3) Cristian Javier
In a world where DeGrom, Scherzer, Cole and Verlander receive all of the adoration and overinflated contracts, for my money, Cristian Javier is the best arm in the game.
Javier appeared in 30 games for Houston in the regular season, starting 25. At the start of the season, he mostly operated as a reliever with Jake Odorizzi still rostered. Eventually the Astros moved to a six-man rotation, and as Javier's role fluctuated, his performance was slightly shaky in his first couple of starts. Once he settled in, he was untouchable.
As a reliever, Javier posted a 1.26 ERA and a 0.77 WHIP. When starting, Javier was 11-8 with a 2.68 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. With a firmly entrenched role in the rotation, his second-half was especially dynamic, posting a 1.79 ERA in 12 starts.
All together, he finished the season 11-9 with a 2.54 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 11.7 SO/9. His Statcast metrics were even more dominant, finishing 2022 in the 98th percentile in xBA, 96th in xERA/xwOBA, 95th in xSLG and 94th in k-rate.
His "invisiball" fastball held opponents to a .183 batting average and generated whiffs on 27.3% of swings, while his slider was even more un-hittable. Opponents batted .121 against his slider, whiffing on 39.4% of offerings.
Beyond just the numbers, Javier met the moment, starting two combined no-hitters this season, one in Yankee Stadium and the other on the road in a must-win Game 4 of the World Series.
His playoff performance was one for the ages, going 2-0 with a 0.71 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 12.2 innings. He yielded only one run, a solo home run in Game 1 of the ALDS.
Had Javier not spent the start of the season in the bullpen, he'd have finished with enough qualified innings to merit serious Cy Young consideration. Even if Verlander leaves, with a full season of Javier next season, they'll still have a favorite in 2023.
But that's next season. We're grading performances for this year, and Javier earned a near perfect one.
Cristian Javier's 2022 Report Card: A+ (99/100)