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Who’s Your Ace? Let’s Rank the Active Strikeout Leaders

As a distraction from the Cubs’ poor play on Friday, I decided to ask my Twitter followers their opinion on the best pitcher out of some of MLB’s active strikeout leaders. They overwhelmingly voted for Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals.


But is he really the best? Let’s put this to the test by ranking all six active MLB pitchers with over 2,500 strikeouts in terms of their overall performance. Since all of these pitchers have already racked up thousands of punchouts, my analysis will not be looking at their strikeout ratios. Instead, I will be examining bWAR per season, ERA+, FIP and SIERA, while the final ranking will weigh metrics based on actual performance (ERA+, bWAR per season) over peripherals (FIP, SIERA).

Here are our candidates and their respective strikeout totals:

  1. CC Sabathia, NYY (3,068)
  2. Justin Verlander, HOU (2,889)
  3. Max Scherzer, WSH (2,638)
  4. Zack Greinke, ARI (2,563)
  5. Cole Hamels, CHC (2,512)
  6. Félix Hernández, SEA (2,501)

Interestingly, three of our 4+ bWAR/year players (Verlander, Greinke, Hamels) rate similarly in terms of ERA+ and SIERA. Greinke and Verlander have accumulated the most bWAR. Sabathia has the longest MLB tenure (19 seasons) but is only 2.4 games above Hamels, who is in his 14th year, and Scherzer, who is in his 12th year.

Name Team Years bWAR bWar / Year ERA+ FIP SIERA
Max Scherzer WSH 12 59.7 4.98 133 3.12 3.07
Justin Verlander HOU 15 67.6 4.51 127 3.44 3.60
Zack Greinke ARI 16 70.0 4.38 125 3.38 3.56
Cole Hamels CHC 14 59.7 4.26 125 3.66 3.61
Félix Hernández SEA 15 50.4 3.36 118 3.49 3.45
CC Sabathia NYY 19 63.1 3.32 116 3.78 3.86

When we look at all categories, it is clear that Scherzer comes up on top of this analysis in all categories, followed by Verlander and Greinke. Hernández has a better FIP and SIERA than Hamels, but is weaker in terms of bWAR/season and ERA+.

Final Ranking:

  1. Scherzer
  2. Verlander
  3. Greinke
  4. Hamels
  5. Hernández
  6. Sabathia

Who’s your favorite ace? Do you have another player ranking you’d like to debate? Leave a comment below!

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