Perusing the leader board over at Fangraphs.com, it's easy to see the elite pitchers in baseball. Roy Halladay is on top followed by Jared Weaver, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Clayton Kershaw, Dan Haren and Daniel Hudson. Few of us would argue with such a list. Daniel Hudson is only a surprise to those of us that haven't been paying much attention this season. But just under Hudson is C. C. Sabathia and Justin Verlander. Both the Yankees' and Tigers' aces are tied with exactly 3.0 WAR and a valuation of $12.1 million.
Please understand that we are talking about the smallest of margins between these pitchers and those above them. For example, Kershaw and Haren are currently valued at $12.3 million and Hudson at $12.2 million. That's a difference that is all but imperceptible. The bottom line is that these are all elite pitchers who are at the top of their game. But, still, their relative ranking left this writer puzzled. Thinking of the season Verlander and Sabathia are having, which would you choose if you could only choose one?
Okay, in fairness, that question is complicated by the fact that one is left-handed and the other not and you'd have to consider the match ups you were choosing them for. But again, wouldn't anyone who was watching ESPN's Baseball Tonight or MLB Network's programming all season think that Verlander is having the more dominant season?
Let's put them head to head. Both have made 16 starts. Verlander has more innings at 120.7 to Sabathia's 114. Verlander has 8.2 strikeouts per nine to Sabathia's 6.63. Verlander's walks per nine are under 2 at 1.94. Sabathia is at 2.29. Sabathia has a lower home run per nine inning rate at 0.39 compared to Verlander's 0.89. Verlander has given up 77 hits to Sabathia's 112 and as you can imagine, Valander's BABIP is much, much lower than Sabathia's. Verlander's WPA (win probability added) sits at 2.08 while Sabathia's sits at 0.98. There isn't a pitch type that Verlander and Sabathia share (which is most of them) and Verlander's pitch values are all higher than Sabathia's. Sabathia has a slightly lower FIP and xFIP than Verlander.
As you look at the two pitchers head to head, you'd have to say that Justin Verlander is having the better season. Please understand that this writer is no expert on such things. This writer has no more understanding of why Sabathia's FIP and xFIP are lower than Verlander than a Tibetan monk would have. More homework is needed on this side of the typewriter to understand such things. Obviously, it's needed. It's also obvious that Verlander pitches half his games in a pitcher's park and Sabathia in a hitter's park. But even so, it seems really odd that both pitchers are rated exactly as equals this season.
Again, please understand that both pitchers are among the best in the game. If you could have either in your dugout, wouldn't you? This isn't a knock on C. C. Sabathia. The Fan loves the guy. It's simply puzzling, that's all.