It’s that time again, updated American League starting pitcher tiers! We’re now far enough into the season where I have to finally take skills changes into serious consideration. Velocity changes are real, as are changes in repertoire and various advanced metrics such as the strike type percentages. While I have sometimes in the past concerned myself with rankings within tiers, I am not doing so anymore. They did begin in descending order of my projected dollar value, but it’s simply not all that helpful to determine whether Tanaka is above or below King Felix at this point. So, consider any pitcher within a tier to be worth within a several buck range of each other.
Not surprisingly, these are the same guys that have appeared in the top tier all along. While we always consider starting pitching a bit more inconsistent than their offensive counterparts, these guys have been as good as you could expect. They all rank within the top eight in the AL in SIERA and Sale would be atop the list if he had pitched enough innings.
The only one that sticks out like a sore thumb at the moment is David Price. He has somehow managed to post a 4.27 ERA, despite a sparkling 2.72 SIERA and insanely ridiculous 90/9 K:BB ratio. I loathe trading for pitching, but if you could steal a potential ace the rest of the season for less than the going rate of an ace, then I’d pounce.
It had to be done. Justin Verlander has been dropped from his home in the top tier. In reality, only his name and history is keeping him even this high. His skills are in free fall, between his strikeout and walk rates and his ability to induce swings and misses. His fastball velocity has dipped again and is sitting at another career low. And that supposed ability to suppress hits on balls in play? Yeah, that’s long gone. Did he ever really possess such a skill to begin with or did he just benefit from some excellent defensive support for a couple of years? He obviously needs to be given the benefit of the doubt, but the moment he appeared in my SIERA overperformers article, he has allowed 14 runs in his three starts since, for a brutal 6.63 ERA.
Despite the continuation of Jered Weaver‘s skills, he continues to outshine his expected ERA metrics by inducing tons of fly balls and pop-ups which annually suppresses his BABIP. I was one who was proclaiming the end was near, but I no longer believe this is the case. However, the risk continues to increase as his velocity falls.
I received several death threats from members of the Corey Kluber Society if I didn’t change his ranking, so Kluber actually jumps two whole tiers. He’s third in the AL in SIERA and striking out over a batter per inning with the called and swinging strikes rates to support it. Throwing a ton of strikes doesn’t hurt either. Only the Indians defense can let him down at this point.
I’ve been stubborn, but finally believe that maybe R.A. Dickey deserves to drop a tier. He’s been up and down most of the season, but his skills were much better in May and his SwStk% is up for the year over last. His innings total boosts his value, so it’s not all about the ERA and WHIP here.
Hisashi Iwakuma has been rolling since returning from his injury, but he doesn’t have quite the strikeout ability to push him into the tier above. That said, he’s inducing tons of grounders and isn’t walking a soul. I dropped Hiroki Kuroda last month, but I remain very confident that his ERA will be below 4.00 in short order. His SIERA has been almost identical since 2011, and it’s just been a flukey low LOB% that has inflated his ERA.
Yeah yeah, Sonny Gray is still hanging out down here. I just can’t bring myself to upgrade a pitcher whose SIERA is over a full run above his actual ERA. I like him, I promise, but the strikeouts haven’t been there and once his BABIP normalizes, his WHIP won’t be quite as tasty.
Although Jon Lester is posting the best skills of his career, along with a ridiculous 29% strikeout rate, I’m not sure where this is coming from. His strike type percentages certainly don’t support such a high strikeout rate, and it’s being propped up a bit by a high foul strike rate, which is the least sustainable.
Although I did recommend selling Scott Kazmir last week, he gets a promotion here. I clearly overerestimated the overall perception of Kazmir, as I’m really not sure why people still don’t believe he’s for real. I do believe he’s for real, just figured he’s at the peak of his value, which is precisely when you should sell a player.
Jake Peavy drops a tier. I’m an unfortunate owner of his in two leagues and I have no idea what has happened to him. His strike percentage is at its lowest mark since 2008 and SwStk% at a career low. At age 33 and a history of arm injuries, you always wonder if he’s completely healthy when he’s struggling like this.
I considered dropping Yordano Ventura after his injury, but I would have to believe the Royals would want to be extremely cautious with him if they believed there was a serious problem. Since he should be back shortly, then we can take a wait and see approach, but there’s more risk now than before.
Funny, now the luck is finally on Rick Porcello‘s side, but his strikeout rate has declined after last year’s surge. And even without Jose Iglesias, his BABIP has dipped below .300 for the first time. That’s rather surprising though given a high 26% line drive rate.
Tyler Skaggs has become a new pitcher, which is similar in overall effectiveness in real baseball, but reduces his value a bit in fantasy due to the lower strikeout rate. But I have to imagine that the added velocity will eventually lead to some sort of strikeout rebound.
Drew Hutchison is enjoying the breakout I told you was possible during spring training, but I’m concerned about how many innings he’ll be allowed to go, which hurts his value going forward.
Garrett Richards jumps a tier, as some better luck has his ERA back in line with SIERA, even though that SIERA is identical to last year. That high octane fastball is finally leading to a strikeout rate we expected.
Dallas Keuchel jumps a tier as his slider and extreme ground ball ways has shockingly led to a SIERA that’s second in the AL. But he’s supported by a bad offense and his strike percentage suggests his walk rate is due to rise, perhaps significantly.
I’m very cautiously optimistic about Rubby de la Rosa. He clearly has the strikeout ability and has generated lots of grounders in the minors, but his control will be what determines how well he performs. Trevor Bauer, but without the ground balls. His strikeout ability alone gives him real mixed league potential.
Phil Hughes’ skills are where they typically are, with the only difference coming from the fact that he’s walked just eight batters all year. That’s not something I think is sustainable, as I’d much prefer his improved SIERA to be the result of a strikeout rate spike or more ground balls. As a result, I’m reluctant to push him up a tier.
I think the Jesse Chavez train is about to crash. His strikeout rate is buoyed by a ridiculous called strike rate, which is well above anything he’s done before. It doesn’t make me all that confident he could sustain such a rate. Meanwhile, his SwStk% is at a career low and below the league average. I think he’ll be fine and a streamer option in shallower mixed leagues, but nothing more.
Chase Whitley‘s slider and changeup have both generated above average swinging strike rates. Combine that with good control and ground ball rate and he could surprise.
This tier was several reduced because the majority of it ended up on the DL. Brad Peacock has some potential, but will obviously need to stop walking everyone in sight.
The Jerry/Gary/Larry Gergich Injury Tier
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