National League's rookie-pitcher dominance might last a while

Christian Petersen

At least twice last season, I wrote about the dramatic difference between the National League's crop of rookie pitchers and the American League's. Considering just rookie pitchers who started in at least half their appearances and measured by Baseball-Reference.com's Wins Above Replacement, the top five rookies were National Leaguers: Jose Fernandez, Shelby Miller, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Julio Teheran, and Tony Cingrani.*

* Actually, Jarred Cosart's in the fifth slot, but he's not better than Tony Cingrani. Trust me.

Then you've finally got American Leaguer Chris Archer in the seventh slot. Also, Martin Perez pitched well for the Rangers. But we've not even mentioned Michael Wacha, Gerrit Cole, and Zack Wheeler yet. It's a blowout, even considering the fine (but limited) work done by Cleveland's Danny Salazar and Oakland's Sonny Gray.

Now, this must of course be a one-season blip, right? There's no systemic reason for the National League's dominance in the area of rookie starting pitchers. Or at least no systemic reason that occurs to me. And if there's nothing systemic, we would expect things to even out next season, with just as many impressive rookies in the American League as the National. Theoretically.

But we have more than theories. Near the end of the season, John Sickels published a preliminary top-prospects list for 2014. His top pitching prospect? Seattle's Taijuan Walker. American. His No. 2 pitching prospect? Arizona's Archie Bradley. National. Then Baltimore's Kevin Gausman. American. See? It's all evening out.

Except as you go down the list ... Well, I'm not going to list 20 pitching prospects. Instead here's my best attempt at an infographic or something, beginning with an A for Walker and assigning a letter for each prospect's league:

ANANNNNNANAANNANNNNN

Man, that's a lot of N's. Much ennage. Highly Nationalistic.

I don't understand this. Yes, it might be a one-and-a-half-year blip. And "prospect" just means you haven't done anything yet. But if that letter-O-graphic winds up being predictive, we might begin to consider the beginnings of the possibility that National League teams are better than American League teams at drafting and signing and developing pitchers.

I still don't think that's actually true. But I'll be watching.

Postscript: Of course what really matters isn't rookie pitchers, but the overall relative strengths of the leagues. And I'm pleased to report that the American League has now run its interleague winning streak to a full decade.

But! In two of the last three seasons, it's been really close. The A.L. won 52 percent of the games in 2011, and just 51 percent in 2013; in between it was a blowout, 56 percent. But it sure seems like the bad old days are gone, when the Juniors would just crush the Seniors every year. And while rookie pitchers and pitching prospects are just a small part of the equation, it sure seems like the Americans' reign is going to end soon. If only the Yankees would start spending some money...

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