This is the final installment of the position rankings and it has been an enjoyable exercise, culling through opinions from evaluators, getting feedback from some players, picking the brains of some really smart scouts. Justin Havens, Mark Simon and John Fisher of ESPN Stats & Information have provided outstanding statistical insight, confirming the greatness that we've seen in some players and, in some cases, revealing unseen excellence in others.
It's all good.
Because today, we rank the top 10 starting pitchers, and there doesn't seem to be any combination of 10 that is satisfactory. With each new set of 10 being considered, I found myself asking how I could leave some great pitcher off the list, and then wondering who would be dropped off the list in order to get somebody else on.
It would've been easier to identify the top 10 starting pitchers in 2000, when a total of three posted ERAs lower than 3.00. But this season, 22 starters had ERAs below 3.00. (On the flip side, there were just three first basemen with an OPS over .900 this season; in 2000, there were 10 first basemen with an OPS over .900).
We finally settled on 10, but this is a post-and-duck situation: I'm posting this and then heading off to Tora Bora. If you think there's a starting pitcher who should be on this list, you probably can build a convincing and reasonable case.
He knows better than anyone that he has the "Yeah, but " hurdle in front of him, as in, "Yeah, but he hasn't had success in the postseason." Until he gets another shot at October, he'll have to settle for being the best pitcher on the planet from April through September, the part of the year he has mastered.
If you need a reminder, Kershaw led the majors in ERA in each of the past four seasons -- he's the first pitcher ever to do that -- while winning three Cy Young Awards and finishing second in the other season. He needs two more wins to reach 100, and oh, by the way, he's just 26 years old.
Kershaw led all pitchers in adjusted ERA+ in 2014 by a staggering difference, like a marathoner winning an elite race by five minutes. And again, this was a year in which so many pitchers thrived.
If there were a metric that reflected confidence, he'd probably lead every year, because he carries with him a certain Pedro Martinez-like swagger.