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ERA MLB 2022 Leader Predictions

Earned Run Average (ERA) doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about a pitcher, and advanced metrics like Statcast’s FIP or xERA dig a little deeper into the underlying performance. Nonetheless, the stat is a useful barometer and still carries weight when the Cy Young Award voting rolls around.

In 2021, Corbin Burnes of the Brewers (2.43) led the Majors in this category. (And don’t forget that part of winning the ERA crown is qualifying for the leaderboard, which requires recording one round per game on the schedule).

As we look ahead to 2022, here are five writers’ picks from MLB.com to lead MLB in the ERA this season:

Walker Buhler – Dodgers
Key Stat: 2.82 ERA as SP since early 2018

I wanted to pick one of the Brewers’ two-headed rotation monsters – Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff – but both surpassed their previous career innings totals last year. Without the sleeve qualifier, the choice is Jacob deGrom without a second thought. Is anyone convinced that deGrom can pitch 162 innings?

I’ll go with an established workaholic, a pitcher in the mix for this title every year, and an entrant into its early years instead. Buehler is already a World Series champion with a stellar resume as of October (2.94 ERA over 15 playoff starts); now is the time to start accumulating regular season exploits. Buehler has the fourth-lowest MLB (min. 400 innings) since joining the Dodgers’ rotation four years ago. He deserves this crown.

Dylan Cease – White Sox
Key stat: 32% withdrawal rate, 12.3K/9 in 2021

Cease just completed his breakout season for the White Sox in 2021, he just turned 26 and will be in his second season under pitching coach Ethan Katz. It has electric stuff, with a power fastball that averages just under 97 mph, a power curveball that drops nine inches more than average, a slider that generated swing rate and missed 50% last season and a change that got a 48% smell rate. What’s not to like?

The right-hander mined his gear last season and posted a 3.91 ERA with 226 strikeouts in 165 2/3 innings, as well as a league-leading 12.3 K/9s. He’s ranked in the 94th percentile in MLB in swing and miss rate, and in the 93rd percentile in strikeout rate, and when the batters aren’t even contacting you, it’s a lot easier to keep your ERA low.

Cease’s red flag coming into 2021 was his walks, but he even reduced them, his walk rate dropping from 13.3% to 9.6% while his strikeout rate fell from 17.3% to 31 .9%. In 2020, the difference between Cease’s strikeout rate and walk rate was just 3.9 percentage points. In 2021, he was 22.3 percentage points, top 10 among skilled pitchers. What a difference in command.

Corbin Burnes – Brewers
Key stat: 1.99 xERA in 2021

A 2021 National League Cy Young Award winner, Burnes is coming off one of the most dominant seasons in recent memory, but you can argue that his MLB-leading 2.43 ERA hasn’t fully understood how awesome he really was. Burnes’ expected ERA, which is based on quality of contact, strikeouts and walks, was 1.99, third-best in the Majors. His 1.63 FIP, meanwhile, was the lowest rating a skilled pitcher had posted since Pedro Martinez scored a 1.39 FIP in 1999.

For opposing hitters, nothing is easy against Burnes, who combines stunning tricks with exceptional control. The right-handed cutter and curveball are the stars of his arsenal, but he can also mix in a dynamite switch, a slider and a sinker. Burnes’ strike-and-smell rate of 35.2 percent was the highest in the major leagues (min. 1,500 shots) last season. When he allowed the contact, he posted the third-lowest expected batting average in MLB at .181 and lowest expected slugging percentage at .257 (min. 400 batters faced). A sub-2.00 ERA isn’t out of the question for the 27-year-old in 2022. He’s that good.

Zack Wheeler – Phillies
Key stat: 213 1/3 innings pitched in 2021, 1st in MLB

Burnes won the ERA title last year, but Wheeler pitched 46 1/3 more innings on the season while posting a 2.79 xERA and 2.59 FIP, both ranked second in the Majors among pitchers qualified behind the Milwaukee right-hander.

Wheeler made 32 starts last season, nine fewer than Burnes in his entire career so far. The question of durability is a legitimate one for the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner (and another ongoing ERA title threat, deGrom).

Wheeler, meanwhile, has pitched more than 180 innings in each of the past three full seasons (not including the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign). Only two pitchers have pitched more than his 662 innings since 2018, and there are only five innings separating the trio: Gerrit Cole (667 innings) and Wheeler’s Philadelphia rotation mate Aaron Nola (666 2/3) .

Jacob de Grom — Mets
Key stat: 1.94 ERA since 2018

Alright, I’ll be the one to hold my breath and rely on deGrom’s health here. Because that’s really what it’s all about. In order to officially lead the Majors in the ERA, one must pitch enough innings to qualify for this title. (The rule is one per team game, so 162). If deGrom were guaranteed to hit that mark in 2022, there’s no way four pitchers would have come off the board before him.

The right-hander has been almost too good at times in recent years, apparently playing hitters thanks to a 100mph fastball, a devastating slider, a missing bat change and a good curveball he rarely even needs. That 1.94 ERA mentioned above is more than a half a run better than any other starter in the past four seasons, and deGrom was even better in 2021, allowing 11 earned runs in 15 starts through early July. .

Unfortunately, persistent inflammation in his right elbow derailed his pursuit of Bob Gibson’s 1.12 ERA from 1968. deGrom is now 33 and there are no guarantees of moving forward. But if you take a leap of faith that he’ll stay on the mound, there’s no reason to think he won’t be one of MLB’s top pitchers again.