Is Strasburg Really the Best Pitcher in the League?

According to PECOTA, Baseball Prospectus’ prediction system, Stephen Strasburg will have the lowest ERA of any starting pitcher in the league. He isn’t the most valuable starter because they only have him starting 23 games, not the 31-33 that a full season would bring. So because of limited playing time, he ranks behind Verlander, Halladay, Sabathia, Lincecum and Lee with WARP, but with ERA, he’s the leader.

Here are the predictions for starting pitchers in the league

As you can see, Saint Stephen leads the pack of pretty impressive guys. And if you’re wondering how he stacks up against AL pitchers, he’s a half a run ahead of his closest competition. What does this all mean? Is he really the unequivocally best pitcher in baseball right now?

Well maybe, but probably not. While he certainly is among the best, if you had one game to win right now, you might choose Halladay or Lincecum or one of those other guys first. PECOTA uses past performance to help determine how players will fare, and in his limited time, Strasburg has done nothing short of dominate. Over the course of a full season, he probably won’t be quite as impossible to hit. But PECOTA looks at what he’s done at every level of the pros and sees a guy who can’t be touched.

When this season shakes out, Strasburg will probably be among the best of the bunch, but with more than 12 starts (his 2010 number), he’ll have a bad game or two in there. The 2.38 ERA might not come true, but he’ll still be really impressive. People will likely be disappointed to see him get shut down, and talk about how great he (and the Nats) will be when he can start 30 games. For now, while he may not be the absolute best pitcher out there, it’s closer than you might think.

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