Shohei Ohtani did not get traded by the Los Angeles Angels, who decided to take their chances when the season ended and risk losing him in free agency. And that was what happened, with Ohtani signing with the crosstown Los Angeles Dodgers for the largest contract in Major League Baseball history, $700 million.

Never a bad thing to be compared to Babe Ruth, eh?

Ohtani got that lucrative deal after hitting 44 home runs and accumulating 95 RBIs while also leading the team in pitching victories with 10 and striking out 167 batters in 132 innings. He was the most highly prized free agent on the market this offseason.

Ohtani was an outsider in the American League Cy Young Award race for several reasons, including the fact that there is a 32-year-old right-hander for the New York Yankees, Gerrit Cole, who has had a quality start almost every time out and ended up 15-4 with a 2.63 ERA to win the award unanimously.

Ohtani’s new team, the Dodgers, is the +600 favorite to win the 2024 World Series, while Cole’s team, the Yankees, is the +900 third choice on the Betway board. Futures odds for the Cy Young awards have not yet been posted.

Who else has baseball fans looking ahead to spring training when they can start buying peanuts and Cracker Jack again and hope that their team can do what the Texas Rangers did, winning the World Series?

Let’s rank the Top 10.

Ranking the Top 10 Best Pitchers in MLB 2023

  1. Justin Steele

Team: Chicago Cubs
2023 Stats:
16-5 record, 3.06 ERA

The Cubbies do not have a long recent history of having aces on their staff, but Steele moved into that category with one of the best winning percentages of any starting pitcher in the majors as he struck out 176 batters and issued only 36 walks over his 30 starts in his third season. If he can duplicate those kinds of numbers in the 2024 season, the Cubs have a chance of competing in the NL Central with the Milwaukee Brewers, who got a less-than-stellar season from their ace, Corbin Burnes, yet still win their division last season before being swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the playoffs.

  1. Framber Valdez

Team: Houston Astros
2023 Stats: 12-11 record, 3.45 ERA

The team that just acquired Justin Verlander from the Mets at midseason already had an ace on board in Framber Valdez, a left-hander who has struck out an average of more than one batter per inning in his 31 starts -- 20 of which were considered “quality starts” for the team that finished tied with the eventual champion Teas Rangers atop the AL West with a 90-72 record.

  1. Bryce Elder Team: Atlanta Braves
    2023 Stats: 12-4 record, 3.81 ERA

Yes, Spencer Strider had a nice sidekick last season. Elder, a right-hander, made the NL All-Star team for the first time for the team that owned Major League Baseball’s best record throughout most of 2023. The right-hander never missed a start and was part of what many considered to be the National League’s best starting pitching rotation, something the Braves were always known for when they were a perennial powerhouse in the 1990s.

  1. Kyle Bradish

Team: Baltimore Orioles
2023 Stats: 12-7 record, 2.83 ERA

The Orioles stunned everyone in baseball, including their long-suffering fans, by winning 101 games last season - the most in the American League – before being swept in the playoffs by the eventual champion Texas Rangers. Bradish was the ace of the staff as he finished with the fourth-lowest ERA in the AL and the fourth-lowest WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) in just his second major league season.

  1. Kevin Gausman

Team: Toronto Blue Jays
2023 Stats: 12-9 record, 3.16 ERA

The right-hander finished third in American League Cy Young award voting after leading the Blue Jays to the playoffs, where they were swept by Minnesota in the wild card round. Playing for his fifth major league team, Gausman led the American League in strikeouts with 237 and issued only 55 walks in 185 innings pitched. He was one of only nine pitchers to allow an average of fewer than eight hits per nine innings pitched.

  1. Zach Gallen

Team: Arizona Diamondbacks
2023 Stats: 17-9 record, 3.47 ERA

The lanky right-hander picked up one first-place vote in Cy Young Award voting after the Diamondbacks won 84 games and made it to the World Series, where they lost to the Texas Rangers. He struck out 220 batters (third-most in the National League) in 210 innings and issued only 42 walks, and Arizona stunned the baseball world by defeating the Brewers, Dodgers and Phillies to make it to the World Series for the first time since Randy Johnson was their ace.

  1. Sonny Gray

Team: Minnesota Twins
2023 Stats: 8-8 record, 2.79 ERA

The veteran right-hander finished second in AL Cy Young award voting after the Twins won the AL Central Division in large part because of their steady pitching. Gray allowed only eight home runs all season in 183 innings pitched and had the second-lowest ERA in the American League, 2.79. Strangely, he got no-decisions in half of his 32 starts, a statistical anomaly that voters had to consider when they gave him 20 second-place votes, 13 more than anyone else, on their Cy Young ballots.

  1. Spencer Strider

Team: Atlanta Braves
2023 Stats: 20-5 record, 3.86 ERA

The 25-year-old right-hander was the favorite on the Betway board for most of the season as he accumulated 281 strikeouts, the most in the major leagues, for an Atlanta Braves team that led the majors with 104 victories before being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Philadelphia Phillies. Strider’s strikeout total was 47 Ks higher than anyone else in the majors, and he finished fourth in NL Cy Young Award voting.

  1. Blake Snell

Team: San Diego Padres
2023 Stats:
14-9 record, 2.25 ERA

The team that traded Juan Soto to the New York Yankees in the offseason got a stellar year from this hard-throwing left-hander who recorded 234 strikeouts in 180 innings pitched over 32 starts, earning him the NL Cy Young award with 28 of a possible 30 first-place votes. But the Padres missed the postseason and dealt their slugger, Soto, to the Yankees for four pitching prospects in a cost-cutting move that they hope will eventually help them build a staff that can bring them their first Major League Baseball championship.

  1. Gerrit Cole

Team: New York Yankees
2023 Stats:
15-4 record, 2.63 ERA

When you talk about a guy who was overdue for a Cy Young award, which he eventually won in a unanimous vote, you have to point to this fireballing right-hander whose best previous season came in 2019. He had the misfortune that year of joining Justin Verlander on a Houston team that made it to the World Series but lost to the Washington Nationals in seven games. His 222 strikeouts in 209 innings pitched helped make him baseball’s No. 1 pitcher last season.

Parameters of Ranking

It is easier to determine these rankings in hindsight after we saw the Texas Rangers romp through the playoffs after few gave them much of a chance entering the postseason, doing so without one of the top 10 pitchers. It was a baseball rarity to have just one 20-game winner, and it spoke to the state of pitching that Cole won the Cy Young award for a Yankees team that was one of the biggest disappointments in all of baseball (although their failings were nothing compared to those of the crosstown rival Mets). What we looked for here was a combination of statistical dominance in a bunch of categories, putting additional weight on strikeouts, earned run average and won-loss record. Pitchers had to adjust to a pitch clock last season as several rules changes were introduced, and having one season of that experience in their rear-view mirrors should make a difference this season as baseball looks forward to seeing another dominant Japanese pitcher, Yoshimoto Yamamoto, who recently agreed to sign to a 12-year, $325 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers that includes a $50 million, signing bonus, opt-outs after the 6thand 9th years and backloaded salaries. 


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