Today I would like to shed light on guys who have played stupendous baseball that has gone unnoticed. The following five underrated starting pitchers have been unheralded for their immense contributions for numerous reasons. But now I’d like to unravel that and give credit where credit is due.
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5.) Corey Kluber (Cleveland Indians)- He’s finally starting to get recognition for his play this season, despite getting snubbed of the May American League Pitcher of the Month Award.
Kluber’s secondary pitches (curveball and slider) set him apart from other pitchers. His slider has a lot of movement at a high velocity, and according to Pitch F/X, averages at 88.8 mph. While it has been a very effective and reliable pitch, it does not compare to the nastiness of his curveball.
Opposing hitters have only managed to muster a paltry .302 OPS and -8 wRC+ off Kluber’s devastating curve. He rarely leaves that pitch up in the zone, displaying tremendous command time and time again. The pitch’s big break tends to fool hitters, and when thrown, strikes out 57.3% of guys at the plate.
To round out his repertoire, the right-hander throws a sinker, four-seam fastball, and changeup. Nevertheless, his breaking balls are, by far, his standout pitches. All said, the array of pitches has resulted in Kluber to compile a stellar 3.23 ERA and 2.48 FIP in 86 and 1/3 innings.
4.) Phil Hughes (Minnesota Twins)- After all those years of disappointment in Pinstripes, who would have thought Hughes would be deemed an underrated commodity in 2014?
Well, he’s been great in his first year with the Minnesota Twins, pitching to the tune of a 3.46 ERA and 2.97 FIP in 75 and 1/3 innings of work. The difference between many years of mediocrity and 2014, is clearly control.
All the following impressive statistics, can be credited to locating his fastball better. The right-hander continues to paint corners with the low 90s pitch, and hitters have churned a weak .675 OPS off it. Now, it’s not drop-dead awe-inspiring like what hitters have composed off Kluber’s curve, but for a fastball, it’s incredible.
3.) Collin McHugh (Houston Astros)- Sure, he’s only took the ball for the Houston Astros eight times, but in those starts, he’s been nothing short of sensational. In 50 innings, the right-handed pitcher has sported a remarkable 2.52 ERA and 2.71 FIP.
Given his shoddy major-league track-record, pundits have aired on the side of the caution, and remain hesitant to proclaim McHugh as a fierce All-Star candidate — which he is. That said, looking at his exceptional peripherals (9.72 K/9, 2.52 BB/9, and 0.54 HR/9), it appears he may be the real deal.
His fastball has a ton of life to it, his slider has been a solid number two pitch, and his curveball has been deadly. These three pitches alone, should forge McHugh into a force to be reckoned with in the middle of Houston’s rotation.
2.) Tyson Ross (San Diego Padres)- When you hear the name Tyson Ross, an image of one of the sharpest sliders in Major League Baseball should appear. That, or his sinking two-seamer, which has induced a ground ball 70.5% of the time this year.
Anyway, Ross has been phenomenal out on the west coast, with a 3.22 ERA and 3.55 FIP in 13 starts.
He’s scuffled in two of his last three outing, but prior to that he went on a four-start stretch where he only surrendered one run in seven inning every game. The period of near flawless pitching caught other’s attention, and despite a hiatus in quality starts, he should be an All-Star candidate all year-long with his peripherals and strong minor-league track-record.
1.) Jose Quintana (Chicago White Sox)- The only southpaw to crack this list, Jose Quintana has been an underrated starting pitcher for three years now. He continues to consistently go out there and perform well, yet he doesn’t nearly get the recognition he deserves for his regular strong starts. Below is a table of Quintana’s stats the past three seasons:
2012: In 136 and 1/3 innings, he produced a 3.76 ERA and 4.23 FIP
2013: In 200 innings, he produced a 3.51 ERA and 3.82 FIP
2014: In 73 and 1/3 innings, he produced a 3.31 ERA and 2.99 FIP
The 25-year-old has been a model of consistency, pitching well year-in and year-out. He lives in the shadows of one of the game’s greatest southpaws in Chris Sale, and I believe that is a huge reason for his under-the-radar pitching.
He doesn’t strike many guys out, but his walk rate remains low and he gets batters to ground out at an above-average rate.