Every new year I always assess the pitching class from the prior year. This achieves a few things: 1. Aside from the Cy Young award, I don’t really know, “know” what pitcher did well. Example, did you know Lance Lynn was top 5 in Strikeouts per 9? I didn’t! This analysis sums up what happened last year. 2. This search helps me get to the bottom of who got luck/unlucky, and who is ready for a breakout/slump next year. Example, of the top 60 “strikeout pitchers” Luke Hochevar had the lowest strand rate and one of the highest BABIPs. This leads me to think he’ll equivocate out and have a much better season. With the addition of Shields, a bounce back year from Hosmer, and a step up from Moustakas, Hochevar isn’t a bad late round flyer. Hey, I know a lot has to fall into place, but late round flyers are exactly that, risks.
Which leads me to my lists. Each player was looked at pretty intricately. I started with the top 60 strikeout pitchers (because let’s face it, we all want the K’s) and looked at many factors which include but are not limited to fly ball rate, BABIP, and left on base percentage. From there I determined what their value should be compared to where they are going in drafts for 2013. So without further ado…
Late Round Flyers…Why Not
Luke Hochevar – All his sabermetric numbers indicate he got extremely unlucky, yet he still posted a below league average ground ball rate. Tack on a pretty consistent career 7 strikeouts per 9 (K/9) and you have a pretty decent #5 starter. I like to think with "Big Game" James Shields in town, and Hochevar not having the pressure of being “the guy” he’ll settle in and have a decent year. He won’t post an ERA below 3.50 or win more than 13 games, but I can see a 3.85 with 12 Wins and decent K's.
Joe Blanton – He posted a career high in strikeouts per 9 last year, but a K/9 of around 7 isn’t out of the question. He's done it a few times throughout his career. All his sabermetric numbers indicate he got extremely unlucky last year, and add in fact he kept the ball on the ground, and didn’t walk many people. That leads me to believe a solid bounce back year is in order. I don’t like the fact he’s in the AL, or that he's Joe Blanton, but numbers are numbers, and I foresee him putting up some decent numbers that’ll make him rosterable.
Justin Masterson – He’s been an innings eater type of pitcher that last 2 years posting consecutive 200+IPs. In those same years he’s posted a K/9 of around 7, which equates to 150+ strikeouts. That’s pretty nice coming out of a #4/#5 starter. Yes he walks a lot of guys, and can kill your WHIP, but he is capable of doing just the opposite. All his sabermetric numbers indicate he got extremely unlucky and is due for a turnaround season that mimics 2011.
Guys That Don’t Make Sense
With these guys, I’m taking the shotgun approach…grab as many as I can and hope one hits.
Tim Lincecum/Adam Wainwright – They both posted solid strikeout rates and had above average sabermetric numbers that indicate they got extremely unlucky. The difference? Timmy let the ball fly out of the park wwaaayyy more and walked wwwaaayyy more batters. Wainwright is the safer bet (which is why he’s going top 100), but for the price Timmy will be going for, I think he’s the better deal. Plus when you draft him you can yell TIMMY!
Jon Lester/Josh Beckett/Josh Johnson – By all accounts, these guys were healthy and should have had OK or even great years, BUT they ended up having “not-so-good” years, end screwing over my teams! Each players’ sabermetric numbers indicate they got extremely unlucky. Lester was bit the hardest by the "unluck bug". His groundball rate, left-on-base percentgae, and strikeout rate foresaw a different story for him last year. Beckett’s numbers look like his age, and just being a dick, finally caught up with him. He still should have produced better numbers then he did, which makes him a nice bargain this year. As for Beckett, pretty much the same story for Johnson, except being a dick. Of the 3 I think Lester is poised for the biggest breakout. Him and his team just had one of those “what the F happened” years, and for where he’s going in drafts, about the 14th round, it’s hard to find that kind of upside.
Stay Away! Don’t Pay The Big Bucks
Jered Weaver - All his sabermetric numbers indicate he got extremely lucky, and the fact his strikeout rate has been declining the past 3 years isn't good. This does not bode well for a great year. I still think Weaver is a supreme talent that’ll net a solid Win total, but you’ll be paying an Ace price for a #2 starting pitcher.
Matt Cain – Look, I like Matt Cain. The guy just goes out and gets the job done, but there is this misconception he’s a “Stud”. Last year he posted a career high in strikeouts per 9 and a career low in walks per 9. Both numbers are repeatable, but Cain is just not a punchout type pitcher. He’s a workhorse; a guy that goes out, pitchers 8 innings of 1-2 run baseball with 6 K’s. Don’t mistake him for the 2nd rounder he’s currently going for.
Jake Peavy – I like the strikeout rate, and I think he can repeat that, BUT all his sabermetric numbers indicate he got extremely lucky. I think he'll give up more homeruns and hit which in turn leaves less batters on the bases yielding more runs given up. 2012 was a very good year for Peavy, I just don’t think he can do it again. However, not to dismiss him completely, his strikeout rate will be nice so he's still ownable.
1st Round Quality
R.A. Dickey – I believe. Even in Toronto I believe
James Shields – Even after the solid 2012 he had all his sabermetric numbers indicate he can do better. I think he’ll be out to prove the “experts” wrong when they said Kansas City overpaid, and playing against Cleveland and Minnesota instead of the AL East will help. Dark Horse Cy Young!
Madison Bumgarner – I think he’s on the brink of a Cy Young season. His sabermetric numbers indicate he got a little unlucky and can improve upon 2012. He’s currently going in the 4th round, I think he’ll put up late 1st round numbers.
Jeff Samardzija – Now first off I don’t think he’ll post 1st round stats, but I did want to mention him because he’s a fantasy manager’s dream. A K/9 over 9 and sabermetric numbers that indicate he has plenty of room to improve. His walk rate needs to come down, as does his tendency to give up the long ball, but I think he’ll do it in 2013. Grab him in any and all formats!