2012 Starting Pitcher Guide Review

Here is a (by no means comprehensive) report card for the 2012 Starting Pitcher Guide. I did the same last winter reviewing the 2011 guide and folks seemed to enjoy that so I figured let’s do it again. Who doesn’t like a little accountability? I’m always going to have hits and misses. Obviously the goal is to have many more of the former, but above all I want my process to be sound so that it is driving the analysis into the right place and then you can apply it to what you’re seeing on your TV/MLB AtBat app and in the stats then perhaps you can uncover your own hits. I hope I helped you assemble a viable staff in your fantasy league. And if you happened to get saddled with any of my big misses, hopefully they were cancelled out by two or three (or eight) hits.


Last year’s guide

Jump to National League
Jump to The Misses


…nailed a second straight Cy Young call (Kershaw in 2011) highlighting David Price’s immense potential in the guide, “There is still another level to Price as he has a Verlanderian season in his future; his 2010 was a taste” and pegging him for some hardware in the projections spreadsheet comments, “Follow the skills, not ERA, to see that he’s getting better yearly; future Cy Young”. Tabbing Kershaw and Price as superstuds is hardly walking the thin branches, but their modest W-L records the year before may have deflated their value in some leagues which should have never happened.

…loved Jake Peavy as a low investment/high upside play for those willing to stomach the obvious injury risk, “Injury risk looms, but 4.0 K/BB shows the upside & full health could yield a star return”.

…also loved Peavy’s teammate Chris Sale, who was transitioning from the bullpen. From the guide, “Sale is a worthy asset to be sought after both immediately and for the future. He may only pitch 150 innings, but he could strike out 135 batters with a 3.65 ERA which would be incredible value at his current price.” He turned out even better as there was no real cap on his innings.

…saw Max Scherzer as someone to invest in, “I was bullish on Scherzer last year and remain so headed into 2012 especially because the 2011 surface disappointment should lower his price at least a tick. Now is the time to buy.” If you follow me on Twitter or listen to my podcast, you know I was never dissuaded from Scherzer even with a 7.77 April ERA or 5.55 through May.

…bought into Doug Fister’s improvements in the second half with Detroit and he actually ended exceeding strikeout estimates, “I do think Fister has a legitimate shot to be a low 6s strikeout pitcher with great control and a groundball lean giving him a real chance at 200+ innings with a mid-3.00s ERA and enough Ks to make it worthwhile. His post-trade work shows there is potential for even more, too. There is real talent here.” Injuries are the only thing that kept the 200 IP/mid-3.00s from happening.

…eagerly backed Felipe Paulino, “[who] was a growth stock to monitor in last year’s guide, but now he is a full on buy especially since his price is likely to stay low thanks to his composite numbers (4-10, 4.46 ERA, 1.44 WHIP)”, and only injuries could derail that train. He was brilliant through seven starts and no doubt paid back the dollar you spent on his services.

…liked an aged Bartolo Colon, “All that to say that a healthy Colon (and at 39, I’m considering healthy something around the 164 innings he reached in 2011, let’s say anything 145 or better) is a worthy buy. Outings in Texas could be dangerous, but there is more good than bad here with Colon”. He had a 3.43 ERA in 152.3 innings, and it was at 3.05 in 141.7 if you had him in a league where you could bench him for his Coors Field and US Cellular Field starts.

…all but aced Jarrod Parker’s projection giving him between a 3.58 and 3.87 ERA with a 1.24 WHIP and 8.3 K/9 in 151 innings. He bested the innings and ERA at 181.3 and 3.47, respectively, making up for the 6.9 K/9 and 1.26 WHIP. The comment was strong as well, “Uber-prospect ready to step onto the stage for big rookie season in OAK.”

…saw Tommy Milone for the value he does have, “I often prefer guys who miss bats, [but] I also like bargains and this particular skill set is still underappreciated on the fantasy landscape.”

…suggested that fantasy players only use Jason Vargas in his friendly home ballpark, “The best deployment of Vargas is as a home-only spot starter. His flyball/pitch-to-contact profile is very dangerous outside of Safeco Field.”

…wished that the Mariners would’ve used Hisashi Iwakuma in their rotation from the jump comparing him to Hiroki Kuroda, “Kuroda has been one of my favorite values the last few years thus if Iwakuma continues to mirror Kuroda as a major leaguer, he could end up as a nice 2012 bargain. Signing with the low profile Mariners should help curb his debut price tag this spring.” Iwakuma went 8-4 with a 2.65 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 7.4 K/9, and 2.8 K/BB in 95 innings after a modest 4.75 ERA in 30.3 relief innings.

…believed in Matt Harrison’s 2011 season, “his breakout was due almost entirely to growth and improved skill meaning we should see more of the same in 2012.”

…had a good feel for Yu Darvish, “I lean toward the conservative on things like this so I would pay for something like a 3.70-4.00 ERA in 170 innings (that looks like a big range, but it’s five earned runs in 170 IP). The likelihood of him completely falling on his face is low in my estimation as he seems to have the stuff and makeup to avoid such a fate, but I think the upgrade in difficulty of Major League Baseball compared to the Japanese League he is coming from is such that the likelihood of a sub-3.00 ERA season of dominance is equally low. Bid cautiously on this promising, but uncertain profile.”

…has never really liked Clay Buchholz especially given his price tag, “Injuries have been a yearly concern and the skills aren’t that appealing to overlook that risk, but his presence on the Red Sox is likely to keep his value relatively high making it easy to stay away as the price surges.”

…didn’t buy Daniel Bard’s move to starter, “Necessity seems to have prompted move to SP, but I’m not sure it works right away.”

…was worried that Henderson Alvarez’s strong 2011 debut would inflate expectations, “This a growth stock, though the progression is probably more of a long-term one thus we will likely see some regression in his numbers in his first full season around the league”.

…refused to bite on Justin Masterson’s 2011, “I wouldn’t pay the premium for his 2011 season with the hopes that he figures out southpaws, rather I would let someone else take the plunge and monitor him from afar. Better to reassess this winter and decide for 2013.”

…wasn’t surprised by Rick Porcello’s career-high hits-allowed rate, “For now, he remains an AL-only play primarily both because he is still growing and because of the potential pitfalls with the infield defense, but don’t write him off as a bust so quickly.”

…saw flaws in Bruce Chen’s 3.77 ERA from 2011, “There is a good chance that Chen will suffer a severe regression before it is all said and done and you don’t want to be around for it.”

…fought off the temptress that is Francisco Liriano noting that “his next 200-inning season will be his first. The potential remains evident, but the headache that comes with it remains equally evident and can’t be quelled by any amount of ibuprofen thus he is better off on anyone else’s roster but your own.”

…has never had faith in Nick Blackburn, “I love groundball pitchers, but you have to strike out somebody and Blackburn simply doesn’t with a career strikeout rate 4.3 and a career-best of 4.6 set last year (not counting his 6.2 K/9 in 12 IP in 2007). Avoid.”


…didn’t exactly call Kris Medlen becoming the best pitcher ever, but you NL-only players should’ve had him on your roster once he did, “[F]or now he is a $1 NL-only guy who could pay dividends as your last pitcher logging 70-something strong innings with 70-something strikeouts and having an outside shot to emerge as a starter should injuries ravage the Braves rotation and the more advanced prospects prove unready.”

…continued to like Jon Niese, “With a little help from his defense, he can have the breakout season that his skills have been begging for the last two years. Go an extra buck or two on what will likely still be a low price tag.”

…loved Jordan Zimmermann, “This profile is brimming with potential, a fact not lost on mock drafters as his he holds an average draft position as the 34th pitcher off the board and 117th overall. I could see him even a bit higher as he is poised for a true breakout turn in 2012. Go the extra dollar… or three.”

…liked Ryan Dempster to rebound from a rough 2011, “Hopefully the jump in ERA is seen as a decline in skill by your leaguemates and pushes Dempster’s cost down at the draft table. If so, be ready to pounce. Heck, even if it doesn’t, his price tag is rarely as high as the value he delivers.”

…was pretty darn close on Mat Latos’ projection giving him a 3.26-3.56 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 8.9 K/9 in 214 innings only to see him post a 3.48 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 8.0 K/9 in 209.3 innings. Not too bad when you consider the error bars in projections. As with Scherzer, I was never worried even when Latos ended April with a 5.97 ERA.

…saw the upside in Homer Bailey’s peripherals, “Despite a pair of mid-4.00 ERAs the last two years, xFIP has Bailey at 3.75 and 3.77 based on his pure skills. There is upside to invest in here.”

…was really bummed when A.J. Burnett bunted a ball into his own face, but stayed the course which paid off even more when he beat estimates on how much time he’d miss. He still ended up with 202.3 innings. “[He is] shifting to the pitcher-friendly PNC Park and NL Central fresh on the heels of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder leaving. I’d be willing to take a shot in a league with a reserve roster or disabled list spots because Burnett could be very useful in the 4 or so months he does pitch this year.”

…liked Trevor Cahill so much that he got a full breakdown even before the guide came out seen here and his projection was dead on. The guide put him down for a 3.60-3.92 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 6.9 K/9 in exactly 200 innings. He threw exactly 200 innings and managed a 3.78 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and 7.0 K/9.

…was hoping for a full season out of Chad Billingsley, but fantasy managers no doubt netted a profit in his 149.7 innings given his average draft position in the spring, “I think the 2011 season creates a great buying opportunity for Billingsley especially as his ADP is currently tracking eight spots below teammate Ted Lilly’s as the 74th starter off the board and 29 spots overall at 271.”

…suggested Chris Capuano would be a worthy late pickup, “He is a nice low-dollar gamble who can really pay off if there are more solo shots than anything else.”

…found the obvious value in Clayton Richard, but made sure everyone else saw it too, “he is at best a home-only spot starter so if you don’t play in a league with a reserve roster that would allow you to stream him in and out, don’t even bother.” So he managed some value despite leading the NL in home runs allowed and all of MLB in hits allowed thanks to his 3.02 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 95.3 home innings.

…bought fully into Madison Bumgarner’s star potential, “This is a star in the making, but don’t expect any sort of discount as he is tracking just five spots below Cain on starting pitcher ADP at 20th and just over a round later as a 7th rounder (75th overall). Buy.”, and only a shaky September (5.47 ERA in 26.3 IP) kept it from fully coming to fruition. That September kept the ERA projection of 2.99-3.28 from coming through (he ended at 3.37), but everything else was on target.

…saw enough from Ryan Vogelsong’s excellent 2011 to stay invested, “Even if his LOB% regresses back toward the 72% league average, he can still be a valuable asset if everything else remains steady. His xFIP had him at 3.85 so you should plan for that as a ceiling and bid accordingly from there.” He even bested that 2011 xFIP with a 3.37 ERA in 189.7 innings.

…urged everyone to run away from Jair Jurrjens, “I almost refuse to roster Jurrjens for any price at this point, especially if his 5.3 K/9 from 2011 is a new level he plans to work at going forward. Sure, there is a price at which point it becomes crazy not to take a shot, but he is unlikely to fall to my threshold for that scenario.”

…and Carlos Zambrano, “I just don’t see the upside. Zambrano can miss some bats and while does generate more groundballs than flyballs, his rate is on a three-year decline down to 1.1 GB/FB last year. No thanks.”

It wasn’t all peaches & cream. There are bound to be some misses when you’re doing several hundred profiles.


I was too high on Matt Moore despite pointing out the reasons why I shouldn’t be within his profile. I fell for the new shiny toy, which is exactly what I repeatedly tell y’all not to do.

I gave up on Jason Hammel after supporting him for years!

I watched in horror as one of my favorites, Ricky Romero, crumbled and took our teams down with him.

I watched in horror as another one of my favorites, Dan Haren, fought a losing battle against injuries and he saw his performance diminish in concert.

I expected a much bigger rebound for Gavin Floyd.

I thought Ubaldo Jimenez’s 2011 struggles were merely a blip. More like a blimp… because are blimps are large… and his struggles were large… :crickets: No? OK, no.

I didn’t think Ervin Santana would lead baseball in homers allowed thus tanking his numbers.

I was a bit too aggressive on Derek Holland… for approximately the 19th straight year.

I didn’t think Mark Buehrle would see such stark improvements in WHIP and K rate in the NL.

I thought Kyle Kendrick was useless as a fantasy asset.

I figured Joe Blanton’s shiny peripherals would yield something way better than a 4.71 ERA.

I suggested avoiding Paul Maholm despite his amazing first name.

I remain baffled by home run king* Bronson Arroyo. (*that’s not a flattering title for a pitcher)

I was way down on Kyle Lohse.

I loved Tim Lincecum (like just about everyone else I’m sure, but it’s still a miss in my guide so I’ll own it).

As I mentioned up top, I’ll have information on the 2013 guide very soon. I’m already working on it which is the earliest ever. It will be the best iteration yet!


2 Comments to “2012 Starting Pitcher Guide Review”

  1. Paul, I’m very excited you’re doing another issue. And I hope you plan on charging for the 2013 report.

    For the last few years I’ve DOMINATED my fantasy league, in part thanks to your analysis and advice. Destroying my friends and tormenting my coworkers is massively, massively important to me.

    Last year I got lazy and cheap, and did not subscribe to your 2012 report. Where did I end up? Last fucking place.

    Coincidence? I think not.

    I will be subscribing this year, no matter what.

  2. Great stuff Paul. I agree with Russ – no way you should be giving your guide away to anyone for free. Way too much valuable analysis.

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