Check the Position: SP1

Over the offseason we’ll take a look at each position on the diamond and see how the past season affected the positional rankings and where there might be some potential bounceback value picks going into next year’s drafts. (See shortstops, catchers, second basemen, first basemen, third basemen, right fielders, left fielders and center fielders.)

Of course, when it comes to pitchers, the format suffers. We’re certainly not about to do tiered rankings for the top 75+ pitchers that get drafted every year in mixed leagues – that would be one long post. Instead, I’m going to cover the pitchers by their location on your team. The first group consists of pitchers that could or should be selected to be fantasy aces in 2010. Let’s take a look.

This is where I drop some caveats. Everyone has their preferences, so order this tier as you will. The first tier is meant to be the no-doubt-about-it group. All of these guys won’t give you the strikeouts of Tim Lincecum and Zack Greinke, but they’ll come within a strikeout or two per nine innings. They won’t all have the miniscule WHIPs of Dan Haren or Roy Halladay, but none of them should break 1.2 in that category. They won’t all be the horse that CC Sabathia is, but they’ve all (so far) shown the ability to put close to 200 innings together. There are no guarantees when it comes to elbows and shoulders, but these guys look like bonafide studs.

The next group ain’t too shabby themselves. The first three only have question marks because they’re young and haven’t been doing this for ages. Despite my worries about Jon Lester‘s walk rate in the minors, he hasn’t shown any problems since he made his cancer recovery. Felix Hernandez broke out last year, and just needs to show it again. Justin Verlander seems to have fixed his delivery, but will what broke before break again? The next two guys have question marks are about age and health. Chris Carpenter is a walking question mark, and his ongoing health issues make him overvalued after strong years and undervalued after injured years. In other words, I owned him often last year and may not own him once next year. Instead, I may own Johan Santana often this year, who should be next year’s Carpenter, despite his worrisome declining velocity and strikeout rates. Cliff Lee never had great strikeout rates to begin with and is going to the tougher league, but he may get some support for a higher ranking.

Originally, there was a tier between Lee and Adam Wainwright, but that tier was born more of intuition than anything in the numbers. Wainwright made just as big of a leap forward as King Felix in some ways, why should he be in another tier? Perhaps this imaginary tier has a combination of questions. Wainwright broke out – and has durability questions. Josh Johnson can probably repeat his performance, given his history, but he has definite durability questions. He’s put together just 364 innings total from 2007-2009. Josh Beckett is a favorite of mine, but for some reason he keeps putting up ERAs that are much higher than his FIPs, and maybe that’s just how he rolls. Ubaldo Jimenez induces mad ground balls and strikes out plenty, but his stats are still borderline. Aw, heck, put that tier back in.

The “just off” tier gives you a preview of some nice SP2 values that you could pair with a late SP1 for your best strategic approach. Consider that the number one pitcher on this list is projected by Bill James to put up an 2.80 ERA and 1.12 WHIP with 261 strikeouts, while the tenth guy may “only” contribute 3.08 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 224 strikeouts. That, my friends, is why you wait to draft your starting pitchers.




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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.

36 Responses to “Check the Position: SP1”

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  1. Joey says:

    Tommy Hanson rules!

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  2. Matt B. says:

    Jimenez borderline stats – for the group of “aces” or overall? I think his improving numbers are starting to look phenomenal overall.

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      Ubaldo is only borderline for an ace. otherwise, there’s no reason he won’t be on my team this year. I think I’ll have some Beckett/Gallardo or Ubaldo/Hanson-type situations this year. I won’t pick am SP1 in the first four or five rounds, but I’ll pick starters twice in rounds eight through twelve, looking for value in the edges.

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  3. jetsfansam says:

    I think the article means Jimenez is borderline for an ace.

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  4. Stephen K says:

    Scott Baker has a WHIP below 1.2 and a K/9 over 7 the last two years in a row

    He’ll be 28 this season

    I’m not even a Twins fan and this guy is ALWAYS undervalued in fantasy for some reason

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      I like Baker. I’m not sure he’s even a borderline SP1. Like the other Twins pitchers, they are values more than they are elite pitchers. You can’t pay top dollar for any twins pitcher, no?

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    • MDS says:

      Baker has serious issues with the HR (his GB/FB stinks). I see a lot of ppl saying Target Field will help the pitchers, but the fences are shorter and there is no 16 ft wall in RF, i dont know why ppl are spreading this rumor.

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  5. Dylan says:

    Thoughts on Brandon Webb? Completely forgotten or just given up on?

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    • Fresh Hops says:

      Uh… serious injury worries? The guy missed a whole season due to injury and there’s no clear word whether he’s “definitely healthy” yet. Add to the fact that “definitely healthy” means “our best guess is that he’s healthy and we’re not telling reporters otherwise” and you can see why he’s not on this list. Take him as an injury risk upside grab as your fourth pitcher at most.

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  6. Kampfer says:

    Scott Baker was overvalued at the beginning of 09.

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    • Stephen K says:

      re: Scott Baker

      I disagree he was overvalued at the start of 2009. He was about a 10th-14th round pick in a 10-team league. You expected young, good, and a little upside. Baker had an awful start to the year, and it was entirely statistical noise due to a spike in his HR/FB rate, which made everyone label him a bust.

      He still finished the year with a 1.17 WHIP. He’s still young, proven good, and has a good bit of upside.

      WHIP is the single-most important category for pitchers in a 5×5 league because it directly affects everything else, and Baker ALREADY has a track record of being a shade off the very best in the game in that regard.

      He’ll be about a 10th-14th round pick again this year and will easily match 6th-9th round pitchers just from the value of 200 IP of his WHIP by itself

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  7. Stephen K says:

    re Brandon Webb:

    Elbows, you can come back from. Chris Carpenter, Josh Johnson, mid-90′s John Smoltz, and eleventy billion other Tommy John success stories

    Shoulders, you DON’T come back from. Mark Prior, Mark Mulder, late 2000′s John Smoltz.

    It sucks but human arms just aren’t meant to throw baseballs over 90 mph with heavy sinking action

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  8. Eno Sarris says:

    Yeah, I agree that shoulders are a much bigger deal. Also, no-one on this list is coming off of something so drastic as Webb. That puts him in the SP2 category no matter what. But I would love to start picking starters in the ninth round and get something like Ubaldo/Hamels/Gallardo – or even Beckett/Peavy/Webb right? You just have to zoom out a little and remember past one year to get some values. Pick in the heart of the lateSP1/earlySP2 section and you might get two SP1s.

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  9. Joey says:

    “Ubaldo is only borderline for an ace. otherwise, there’s no reason he won’t be on my team this year. I think I’ll have some Beckett/Gallardo or Ubaldo/Hanson-type situations this year. I won’t pick am SP1 in the first four or five rounds, but I’ll pick starters twice in rounds eight through twelve, looking for value in the edges.”

    Hey Eno, hate to break the news to ya, but if you want Hanson you are probably going to have grab him before the 8th round, especially in keeper leagues.

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    • Matt B. says:

      I’d assume he is already gone in most keeper leagues no?

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      • Eno Sarris says:

        This is not a keeper ranking. Hanson’s ADP is 85, so I suppose I should amend my statement to say rounds “seven through eleven” to be more precise. That’s where I start drafting starters anyway, and my point was more that I’ll take what falls to me there and less about specific pitchers.

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  10. The A Team says:

    The thing you have to like about Cliff Lee is that he gets the benefit of Seattle’s run prevention unit. You mentioned that he’s a little more balls-in-playsie than the rest of this group, so he’ll probably see a significant benefit. The larger stadium ought to help too especially because it squashes right handed batters.

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    • Andrew says:

      The main problem with Seattle is I don’t see Lee getting more than 14-15 wins due to the zero run support they’ll provide.

      Also Seattle is an obviously an upgrade from Philly’s bandbox, but Progressive Field was the 2nd best pitcher’s park last year, ahead only of PETCO. Plus he loses the 1-2 K/9 he gets from facing pitchers and NL hitting.

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      • Jimbo says:

        Seattle could be baseball’s version of the Baltimore Ravens. IF your defense is good enough, then a guy like Lee should get his share of 2-0 or 4-2 wins. He pitches deep into games, and this isn’t the KC offense like Greinke had last year.

        Not sure who’s going to be driving in Figgins and Ichiro (Kotchman? Gutierrez? Lopez?), but those two on KC last year probably deliver 4 more wins for Zack.

        I’m not saying Lee = Greinke, just that I had Zack last year and don’t think Lee will have as much of a black hole on offense behind him. Might not win 20, but I wouldn’t bat an eye at a forecast of something close to that.

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      • Andrew says:

        You’re right this isn’t the KC offense…it was and will be worse. in 2009 Seattle was last in the AL for runs scored, around 50 runs behind KC. They were also last in OBP. Granted Felix got 19 wins with this team but with a 2.5 ERA and a shutdown closer. I don’t see Lee finishing the year with an ERA below 3.3 and Aardsma won’t be nearly as good next year (or whoever ends up with the closer position).

        And yea the Ravens have an elite D but they were also a top-10 offensive team with guys that can break for 87 yard TD runs at any second. The Mariners lack a Ray Rice type offensive player.

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  11. Mike says:

    Chris Carpenter the 9th best fantasy SP? Really?

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      It’s all about IP. Sure, if he pitches 200 innings, this ranking will look a little silly. But will he pitch that many innings?

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  12. divakar says:

    Ricky Nolasco? Brett Anderson?

    I’m not sure about pitching in general – I feel like there are always reasons to argue about projections (even with the top-tier-not-named-Lincecum). I just can’t bring myself to pay top dollar and draft any of the “top 20″ guys early…

    If we’re talking about certain guys, however, I’m including these two in the discussion. I’d have either over Scott Baker. Probably over Matt Cain too. Depending on the draft you’re in, Adam Wainwright (will be drafted way early) or Yo Gallardo (ditto, because of K-rate) will go before these guys, and I’d be happy taking both later on…

    And for all the Tommy Hanson love: I like Brett Anderson more. He pitched 50 more innings than Hanson last year, which might be bad thing, but certainly suggests he can handle the majors. Plus, he’s 1.5 years younger with better control, better GB rate AND was unlucky last year (65% LOB to Hanson’s 80%).

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    • William says:

      Agreed on Nolasco, and happy (in terms of my being able to get him later in the draft). 8th best xFIP, 3rd worst BABIP, 8th best K/9, 5th best K/BB, and WORST on LOB%.

      Unless tRA* is a deal-breaker (23rd) for the top-21, am I missing something?

      What will his ADP be, so I can be sure to get him?

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  13. Mustard & Brown says:

    Vazquez “just off”? That seems WAY WAY too low for him. I will definately take the “over” in terms of this list. Just a gut reaction, though…Lester also looks too high for my tastes.

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  14. Obligatory Sox Fan says:

    I just want to chime in that last season the sox had terrible defense on the left side and in center field (if you believe UZR). With their offseason acquisitions I think they have swung the pendulum to the other side of the spectrum with regard to defense. Some even believe it will result in an eighty run swing!

    That should benefit Jon Lester and Josh Beckett. I wouldn’t bet against them this season.

    Though I wonder if Jon Lester can continue to whiff 10 batters per nine.

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  15. Mike says:

    Kershaw probably ought to make at least the “Just off” list – it’s tough to make a case for taking Hanson or Gallardo over him.

    Peavy can handle some regression and be a better pick than most of the tier 2 dudes, I’d say. I suppose IP is of slight concern, but he’s a better bet to log 200 IP than Carpenter or Santana.

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  16. MDB says:

    Lot of things working against Peavy this year. Injury concerns, and the move to CHI/AL. Just have a bad feeling about him. He won’t be an SP1 on any of my teams.

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  17. Kyle says:

    Yeah, let’s forget guys like Oswalt and Peavy who pitched hurt and had one off season. But Johan Santana and Cole Hamels will be money! That 7.58 ERA of Hamels in the postseason isn’t scaring anyone off? Talk about balls…

    Dan Haren and his amazing WHIP, will be overshadowed by his Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde halves. Yes, the guy sucks every second half. But hey, fantasy baseball isn’t real baseball.

    How is Sabathia ahead of Halladay and Carpenter? First of all, Halladay is going to the National League, and his team of choice. He’ll have offense and won’t lose games when throwing complete games and giving up two runs. He also doesn’t face the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays 11 times a year. The National League hasn’t seen him as much, and with that offense and his pension for completing games, he’ll easily get 21-22 wins. Carpenter should be stronger this season as well, and just think what he could have done if not missing a whole month.

    I’d take Verlander over Sabathia, because the dude could be the next guy to K 300 guys in a season. And every time he starts, he’s throwing like he wants a no-hitter. The Red Sox starting pitching is better, and the Yankees got Vazquez who struggles in the American League(especially for the Yankees.)

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    • Andrew says:

      Even with the bad second-half, Dan Haren finished the year the 5th best SP on the ESPN player rater. Just trade him at the All-Star break.

      I agree with you about Halladay. Facing the pitcher should also increase his Ks. However, Halladay dominates the Yankees and Sox. He had 5 CGs against them this year including shutouts against each team in September. He will easily own the NL East.

      Vazquez was an All-Star with the Yankees. He wasn’t that bad. Also Sabathia will get 20+ wins easy. The Yankees will probably score 1000+ runs next year.

      I have no idea why you mentioned the Red Sox SP being better or its fantasy impact but I think the front 3 are about equal and the Yankees’ 4th and 5th starters are better:

      CC > Lester
      Beckett > Burnett
      Lackey = Vasquez
      Pettite > Dice-BB
      Joba or Hughes > Bucholz or Wakefield

      Red Sox pitchers should have a slightly lower ERA due to the improved Boston defense though.

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    • Andrew says:

      Lower ERA in 2010 than 2009 is what I meant to write.

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  18. Bob says:

    Sorry, but I have a rookie question: I have been unable to view or download the jpg image for this post (or the SP2 post) from either my PC or my Mac. Am I missing something? Can anyone explain what I should do? When I download it, I get a blank file; when I click the image to view, it just keeps waiting and never generates. Thanks for any help.

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