AL Starting Pitcher Rankings Update

Wow, more than two months into the season and pitchers are clearly giving the finger to those who labeled 2010 the Year of the Pitcher. “You thought last year was the Year of the Pitcher? Wait until you see what we have in store for 2011!” It only makes fantasy owners whose teams have posted poor ERAs that much more annoyed. Anyway, on to the updates.

Pearl Jam
Felix Hernandez
Jon Lester
C.C. Sabathia

Lester has not been himself lately, but it is going to take a lot more than just 29 meh innings for me to move him. His peripherals are fine, as is the velocity, so looks to me like simply small sample size randomness.

The Who
Justin Verlander
Jered Weaver
Dan Haren
David Price
Josh Beckett

Weaver’s xFIP- is slightly worse than last year, but of course fantastic luck on balls in play and HR/FB have resulted in an ERA dramatically lower. Price has somehow managed to drop his walk rate into elite territory, despite an F-Strike% and Zone% below where he sat last season. I also wonder where the heck all the ground balls he induced in the minors went.

Muse
Ricky Romero
Trevor Cahill
James Shields
Max Scherzer
Edwin Jackson
Brandon Morrow
Michael Pineda
Gio Gonzalez
John Danks

Some slight movement within the tier as Scherzer, Jackson and Danks drop, causing the others to move up a slot or two. And we welcome Pineda to the beautiful sounds of Muse. Scherzer’s strikeout and walk rates are nearly identical to last season, however he has suddenly become an extra fly ball pitcher. That’s not a good thing. I upgraded Jackson last update, just to see myself knock him back down a bit this time. Oops. He is showing nearly the same skill set as last year, but I was hoping/expecting for more of a continuation of the skills surge he enjoyed after his move to Chicago. However, he still is posting the best xFIP- of his career, but he has suffered from some bad balls in play luck. I think he makes for a good AL-Only league target. Obviously, I don’t care about Danks’ 1-8 record. But his skills were never anything special to begin with, and so I personally though the was a bit overvalued. Now his peripherals have declined a bit, which has actually made him slightly worse than league average according to xFIP-. Pineda is certainly on an innings limit, so I am hesitant to rank him any higher given that assumption and the fact that his ERA is a full run below his xFIP.

Red Hot Chili Peppers
Jeremy Hellickson
C.J. Wilson
Gavin Floyd
Clay Buchholz
Erik Bedard
Brian Matusz
Ervin Santana

Hellickson has been quite lucky so far this year, but as I discussed last week, I expect his peripherals to improve and so the ERA regression won’t be as bad as it currently looks like it may. Buchholz did improve his skills in May and in June so far, but his velocity remains down and some of his other advanced metrics are moving in the wrong direction. The upgrade is just me saying he is now better than he looked in April, but still should not be valued like many did in the pre-season. Though not all the way back to vintage form, Bedard is showing good skills and is, gasp, healthy….for now. No telling when he will suffer his next injury, but he should continue to perform well, though as with any Mariners starter, the wins may be hard to come by.

Phoenix
Derek Holland
Scott Baker
A.J. Burnett
Justin Masterson
Alexi Ogando
Zach Britton
Colby Lewis
Bartolo Colon
Jeremy Guthrie

Ogando continues to benefit from some great fortune. With an xFIP- of a less than impressive 92 and a walk rate that looks unsustainable, I could not place him any higher. And how many innings is he really going to pitch this year after only throwing just over 70 in relief last season? Lewis’ velocity still has not rebounded and his strikeout rate is suffering. He has a long way to go if he wants to move back to where he started in these rankings. I cannot bring myself to move Colon up. His SwStk% is a pathetic 5.9%, there is no way he could possibly maintain a K/9 anywhere close to his current 8.3. That SwStk% suggests something closer to a strikeout rate in the 5.0-6.0 range.

Cee Lo Green/The Black Keys
Jake Peavy
Mark Buehrle
Kyle Drabek
Joel Pineiro
Fausto Carmona
Rick Porcello
Freddy Garcia
Matt Harrison
Brandon McCarthy

I combined the previous The Black Keys tier with Cee Lo Green as Cee Lo had become too small. Peavy’s injury was not arm related and he was at least showing some potential to earn value. Has Carmona been the most inconsistent pitcher in baseball? Four games of at least six runs allowed and six games of allowing two or fewer runs. Unfortunately that’s the life of the extreme ground ball pitcher. When the balls are finding the holes and you don’t have the stuff to strike out enough batters to kill the rallies, you’ll have some bad games. However, by the end of the season, I expect Carmona’s ERA to improve dramatically since his overall skill set is quite solid. Freddy Garcia joins the rankings, but he isn’t too exciting, having posted a worse than league average xFIP-. Being on the Yankees will help his win totals though.

Miley Cyrus
Carlos Carrasco
Jake Arrieta
Francisco Liriano
Josh Tomlin
Carl Pavano
Jeff Niemann
John Lackey
Jeff Francis
Luke Hochevar
Brian Duensing
Wade Davis

Carrasco’s strikeout rate is way down and his elbow injury still scares me. I am loving the sustained strong ground ball tendency and good control. He could very well up the strikeout rate and have a good second half, leading to becoming a 2012 sleeper/breakout candidate. But for now, there are enough signs to keep me cautious. Arrieta moves up, but mostly because he was ranked so low to begin with, any promise of value would push him up. More of my thoughts, albeit from three weeks ago, could be found here. Liriano could allow as few runs as he wants, but as long as his velocity remains down and his walks remain up, he’ll continue to find himself in this tier. Josh Tomlin finally enters the rankings, but with a poor strikeout rate and lots of fly balls, only excellent control is keeping him this high. What happened Pavano, not a fan of striking out any hitters anymore? A K/9 of 3.5, really? If he paired that with a 60%+ ground ball rate or a walk rate of 0.0, then maybe he could get away with it. But umm, he’s not. Niemann is returning from back problems and never really showed anything more than mediocre skills to begin with. Apparently I didn’t drop Lackey enough last rankings update. Simply being on the Red Sox means he isn’t the worst option, but he should be nowhere near an active roster if you have the choice. Of course, his history alone makes him a better gamble than the pitchers below him. It took longer than expected, but Wade Davis’ ERA finally caught up to his terrible peripherals. Could we stop with this nonsense “pitching to contact” crap already?

Justin Bieber
Brad Penny
Jason Vargas
Phil Coke
Ivan Nova

If you cannot find any better options in your free agent pool, then your league is too deep. Even a middle reliever would be more valuable.

???? Tier
Phil Hughes
Brett Anderson

A better clue about Hughes than we had a month ago, but how effective he will be upon his return is anyone’s guess. Ughhh Brett Anderson. What are the odds it turns out to just be some inflammation and he returns in a month?




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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.


36 Responses to “AL Starting Pitcher Rankings Update”

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  1. kirbydrummond says:

    Straight Edge Racer is a tier too low. GB% is down but K’s and K/BB have to make him part of Muse.

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  2. Ben says:

    Also, I think E-Jax is a bit too high. He’s pretty unreliable–one day he’s very good, then next he’s bad, then the next he throws a shutout, then he gets taken out in the second inning. When he’s good he could be ranked that high, but his erraticness (or erraticism, whichever one is correct) pushes him lower.

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    • batpig says:

      EJax is more than a BIT too high, he is waaaay too high….

      let’s see here… 4.61 career ERA and 1.49 career WHIP.

      2011 to date… 4.50 ERA and 1.55 WHIP

      Totally deserves to be in the top 15 AL fantasy starters.

      I would love to play in a fantasy league in which my opponent would rank EJax ahead of CJ Wilson (criminally underrated here), Pineda, or Gio.

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      • Mike Podhorzer says:

        I guess neither of you didn’t actually read my comments on EJax. This is a stats site that looks beyond ERA, right?

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      • batpig says:

        Too bad fantasy leagues use ERA and WHIP. I read your comments and you are still wrong, unless you play in a league which uses xFIP. EJax is an unreliable pitcher who will finish the season with mediocre stats. If you could see the future and pick the good starts and avoid the blow-ups, more power to you… I’m betting you can’t.

        Plus Mike, if you want to whip out your xFIP and all, I’ll raise you one CJ Wilson.

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  3. koli says:

    ogando needs to be ranked top two tier. hes got filthy stuff, hitters go up trying to hit the fastball and miss or pop up.

    brandon mccarthy is no better than tomlin or brett anderson

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    • Mike Podhorzer says:

      That so-called filthy stuff has led to an uninspiring 6.6 K/9 and 8.6% SwStk%. He’s been doing it by limiting walks and benefiting from heaps of luck.

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  4. Jeff says:

    Where is Tyler Chatwood?

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    • Mike Podhorzer says:

      Forgot him, and for good reason. He has walked more than he has struck out! He should only be on AL West-only rosters.

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  5. batpig says:

    also, as a Lester owner in a keeper league, I’m not sure what really separates Lester from Verlander, Weaver or Haren at this point. He’s not really an elite ERA or WHIP guy, just very good… I’m skeptical he is really another tier above those guys and doesn’t deserve to be with the King.

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  6. AJP says:

    Humber and Buehrle not on list?

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    • Mike Podhorzer says:

      Buerhle is there, forgot Humber. Too many pitchers coming up during the season to remember to add everyone! League average xFIP- and awful K/9. He belongs somewhere towards the bottom third of the Miley Cyrus tier.

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  7. Phil says:

    Wait, are you saying Muse and the Who are better than RHCP?

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    • JohnnyComeLately says:

      The Who is/was better than just about everyone. Read about Keith Moon. Seriously.

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    • batpig says:

      Seriously… using the bands as category rankings is just putting yourself out there for ridicule. Muse is… so… not as good as the other bands listed….

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      • batpig says:

        Bieber / Cyrus excluded of course….

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      • pounded clown says:

        I’m sure the writer along with the rest of the Fangraphs staff, who deal with the rantings and criticisms from us snarky stat. nerds ad nauseum, can handle the ridicule.

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    • Jonathan says:

      RHCP are okay, I guess, if all you’re really interested in is songs about California.

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  8. mrhano says:

    Doug Fister?

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  9. Magic Man says:

    I now these are AL rankings, but would you rather have Beckett or Billingsley for the ROS? It seems they are pretty even skill-wise and Beckett has benefited from good luck so far and may be due for some regression. Billingsley has performed as expected and may be the better bet.

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    • theonemephisto says:

      Beckett’s on the better team though, so you can probably expect more wins from him. Of course, this is assuming he starts getting better than his current like 3.5 R/game in support.

      But Beckett also faces better teams as well, so who knows.

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  10. Andy says:

    I have nothing else to say but please remove Muse from any tier naming decent and helpful pitchers.

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  11. Kenny Curvecock says:

    whats wrong with jason vargas?

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    • DJG says:

      I was wondering the same thing. He’s a lefty who pitches half his games in Safeco. Sub-4.00 FIP projected by zips, the rest of the way. I’d take him over a lot of pitchers up to and including the Phoenix division (ahem… Colby Lewis), especially if you can afford to not start him for bad match-ups / road games.

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    • Mike Podhorzer says:

      Extreme fly ball pitcher, poor strikeout rate, weak offensive support. What’s right with him aside from good control?

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      • DJG says:

        He doesn’t give many runs and has a decent WHIP, especially at home. Also, his strikeout rate is 5.5/9 over the past two years. That’s just below Duensing and ahead of a lot of other guys (Hochevar, Carmona, Porcello to name a few).

        I’m not saying the guy is Randy Johnson, I’m just wondering why he’s in a lower tier than guys he’s projected to be better than. For example Zips has him as being better than Hochevar across the board.

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  12. alex says:

    the bands idea was stupid. way to much opinion based to justify its validity which makes it stupid by my definition.

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    • pounded clown says:

      It’s fantasy baseball analysis not cancer research. This stuff is part of saber/baseball blog culture because baseball, like music, has entertainment value but more than this, baseball like music, inflitrates so many aspects of a fan’s everday life that it will in someway enrich their experience of the world.
      Besides, if being so opinion based invalidates it and therefore, makes it stupid by your definition, that’s based on your opinion unless your definition is the generally accepted definition.

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  13. Drew says:

    Not really a small sample w/ Lester. It’s been six months or more of consistently inconsistent production–rising BB rates and frequent blowups. Still a stud, but Verlander is head and shoulders better and Weaver is a notch above.

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  14. Travis says:

    Pineda’s gotta go up a tier

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  15. Dave says:

    Guess Hamels is on tour, from the list.

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  16. Dave says:

    ooh thats right hes in the Senior circuit

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