It’s time for everyone’s favourite season, position power ranking season. MLB Network took their shot at ranking the top starting pitchers heading into 2024, and they seemingly just forgot about the second best pitcher in the American League last year in Kevin Gausman.
The only way this happens is if you forget that Kevin Gausman plays major league baseball. He's incredibly gifted at it, so that's unlikely to be the case. A likely scenario is that MLB Network's panel get's paid too much money to falsely inform fans about the game of baseball.
By Fangraphs WAR, 2023 was Gausman’s second best as a big leaguer. A 5.3 wins above replacement, tying him with Sonny Gray for the third highest total amongst major league pitchers, should have been more than enough to put him on MLB Network’s list.
To accompany the stellar fWAR, Gausman’s lowly FIP of just 2.97 was third best in the majors, behind Spencer Strider and the aforementioned Gray. Gausman was also third in K/9, striking out 11.53 batters per nine innings. That number pairs nicely with the more than respectable 2.68 BB/9, an average that ranked 24th in MLB last season.
Those more analytic stats impress without a doubt, but Gausman appeases the counting stat and reward enthusiasts as well. Gausman led the American League in strikeouts with 237. Those 237 strikeouts were second most in baseball last year, behind Spencer Strider’s 281. Gausman rightfully received recognition from those who actually know what they’re talking about when award season came around, as he finished second in American League Cy Young voting behind Yankees’ ace Gerrit Cole.
MLB Network may have made a mockery of the entire list, save for Gerrit Cole. He ranked in as their best starter, coming off a season in which he won the Cy Young and was the better of the two winners.
However, Corbin Burnes comes in at second on their ranking, despite his numbers dropping every year since his Cy Young campaign in 2021. Zac Gallen is ranked higher at four than the National League Cy Young winner in Blake Snell at five. Justin Verlander occupies their fourth spot despite a 3.80 FIP between the Mets and Astros. The second most atrocious aspect of this list, behind Gausman, is the ranking of Spencer Strider at seventh. The Braves’ righty dominates the sport in just about every analytical pitching category and had 20 wins to show for it, yet gets no respect on this list.
Zach Wheeler at sixth may deserve more respect, along with Sonny Gray at ten. These may be nitpicks, but the criticism is warranted. Gausman’s omission from the list seems completely unfounded and ridiculous at first, but it’s understandable when you see the lunacy around the rest of the rankings.
The Jays’ ace’s teammates have come to his aid via X, with Erik Swanson and the Blue Jays account taking aim in support of their pal, Kevin.
Gausman is about as unproblematic as they come, so there's 0% chance he hangs his head about this. Nevertheless, the disrespect towards the Blue Jays from MLB Network continues, and we're just left to hope the team proves them wrong.