Whether it’s the uptick in defensive shifts, the proliferation of great pitchers, or the philosophical shift to “strikeouts don’t matter” throughout the sport, Major League Baseball hitters are having an awfully tough go of it compared to recent history. More than one-third into the 2014 season, hitters are posting a sad .250 batting average, which would be the worst since 1964 (yes, fifty years ago) if it holds to the end of the season, according to Grantland.
Of course, broadcasters and players alike are wont to mention the rise of flame-throwing relievers (see: Aroldis Chapman) who have no problem hitting 100 mph out of the pen while dropping secondary pitches that make a hitter’s knees buckle. Add in the global reach of MLB, and it’s clear hitters have their work cut out for them against the best pitchers on the planet. Looking at the top ten in ERA in 2014, two Japanese pitchers join one Dominican, one Colombian, and six U.S.-born pitchers.
MLB pitchers have been ruthless in tormenting batters early on in 2014. What the A’s rotation has done as a whole (2.90 ERA) cannot be praised enough, while the particularly stingy NL ERA leader has offered batters a measly 1.68 runs per game through 91 innings. All these factors make for an interesting Cy Young Award race in 2014. In this year of the pitcher, here are the six nastiest hurlers leading the race for the Cy Young award in their respective leagues.