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Bold Pitcher League Leaders: A Review

On Monday, I took a look back at the hitters who I boldly predicted would lead the league in each of the 5×5 fantasy categories. Well, I made those same predictions for pitchers as well in the pre-season. So, let’s see if I did just as poorly or had some better luck.

American League


Yu Darvish, 3.90 ERA

Darvish’s hotly anticipated rookie season was a slight disappointment to many, at least judging strictly by ERA. But he did post a strong 5.1 WAR, so he still provided excellent value to the Rangers. His 3.55 SIERA tells us that he may have been a bit unlucky, and that likely stems from a lower than league average LOB%. Darvish experienced a very up and down season, pitching to a fabulous 2.18 ERA in April, then posting ERAs above 4.00 over the next two months, ERAs above 5.00 the following two, and then pitching brilliantly again in September with a 2.21 ERA. Of course, his monthly xFIP suggests that his skills didn’t change all that much, which is usually the case for a pitcher, as his luck bounces around. Obviously, the one thing holding Darvish back from being elite and contending for the ERA title is his control. That’s exactly the type of pitcher I like betting on for a breakout.


Tommy Milone, 1.28 WHIP

As expected, Milone displayed his impeccable control once again, as he posted a 1.7 walk rate and threw first pitch strikes over 68% of the time. Unfortunately, he was bitten by the BABIP monster, as he posted a .310 mark despite pitching half his games in Oakland’s hit suppresing O.co Coliseum and being a fly ball pitcher. Of course, his home/road splits tell us Oakland wasn’t the problem, but pitching in away parks, where he was crushed to the tune of a .350 BABIP. That shouldn’t happen again and with the potential for a higher strikeout rate, he should improve his WHIP in 2013.


Brandon Morrow, 108 Ks

It didn’t take long to be bitten by the injury bug in another prediction review article. Though even if Morrow had not missed time, he wouldn’t have really come close to leading the league since his strikeout rate actually declined precipitously from 10.2 last year to just 7.8 this year. His SwStk% dropped as well, supporting the falloff, and his fastball velocity was down nearly a mile per hour. His sub-3.00 will nearly guarantee that he won’t be undervalued next year, so he won’t be the strong sleeper/breakout candidate with nice profit potential again like in years past.


Max Scherzer, 16 wins

Scherzer endured a ridiculous .442 BABIP in April that led to a 7.77 ERA, and then his luck turned around and every month of the season, his ERA was lower than the previous one. If it wasn’t for that gruesome month and an ERA that finished well above his SIERA, he may have contended for the win leader crown at 20. The strikeout rate surge was supported by a velocity spike and backed by a SwStk% that tied for second in the Majors. Given his great second half, it’s unlikely he’ll be undervalued next season.


Jim Johnson, a Major League leading 51 saves

I got one right! Despite striking out 10 fewer batters than the number of games he saved, Johnson’s sterling control and elite ground ball rate was a recipe for success. He’s just another example proving that projecting saves is a complete crapshoot. All fantasy owners should do is draft a closer with good skills, regardless of closing experience, and cross your fingers. And the less you have to pay for those good skills, the better.

National League


Zack Greinke, 3.48 ERA

Greinke’s MLB leading SIERA in 2011 did regress this season, but his ERA still fell and it was actually pretty close to his SIERA this time. As usual, he had a difficult time getting any defensive support from the Brewers, bu the Angels defense was much better and brought his BABIP down from a much inflated mark. The BABIP improved led to similar ERAs with both teams, even though his skills declined rather significantly after moving back to the American League.


Brandon Beachy, 0.96 WHIP (in just 81.0 innings)

Well, this prediction was working out nicely until Beachy went down with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. Of course, a .200 BABIP had quite a lot to do with that sub-1.00 WHIP. As a Braves fan, here’s hoping he comes back strong.


Gio Gonzalez, 207 strikeouts (4th in the NL)

Gonzalez certainly did see an uptick in strikeout rate after his move to the National League, as his K/9 jumped from 8.8 to 9.4. He didn’t pitch enough innings though to compete for the strikeout crown and Gonzalez has yet to throw more than 202.0 innings in a season.


Mat Latos, 14 wins

So much for the move out of pitcher fiendly PETCO and into home run haven GABP ruining Latos’ season. His overall ERA was nearly identical and he actually posted a better ERA at home than away. The Reds offense was a disappointment this year, ranking just 21st overall in runs scored and 9th in the National League. A healthy Joey Votto all season would have helped, obviously, but the mediocre offense cost Latos some wins.


Frank Francisco, 23 saves

Worst prediction on this list? Yup. Though, it’s still a wonder how he managed to save 23 games with a 5.53 ERA and missing time to injury, which limited him to just 42.1 innings. Aside from a .339 BABIP, his control was Francisco’s biggest issue this year as he lost his ability to throw first pitch strikes. Of course, he then complained of elbow problems toward the end of the season, and it’s reasonable to think that had affected him all year.