Power Rankings: Wild Card Game Probable Starters – MLB BaseballMonday, October 5, 2015 15:00
Who are the best probable starters for the AL & NL Wild Card Games?
Power Ranking the Ace Pitchers Who Could Start in the NL and AL Wild Card Games
The Wild Card games are two of the most exciting events in baseball. Ever since Major League Baseball added the second Wild Card spot in 2012, the two winners of each league’s Wild Card have been denied easy entry into the Division Series. Instead, the two Wild Cards have to play each other in an all-or-nothing single game playoff to see who gets to move on to face the number one seed.
The single-game system puts particular pressure on the ace pitches of these Wild Card teams. With just one game being played, it’s vitally important that pitchers give their team a chance to win. We already have a good idea of who will start in the National League Wild Card Game, but the American League is a bit more confusing. But out of all of the pitchers who could pitch in the Wild Card, which ones are the best? Here are our power rankings of the ace pitchers from the Cubs, Pirates, Yankees, and the Astros.
4. Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees
The Yankees don’t have an ace who is anywhere near as good as the others on this list, but they least know which pitcher they’re going to start. Tanaka isn’t perfect, but he’s the best New York has. Tanaka’s ERA is sitting at 3.51, but his WHIP is a pretty respectable 0.99. The Yankees will probably get to host the Wild Card, but curiously, that doesn’t help Tanaka – his ERA is actually slightly better in away games.
3. Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Pirates
Cole has been remarkable this season, and it’s a testament to the strength of the other pitchers on this list that we’re leaving him down here in third. Cole boasts a 2.60 ERA and has been worth 4.6 wins over replacement this year. Like Tanaka, his ERA splits don’t indicate any preference for home field. He’s not quite the best pitcher on this list (at least not this year), but the Pirates are going to be more than comfortable with him on the mound.
2. Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros
The top of this list is so crowded that we couldn’t even give Keuchel, who seems all but sure to win the American League Cy Young award, the top spot. Keuchel’s ERA is the best in the American League and is even better than Gerrit Cole’s, despite the fact that (as usual) the AL has a higher average ERA than the NL this year. Keuchel has been worth 7.2 wins above replacement this year, and he’s also a workhorse: no pitcher on this list has logged more innings. Now his team just needs to fend off the Angels and put Keuchel in the postseason. The Astros will be playing meaningful games late and Keuchel may have to make his scheduled start in the last week of the season, but it would be madness not to tab him for the Wild Card game – even if he has to do so on short rest.
1. Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs
Where do we begin? Arrieta has been a joy to watch this year, and he’s a contender for the Cy Young. Of the pitchers on this list, he leads just about every category: his WAR, ERA, wins, win-loss percentage, WHIP, and hits per nine are all the best of any Wild Card-bound pitcher. Anything can happen in a one-game playoff, but the Cubs are the team with the pitcher that will give them the best chance to win the Wild Card game.
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