2012 AL Starting Pitching Keeper Rankings: The Leftovers by Mike Podhorzer December 1, 2011 No, not Thanksgiving dinner leftovers. Two weeks ago for my last keeper rankings post, I wasn’t sure if tier five would be the final tier. Well, I have decided, it was. So now it is time to take a look at those that just made the cut, or the leftovers, if you will. To refresh your memory… Tier 1: Justin Verlander CC Sabathia Felix Hernandez Jon Lester Tier 2: Jered Weaver Dan Haren Josh Beckett David Price James Shields Tier 3: Michael Pineda Max Scherzer C.J. Wilson Brandon Morrow Tier 4: Matt Moore Ricky Romero Ubaldo Jimenez Gio Gonzalez Derek Holland Tier 5: Jeremy Hellickson Justin Masterson The Leftovers: Scott Baker One of the primary reasons he was left off the tiers was because of his elbow issues that limited him to just 134.2 innings in 2011 and also hampered him in 2010. So far, he hasn’t needed anything more than rest and rehab, but the prospect of surgery always lingers. Baker provides a nice case study on the vagaries of the various luck metrics we look at, as his BABIP and LOB% have really jumped around during his career. When he has been the victim of poor fortune, his ERAs have reached the mid-4.00 range (ignoring the ridiculous 6.37 mark he posted in 2006 due to a .348 BABIP!), but good luck has sometimes kept his ERAs in the low-to-mid 3.00 range. He’s an extreme fly ball pitcher, which will always make him prone to the home run ball. Luckily, he offsets those fly ball ways with pretty good strikeout ability and excellent control. His skills shout high-3.00 ERA, so that is what you should expect, absent of luck in either direction. Doug Fister I won’t rehash Fister’s surprisingly fantastic season. Yes, it was a breakout year, but he needed a ton of luck to keep that ERA below 3.00. The .272 BABIP is unlikely to be repeated and there is zippo chance he again allows a HR/FB ratio of just 5.1%. The pluses are that he is an above average ground ball pitcher and he possesses pinpoint control. One of the factors that led to his big year was a spike in strikeout rate, which was hard to avoid considering he only punched out 4.9 batters per nine in 2010. A 1.6 mile per hour jump in fastball velocity likely had a lot to do with the increase, but he still allows way too much opposition contact. My fear is that any regression in strikeout rate and a neutralizing of his luck is going to push his ERA back to near 4.00. It is also difficult to sustain a walk rate around 1.5-1.6, so this is a set of peripherals that are dangerous to buy into. Gavin Floyd I strongly considered placing him in the fifth tier, but upon further inspection decided to leave him out. About 2 1/2 months ago, I posted an article calling Floyd undervalued for 2012. I think his value could be best described as solid, yet unspectacular. Decent enough strikeout rate, pretty good control and league average ground ball rate. It is obvious now that 2010’s GB% jump was just a one-year fluke. If he was able to sustain it, I would have been much more bullish on his future. That said, he was a bit unlucky last year and should post another sub-4.00 ERA one of these years given three straight seasons of sub-4.00 SIERAs.