Posts tagged ‘starting pitchers’

Tuesday: 04.30.2013

A New Pitching Podcast – Pilot Episode

From the gentlemen who brought you the 2013 Starting Pitching Guide comes a brand new podcast dedicated to… wait for it … pitching!!! We started discussing the notion of this podcast all the way back in the winter when we first linked up to discuss the guide. Then after the success of the SP Guide and just how well we got along, it was a no-brainer to follow through with that original idea and thus a pilot episode is born. For those of you who like long-form podcasts, you’re going to be drooling over this one.

That said I think I’ve come up with a way for it to appeal to even those who don’t like long-form. If you want to stretch the podcast out throughout your work week, I have labeled all of our segments by timestamp so you can pick & choose what you want to listen to as it fits your available time. We don’t yet have a name for the show, but I think we’ve decided one and once it’s set in stone, we’ll be in iTunes. We will also be setting up the obligatory email, Facebook page, and Twitter accounts, too. Until then, we would love your emails at thespguide@gmail.com for questions you would like answered on the show.

This is entirely a starting pitcher episode, but it’s a pitching podcast at large so if you have questions about relievers, that works. We do inject a little fantasy baseball talk into the show, but we’re not fielding any “should I trade for pitcher x or cut pitcher z?” questions. My other show, The Towers of Power Fantasy Hours, is fantasy-related and that would be the avenue for those types of questions. We also encourage you to watch our Game of the Week discussed starting at the 2:55:05 mark so you can follow along as we discuss it on next week’s episode.

Without further ado, our pilot episode:


Download the file here. (right click, save as)

  • 0:00 – 19:30 Intro
  • 19:31 – 31:57 Jarrod Parker
  • 31:58 – 38:11 Brett Anderson
  • 38:12 – 47:18 Jeremy Hellickson
  • 47:19 – 54:42 Matt Harvey
  • 54:43 – 1:08:07 Yu Darvish
  • 1:08:08 – 1:16:32 Clay Buchholz
  • 1:16:33 – 1:26:15 Jon Lester
  • 1:26:16 – 1:37:44 Alex Cobb
  • 1:37:45 – 1:49:03 Declining Velo in April (Verlander, Sabathia, Price)
  • 1:49:02 – 1:59:11 Strasburg & the Nats
  • 1:59:12 – 2:17:20 Samardzija v. Latos
  • 2:17:21 – 2:55:04 Our Game of the Week: Lincecum v. Cashner
  • 2:55:05 – 3:07:36 Picking Next Week’s GotW
  • 3:07:37 – 3:14:42 Close

Show Notes:

Friday: 04.12.2013

Barry Good? Not Likely.

It doesn’t take a revisionist historian to understand that the 7 year, $126 million dollar deal that the Giants gave Barry Zito was a bad idea. Looking at the results of the nearly completed deal certainly backs up those of us who thought it was an overpay at the time, but the eroding skills and results during his final years in Oakland showed a guy who was morphing from a good pitcher to an innings eater. Innings eaters shouldn’t get seven year deals, let alone $18 mil a year on top of that.

Zito had the one great season when he stole a Cy Young Award away from Pedro Martinez, but otherwise his key attribute was reliability as he a near-certainty for 34-35 starts a year. His coda with the A’s saw rapidly dwindling ability paired with remarkably fortunate ERA totals that hid from plain sight his drop into mediocrity. The first suspected culprit would be his home ballpark, known for fueling ERAs that easily outpaced the accompanying skill. Alas it was actually his road work that kept him afloat with two sub-4.00 ERAs in his final two years.

zitolast3

The results compared against the advanced ERA indicators further showed the impending doom:

zito3chart

Flash forward six-plus years and it’s not too surprising that Zito’s San Francisco career has yielded 1020 innings of 4.41 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, and 1.58 K/BB. In other words, he has been the innings eater we saw developing back in his late-20s logging 32 or more starts in all but one of his seasons with the other Bay Area ballclub (2011).

Two starts into the final year of this nightmare deal for the Giants has seen Zito mow down his competition for 14 scoreless innings, a 2-0 record, and an even 1.00 WHIP. Maybe it is the difficulty of finding topics early in the season or maybe some actually believe it to be true, but these two outings have spurred talks of some sort of rejuvenation for Zito with some suggesting that a situation may arise where he is on the cusp of 200 innings and the Giants may be inclined to fiddle with him in the rotation to avoid that threshold as it would kick in a 2014 vesting option for $18 million dollars. Slow your roll, folks.

Zito hasn’t yet thrown 200 innings as a Giant and only once has he been better than league average by ERA- registering a 98 in 2009, or two percent better than league average. Meanwhile, his next 2.0 K/BB ratio with the Giants will be his first. Furthermore, we’ve been down this road before.

First off, something about season openers sits well with Zito. In his last four season debuts, he has a 0.96 ERA and 0.68 WHIP in 28 innings with all three runs given up in 2011. He stayed hot in 2010 posting a 1.53 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in 35.3 innings across five stats. His opponents in those five starts included four of the worst offenses in baseball that year: Houston (29th in wRC+), Pittsburgh (28th), LA Dodgers (22nd), St. Louis (12th), and Colorado (27th on the road). The rest of the year he put up a 4.72 ERA and 1.45 WHIP in 164 innings.

He did it all again last year. After kicking off the season with a shutout of the Rockies (in Colorado no less!), he reeled off another trio of gems yielding a 1.67 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in 27 April innings. He deserves plenty of credit for thwarting the Rockies in Coors as they were the 8th-best home offense, but the next three outings came against Pittsburgh (26th), NY Mets (22nd), and Cincinnati (23rd, but in fairness, 17th at home). The rest of the way? He was quite pumpkin-like with a 4.58 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in 157.3 innings.

There is nothing in the 35 year old’s game that suggests these first two starts are indicative of a forthcoming strong season. His velocity continues to drop toward Moyerian levels checking in at 82.9 MPH this year, continuing a four-year plunge from 2009’s 86.5 MPH. It will be a major upset if he is an above average starter for 200+ innings and these first two starts don’t change the odds much, if at all. Fantasy managers, step away from your waiver wires, there’s nothing to see here.

Sunday: 02.17.2013

Countdown to Spring Training: 5 Days – Chapman Not Starting?

Only 5 days until live game action…

Aroldis Not Guaranteed Spot

Dusty Baker did his best Lee Corso imitation on Saturday when it came to the topic of Aroldis Chapman and the rotation for 2013. Baker was careful to note that we entered 2012 under similar assumptions before Chapman headed back to the pen and eventually took the closer’s job in late May. The money quote from Hal McCoy’s article:

Manager Dusty Baker emphasized that point Saturday morning when somebody said, “Your rotation was good last year, but you’re still making the move with Chapman. . .”

At that point, Baker interrupted and said, “Maybe. That’s a maybe. It’s the same situation as last year. We started with Chapman as a starter. Then Ryan Madson (closer) went down. We had no clue Chapman would be as good as he is as a closer. I don’t think anybody did.

We didn’t know if he was going to throw enough strikes,” Baker added. “We put him in a set-up role, going two innings, because he was groomed in spring training to be a starter and that helped him to get his control. So, right now, we’re in the same boat — trying to get him multiple innings in case he doesn’t start he can still be sharp.”

While this does make him more difficult to rank and project for 2013, it doesn’t really hurt his fantasy value. If anything, it’s a boon to it because unless he pulls a Chris Sale in the rotation, he is far more valuable to fantasy managers as a closer, especially at his current cost. In current NFBC mock draft data, Chapman is going 83rd overall whereas the unanimous #1 closer Craig Kimbrel is going 49th. It is only unanimous because we’ve been led to believe that Chapman is set to be Cincy’s 4th or 5th starter. If he ends closing again, he’s right there with Kimbrel and all of sudden becomes a huge value for those who are getting him at 84 or later.

Meanwhile, if they get a full-time starter who isn’t Sale 2.0 or better, then they vastly overpaid. Stay tuned as I’m sure we will learn much more in the coming month.

Wednesday: 01.30.2013

ESPN Rankings Summit: Top 25 SPs

The ESPN fantasy crew is in the midst of the rankings summit where they get together and hash out the initial run of their positional ranks. It accompanies a chat moderated by one of the parties involved and it’s a pretty interesting watch/read. They are coming down the home stretch with their starting pitchers where I believe they’ll go 50 deep. Here are the top 25.

  1. Justin Verlander
  2. Clayton Kershaw
  3. Felix Hernandez
  4. Stephen Strasburg
  5. David Price
  6. Matt Cain
  7. Cliff Lee
  8. Cole Hamels
  9. Jered Weaver
  10. Zack Greinke
  11. Gio Gonzalez
  12. Adam Wainwright
  13. Madison Bumgarner
  14. Yu Darvish
  15. R.A. Dickey
  16. C.C. Sabathia
  17. Chris Sale
  18. Johnny Cueto
  19. Mat Latos
  20. Jordan Zimmermann
  21. Roy Halladay
  22. Aroldis Chapman
  23. Kris Medlen
  24. Matt Moore
  25. James Shields

I had some minor quibbles early, but my first real contention was Chris Sale at 17. Of course that was immediately blown out of the water by Aroldis Chapman at 22. I just can’t get behind that on any level. It assumes so many things go perfectly for him. Bret Sayre did point out that it’s a tough rank on overall value because if he implodes, he will likely move back to the bullpen. A fair point, but I just don’t see how they came to this ranking because even if Bret’s scenario comes to pass, he will have x amount of horrible innings on his ledger before transitioning back. I think he’d have to be truly awful to go back into the bullpen, not just fantasy bad. A 4.20 ERA/1.35 WHIP would be fantasy bad, especially at his cost, but Cincinnati can definitely live with that out of their fifth starter especially if he’s fanning 25 percent of the batters he faces and going six innings a game.

Chapman basically has to have Sale’s season to fulfill that ranking and while there is at least chance of that, it’s pretty low on the probability spectrum making such a lofty ranking tough to justify for me. I also think Kris Medlen is too high at 23, but at least he has starting experience at the major league level and an actual arsenal of pitches. Chapman has major name value and Medlen has his brilliant end to 2012, factors that will keep both very high on most lists this year. I just think the talent pool is too deep to take the added risk of them in lieu of more consistent performers who also have greatness in their profile (e.g. Matt Moore, Max Scherzer).

The summit is a very cool event that ESPN does every year. I love reading some of the thinking going on in the room and I hope they show some videos again as they’ve done in the past.

What do you think?

Tuesday: 01.22.2013

Top 10 SP – Review

On Friday night, MLB Network unleashed their Top 10 Starting Pitchers Right Now along with input from host Brian Kenny, co-host John Smoltz, and special guest to the series Bill James. The results were interesting and perhaps unsurprisingly, I had more gripes with this list than I have any of the previous ones.

Here are all four lists from MLB Network-related folks and then I’ll address them separately:

top10SPListsThe Shredder

Let’s start with the list that comes from their objective machine they call “The Shredder”. Kenny suggests that it is cold and calculated in its evaluation relying heavily on the most recent season, but also not forgetting track record. I have to call heaping amounts of BS on it. It just doesn’t add up. First off, it you’re focusing on “RIGHT NOW”, then how does Roy Halladay still finish fourth? There has to be a lot of subjectivity used to get him there. But that’s far from the most egregious infraction.

If this is supposed to be the most objective tool relying on data only for projection analysis, how does Chris Sale not only make the list, but finish ahead of Stephen Strasburg, Cole Hamels, and reigning Cy Young winner David Price? It had to rely heavily on track record (or pure subjectivity) to get Halladay that high, so then track record would send Hamels and Price rocketing past Sale. Meanwhile, Sale wasn’t better than them last year, either.

Strasburg is probably skewed because he threw just 160 innings, but he was so stellar in that allotted time that it is still a surprise to see him so low. Plus, since I think they had to finagle things to get Halladay that high, surely they could’ve just done the same to get Strasburg into a more reasonable slot. Whatever the case is, I’m done believing that The Shredder is purely objective on any level. And if it is coming to these conclusions based on the data it is being fed, it’s broken and Master Splinter does in fact need to take over.

Maybe I got too caught up in Jered Weaver’s peripherals when leaving him out because I didn’t even give him an honorable mention. I recognize the fact that he is a damn fine pitcher, but I am a strikeout whore and looking over the numbers again I think I focused too much on the plummeting strikeout rate and not enough on his incredible ability to keep runners off the bases, specifically by preventing hits. I still think six is a little high, but I can see how he would fit nicely at 10 bumping the NL version of him (Matt Cain) up to nine and Gio Gonzalez getting moved to an honorable mention.

My inclusions they didn’t list: Cain, Gonzalez, and R.A. Dickey

Bill James

Without treading over well-worn ground too much again, I just can’t see how on a “RIGHT NOW” list James saw fit to put teammates Cliff Lee and Hamels so far below Halladay who is 36 and coming off of an injury-marred season. Plus there’s the fact that he and the Phillies were going to start discussing an extension, but worries about his shoulder scared them off a bit. I still love Halladay as an undervalued fantasy commodity, but as the #4 pitcher right now, I’m a bit more skeptical.

James was the only one to list C.C. Sabathia which I think says more about the depth at the top of the pitching heap than anything else. I certainly don’t fault James for including him nor would I have faulted any of the other participants. He was basically tied with Adam Wainwright on my list at that 13/14 spot, but I gave Waino the mention because I honestly thought CC would appear on most of the lists and didn’t need the extra love.

My inclusions he didn’t list: Cain, Gonzalez, and Dickey

John Smoltz

Smoltzie’s list was close to being my favorite list but including Sale at the expense of Lee was just too much to overlook. Frankly, it doesn’t even matter if Lee wasn’t 11th, just the inclusion of Sale over many more deserving (at least in my estimation) candidates is tough for me. I’m not anti-Sale overall, just when it comes to ranking him this high among the best pitchers right now. Another big season in 2013 could elevate him onto my list next winter, but he hasn’t done enough to pass enough all of these guys just yet.

My inclusions he didn’t list: Gonzalez, Dickey, and Lee

Brian Kenny

I guess by sheer virtue of the fact that we had the most matches (eight), Kenny’s list should be my favorite, but it boggles my mind how he could wind up with Price at nine. Apart from that, our lists are pretty close on the matches we had usually off by just a spot, maybe two, and we had three direct matches (JV, Strasburg, and Hamels). He was adamant about getting Dickey on his list and was the only one to do so which obviously I support, but I just kept coming back to the Price thing. If you go off of mostly last year, then Price has to go above Weaver (and obviously Halladay) and even when you factor in track record, it’s not like Price is without one. You’d have to weigh track record pretty heavily to Halladay above Price which I thought went against the conceit of these lists.

My inclusions he didn’t list: Cain and Gonzalez

All in all, I know these lists are still just fun and filled with opinion (yes, even yours Shredder), but I can’t make sense of it sometimes when arguments supporting guys contradict where you rated them or others.

I’ve still got my reliever review upcoming and then the LF and RF lists are due this week before Friday night’s airings.

Friday: 01.18.2013

Top 10 Starting Pitchers Right Now

Tonight MLB Network will continue the 2013 iteration of their “Top 10 Right Now” series at each position capped off with a “Top 100 Overall”. They will air both the relief and starting pitcher shows on Friday evening. I always enjoy this series and generally look forward to it after the New Year since I eat up just about any fresh baseball content I can as we wait for pitchers & catchers to report. Instead of putting up my lists after they air their selections, I’ll post mine ahead of time and then compare notes after the shows air.

This is not a fantasy list!!

(Ed. note: I swore my DVR said the reliever episode was first which is why I posted that list first. Sorry about that!)

This list was even harder than the relievers one as I just want to include so many guys. To spare you, the reader, I’m only going to include a few of honorable mentions.

Roy Halladay (PHI) – Since it is “right now”, I couldn’t justify his inclusion coming off of an injury-marred season that was easily his worst since 2004. From a fantasy angle (which isn’t entirely relevant in this NON FANTASY list) I still think he’s being criminally underrated early on in mock drafts and rankings I’ve seen, but he’s not a top 10 guy right now.

C.C. Sabathia (NYY) – This has a lot more to do with how deep the top of the starting pitcher pool is than anything Sabathia hasn’t done. There are no obviously flaws in his games, he’s absolutely amazing, but there are only 10 spots, so he’s on the outside.

Yu Darvish (TEX) – I couldn’t just play favorites and put Darvish in ahead of more deserving candidates. He took a while to get his feet under him last year and while I think he will show his top 10 worthiness this year, this list is about right now as opposed to projection. So it is with great pain that I leave Darvish out.

Also: Adam Wainwright (he was great coming off of TJ, but not great enough to include just yet.)

MLBNtopSP

THE LIST

10. Matt Cain (SF) – See what I mean? Leaving Cain off would’ve felt silly yet that’s what I would have to do to get Darvish included. Track record doesn’t weigh heavily on a “right now” list, but even just the 2012 track record favors Cain in terms of pure results. He’s awesome and he’s getting better each year. He doesn’t post the gaudy strikeout totals I drool over, but he’s proven you can be great with just a solid 20ish percent rate.

9. Gio Gonzalez (WAS) – If you think this rating is crazy, you haven’t watched him pitch enough. He keeps adding to his strikeout rate going from 20 percent in 2010 to an NL-best 25 percent last year. Meanwhile he made his first real dent in his walk rate last year dropping it a full percentage point to nine, which isn’t great, but easier to overlook when a quarter of the guys you face are walking back to the dugout after three strikes.

8. R.A. Dickey (TOR) – Absurd. Just completely absurd. His 2012 season was so freaking incredible. Seemingly out of nowhere, he ups his strikeout rate from 15.3 to 24.8 percent while actually incrementally improving his walk rate from 6.2 to 5.8 percent. Just bananas. He deservingly won the NL Cy Young and now gets to peddle his wares in the AL East with Toronto. I basically had Dickey and the next two guys neck and neck so I used track record as the tiebreaker. I’d still take these next two over him in a one-game situation.

7. Cole Hamels (PH) – When you factor out how much I’m responsible for myself, Hamels just doesn’t get enough love as an ace-level pitcher. Part of it is that he’s obscured by his rotation mates, but part of it is just that I think some fail to recognize how great he’s been the last three years. He had the 8th-best strikeout rate (24.9 percent) in the majors last year among qualified starters and only Dickey bested his 6.0 percent walk rate among those eight and it was by 0.1 percent.

6. Cliff Lee (PHI) – How did he win six games and fan 207 batters last year? I know wins and strikeouts don’t exactly go together, but the point is that he was just too good to be saddled with such a lame record (6-9). He walked a laughable 28 guys in all last year, too. His 3.3 percent walk rate was baseball’s best by nearly a full percent over Bronson Arroyo and Joe Blanton (4.2) and then of course there is the fact that he was also light years better than them in every other skill-based metric.

5. Felix Hernandez (SEA) – The top five were pretty easy for me in terms of who belonged in it. You can quibble over the order, but the group should be pretty consistent among anyone making such a list. Listing Felix fifth just doesn’t feel right, but I don’t see how I could get him any higher even as he continues to dominate. A career-best six percent walk rate accompanied fifth straight spike in strikeout rate, though just a small bit from 23 percent in 2011 to 23.8 last year. Oh, and he threw a perfect game.

4. Stephen Strasburg (WAS) – There is little doubt in my mind that he could’ve gone well past his innings limit without issue, but the Nats painted themselves into a corner. In the 159 innings he did throw, he was simply amazing. If he had qualified (requires 162 innings), his 30.2 percent strikeout rate would’ve topped Max Scherzer’s gaudy 29.4 mark for baseball’s best. He has three excellent pitches that he uses to devastate hitters. His changeup might be the best of the bunch generating a ridiculous 29 percent swing-and-miss rate. It was accountable 53 percent of his 197 strikeouts, too.

3. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) – As I mentioned earlier, I thought Dickey was a deserving Cy Young winner, but he wasn’t the only deserving candidate. Kershaw was right there and you can probably argue that wins and a great story are the only things that cost Kershaw a repeat. He led baseball in ERA for a second straight season, posted the same 6.7 H/9 mark which not only led the NL like it did in 2011, but all of baseball this time, and he led the NL in WHIP for the second straight season 1.02. His 14-9 record plus not being a knuckleball journeyman likely did him in.

2. David Price (TB) – Price showed flashes of greatness in 2010, though his 2.72 ERA was probably a bit more favorable than his numbers seemed to “deserve”. Then in 2011, he went the other way improving his underlying numbers and likely should’ve ended up with a result better than his 3.49 ERA. He finally found the right potion in 2012 repeating his 2011 base skills (24% Ks, 7% BBs) while adding a crapton of groundballs (moving 44 to 53% groundball rate) and sharpening up with runners on (moving from 73 to 81%, second to only Jeremy Hellickson at 83%) to turn in a Cy Young performance. His curveball was the driving force yielding a meager 368 OPS and generating 44 percent of his 205 strikeouts.

1. Justin Verlander (DET) – Verlander had an amazing follow up campaign to his Cy Young/MVP season in 2011 and like Kershaw, he had a very strong case for a repeat at Cy Young, but it wasn’t to be for him. He lost out by four points (whereas Dickey inexplicably crushed Kershaw, whose repeat case was probably stronger than JV’s). He again paced the entire league in innings and total strikeouts, but dropped seven wins off that flashy 24 count from last year dropping below the famed 20-mark.

By the way, Verlander is an instructive case for why I’m referencing strikeout percentage a lot more these days. He had an 8.96 K/9 in 2011 and 9.03 K/9 last year so there’ll be plenty of analysis stating that “he even raised his strikeouts!!!”, but he didn’t actually do that. He fanned 25.8 percent of batters in his dream season of 2011, compared to a flat 25 percent last year. Small difference, but important nonetheless.

Despite not winning any end of season awards, I doubt you will get much argument on Verlander as the best pitcher in the game, though the latest chic thing to do is to project a 2013 injury for him based on these recent workloads. It’s the most risk-less “bold” prediction you can make, so don’t fall into the trap of doing so to appear ballsy. Predicting any pitcher to get hurt is like guessing that Lindsay Lohan will be arrested soon. Both are ticking time bombs. Always.

Sunday: 07.17.2011

Trolling the Wire: Week 16 Monday-Friday

The All-Star break made for a really short week in fact most (all?) head-to-head leagues extend the “week” of play through next Sunday which is the right thing to do because assigning a win or loss on just four days of play would be really weak.  If you followed the post-break picks in your league, you are off to a great start as there was really only one bad start out of the seven and even that wasn’t a complete meltdown.  It was Doug Fister‘s four runs allowed in seven and two-thirds with just a strikeout.  Ted Lilly yielded four runs in just six and two-thirds, but he struck out nine so his start was a bit better.  Beyond that, there were several gems to start off the post-break second “half”:

MONDAY:

Chris Capuano (NYM v. FLO) – Remember the days when a 4.12 ERA on the waiver wire would be a godsend and an auto-pickup?  Ah, the mid-2000s.  Now it yields a 91 ERA+ and barely gets a second look, but Capuano has been pretty strong since his rough April during which he posted a 6.04 ERA in 25 innings.  Three blowup starts out of 13 since are what keeps him from better overall numbers, well that and the fact that he had to chisel away on a 6.04 in the first place.  He has a 3.49 ERA in 77 innings since April 29th with an 8.0 K/9 making worth a look against Florida.

TUESDAY: Let us mourn the loss of Tim Stauffer from waiver wires everywhere as his ownership rate has climbed to 83% in CBS, 74% in ESPN and 62% in Yahoo! leagues.  Honestly, that is still too low, but he is on too many teams to be considering for Trolling the Wire until further notice. 

Rubby de la Rosa (LAD @ SF) – If you have been reading the content here for a while then you know I am a big fan of this kid.  He has thrown 96 total innings this year between AA and MLB compared to 110 last year and while the Dodgers haven’t said much about a potential innings limit, there is speculation that he won’t go much beyond 130-140 especially considering he has made the jump from AA, albeit successfully.  That has little bearing on this upcoming start, but if you are in a re-draft league then you might consider flipping de la Rosa as soon as possible.  You might find someone willing to bite.  In the meantime, enjoy his strikeout per inning and incredible potential.

WEDNESDAY:

Aaron Harang (SD @ FLO) – The crafty vet has been great since returning from the disabled list (13 shutout innings) and since his ERA peaked at 5.05 after a disastrous outing in Colorado on May 14th (7 ER in 4.3 IP), Harang has been excellent toting a modest 1.35 ERA in 47 innings with 6.3 K/9 and 2.4 K/BB rates though just a 2-0 record thanks to woefully inept offense “supporting” him.  While he is better in Petco Park, he isn’t a Petco-only and thus looks like a nice start in Florida.

Ryan Dempster (CHC v. PHI) – When you enter June with a 6.00 ERA and proceed to damage it further in your first start (6 ER in 5 IP pushing it to 6.32), you can have a lot of good work go unnoticed because of the massive hole that has been dug.  That is the case with Dempster.  Since that June 3rd start, he has a 1.99 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 45 innings spanning seven starts along with 8.8 K/9 and 3.7 K/BB rates.  Dempster is still available in over 50% of ESPN while CBS (83%) and Yahoo! (69%) leagues are more keen to his recent hot streak.

Derek Holland (TEX @ LAA) – Back-to-back shutouts earns you a look even if Holland’s came against the A’s and Mariners.  He has allowed just nine hits with 15 strikeouts and three walks against the two offensively-starved teams.  The Angels are hardly a powerhouse so let’s ride Holland’s hot streak.

THURSDAY:

Javier Vazquez (FLO v. SD) – Speaking of a hot streak, Vazquez has been white-hot the last month yet few are noticing as his season ERA is still sitting at a ghastly 5.14 in 103 innings.  Alas, he has a 1.69 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in his last 37 innings since June 16th with 7.1 K/9 and 9.7 (!) K/BB rates.  You read right, he has 29 strikeouts and just three walks during his run. This run would earn a look against most teams, but it becomes a no-brainer against the lowly Padres.

Jonathon Niese (NYM v. STL) – He has been a favorite for Trolling appearing five times with mixed results (3.72 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 21 K, 9 BB & 2 W in 29 IP), but he has been really strong the last two months with a 2.83 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 8.5 K/9, 3.9 K/BB and seven wins in 70 innings (11 starts).  He is on teams in 68% of CBS leagues, but just 35% and 13% in Yahoo! and ESPN, respectively.

FRIDAY:

Cory Luebke (SD @ PHI) – Still undervalued & still dominating.  He has been incredible in three July starts for Trolling readers with a 1.89 ERA and 20 Ks in 19 innings and I am going to keep him on this list until he is no longer widely available.  Essentially, he has filled the Stauffer role.

 

 

Tuesday: 03.22.2011

18 of My Favorite Pitchers for 2011, Part 2

Here is the second half of my favorites for this year:

Part 1

10. Kevin Slowey – Without a spot in the rotation his value is going to plummet, but it’s a buying opportunity.  Don’t draft solely for April.  It’s a 6-month grind and skills almost always win out.  Slowey has more talent than Nick Blackburn and Brian Duensing, but to start the season both will have rotation spots while Slowey will work out of the bullpen.  Slowey will be an afterthought even in AL-Only leagues and I would be more than willing to slot in him as your 8th or 9th pitcher for a few bucks and wait for him to win a spot that he deserves.  A 4.6 K/BB rate doesn’t lie.  He’s long been one of my favorite pitchers and a poor decision by Minnesota at the beginning of the season isn’t going to change that.

11. Tim Stauffer – The former #4 pick overall took a while (29 y/o in 2011), but it looks like he’s finally paying dividends on that lofty draft status.  He plays in the perfect park for pitchers, showed a major uptick in groundballs last year (up to 55%) and has seen his team add strong middle infielders (Jason Bartlett & Orlando Hudson) to field those grounders adding up to a potential breakout season.  There is a slight premium on anyone in PETCO for obvious reasons, but Stauffer seems to be firmly entrenched off the radar in most standard drafts.  He went for $8 in NL Tout Wars and could easily return twice that when you consider what PETCO did for someone with lesser skills than Stauffer in Jon Garland.

12. Chris Narveson – His near-5.00 ERA from 2010 (4.99 in 168 IP) is sure to scare most away, but he pitched much better than that.  He doesn’t have the groundball tilt I usually like out of my pitchers, but with Milwaukee’s horrendous infield defense, that might not be such a bad thing.  He has nice base skills, the next step is learning to work with runners on so he can strand a few more guys.  Part of that is cutting down the long balls, too.  I think he takes a step forward in 2011 and ends up as one of those $1-3 glue guys instrumental in a team’s success.

13. Bud Norris – Like Narveson, his skills were better than his 4.92 ERA indicates, but many will pass based on that figure and the team name on his jersey.  I’d caution strongly against that as Norris has the kind of stuff that “out-of-nowhere” seasons are made of starting with his 9.3 K/9 rate being overshadowed by unimportant factors.  Are you one of those owners dying for an upside pick?  Norris is your guy.  The lofty strikeout rate is matched with an average groundball rate and a BABIP and LOB% combo worse than league norms that could be in for positive regression.  Even if he doesn’t take that major step forward this year, his sub-$5 price tag is at worst an even investment with all of the strikeouts.

14. Carlos Carrasco – We could have a budding Sporer Trifecta of Excellence (patent pending) profile on our hands.  It was only 45 innings of work last year, so temper the expectations a bit, but he had a 7.7 K/9 with an elite 57% groundball rate and his changeup was the best pitch in his arsenal.  This is a 3-time top 54 prospect (2007: 41, 2008: 54, 2009: 52) according to Baseball America so the pedigree is there, too.  Like Norris, his jersey will have some shying away or ignoring him completely, but his first full season in the majors could be a big one.

15. Derek Holland – It seems like I have been touting Holland for so long that he should be older than 24.  Alas, he doesn’t even have 200 major league innings under his belt yet here I am again espousing the virtues of this man’s abilities.  He started to come together in a 57-inning sample last year, but the loss of Cliff Lee opens an opportunity for him to finally prove it over a full season.  Although the sample was tiny, it was nice to see him greatly improve on 2009’s ugly 1.7 HR/9 down to 0.9 a season ago.  That’s about the limit for him if he is to have that breakthrough season many see as a possibility.  He’s one of those popular sleepers so be careful if his value gets too high in your league.

16. Jason Hammel – Similar to several guys on the list whereby he has above average base skills, but is missing one ingredient that keeps him from legitimate success.  For Hammel, it’s an ability to work with runners on as he his LOB% actually got further from league average 2010 leaving him with an ERA a half run higher despite improved skills.  You could easily be looking at $10+ profit out of Hammel if leaves a few extra men on base and continues or improves his already impressive skill set.

17. Chris Tillman – Remember when Tillman was the 22nd-ranked prospect in all of baseball?  It was alllll the way back in 2009.  He then proceeded to dominate AAA for 97 innings posting a 2.70 ERA and 1.15 WHIP with 9.2 K/9 and a 3.8 K/BB.  Later that season he was knocked around in 12 starts in his major league debut resulting in an ugly 5.40 ERA and 1.55 WHIP.  The skills were nothing like his minor league pedigree at 5.4 K/9 and 1.6 K/BB.  It was essentially rinse & repeat for 2010 with 121 strong innings at AAA then 54 ugly ones in the majors.  He turns 23 on Tax Day this year.  Too often the fantasy community gives up on top prospects if they don’t set the world afire right away a la Ryan Braun or Jered Weaver.  This is a post-hype play going for as little as a dollar in some AL-Only leagues who could end up as a tremendous keeper for 2012 and beyond.  Worst case is he is still not ready in 2011 and you cut bait with little invested.

18. Ross Detwiler – This is my biggest spec play of the bunch.  I just think there could be something here with Detwiler.  He has 278 innings of minor league success suggesting he is better than the 106 innings of major league work thus far.  He is the left-handed Tillman with less fanfare and a few years older (OK, I guess there are a enough differences to make that a bad comp).  Point being he showed enough in the minors to be something of a top prospect and though he hasn’t put it all together at the major league level yet, there is reason to believe he still can and will.  Furthering his spec play status is the fact that he’s not going to have a rotation spot on Opening Day, but the four surrounding Jordan Zimmermann are neither bastions of health, nor particularly skilled at pitching so he will get a shot at some point.  If he doesn’t win a bullpen spot, just monitor him.  But if he does make the team out of camp, he could be a high strikeout $1 reliever as he bides his time for a rotation chance.

So there they are, my favorite 18 for 2011.  There is something in here for everyone regardless of what kind of league format you play in.  I guess the only thing missing is minor league prospects, but I posted 50 from each league just a few weeks ago, so you know who I like there.  I know it’s a big draft/auction week for everybody so I’m trying to get as much material out as possible for your last minute prep.  I have a draft tonight, but hopefully I can get another piece up shortly after it finishes.

Monday: 03.21.2011

18 of My Favorite Pitchers for 2011, Part 1

Any fantasy baseball magazine, book or website is bound to have a sleepers section somewhere.  They are a fantasy staple loved by all and for good reason as everyone is looking to get the next big thing at a great price that will propel them to a title and help them for years to come if they play in a keeper league.

Of course in the Information Age we live in these days, it is really hard to get anything by your leaguemates in terms of a legitimate sleeper.  The more obvious sleepers turn up in seemingly every one of these articles all of sudden making them overvalued or at least just fairly priced sapping the value.  I am not here to bash sleeper articles as I have done them for the last five or six years whether here or at the various outlets I have worked for in the past.  I wanted to try a different approach this year.

Instead of worrying about sleeper label and pretending like we are pulling a fast one on our leaguemates, let’s just look at some guys I like for 2011.  These aren’t necessarily sleepers as many will be firmly entrenched on the radar of your opponents.  Nor are they necessarily breakout candidates, either.  After all, who really knows what defines a breakout?  It can mean 10 different things to 10 different people.

If you read the Starting Pitching Guide then you won’t be surprised by some of these guys as I made it clear how much I liked them there by suggesting you aggressively buy in or go the extra dollar or a host of other ways I used to convey my excitement for them.  Essentially if they are on this list, I like them more than their current projection meaning there is profit to gained.  There isn’t a uniform theme to this piece so let’s just get started with the names and you’ll see what I mean.

1. Cole Hamels – Seeing Hamels on a list like this might come as a surprise after all he doesn’t fall too far out of the top 10 starting pitchers in most drafts.  His inclusion is due to the fact that I have him as a top 5 guy for 2011.  He has Cy Young-quality stuff.  It was a travesty that his pitching led to just 12 wins, but that’s why judging pitchers on wins is foolish.  He is a bit overshadowed by teammates Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt, but I think he’s the best bet from a production-to-cost ratio.

2. Tommy Hanson – Like Hamels, this is a superstar in the making, but an overreaction to a 10-11 record from 2010 is depressing his value a bit.  Guys like Hamels and Hanson are the ones who will be my aces in 12-team mixed leagues because I refuse to pay the premium attached to the Lincecums and Felixes of the world.  If you’re looking for guys to take Ubaldian leaps from good to great, target Hanson and this next guy…

3. Chad Billingsley – Noticing a trend with these first three guys?  Billingsley also had a record that belied his true value going 12-11 for the second straight season masking his return to 2008’s 2.5 K/BB and a career best 0.4 HR/9.  Are you surprised to learn that he is just 26 years old?  In a standard 12-team mixer, I’m building my hitting base filling in some scarcity fields like shortstop (if I can get Hanley or Tulow), third base and outfield (remember, we need five) while taking advantage of the first base depth with those first 6-8 picks then pairing Hanson and Billingsley as my 1-2 punch.  My offense is going to be better than the guy who took Halladay in round 1 or 2 and my pitching is going to nearly on par and potentially better even if he paired a Sabathia or Weaver with him using yet another early round pick.

4. Brandon Morrow – I think he is getting a little trendy raising his value, but that doesn’t dissuade me.  Last year, I loved Gio Gonzalez and Jonathan Sanchez to make big leaps forward and they didn’t let me down.  Morrow is my guy of that class this year.  If he can shave a full walk off of his rate like Gonzalez did, he would be near 3.0 and if it didn’t cost him over two strikeouts in the process (as it did Gonzalez), he can be truly elite.

5. Ricky Romero – I love me some Blue Jays this year.  I will lift a quote from myself from the Guide re: Romero, “Romero meets the three criteria of Sporer Trifecta of Excellence (patent pending) with a strong strikeout rate (7.5 K/9), a truly elite groundball rate (55% career) and an above average changeup (though it was valued higher in ’09)”.  He has the stuff to take a step forward, but even a 2010 repeat has value at the cost I’m seeing for him in the two drafts I have already done and the expert leagues that have already taken place.

6. Hiroki Kuroda – A victim in the W-L column going just 11-13 last year despite a very strong skill set.  He has managed three straight sub-3.80 ERA seasons in the majors despite failing to reach even 70% LOB% let alone the league average 72% mark.  His age (36) undoubtedly scares some off, but nothing in his profile warrants fear (50%+ GB rate, 2.2 or better BB/9 and improving K/9 reached 7.3 last year).  He comes cheaper or at the same cost as the likes Matt Garza and Tim Hudson despite a more stable set of skills and even a tick of upside if that LOB% bumps up to average.

7. Edwin Jackson – Not much love out there for Jackson for some reason.  Maybe because it took him so long to begin paying any sort of dividends on his elite prospect status (4th in baseball in 2004) or because he teased and tantalized with so many false starts prior to that breakout year in Detroit back in 2009.  In Don Cooper I trust.  In 75 innings he righted Jackson’s season from the disaster it was in Arizona assisting Jackson to eight quality starts out of 11 including a run of three in which he struck out 11, 10 and 11.  I think Cooper and the Sox will finally extract the best out of Jackson for a full season returning a sharp profit on his current value.

8. James McDonald – This is the third year of me driving the McDonald Bandwagon.  He’s just getting going after a trade to the Pirates finally got him into a rotation so I’m not going anywhere now.  He went for $4 in NL Tout Wars over the weekend.  He is the kind of endgame play that can yield $10+ dollars of profit and be integral to a championship run.  Frankly I’m surprised he was so cheap as he has popped up on a lot of sleeper lists this offseason, much to my chagrin.

9. Jordan Zimmermann He got a nice little 71-inning (31 in the majors) tune up last year coming back from Tommy John Surgery displaying 99% of his velocity from 2009 (92 of 93 MPH) and posted some decent stats albeit in smallish sample.  I am quite intrigued by what he can do in a full season (though a full season this year may mean  approx. 170 innings) having displayed strikeout an inning stuff throughout his minor league career as well as the 91 innings from his rookie year.  Injury returns are often a great source of profit and Zimmermann will be a prime candidate in this field for 2011.

Tomorrow’s portion of the list will feature nine names geared more towards single leagues and deeper mixed leagues.  That doesn’t mean they are entirely out of play for 10 and 12 mixed leaguers, especially if you have a reserve roster or taxi squad, but a lot of those leagues will have several of these guys on the waiver wire after the draft.

Ed. Note – if you’re wondering where Dan Haren is on this list, I figured he was too obvious to include.  If you’ve been reading my work at all this offseason, participated in the chat I hosted a few weeks back or talked with me via Twitter, you know how much I love this guy for 2011 (and beyond for that matter).  He is an unheralded ace with one of the best and most stable skills profiles in all of baseball.  He was tied with Max Scherzer as the 6th most expensive starter in AL Tout Wars ($20), a bargain in my book.  I have him 3rd-best in the AL behind Felix Hernandez and Jon Lester, just ahead of Justin Verlander.

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