As the baseball season is drawing to a close, our series covering the overrated and overpraised is coming to an end as well. In today’s penultimate entry, we will be going over the most overrated starting pitchers currently calling MLB home. If you were surprised by some of the contestants in previous entries, just wait.
Just like when we have covered catchers, first basemen, second basemen, third basemen, shortstops, left fielders, center fielders, and right fielders, the qualifications for this list are as follows: national recognition, contract, injury history, and being held to a standard set previously when that level of production no longer exists or it was for one season thus making it an outlier. With housekeeping out of the way, let’s get started.
3 Most Overrated Starting Pitchers
3. Robbie Ray
Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Robbie Ray turned a 1-year show-me contract into an AL Cy Young award and a 5-year, $115 million contract this past off-season after putting up the best full season of his career. That is where the praise should end, however, as last season was the ultimate definition of an outlier.
Across his career, Ray has made 217 starts and amassed a total of 1,202.1 innings with 1,479 strikeouts, a 3.94 career ERA, and a 110 ERA+. Only his strikeout totals scream “ace.” Now in his age 30 season, he has regressed to the norm as through 28 starts and 166.2 innings he carries a 3.56 ERA, 189 strikeouts, and a 104 ERA+.
The Robbie Ray that we saw last year was a one-off. He generally hovers closer to league average, even while being one of the premier strikeout artists in the game. This is due to his control issues, and susceptibility to home runs. Being paid as much as he is, and now being considered a top-tier ace for one season of ace-caliber pitching is what lands Robbie Ray on our list of the most overrated starting pitchers.
2. Marcus Stroman
We now turn our attention eastward to another man in the first year of a contract with a new team, Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Marcus Stroman. The vastly outspoken Stroman signed a 2-year, $50 million contract (with a $21 million player option for 2024) after putting up the third-best full season (per ERA+) of his career.
Across his career, he has made 194 starts for 1,141 innings while carrying a 3.66 ERA, 947 strikeouts, and a 115 ERA+. Stroman is a pitch-to-contact guy, so the low strikeout numbers are to be expected. What is not to be expected of Stroman is a full season’s workload as he is currently in the third season of eight in the Majors in which he will start less than 25 games.
Stroman is known to be a bad locker room guy, and missing as much time as he does, while getting paid as much as he does, does not make matters any better. This hasn’t stopped the national media from constantly holding him to an ace standard when he is no more than a mid-tier three-hole starter. And that is more than enough to land Stroman on our list of the most overrated starting pitchers.
1. Shohei Ohtani
It’s time for what many of you might consider the spiciest take of this entire series, the inclusion of Los Angeles Angel’s pitcher Shohei Ohtani. Widely considered to be the best player currently in the game as he is today’s Babe Ruth, Ohtani would be a two-hole starter at best on any legitimate playoff contender.
In his four seasons pitching in MLB thus far, he has made 59 starts for a total of 324.2 innings with 410 strikeouts and a 136 ERA+. I will give him the credit for currently being in the midst of his best pitching season to date with his 2.55 ERA, 188 strikeouts, and 157 ERA+ across 24 starts and 141 innings, but there is still a chance he doesn’t even qualify for the ERA title.
Ohtani does not average six innings a start, and still leads baseball in wild pitches with 14. He has top-tier strikeout stuff, and there is no debate in that, but to call Ohtani an ace when to this point in his career, he has only given us one season of legitimate ace-caliber performance (without the ace-caliber workload no less) is just plain wrong. And that is yet another way to land on our list of the most overrated starting pitchers in baseball.