As we creep toward the 40% marker in the season (24 teams have played at least 38% of their games, the Yankees are the low mark at 36%), I feel it is time to offer up a revamped starting pitcher list so you can assess your arms with more than half of the season left. There is still plenty of time to make a move so unless you have a team ravaged by star player injuries, don’t give up.
In the SP Guide, I broke the arms down in five tiers ranging from aces to deep prospects. For the update, we’re just going 116 arms deep with fantasy-usable guys. These 116 were broken up into four tiers and the tiers are just a little different than you will remember from the guide. With the pitching-heavy landscape the way it is, tier three as it was constructed this preseason would be too large so I broke it up into two with the new tier four essentially bumping down the old four & five into five & six. Is that confusing enough?
Tier 1 is still ace-level guys.
Tier 2 is near-ace-level guys.
Tier 3 is all single & deep mixed league must-start guys.
Tier 4 is matchup guys is most formats except the deeper single leagues.
I will also soon post a “Watch List” of guys who aren’t currently in rotations or even in the majors, but could make an impact during the summer.
There isn’t much change her and that’s on purpose. This tier is reserved for the truly elite and two-plus months isn’t enough to boost someone up unless they were already toting a rock-solid skills profile and were Tier 2 arms from the preseason. There were only four changes within this grouping from the preseason: two in, two out. (Note: I’m not going to comment on everyone in this update, espec. w/the elite guys.)
Roy Halladay (PHI) – Duh.
Felix Hernandez (SEA)
Tim Lincecum (SF)
Cole Hamels (PHI) – I did my best to get y’all on the Hamels Train. I put him here in the preseason; hope you’re reaping the benefits.
Cliff Lee (PHI) – Oh my jeezorz, his ERA is 3.62! And because of that he is probably my #1 pitching trade target. Why? How about a 5.0 K/BB. Sure it isn’t last year’s otherworldly 10.3 K/BB mark, but he does have a 10.3 in his profile this year: his K/9.
[T1 Addition] David Price (TB) –I had a little concern about his draft day cost given his tendency for walks, but that hasn’t been a problem at all this year (down from 3.4 to 1.4 BB/9) leading to a 5.9 K/BB. He reversed his ERA/FIP trend whereby his FIP is now 2.71 (3.42 last year) and his ERA is 3.35 (2.72 last year). Invest.
Dan Haren (LAA)
Clayton Kershaw (LAD)
Justin Verlander (DET)
Tommy Hanson (ATL)
Jon Lester (BOS) – He moved down a bit within the tier, but nothing in his skill set has me particularly worried. The home runs are more a product of a high HR/FB than anything else. The bump down is more of a reward to the others than a disparagement of Lester.
[T1 Addition] James Shields (TB) – The second T1 addition is another Ray. His results are finally starting to match his elite skills. His 83% LOB% rate will dwindle, but there is a strong chance that his 14% HR/FB will as well thus any ERA deterioration should not be too drastic. This is why we draft skills and not previous season ERAs.
Jered Weaver (LAA) – His ERA is 3.29 since posting a 0.99 in six sparkling April starts. The former should be the expectation going forward with anything better being a bonus.
Matt Cain (SF)
CC Sabathia (NYY) – The strikeout rate continues a three-year decline, but a walk rate decline in concert has left the K/BB rate intact. He’s always been good at limiting home runs, but his 0.4 HR/9 so far this year is inflated by a 4.4% HR/FB so I wouldn’t bet on a continuation. Still a bankable stud, but toward the bottom of that class.
T1 Roundup: Price, Shields added; J.Johnson, Carpenter dropped
Plenty of change here. Most of the movers in and out of this tier have shown significant skills growth or deterioration that isn’t completely out of left field thus a move could reasonably be made after just 40% of the season.
Ricky Romero (TOR)
Shaun Marcum (MIL) – The reverse split from last year seems to have been an anomaly two months into this season allowing him to go from good to great in his debut NL season.
Yovani Gallardo (MIL) – Caused a panic for some back in April, but skills are back in check over his last six starts. Expect him to keep chiseling away at that 3.72 ERA over the summer.
Zack Greinke (MIL) – The career-best strikeout and walk rates may not hold, but the 62% LOB% definitely will not hold meaning his 4.83 ERA will improve dramatically.
[T2 Addition] Chris Carpenter (STL) – He was squeezed out of Tier 1 because the massive amount of hits allowed is at least partially due to factors beyond his control: the defense, but the skills remain very strong so he is still a strong Tier 2 and the buying window is rapidly closing if it hasn’t already.
Ricky Nolasco (FLO) – Are we going to have another season where his elite skills don’t yield equivalent results? How does he give up 15 hits to the Dodgers?? I still love the talent enough to bet on him.
Ian Kennedy (ARI)
Daniel Hudson (ARI)
[T2 Addition] Josh Johnson (FLO) – Dropped from Tier 1 because injury concerns hang overhead and threaten his value. This ranking is still a bet on Johnson, to be honest.
Chad Billingsley (LAD)
Ubaldo Jimenez (COL) – He drops within the tier, but it was laughable to see him getting dropped in leagues throughout May.
Mat Latos (SD)
Matt Garza (CHC) – The stuff is still ahead of the results, but he’s been punished by ugly .364 BABIP and 63% LOB% rates, too. I was worried about his flyball ways in Wrigley, but a drastic change from 36% to 50% groundballs has been paired with a miniscule 5% HR/FB to avoid gopheritis issues thus far. Regression to his HR/FB rate will almost certainly be mitigated by BABIP and LOB improvements which could make him an excellent second half bet.
[T2 Addition] Jaime Garcia (STL) – For some reason this Cardinals groundballer hasn’t been bitten by the drop in defensive quality like Carpenter. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen at some point, but skills improvement has driven his big start. If it weren’t for an 11-run thrashing in 3.3 innings at the end of May, he’d be a strong contender for NL starter at the All-Star Game.
[T2 Addition] Josh Beckett (BOS) – All the bad luck suffered in 2010 has come back to him in the first two-plus months of 2011. Skills remain strong, but not 2.01 ERA strong.
[T2 Addition] Anibal Sanchez (FLO)
[T2 Addition] Jhoulys Chacin (COL) – Traded some Ks for a ton of groundballs (from 47% to 59%) and has become one of the more underrated arms in the game.
[T2 Addition] CJ Wilson (TEX) – Cut more than a walk off of his rate so far while adding some strikeouts. His skills now match the 3.35 ERA he posted in 2010.
[T2 Addition] Trevor Cahill (OAK) – He has added strikeouts, but also walks. His skills still say his ERA should be nearly a run higher than it is right now. Last year he managed to avoid regression, be careful if you bet on a repeat going forward.
[T2 Addition] Gio Gonzalez (OAK)
Max Scherzer (DET) – His skills are intact when compared to last year’s. We have seen him go on these skids before, hopefully this one doesn’t require a trip to Toledo. Stay the course.
Hiroki Kuroda (LAD)
Gavin Floyd (CHW)
T2 Roundup: Carpenter, J.Johnson, Garcia, Becketter, Sanchez, Chacin, Wilson, Cahill, Gonzalez added; Oswalt, B.Anderson, Lewis, Lilly, Dempster, Danks, Baker, Myers, Liriano dropped
The T3 from the preseason was 78 players deep and now this T3/T4 breakup is 79 deep. Like I said, I basically just split the two as there is a new pitching landscape that we are dealing with now.
Michael Pineda (SEA) – The skills say he is no doubt legit, but he has also had luck on his side, too. That combined with the dreaded “second time around the league” and the threat of an innings cap later in the year bump him down a little lower than most probably would’ve expected to see him.
Jordan Zimmermann (WAS)
Brandon Morrow (TOR) – Filthy stuff remains, but the rest of his skills profile is out of whack. I’ll bet on the Ks and near-3.0 K/BB rate yielding better than a 4.50 ERA the rest of the way.
Roy Oswalt (PHI) – He has lost nearly three strikeouts per game. His 7% rise in groundball rate (to 53%) isn’t enough to alleviate fears of those lost Ks. Plus in innings cap leagues, it is tough to trot out 5.3 K/9 for 170+ innings.
Ted Lilly (LAD) – Ks have dipped a bit, but BBs have come down in concert meaning the ERA should trickle down soon as well.
John Danks (CHW)
Wandy Rodriguez (HOU)
Scott Baker (MIN) – Home runs are a bit higher than usual for Baker as are his walks, if both regress toward the mean his 3.86 ERA should see some worthwhile improvement.
Erik Bedard (SEA) – It’s never been about talent, only health.
Brian Matusz (BAL) – Only two starts so far this year, but I’m sold on the talent.
Ryan Dempster (CHC) – Skills are intact from last year, but an ERA 2 runs higher? That’s coming down.
Madison Bumgarner (SF)
Justin Masterson (CLE) – He was my favorite Indians pitcher before the season and remains so now.
Jair Jurrjens (ATL) – Count me as a non-believer in his 1.75 ERA. The skills just don’t support it. Sell now.
Bartolo Colon (NYY) – Durability is my only concern. Honestly, if he was 32, he’d be in Tier 2 with these skills. You may want to sell just to avoid the unknown.
Tim Stauffer (SD)
Bud Norris (HOU) – Walks were down nicely in the first month, but have since bumped back up to four. The Ks remain intriguing enough to roster what amounts to a below average ERA at this point (yes, a 3.67 ERA yields a 99 ERA+).
Chris Narveson (MIL) – Is that you, Dave Bush? Needs to learn how to work with runners on (66% LOB%) and the ERA will plummet.
Edwin Jackson (CHW) – Absurdly high BABIP is really hurting him at this point. The skills are exactly in line with last year. Second half surge is in order.
Jeremy Hellickson (TB) – The ERA and WHIP match the lofty expectations, but the skills sure don’t meaning the regression could hit hard unless his skills jump back toward his 2010 levels. Keeper leagues hold strong, re-drafters sell.
Johnny Cueto (CIN) – Ks have slipped yearly since his rookie season and while the groundball rate has risen from 42% to 53%, I’m certain the 2.27 ERA can’t hold barring major changes.
Clay Buchholz (BOS)
Jonathan Sanchez (SF)
James McDonald (PIT)
Colby Lewis (TEX) – Holy home run, Batman! His 2.0 HR/9 should decline, but you know how it can get in Arlington during the summer. Plus the strikeouts haven’t held from last year. Tread lightly.
Alexei Ogando (TEX) – He may well pitch a full season without issue, but it won’t be at a 2.10 ERA. The skills control is elite (2.0 BB/9), but other than that it’s been a lot of favorable circumstance (.210 BABIP, 88% LOB).
Kyle Lohse (STL)
Tim Hudson (ATL)
Rick Porcello (DET)
Jonathon Niese (NYM)
Ryan Vogelsong (SF) – Ks were slipping throughout May, but then got seven against Colorado in first June start. Skills support success, but not a 1.68 ERA.
Charlie Morton (PIT) – Disgustingly elite groundball rate can sustain success, but probably not this much. And while it can also cover low strikeout rate, that doesn’t do innings-cap fantasy leaguers much good.
Aaron Harang (SD)
Derek Lowe (ATL) – K’d 5+ six times in first nine starts, just once in last five.
Dillon Gee (NYM) – Drastic home/road ERA splits, yet strikes out 1.3 more batters per game on the road.
Doug Fister (SEA) – Not just a Safeco product so far this year.
Chris Capuano (NYM)
Randy Wolf (MIL)
Jake Arrieta (BAL) – Could have a big second half a la teammate Matusz last year.
Jeff Karstens (PIT)
Jason Hammel (COL)
For mixed leagues these are the kind of guys you can stream with good matchups and who are at least one skill away from being full-time options. These guys are owned in just about every AL/NL only league.
Chris Volstad (FLO) – A lot of skills improvement early on being hidden by disastrous 16% HR/FB rate. Monitor.
Edinson Volquez (CIN) – A strikeout an inning guys should be on a roster so if you have a reserve spot, he’s worth holding to see if the control improves over the summer.
Philip Humber (CHW) –This is not a sub-3.00 ERA pitcher barring a skills change.
Ervin Santana (LAA)
Derek Holland (TEX) – Remember, he is still just 24 so he is still growing. This is his first season as a full-time starter.
Zach Britton (BAL) – There will be ups and downs all summer.
Jeremy Guthrie (BAL)
Brett Myers (HOU)
AJ Burnett (NYY)
Brian Duensing (MIN) – Knew he’d regress from last year, but skills have held better than I thought so the 4.73 ERA should come down.
Randy Wells (CHC)
Rubby de la Rosa (LAD) – I really like this kid.
Travis Wood (CIN)
Carlos Carrasco (CLE)
Mike Leake (CIN)
Paul Maholm (PIT)
Jason Vargas (SEA)
Josh Tomlin (CLE) – Regression Monster go NOM-NOM-NOM! Last 3 starts: 18 IP, 16 ER. Great control, but little else.
Carlos Zambrano (CHC)
Francisco Liriano (MIN) – Fantasy Russian Roulette.
Zach Duke (ARI)
Danny Duffy (KC) – Been crushed just once, I think he could have a nice summer. Watch him carefully.
Fausto Carmona (CLE)
Nick Blackburn (MIN) – I just don’t get it… this guy has an endless supply of smoke & mirrors.
Jeff Francis (KC)
Phil Coke (DET)
Brad Penny (DET)
Kevin Correia (PIT) – 6th in the NL for Starting Pitcher Run Support, but in fairness, also 8-of-14 quality starts and has allowed 2 or fewer in all eight.
Joel Pineiro (LAA) – If he can get back to his career 5.5 K/9, he is a lot more usable.
Wade Davis (TB)
Josh Outman (OAK)
Tom Gorzelanny (WAS)
Matt Harrison (TEX)
Juan Nicasio (COL)
Javier Vazquez (FLO) – Strikeout an inning the last five starts, but two 6 ER outings. Tough to figure out right now, but I’d still monitor.
Carl Pavano (MIN) – Sub-4.0 K rate… innings-cap league or not, that’s tough to roster for more than a matchup here & there.