threw 7 2/3 shutout striking out 10, and in his second appearance, he tossed 7 shutout while only allowing 1 run and striking out 7. Oh yeah and he only walked 1 batter in 2 NLDS appearances. Webb uses a peculiar pitch mix compared to other pitchers. 89% of the time, Webb uses a sinker, slider or changeup. Very few pitchers do that, but an even fewer amount do it as well as Webb. Webb was the 2nd starter in the giants’ rotation but would be the 1st starter in 90% of starting rotations in baseball. Webb pitched an 11-3 record, a 3.03 earned run average, and 158 strikeouts across 148 innings pitched in the 2021 season as a giant.

8. Brandon Woodruff (RHP, MIL)

Corbin Burnes was the best pitcher in the NL last season (Sorry Jacob DeGrom. Gotta stay healthy), but Woodruff wasn’t as far behind as many people think. Woodruff was the 1st starter in the Brewers rotation for a while before the emergence of Corbin Burnes. Even 2nd to Burnes in the rotation, he was still crazy good sporting a 2.70 ERA and 302 strikeouts in 2 seasons as the 2nd starter behind Burnes. He uses a very basic-normal pitch mix (4SFB, sinker, Curveball, slider, changeup) using his fastball the most respectively. In 5 seasons in the major leagues, Woodruff has amassed a 3.23 ERA, 524 strikeouts across 92 games, and was a 2-time all-star.

7. Zach Wheeler (RHP, PHI)

Wheeler performed well in his time as a New York Met, finishing with an ERA less than 4 in 3/4 seasons in a Mets uniform. Where he thrived was in Philadelphia where he finished top 20 in Cy Young, voting 2 years in a row, finishing in second in 2021. As a member of the Phillies, Wheeler pitched to a sub 3 earned run average and struck out an even 300 batters across 284.1 innings of work (including a league leading 213 innings in 2021). Wheeler also has a very good but basic pitch mix. Wheeler used a fastball, slider, sinker, curveball changeup combination which proves himself well. His curveball pitch is far and away his swing and miss pitch. Looking at his film, a majority of his strikeouts came from the curveball. The stats back it up also as out of the 5 pitches he used, his curveball had the highest whiff % at 46, and a .145 batting average against.

6. Walker Buehler (RHP, LAD)

Buehler emerged onto the scene in 2018 during his rookie campaign. In that season, Buehler finished with an 8-5 record, a 2.62 earned run average across, 137 innings pitched, and 23 starts. To top it off, Buehler finished 3rd in rookie of the year voting that season. Buehler doesn’t really have a standout pitch, or an unusual pitch arsenal, but what he does have is velocity. He relies on 6 pitches: his fastball, cutter, slider, curve, changeup, and sinker. He is above average in spin rate and velocity for every single one of his 6 pitches. In 5 seasons as a dodger, Buehler sported a 2.90 earned run average, 632 strikeouts, 573 innings pitched, and was a 2-time all-star including 2021.

5. Shane Bieber (RHP, CLE)

The Guardians are in a place where very few teams are and ever have been. That being said, one of the few certainties of the franchise is that star pitcher Shane Bieber is good. Really good. Bieber has a pitching arsenal that consists of a fastball, curveball, slider, changeup, and cutter. His curveball is arguably his best pitch, with him being in the 90th percentile of curveball spin and 99th in curveball velocity. Oh yeah, he also won an award named the triple crown. This award is given to someone that leads the league in either strikeouts, wins and ERA, or homeruns, batting average, and runs batted in or RBI’s. Bieber is one of the greats who have accomplished such a feat.

4. Gerrit Cole (RHP, NYY) 

Cole had a 2021 filled with controversy, from the question of him not being able to handle fans at the brutal Yankee stadium, to his sticky stuff controversy, Cole has had an interesting 2021. But through it all he continued to dominate pitching to a 3.23 ERA, striking out 243 batters, pitching 181 innings over 30 starts, and only walking 47 batters out of the 726 batters he faced. That’s a 5% walk rate! Despite the recent controversies of Cole like his foreign substance issues, to his consistency issues, to failing to perform in the post-season, and everything in between, I believe Cole is the 4th best pitcher in baseball.

3. Max Scherzer (RHP, NYM)

Scherzer is a psychopath. No really. I can go deep into him and his psychopathic tendencies, but this is a pitching article, so let’s show how good his pitching is. Scherzer uses a fastball-slider combination the majority of the time when pitching. His fastball being the pitch he uses gets strikes, and his slider being used as his main whiff or swing and miss pitch. In 2021 as a Dodger, Scherzer’s slider had a 143-batting average against, an average 86 miles per hour, and struck out 25% of his total K count; with the slider, he had an average 2273 rpm spin rate and an average 39.2 inches of horizontal movement. If the trend Scherzer is going on with his performance and age he may even overtake his  

2. Corbin Burnes (RHP, MIL)

Burnes one upped his stellar 2020 season (2.11 Era with 88ks) with an even better 2021 sporting a 2.43 ERA, 234 strikeouts, and only 34 walks across 28 games. Oh yeah and he also won the freaking Cy Young award. Burnes was the 2 behind Star Brandon Woodruff for almost all of his career given his struggles in the late 2010s, but he picked it up over the last 2 seasons. Burnes really didn’t let up from 2020, sporting similar basic stats and similar advanced stats with his pitches and his play. It is unknown how good Burnes will perform with rule changes coming and more players coming to a more competitive National League Central, and National League in general, but what is certain is that Burnes will continue to perform at a high level to possibly repeat his cy young award season in 2021.

1. Jacob deGrom (RHP, NYM)

Jacob deGrom is the best pitcher currently on planet earth. There are very few arguments that you can make for someone to be better than deGrom. But as of this very second, deGrom is the best pitcher on the planet. The biggest jump made from 2020-2021 for deGrom was his slider. In 2021 his slider averaged a 92.6 MPH velocity (2020: 89), a 58% whiff rate (2020: 42%), a 2599 rpm spin rate (2020: 2413), and a .096 batting average against (2020: .297). Before his injury on July 18th which would lead to him not throwing another pitch (In either major or minor leagues) for the rest of 2021, deGrom sported the ridiculous stat line of just 4 earned runs in 72 innings, striking out 117 batters while only walking 10. That comes out to a 0.50 Earned Run Average and a 0.80 FIP. It is almost unfathomable how good deGrom was before his injury. If he can stay healthy for a full 162 game season, he will far and away be the best pitcher on the planet.