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Appointment Television: Baseball’s Must Watch Starting Pitchers (June 2013 Update)

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Last month, I rolled out our list of Appointment Television starting pitchers, or pitchers who were worth planning your baseball viewing (and life) schedule around. Today, I’d like to update that list and talk about the changes. The original list can be found here, which also includes a little more detail on the origin of the project. Recall that the order is tiered into stable and non stable (italics), but each ranking is meaningless.

Here is the gist from the original:

The methodology is simple but also subjective. To be classified as Appointment TV you have to have a high likelihood of pitching a gem. There is no set definition of gem or likelihood, but the idea is that to make this list, you have to be likely enough to throw a game worth clearing your schedule for. I think a number of pitchers qualify. Most are high strikeout guys, but that isn’t a requirement. If you are good enough to dominate on a semi-regular basis you’re in. If on your day to pitch, I make sure I’m aware of the start time so that I can check in, you’re Appointment TV.

This is a rolling list and pitchers will be added and subtracted throughout the season and it will be updated as necessary. There is no order other than that pitchers lower on the list in italics are recent additions, so if you’re wondering if Jordan Zimmermann really qualifies, know that he’s earned his way onto the list in his last few starts. Remember, this is a list of pitchers who on this date are can’t miss TV. These are not necessarily the best pitchers and plenty of good pitchers aren’t on the list.

Appointment Television Starting Pitchers:

  1. Justin Verlander
  2. Adam Wainwright
  3. Clayton Kershaw
  4. Felix Hernandez
  5. Yu Darvish
  6. Matt Harvey
  7. Cliff Lee
  8. Clay Buchholz
  9. Max Scherzer
  10. Jordan Zimmermann
  11. Anibal Sanchez
  12. Jon Lester
  13. Matt Moore
  14. Shelby Miller
  15. Doug Fister
  16. Stephen Strasburg (placed on DL 6/5)

Since the original list came out in early May, we’ve made a few changes. First, Stephen Strasburg is off the list because he’s on the DL, which is an arbitrary rule built into the system. He’ll return to the list once he’s activated. After that, you’ll notice all of May’s borderline candidates have made the leap into the stable portion of the list with the exception of Matt Moore. I love Moore’s stuff, but despite the good record, strikeouts, and ERA, a guy who walks 4.78 batters per 9 just isn’t a sure bet for this list. He remains in italics.

The other borderline guys from May, Buchholz, Scherzer, Zimmermann, Sanchez, and Lester have all clearly demonstrated their staying power. Buchholz, Scherzer, and Sanchez are contending with Felix for the AL Cy Young right now and Zimmermann and Lester are both showing that they are top 15 starters again, even if they aren’t quite dominating like they did in April.

Two pitchers join the list, as well, in the form of Doug Fister and Shelby Miller. Now I’ve personally always been a giant Fister fan thanks to his great control and supreme efficiency, but he’s shown over the last two years that he is a legitimate leading man. As I write this he’s 9th in MLB in pitcher WAR (2.5) and has one of the league’s lowest walk rates (1.4 per 9) and is coming off a string of 3 straight gems/near gems.

Miller was another guy I was watching when I made the initial list, but he needed to do a little more to make the cut because he had so little big league experience. That’s no longer a problem for the 15th best pitcher by WAR this year (1.9) who has yet to allow more than 3 runs in a start this season. His ERA and FIP are sparkling and even when his HR/FB regresses, he’ll still be a very good starter thanks to excellent strikeout and walk numbers.

Feel free to make a case for other starting pitchers who are must watch guys and we’ll consider adding them to the list.

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