Pitchers in baseball are the closest thing to quarterbacks when it comes to importance in team sports. A bad pitcher is almost guaranteed to lose a game for their team. On the opposite end of the spectrum, they can also single handily win them a game. The position is so complicated requiring them to have a bevy of different pitches. These pitches are also expected to carry a particular speed and weight. The amount of injuries that can stem from the position are endless. Any pitcher who can sustain success over a decade deserves special recognition.
What better place to start than with Chris Sale? The gun slinger has an impressive 3.06 ERA throughout the decade. He even managed seven straight seasons of over 200 strikeouts including a 2017 campaign in which he had 308. If that wasn’t enough, he is also the all-time leader in strikeout-to-walk percentage at 25.3%. Although Sale posted a 5.40 ERA in his World Series appearance, he managed to walk away with the title. The biggest knock on his game is the lack of MVP’s, ERA Titles, and Cy Young Awards.
Zack Greinke’s resume includes a Cy Young award, six-time Golden Glove winner, two-time ERA Title holder, and even won the Silver Slugger award twice. He had a chance to really cement himself as a top pitcher in with a World Series title in 2017. Unfortunately, his very respectful 2.45 ERA was not enough to get the job done. His inspiring performance in game 7 should have been enough to elevate Houston to another World Series but his fellow pitchers and batters let him down.
Verlander’s decade campaign includes a World Series title, 2 Cy Young awards, a Triple Crown, and an ALCS MVP. The 36 year old posted an ERA of 2.58 in 2019 showing no true signs of slowing down. The dominant right hander has also had two no hitters during this decade. The greatest downfall of his game comes in the World Series where his ERA has never dipped below 3.75 including a 2019 appearance that saw his ERA at 5.73 and an 0-2 record.
The pitcher on the other side of the mound in the 2019 World Series was Max Scherzer who is probably the most intimidating pitcher of the decade. The winner of 3 Cy Young awards in this decade alone has been a force to be reckoned with. Four years in a row he struck out at least 250 batters that includes an active 8 straight seasons with at least 200 strikeouts. Scherzer has the lowest ERA of 3.60 in any World Series matched up against all the other names on this list. He separated himself from the pitchers prior on this list by being the best pitcher on baseball’s biggest stage for me.
Putting Clayton Kershaw at number one on this list is such a bittersweet feeling. The pitcher had a decade ERA of 2.31 to go along with an MVP and three Cy Young awards. His five ERA titles all happened in this decade as well. It is such a shame that the most talented pitcher of all time is also the worst post season performer. A career post season pitching ERA of 4.43 is made worse by two World Series ERA’s of 4.02 and 7.36 in 2017 and 2018 respectively. It was difficult for me to place Kershaw above Scherzer when he showed up when his team needed him most. With that being said, I cannot place him below Scherzer given his historical regular season run this decade.