Updated AL Starting Pitcher Rankings – September

So, after missing last month due to a wild road trip in bison land, I am back with an updated set of rankings for your perusal. I don’t think I ever clarified how I decide to move players or maintain rankings, but it is basically strictly looking forward. If you drafted now for the rest of the year, what should the order be? I don’t care what a pitcher’s current ERA is, to me that’s just some random number the ball landed on on a roulette wheel. The skills and projected future skills are much more important and this philosophy is reflected in the rankings.

Pearl Jam
Felix Hernandez
Jon Lester
C.C. Sabathia
Justin Verlander

I held out, but finally caved. Verlander joins the top tier, though he’s doing it with improved control, which I don’t think is sustainable. Same F-Strike% as last season and just a tick better than 2009. Everything else is nearly identical to last season and no one called him a top five pitcher in baseball back then. He’ll be overvalued next year.

The Who
Jered Weaver
Dan Haren
David Price
Josh Beckett
James Shields

Aside from the loss of Verlander to rock out with the rest of the Pearl Jammers, no movement here. James Shields has proven he is no fluke and his new pitch selection has vaulted him toward the top of the AL heap.

Ricky Romero
Max Scherzer
Brandon Morrow
Michael Pineda
Justin Masterson
Gio Gonzalez
C.J. Wilson
Ubaldo Jimenez
John Danks

Romero has pitched almost identically to last year, looking at all his skills and even his SIERA. However, a .249 BABIP and nearly 81% LOB% has allowed him to shave almost 0.80 runs from his ERA. No one should have been surprised that Pineda’s ERA has crept well above 3.00. Despite the many scouting type arguments justifying his apparent luck, he has proven that he doesn’t have some magical skills to suppress home runs after all. His second half could be explained as a rookie tiring or hitters adjusting, but I like to simply think his luck regressed. He still has excellent skills though and is in a perfect park for his fly ball ways. Masterson jumps another tier since the last update. I guess he figured out lefties? Maybe…or his luck just neutralized. Either way, he had the skill profile to post a strong ERA (not sub-3.00 strong, but pretty darn good), so there is nothing flukey here. The 4.5% HR/FB ratio will spike of course, but this is a good pitcher.

Red Hot Chili Peppers
Jeremy Hellickson
Gavin Floyd
Erik Bedard
Ervin Santana
Brandon McCarthy

Hellickson continues to post an impressive ERA despite poor skills. But, his advanced statistics still suggest better peripherals ahead so he does not get dropped in the rankings. Man, talk about riding the luck roller coaster up and down. Floyd was once the poster boy for a pitcher who benefited from great fortune (2008), but since then, he has underperformed his SIERA every year. He will be undervalued next year and be an excellent AL-Only purchase. Ervin Santana is putting up the best ERA of his career backed by a career best ground ball rate of nearly 45%, the first time it has been over even 39%. Curiously, his pitch mix is identical to previous years. As a result, I am not sure how sustainable this newfound ability is. McCarthy flies up the rankings as he continues to pitch well after returning from a shoulder issue. It is difficult to expect him to maintain that elite 1.4 BB/9, but his newfound ground ball inducing ability has helped him rank 12th among AL starters in SIERA.

Trevor Cahill
Colby Lewis
Bartolo Colon
Alexi Ogando
Jake Peavy
Phil Hughes
Mark Buehrle
Jeff Niemann
Derek Holland
Felipe Paulino
Zach Britton
Doug Fister
A.J. Burnett

Hughes’s peripherals have been fine in Aug and Sept and his velocity has rebounded, so he should be okay moving forward. Buehrle is pitching as he always does, but he typically outperforms his ERA estimators and is doing it once again this season. His value is limited though because of his pathetic strikeout rate, but it’s hard to keep calling it luck when he does this year in and year out. Niemann has pitched pretty well since returning from a back injury, including a sparkling 1.06 ERA (2.93 xFIP) in 34.0 July innings. I was never really a fan of his in the past, but his skills are moving in the right direction and looking better than league average for a change. I hate to say this, but Burnett isn’t pitching all that poorly. His xFIP- is right at the league average, but a second worst career HR/FB ratio is killing him, and hurting his LOB% as well. I dropped him in the rankings, but only within the tier. With an above average strikeout rate and the Yankees offense to support him, he’s still ownable in AL-Only leagues.

Cee Lo Green/The Black Keys
Ivan Nova
Joel Pineiro
Fausto Carmona
Philip Humber
Freddy Garcia
Matt Harrison
Danny Duffy
Jeremy Guthrie

He’s 15-4, Rookie of the Year! Whatever. Nova is an extreme ground ball pitcher, and that’s about it. Weak strikeout rate and only average control, so not too exciting from a fantasy standpoint, but he has shown enough to get him moved up from the basement. I was never a fan of Guthrie and always needed great BABIP marks to post acceptable ERAs. That simply cannot be counted on every season and with a poor strikeout rate and a league average fly ball rate, he is little room for error.

Miley Cyrus/Justin Bieber
Brett Cecil
Carl Pavano
Jason Vargas
John Lackey
Jeff Francis
Luke Hochevar
Brian Duensing
Wade Davis
Brad Penny
Tyler Chatwood

Ughh, this is like the group of kids that everyone points at and laughs.

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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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Morrow…sorry I just can’t believe. My fantasy team is 6 feet under thanks to his performance last night.

I’d take CJ Wilson or E.Santana over him in a heartbeat. I believe in DIPs theory 95% of the time. the other 5% is reserved for Morrow, Nolasco, Cain, etc.


The Morrow love on FG is astounding. DIPs theory is great in theory, but pointless when the pitcher lacks the skill necessary to succeed. Morrow just is not a very good pitcher. He can’t locate his pitches well and when they get hit, they get hit a mile. Yes, his strike-out numbers are dazzling, but they come at the expense of all the runs he gives up. Can you look at his stats and say, gee, with some improvement he has the underlying skills to succeed? Sure. But can you look at his stats and say, he is somebody I want accruing stats for me every fifth day? Hell no. I’d maybe take him over Burnett or Britton, but in a mixed league, it’s a big no thank you. I like to have a chance at competing in rate stats.