Continuing a tradition we started at PSA last year, it’s time to nominate the All-AL East team, a few days after MLB came out with the list of candidates for the All-MLB first and second teams. In part one of this miniseries, we covered the batting order for this illustrious group; now, it’s time to cover the pitching staff.
Only three players (Aaron Judge, Rafael Devers, and Xander Bogaerts) earned back-to-back nominations into the All-AL East starting lineup, and the carryover is even smaller on the pitching side of things, with only one starter making a second appearance in this squad. Without any further ado, let’s get into the pitchers that made the cut for the upper echelon of baseball’s most prestigious division in 2022:
Starting Pitcher: Shane McClanahan (Rays)
2.54 ERA - 3.5 fWAR - 4.0 bWAR - 30.3 K% - 5.9 BB% - 0.92 WHIP
The Rays’ ace was absolutely phenomenal in 2022, earning the role of starter for the AL in the All-Star Game. McClanahan looked like the most dominant pitcher in baseball for much of the year and is likely to miss out on the Cy Young only because of a bad September plagued by an IL stint and 11 runs in his final three starts (not to mention the outstanding efforts of the ageless Justin Verlander).
Opposing hitters had a putrid .562 OPS against McClanahan on the season, and to get a larger sense of his dominance, from the beginning of May to the end of July, McClanahan had 13 straight quality starts striking out at least six hitters in each of them, with three double-digit strikeout games.
Starting Pitcher: Nestor Cortes (Yankees)
2.44 ERA - 3.6 fWAR - 4.2 bWAR - 26.5 K% - 6.2 BB% - 0.92 WHIP
Nasty Nestor pitched like the ace of a rotation that also has Gerrit Cole and Luis Severino. The Yankees’ southpaw was undoubtedly one of the best stories of the year, quickly asserting himself as one of the top assets for this team.
Cortes entered the year with a lot of uncertainty regarding what kind of production the Yankees were going to get from a mostly unknown commodity. Nonetheless, the 27-year-old from Cuba displayed tremendous confidence from day one and backed it up with results that shocked the baseball world.
Starting Pitcher: Alek Manoah (Blue Jays)
2.24 ERA - 4.1 fWAR - 5.9 bWAR - 22.9 K% - 6.5 BB% - 0.99 WHIP
Manoah hit the ground running as a major league pitcher, finishing in the top 10 for the Rookie of the Year award last year, and didn’t look back in his first full season in the majors. The former first-round pick out of West Virginia is on the fast-track to becoming one of the more dominant pitchers in the AL East over the next five+ years. He is one of the three finalists for the AL Cy Young, alongside Verlander and White Sox right-hander Dylan Cease.
Side note: for the second consecutive year, Manoah led the league in hit-by-pitches with 18 total.
Starting Pitcher: Gerrit Cole (Yankees)
3.50 ERA - 3.3 fWAR - 2.4 bWAR - 32.4 K% - 6.3 BB% - 1.01 WHIP
Cole didn’t quite pitch to the level we all know he can, but his 2022 production just shows how much is expected out of him. The Yankees’ ace may not have been as elite as Cortes, but his presence and stability in this rotation were invaluable for the entire staff. Even in a season that saw too many homers allowed, he still set an all-time franchise strikeout record with 257 K’s.
A 1.01 WHIP certainly doesn’t scream disappointment, even for the best of the best, and ultimately, Cole is the only repeat name from the All-AL East team of last, which is a testament to his consistency.
Starting Pitcher: Kevin Gausman (Blue Jays)
3.35 ERA - 5.7 fWAR - 3.0 bWAR - 28.3 K% - 3.9 BB% - 1.23 WHIP
Despite more than his fair share of bad BABIP luck, the former Giant did what he was signed to do. He replaced Robbie Ray adequately, as the reigning AL Cy Young left to sign with the Mariners, and Toronto got a far better pitcher in 2022.
Gausman may not have the best run-prevention numbers of this bunch, but he did end the year leading the league in FIP (2.36), and strikeout-to-walk ratio (7.32)
Relief Pitcher: Jason Adam (Rays)
1.56 ERA - 1.3 fWAR - 2.6 bWAR - 31.7 K% - 7.2 BB% - 0.75 WHIP
Adam pitched 10.2 innings with the Cubs in 2021, and had an ERA near six. He went to the Rays and turned into one of the more dominant delivers in the sport. What else is new?
Pete Fairbanks was arguably the most dominant reliever in baseball this side of Edwin Díaz, but with multiple months on the shelf, he simply didn’t pitch enough (24 innings) to qualify for a spot, and Adam was certainly worthy of the selection. If closer Clay Holmes had maintained his first-half All-Star form down the stretch, he would have been a cinch for this roster, but alas.
Relief Pitcher: Jordan Romano (Blue Jays)
2.11 ERA - 36 Saves - 1.6 fWAR 2.9 bWAR - 28.3 K% - 8.1 BB% - 1.01 WHIP
The Yankees overall had the most stellar pen, but no single option as consistent as Jordan Romano, or as dominant as Adam. This is why these two were chosen over the likes of Holmes and Wandy Peralta.
Romano is not a member of that upper echelon of closers with Edwin Diaz and Emannuel Clase alike, but for a team in contention, he is the next best thing. A more than reliable ninth-inning man, capable of getting four-plus outs when needed. You certainly can’t ask for much more than an 185 ERA+ and 36 saves on 64 IP.