American League SP Tiers August Update

Tier update week is upon us again and it’s time to check in on the American League starting pitchers. Check out the July rankings to refresh your memory and rememember that these rankings only reflect how I expect the pitchers to perform over the rest of the season.

You’re the Best

Justin Verlander
CC Sabathia
Zack Greinke
Felix Hernandez
Jered Weaver

Not surprisingly, no movement here as the expected aces are doing their things. However, we do welcome Zack Greinke to the American League and shower him with fantasy love. I would still like to know what magical pills Weaver is taking though. His BABIP has dropped every single season since 2007 and now sits at a ridiculous .230, his LOB% is over 80% for the second year in a row, and his HR/FB ratio once again stands below 7.0%. He’s the Matt Cain of the American League, as his SIERA is significantly above his ERA as usual. He does induce a better than league average IFFB%, but his LD% is also above league average this season and his fly ball rate has come down, both of which should have served to increase his BABIP, not lower it. Anyone? Bueller?

Second Best

David Price
James Shields
Jon Lester
Chris Sale
Dan Haren
Yu Darvish

Some may have an issue with leaving Shields in this tier, and it’s understandable. However, his luck metrics have really bounced around, so it’s hard to make the determination that he simply lacks the skill to post league average rates in those categories. He’s done it before. Jon Lester just cannot catch a break. While his SIERA tells us that he is indeed pitching worse than last year, the majority of his season results are clouded by poor fortune. In July, he posted a 9.36 (!!!!!) ERA, which oddly also represented the month with his highest K% of the season. I still think he’ll be fine. Darvish drops to the bottom of the tier as his control hasn’t improved as I expected. He’s still generates gobs of strikeouts, but his ground ball rate isn’t quite as high as I figured, which would help eliminate all those base runners reaching via the free pass.

Strong Enough

C.J. Wilson
Matt Moore
Max Scherzer
Jake Peavy

Would you look at that, C.J. Wilson is human after all. After outperforming his peripherals since becoming a starter, his luck finally began to disappear, as he has allowed 23 runs over his last 29.2 innings spanning 5 starts. His surface stats look a lot more reasonable now, but he is still at risk for furting ERA inflation given his 4.00+ SIERA and sub-3.50 ERA. With an ERA nearing 5.00, but an AL-leading 3.12 SIERA, Scherzer is going to show up on everyone’s sleeper lists next year unless he turns it around in a hurry. While better defensive support isn’t going to suddenly manifest itself, it’s hard to believe that ERA/SIERA disconnect will continue, and at the very least, he’s a strong source of strikeouts. Yeah, it’s too late and not very helpful now, but Peavy moves up a tier now. His ERA has jumped above 3.00, so I don’t have to worry as much about luck regression leading to a poor rest of season mark.

Seeing is Believing

Josh Beckett
Jeremy Hellickson
Phil Hughes
Doug Fister
Hiroki Kuroda
Anibal Sanchez

Josh Beckett has finally been dropped another tier. I have always been a fan, but with his velocity and strikeout rates down, this move is overdue. It’s unlikely the good Beckett is going to materialize again this year unless he magically rediscovers his fastball. Hellickson continues to defy the odds, posting a strong ERA, despite one of the worst SIERA marks in baseball. We probably need more than the 300 innings of magic to know for sure what kind of expected ERA outperformance skills he actually owns, but I guess I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for the time being. Hughes jumps a tier, as his velocity has returned and he is throwing a ton of first pitch strikes. The extreme fly ball tendency is an issue though. It’s odd too, because he was a ground ball pitcher in the minors. Fister also joins the tier as his strikeout rate is finally high enough, backed by a SwStk% nearing the league average for the first time. After a slow start, Kuroda’s skills are right where they have always been. Anibal Sanchez joins the rankings and obviously saw his fantasy value take a hit with the move.

I’m Not Okay (I Promise)

Ryan Dempster
Francisco Liriano
Derek Holland
Gavin Floyd
Brandon McCarthy
Ivan Nova
Justin Masterson
Scott Diamond
Alex Cobb
Tommy Milone
Jarrod Parker
Chris Tillman
Carlos Villanueva

Ryan Dempster joins the AL tiers and is put in a tough spot in one of the league’s best hitter’s parks. According to his xFIP splits, Liriano really only had one terrible month, that one in April, but he has posted marks in the mid-3.00 range ever since. The move to Chicago does hurt him, but he has been pretty darn good since returning to the rotation. As such, he jumps a tier. I don’t know what led to Holland’s increased velocity last year, but it is gone now. Suddenly, he’s average all around and I’m less optimistic about his future potential. So, he drops a tier. After returning from an elbow issue, Gavin Floyd has walked 14 batters in 19 innings. Hmmm, is something more serious going on? Well, he drops a tier. Diamond has obviously been a pleasant surprise, but more strikeouts would be nice.

Milone jumps a tier as his strikeout rate has been much improved and his minor league history suggests it’s sustainable. I still don’t really care for Parker, but his control has improved and his Swstk% suggests a higher strikeout rate may be in his future. He jumps a tier. I am getting a little worried about Tillman. After debuting with an average fastball nearing 95.0 miles per hour, that average velocity has declined in literally every outing. In his last start on Monday, he averaged just 91.0. I have no idea what to make of it, but I obviously liked him a whole lot better throwing 95 than 91!

Livin’ on the Edge

Jose Quintana
Felix Doubront
Matt Harrison
Bartolo Colon
Wei-Yin Chen
Clay Buchholz
Ervin Santana
Ricky Romero

A low strikeout rate and great fortune keeps Harrison in this tier. Colon’s great run is nice and all, but when you sport the worst SwStk% in all of baseball and aren’t even an extreme ground ball pitcher to offset all those extra base runners reaching via the base hit, I want no part of you. Santana and Romero are having forgettable seasons to say the least. They are very close to the bottom tier, which is crazy to have believed in the pre-season.

The Great Disappointment

Kevin Millwood
Zach McAllister
Henderson Alvarez
Ubaldo Jimenez
Jason Vargas
Luke Hochevar
Rick Porcello

So is Ubaldo’s career over? What a sad story.


Brandon Morrow
Jason Hammel
Jeff Niemann

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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: 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.

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Omar Little
Omar Little

Greinke’s ERA- over the past two years are 101 and 95 respectively. I understand his peripherals are great, but I don’t see how you can put him in the same tier of pitcher as Verlander, Weaver, Felix, etc at this point in the season.

Trey Baughn

Agree. He and Price should switch places

Stan Gable
Stan Gable

I agre with Avon (or whomever). Zack Greinke above Jered Weaver, Felix Hernandez & David Price seems especially foolhardy and not at all reactionary enough.


Wait, what kind of league are these rankings for?!?! Because some preseason rankings are more useful.

Firstly, Greinke in the top tier? Uh, have you seen any of his games the past 3 months? What about the past 3 seasons? The fact that the writer celebrates Greinke but questions Weaver, huh? Seems to me like over-analyzing when the answer is right in front of your face.

Meanwhile David Price is hanging out with Lester and Yu. I hate being so negative, but this is borderline disinformation.


Ya, there is absolutely no way Greinke is the 3rd best fantasy pitcher in the AL.
All the guys in the first tier are better, along with several of the 2nd tier pitchers.



does that account for a crappy defense?


Haren just can’t be in that tier until things get back on track.