2014 Pod’s Picks: Starting Pitcher

Today marks the end of the 2014 Pod’s Pick series and we finish off with my favorite position, starting pitcher. This is where we find the most divergent opinions as an extra projected win or two or a slightly higher expected strikeout rate is enough to push a player up a whole bunch of spots in the rankings.

The starting pitcher edition of Pod’s Picks may help you find value or learn who to avoid at their current going rates. The bullish section will only include players from my top 78 (which assumes 6 1/2 starting pitchers active per team with 2 1/2 closers), while the bearish group will only include those whose RotoGraphs consensus is in the top 78.

Bullish

Hiroki Kuroda

My Rank: 19 | Consensus: 50

Wow, not who I expected to appear on the top of my undervalued list. He is perpetually undervalued though, which is strange because I have never owned him. He has posted an ERA below 3.40 for four straight seasons, while maintaining a WHIP in the 1.15 to 1.20 range throughout his entire career. He has been as consistent as it comes. I assume the hang up is his age. He’ll be 39 this year and one would expect Kuroda to start showing some chinks in the armor. But it hasn’t happened yet and there’s nothing in his skills to suggest the decline is imminent.

R.A. Dickey

My Rank: 18 | Consensus: 48

Nobody expected the 2012 NL Cy Young award winner to repeat his masterful performance, especially after being traded into the American League to pitch in a tough division and a hitter friendly home ballpark. But Dickey was still pretty disappointing. The good news is that it seems as if minor injuries that led to a decline in knuckleball velocity were to blame, but that velocity rose by the end of the year. His overall results and strikeout rate were much improved over that second half, coinciding with the velocity spike. If health issues don’t get in the way again, then he should enjoy a nice rebound. Also propping up his ranking is the fact that he pitches a ton of innings. That will boost his win and strikeout totals.

…skipping some uninteresting names that despite my apparent optimistic rankings, I don’t care for (Ricky Nolasco, My Rank: 59, Consensus: 87; Wei-Yin Chen, My Rank: 77, Consensus: 105)…

Ervin Santana

My Rank: 43 | Consensus: 70

Ummm what? First off, remember that this ranking was before the move to Atlanta. That said, I had figured a major regression into the 3.80 ERA range for Santana and yet still calculated a value that resulted in a ranking of 43. So, I have no idea how much more pessimistic the rest of the rankers were. The move to Atlanta is a boon for his fantasy value. Compared to my previous projection, his strikeout rate rises, bringing down his ERA and WHIP. While it will still be difficult for him to repeat his bounce back 2013 performance, the odds became greater now that he resides in the National League.

Tim Lincecum

My Rank: 34 | Consensus: 55

I will never quit! At the very least, Lincecum is going to provide a boat load of strikeouts. Yes, Lincecum’s velocity came crashing down in 2012 and hasn’t recovered. His strikeout rate has declined in almost a straight line since 2009. But, he still possesses pretty solid skills. In these last two seasons, he has been done in by an inflated HR/FB rate and a low LOB%. Prior to 2012, he never had issues with allowing so many fly balls to leave the yard or stranding runners. Now suddenly he does? Bad luck could last for two years. I’m betting it’s just that.

Scott Kazmir

My Rank: 54 | Consensus: 75

I’m a fan of Kazmir 2.0. I’m now an even bigger fan after his move to Oakland. Kazmir’s velocity has returned and this time, his control is much improved. A .324 BABIP hid fantastic skills, but a quick glance at his 3.38 SIERA tells you how well he actually pitched. He’s nearly a lock to produce a nice profit in all league formats.

Bearish

Technically Kevin Gausman would be atop the bearish list, but his ranking is pretty irrelevant. It’s all dependent on if he makes the rotation (unlikely) and when he eventually would debut this year. For the record, I’m bullish on his performance, but uncertain how many innings he will pitch in the Majors.

Bartolo Colon

My Rank: 91 | Consensus: 64

Now here’s one that doesn’t surprise me. Colon is going to be 41 (!!!) this year, doesn’t strike anyone out, and posted an ERA about a full run and a half below his SIERA. He’s not going to have that kind of HR/FB rate and LOB% luck again, so without any strikeout cushion, his value could plummet.

Julio Teheran

My Rank: 53 | Consensus: 28

I’m not not a fan, but I am a fan of luck neutralization. I think Teheran’s breakout was completely legit, as in, yeah, he’s a good pitcher now. But, he ain’t stranding 81% of base runners again. And since he posted his highest strikeout rate since 2010, you gotta figure some regression there. Oh, and it’s hard to maintain a walk rate under 6.0%. Bump that up as well. With all this regression, you’re suddenly left with a solid, albeit unspectacular pitcher who is very likely to be overvalued at drafts and auctions.

Andrew Cashner

My Rank: 64 | Consensus: 41

:-( Andrew, I truly apologize for breaking up with you. I’ll let David Wiers have you all for himself. If you have forgotten exactly how much of a fan I was heading into the 2013 season, this post sums it up for you. To say that an 18.1% strikeout rate was a disappointment is an understatement. I am projecting some sort of a strikeout rebound, but unfortunately it’s offset by a regression in his control. Pitching in front of a weak Padres offense isn’t going to help him any in the wins category either. If he could rediscover the strikeout stuff I thought he was in possession of entering last year, he absolutely has the chance to be a top 40 pitcher. But I can’t project him based on hope and wishes.

Ivan Nova

My Rank: 79 | Consensus: 58

I’m not really sure how this happened. I kinda like Nova this year, but I guess not as much as the other three musketeers. Of the four projection systems, my ERA projection is the second lowest. Perhaps it’s an innings thing (I’m projecting 170) or maybe it’s because I’m expecting a bit of strikeout rate regression.

Dan Haren

My Rank: 67 | Consensus: 47

Well daaaaamn, how did this happen? I was driving the Haren train all of last year and figured for sure he’d be significantly undervalued this year. I am projecting slightly worse skills compared to last year and the transition to a fly ball pitcher is not a good thing. But I do expect his ERA to dip below 4.00. I just worry about his pitch mix as everything is in the 83 to 89 mph range and is some variation of the fastball.



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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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Javen
Member
Javen

Is it fair to use Teheran’s walk rate against him though? Command has always been a strength of his so I don’t think we can write off regression in this particular statistic as a near certainty.

ralph
Guest
ralph

Teheran is a super-interesting case for projecting purposes, especially if you look at his splits.

The first two months of the season he was a low-K guy with a high GB%, with April just being awful all around.

Then from June on, he started striking out a bunch more guys and switched to being a fly-ball pitcher. I wish I could check pitch usage splits to see what he changed in his repertoire.

I don’t know how much all that should go into projections, but if I were trying to improve upon automated projection systems, it seems like the June-September pitching approach should be overweighted.

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