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Batting Around: Who’s the best active MLB pitcher now that Gerrit Cole is hurt?

Throughout spring training the CBS Sports MLB experts will bring you a weekly Batting Around roundtable breaking down pretty much anything. The latest news, a historical question, thoughts about the future of baseball, all sorts of stuff. Last week we picked between Shohei Ohtani and Juan Soto. This week we’re going to discuss the best pitcher in baseball.
With Gerrit Cole hurt, who is the best pitcher in baseball?
R.J. Anderson: There are a lot of compelling candidates — Kevin Gausman, Spencer Strider, and Corbin Burnes included — so I would accept a number of answers as reasonable. For the sake of picking one, I’ll go with Zack Wheeler. He leads MLB in pitching Wins Above Replacement (FanGraphs’ version) while possessing a slightly better ERA than Cole over the last three seasons. (He’s also been dominant in the postseason the last two falls, meaning his regular-season numbers alone understate his brilliance and his importance to the Phillies.)
Mike Axisa: It’s Zack Wheeler for me. His ERA was higher than it should have been last season because the Phillies were a poor defensive club (most of the year), but Wheeler gives you strikeouts, grounders, weak contact, few walks, and a lot of innings. It’s impact and volume, and as R.J. said, Wheeler’s been great in the postseason too.That’s the kind of thing that can break a tie for me. Corbin Burnes, Spencer Strider, and Logan Webb are half a notch below Wheeler for me, and Wheeler’s half a notch below Cole. They’re all excellent and I’d be happy with any of them leading my staff. Force me to pick one though, and I’m going Wheeler.
Matt Snyder: I’ll go with Logan Webb. He looked like an emerging ace in 2021 and has continued to grow into a workhorse with ace-like stuff. He led the majors with 216 innings pitched last season and innings are vital for me in determining starting pitching tiers these days. With the number of pitcher injuries, limits on usage and early hooks, a pitcher who gives you 200+ innings of frontline work is much more valuable than even the 5.7 WAR Webb posted last season.
Dayn Perry: I realize he was a bit unlucky on the run-prevention front, but Spencer Strider’s combination of stuff and swing-and-miss make him the choice for me. He successfully ramped up in innings last season, all the way to 186 2/3, and while doing so he struck out 36.8% of opposing hitters. That’s just an absurd figure for a starting pitcher who worked at volume. At age 25, Strider has more dominance in his future. He’s my pick.

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