2012 AL Starting Pitching Keeper Rankings: The Leftovers

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.




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Mike Podhorzer produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X: 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. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.


34 Responses to “2012 AL Starting Pitching Keeper Rankings: The Leftovers”

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  1. jpjazzman says:

    Why no love at all for Brandon McCarthy? His performance was not BABIP-induced and his performance was backed up by the peripherals.

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    • Mike Podhorzer says:

      Yeah, I thought about him and even wrote about him before this season as a great $1 option. But, his strikeout rate is not high enough and he plays in front of a weak offense so run support and wins are going to be a problem. I’ll probably include him in another post mentioning some more guys.

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  2. Chris says:

    No Zack Greinke?

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  3. Shawn says:

    Greinke isn’t an American League pitcher.

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  4. Chicago Mark says:

    Good job as always. I find it interesting that Matt Moore is just below Wilson, Morrow, et al. Is he that high because he’s that good or that low because he isn’t promised a rotation spot yet?

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    • Mike Podhorzer says:

      Hmm, not sure how to answer this because I don’t know if you are calling him high or low! Anyhow, I think he’s relatively high because I do think he is deservedly the best pitching prospect in baseball, but he isn’t higher because we still need to remain cautious on rookie pitchers.

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      • Chicago Mark says:

        We’re talking keeper here. And in keeper I’m talking 2012 and same $$ value as other pitchers on the list. So I’d move Morrow below him and Romero, Holland, Gonzalez and yes Hellickson above him. Should we start to get tired of waiting for the big breakout for Morrow? Romero is established. Hellboy, Gonzo and Holland have at least a minimum track record and rotation spot. I don’t know if I’d take him over these guys if he were in the rotation in 2012. If we’re talking 2013…. then I’ll buy into him ahead of Holland and Hellboy and maybe Gonzo. Thanks for the reply and I hope I gave you more to work with.

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  5. Kyle says:

    …John Danks?

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    • Mike Podhorzer says:

      I actually had him as a fourth name, but decided to not include him at the last minute. He’s just very blah and I think a bit worse than Floyd.

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  6. Adam says:

    Clay Buchholz?

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    • Mike Podhorzer says:

      He remains a mystery with his injury issues and his middling peripherals despite outwardly excellent stuff. I have been on and off the Buchholz train over the years, and I truly want to love him, but I just can’t right now.

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  7. MajorDanby says:

    What about E. Santana?

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  8. kory says:

    I think I’d just as soon have anyone in Tier 4 before anyone in Tier 3.

    I at least think Morrow and Scherzer are too high.

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  9. pirate says:

    If these are truly “Keeper” rankings then how can you justify having Pineda (born 1989 and playing in seattle) so low? If I am in a keeper league and my options are pineda or beckett, the decision is rather easy. Despite his flyball tendencies Pineda is a dynamite young pitcher in an excellent situation who has not run into significant injuries yet. Both Pineda and Beckett had similar FIPs, XFIPs, BB/9, but Pineda has more strikeout potential, pitches in a much weaker division (and now its even weaker thanks to Houston), and had a 69% LOB mark (compared to beckett’s 80%). Pineda’s (slightly unlucky) numbers are not far off from Beckett’s (slightly lucky) numbers and he pitches in a better environment and is NINE YEARS YOUNGER THAN BECKETT. We are talking about KEEPERS here are we not?

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    • Chicago Mark says:

      @ Pirate:
      I’m not certain of the use of keeper in these rankings. But if I could get Beckett at the same price or in the same draft round as Pineda I’d take Beckett. In that way I guess it’s simply the best pitchers list for 2012.

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      • Mike Podhorzer says:

        To be honest, I actually moved Pineda up because of the keeper aspect. If it was just 2012 rankings, he would have been lower. I know the Mariners won’t have a terrible offense forever, but they do now and it’s going to limit his wins.

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      • pirate says:

        then we shouldn’t be referring to these rankings as keepers at all. Keepers entails a consideration (and potentially a very large consideration) of future value and reliability over several years. When it comes to that, the question of Pineda or Beckett isn’t even close.

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      • zywicmd says:

        but is it just maybe a keeper for 1 season? several? I can see Pineda dropping off a bit, but over a 3 year span, he has to be higher.

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  10. I have a hard time with this list. I would love to hear how you defend Brandon Morrow on it. Hellickson and Moore both seem very low too. I’m probably paying more for Hellickson than Ubaldo next year alone in non-keeper, and two years down the road I suspect Moore as well.

    I have some other gripes as well, but comparatively smaller ones.

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    • batpig says:

      You know…. if you actually made the effort to go back and read the prior articles, you could actually read what he wrote about Brandon Morrow, Hellickson, etc.

      The short answer is that Pods ignores ERA and focus on other metrics.

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      • zywicmd says:

        Sure, and not to be a pain, but there several different authors contributing to this series, no link to a ranking criteria within each article, and no archiving system that I can find, at least yet/quickly, so I think confusion is reasonable…

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  11. jcam says:

    How about some thoughts on Ogando as a potential keeper?

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    • mosef says:

      and how about neftali for that matter? i’d place him solidly in tier 4 based on potential and age.

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      • Mike Podhorzer says:

        Ogando I might include in a future article. Neftali I cannot possibly include when he hasn’t even made 1 start yet! I already did a write-up on his potential as a starter though so you could read my thoughts there.

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  12. bjames says:

    I have to take issue with your rankings of the two Blue Jays pitchers on the list…
    1) Brandon Morrow is too high – while he does possess two plus-plus-pitches in his fastball and slider he has yet to live up to his expectations. I fully expect him to dominate this year but placing him higher than Ricky Romero is outrageous, here’s why
    2) Ricky Romero has done nothing but improve in his first three seasons. Over that period his ERA has dropped every year (4.30, 3.73, 2.92) while pitching in the AL East! There’s a reason why he’s a first rounder and the consensus ‘ace’ of this young, talented staff — at least Tier 3 possibly Tier 2

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  13. Bill says:

    Question about BABIP and your Fister comment: Why can’t a low BABIP just be a result of batters not getting a clean hit on the ball, resulting in more fly/ground balls? Excellent placement thru superior control and movement would result in this…correct?

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    • Bill says:

      Along the same lines, seems like Fister some time last year changed his pitching mix/approach, based on pitch type mix.

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      • Mike Podhorzer says:

        Well of course that’s always the question with BABIP. How much is true weak contact skill and how much is luck. However, one season is nowhere close to a large enough sample to definitively say that Fister, or any pitcher, induces weaker contact and has a true talent BABIP level below the league average. And besides, his BABIP in 2010 was .302, so did he gain this skill overnight?

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      • Bill says:

        Thanks for the response. I’m new to all this and just grasping the jargon/concepts here. All that said, it does seem Fister has funadamentally changed his pitching mix.

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  14. FBMaster says:

    Hey Mike, great stuff, love all your articles. Looking at this in February, I’m looking for Yu Darvish, but I guess it was too early for him when you wrote these. Knowing his situation now, where would you put him? What tier? I read a couple articles about him on this site and I like him, and am thinking about picking him relatively early in my keeper league, and am trying to amass many opinions on the guy. Thanks.

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    • Thanks. Right now I’d be cautious and place him at the top of tier 3. I have no real idea how many innings he’ll pitch and obviously everyone is just guessing on how his stats and stuff will translate. However, given his extreme ground ball ways in Japan, I think he does have the potential to be a tier 2 pitcher. I just wouldn’t pay for that yet.

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      • FBMaster says:

        Many thanks for the response, yeah I know it’s a grey area with anyone coming from Japan, but I’m kinda bullish on him. Top of tier 3 is great, I should be able to get him for around that value, I don’t think I’ll need to pay for him like he’s a tier 2 in my league. Thanks

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