You guys probably know the drill by now. We RotoGraphers stayed up all night with calculators in hand, glasses firmly in place, and computers in front of us, as we sat comfortably in David Appelman’s mom’s basement. We brainstormed until the only images in our head were C.C. Sabathia and Bartolo Colon together at last on the buffet line. Today I unveil the results of this night to remember and bring to you our American League starting pitcher rankings. I will also be your AL SP tour guide for the rest of the season.
Out of eight rankers, I was one of two that ranked Felix second, with Lester first. I am projecting identical ratios, but the higher strikeout rate and much better offense behind him give Lester the edge in my view. Sabathia has some hidden downside risk with a rising walk rate and falling strikeout rate. He was able to work around the skills decline by inducing a career high ground ball rate last year, but that may not happen again in 2011.
How much of his strikeout rate spike will Weaver retain? With his extreme fly ball tendencies, that will be the difference between posting another low-3.00 ERA and an ERA jumping back into the high-3.00s. Price will almost certainly be overvalued at your draft given his 2010 FIP that was .70 runs above his ERA and xFIP a significant 1.27 runs above. Haren should be undervalued and will bounce back and Liriano is somewhat of a wildcard now. He has the skills to be in the top tier, but possible shoulder issues are a concern.
I think Buchholz will improve his skills this year, but still expect his ERA to rise into the mid-3.00s. Seeing that I ranked him worst among RotoGraphers, I think he will be a bit overvalued in drafts. Morrow is this year’s sleeper that isn’t. Like Buchholz, I had him ranked the lowest among staffers, but still like him. Josh Beckett is the pick in this tier. I am willing to give him a complete mulligan on his disastrous 2010. He could finish this season right at the top of The Who tier and even flirt with the members of Pearl Jam given his skill set.
Hellickson has proven me completely wrong so far. I took off my stat-blinders for a change and thought that he was the type of pitcher, from a scouting perspective, that would disappoint. I was incorrect then and expect to continue being so. Cahill is in for a fall, though with his low strikeout rate that even casual owners could plainly see, he may not be so overvalued after all. Edwin Jackson is one of my favorite targets. His skills took a huge leap forward with the White Sox and it was clear that Don Cooper’s magic truly made a significant impact.
Phoenix- certainly has the potential to perform well (earn positive value) and I like some songs (pitcher’s skills), but not totally convinced they are that good. James Shields sticks out here as he was killed by poor luck in every metric. You cannot forget that behind the 5.00+ ERA stood a career high 8.3 K/9. Almost guaranteed to earn his owner a profit this year. I kind of like Burnett as well, as the majority of baseball fans, Yankees fans and fantasy owners have seemed to have completely given up on him. He still owns a mid-90s fastball and devastating curve, so it would be no surprise at all to see him rebound to post a sub-4.00 ERA with nice strikeout and win totals.
I am fully aware that I officially just turned the comments section into a “bash Mike for not liking Cee Lo Green” party, but it was just part of my evil plan to set a new comments record. Don’t draft Dallas Braden. When his luck neutralizes, he becomes a 0-category contributor. If I told you I had a clue what Peavy was going to do this year, I would be lying. I do think he was unlucky last year and his skills remained pretty solid. But I have no idea how his health is going to allow him to perform. Derek Holland is my favorite of this tier and I think he could pretty easily return more value than rotation-mate and Chili Pepper tier member C.J. Wilson. He just needs to improve his control from last season’s level and stay healthy.
Had a chance to see The Black Keys open for Pearl Jam and they rocked it. Though with six albums released, they aren’t exactly young breakout music stars, but like this tier, they have shown the world an impressive body of work and now are finally (or will be) being recognized for it. Drabek, Pineda and Carrasco are an exciting group of youngsters. I like Carrasco the best for this year, but if Pineda somehow manages to match Carrasco’s innings, he could make things interesting in a showdown between the two. Masterson is the sabermetric darling who just needs to stop crapping his pants when a lefty steps to the plate and start getting out more of them. Who knows when and if that will ever happen. Worth taking a flyer though for the chance that it’s this year as he could make you a considerable profit.
Not totally fair to name the tier after Hannah Montana, as I do like Rzepczynski. His skill set is not too different from Masterson’s, so he could be a great gamble if he wins the fifth slot in the rotation. What’s that? Erik Bedard is looking healthy I hear?! I think I am having déjà vu.
Still have not heard more than about five seconds of a Bieber song and am happy to keep it that way. Webb is even more of a crapshoot than Peavy and Bedard, but if his worm-killing talents return, you’ll be elated you took the chance. There are worse ways to speculate at the end of your drafts or with your last dollar. There is really no one else here I have any desire to roster.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.