Fantasy Preview – Starting Pitchers Part 1


A note about my rankings: I am assuming a standard scoring league (5×5) with the following categories:

R, HR, RBI, SB, AVG, W, SV, ERA, K, WHIP

Also, I have done a lot of statistical analysis in the past, but I’m not ready to start calculating my own projections statistically. So for me, a lot of this is based entirely on gut feel (which of these 2 players would I want), and looking at previous performance. All statistics are from the 2009 season.

My top 25 Starting Pitchers

1. Tim Lincecum – SF
W ERA IP K WHIP
15 2.48 225.1 261 1.047
Lincecum is coming off back-to-back Cy Young Awards, and is still extremely young. The unorthodox delivery will always be of some concern, but he has had success with it to this point, and in staying healthy while using it. He really should have won more than 15 games last season, but you’re not really looking for wins specifically at this point. To me, Lincecum is far and away the best starting pitcher at the start of the season, and could very well end up with a repeat of his 2009 season again in 2010.


2. Roy Halladay – PHI
W ERA IP K WHIP
17 2.79 239 208 1.126
After all the speculation that Halladay would be moved during the 2009 season, it was a small surprise to see him actually moved during the offseason. But I really like what this does for his value for 2010. His lineup is going to provide him with a ton of runs, and Halladay also gets the bonus of getting to face the Nationals and the rest of the National League as opposed to having to face the juggernauts in New York and Boston a half-dozen times. I think he could actually improve on these numbers, and I think he’s going to give Lincecum a run for the money for the Cy Young Award this season.


3. Felix Hernandez – SEA
W ERA IP K WHIP
19 2.49 238.2 217 1.135
Hernandez really put it all together last season, finishing 2nd in the AL Cy Young voting to Greinke. The Mariners have made a concerted effort to improve the defense behind their pitching staff for 2010, adding Casey Kotchman at 1B and Chone Figgins at 3B. I think that Hernandez can actually see slight improvements in his numbers this season. My only concern for King Felix would be that he may not necessarily get as many wins, but you really shouldn’t be chasing wins to begin with.


4. C.C. Sabathia – NYY
W ERA IP K WHIP
19 3.37 230 197 1.148
Sabathia is simply a true pitcher. He’s going to be out there for as long as they will allow him, throwing as many pitches as he needs to get through a start. I actually think that the win total could also have the potential to be even higher this season, and the strikeouts higher as well. He’s always going to have a pretty good amount of run support, and his ERA and WHIP should stay in a similar range to last year.


5. Zack Greinke – KC
W ERA IP K WHIP
16 2.16 229.1 242 1.073
Greinke won the AL Cy Young Award last season, edging out Hernandez and Sabathia both. I think he’s going to see a slight regression, as the ERA and WHIP were amazingly low. But we’re still talking about a pitcher who will end up with a sub-3 ERA and a WHIP around 1.15 or less. Oh, and the strikeout per inning is always a good thing too. Greinke really appears to have conquered his demons regarding the spotlight, and seems like a pretty safe bet to have another great season.


6. Dan Haren – ARI
W ERA IP K WHIP
14 3.14 229.1 223 1.003
Haren really seems to be a tale of two pitchers: He always has a very good first half, and a not-as-great second half. Just keep that thought in the back of your mind when drafting him. The fact that despite poorer performance in the second half, these were the numbers he posted, tells you how good the numbers were in the first half. Haren is also about as steady as it comes also, having posted excellent performances overall for each of the last 4 seasons.


7. Adam Wainwright – STL
W ERA IP K WHIP
19 2.63 233 212 1.210
Wainwright posted an excellent season last year, narrowly losing out on the NL Cy Young award last season. His peripheral numbers (.309 BABIP, 0.66 HR/9) indicate to me that there’s a very good chance he’ll repeat these numbers again in 2010.


8. Justin Verlander – DET
W ERA IP K WHIP
19 3.45 240 269 1.175
Verlander definitely announced his presence again in 2009, and my only question about him is this: Will he be able to repeat what he did in 2009, or will he regress back to the 2008 version? I think he’s a lot more likely to stay at the 2009 level, and could end up as a top-5 pitcher potentially.


9. Jon Lester – BOS
W ERA IP K WHIP
15 3.41 203.1 225 1.230
Lester’s personal story is a very good one, but the fantasy implications of his 2009 season are much more interesting for my purposes. I think that there is a reasonable chance he will actually improve on his numbers, both the ERA and WHIP. The Red Sox have done a very good job of improving their defense, and have managed to keep their offense in solid shape as well. Even his health concerns from the beginning of the 2009 season have been put to rest, and he should help lead the Red Sox for many years to come.


10. Chris Carpenter – STL
W ERA IP K WHIP
17 2.24 192.2 144 1.007
The only concern I have with Carpenter is the same one that he has nearly every season: health. Carpenter only pitched 192 innings last season, and I think it is unlikely he will get much past 200 IP this season as well. The strikeout rate seems to have dropped some, but his ERA and WHIP have been low enough that the fact that he’s “only” struck out around 7 per 9 innings is not really that relevant to me. But do remember that Carpenter is not without risk.


11. Josh Johnson – FLA
W ERA IP K WHIP
15 3.23 209 191 1.158
With a freshly signed contract extension, Johnson knows he’s going to be pitching in Florida’s spacious stadium until they move to the new one. 2009 was the first season really able to stay healthy for the full season. The value is definitely there with Johnson, as even when he was not healthy, his numbers were in line with what he accomplished last season. But he’s another pitcher that I would say has a slightly more than average risk for injury.


12. Matt Cain – SF
W ERA IP K WHIP
14 2.89 217.2 171 1.181
Cain, very quietly, had a very good season last year. And even though he didn’t show it in the win totals for a second straight season, his components indicate that he’s definitely for real. He may see some regression with regard to his ERA, but he should still be around 3.50 or so.


13. Johan Santana – NYM
W ERA IP K WHIP
13 3.13 166.2 146 1.212
Santana was one of the few bright spots on an otherwise very poor Mets team in 2009. I think that there is a very distinct possibility that Santana pitches a full season this year, and vaults back into the top-10 of starting pitchers. The only number I don’t think improves is his win total, but that is more to do with what I think of the Mets than anything.


14. Javier Vazquez – NYY
W ERA IP K WHIP
15 2.87 219.1 238 1.026
So Vazquez is back in New York, and I think that this is going to adversely affect the numbers he will provide for fantasy owners. He’s still likely to strikeout around a batter per inning, but it concerns me that he’s not going to be able to face the Nats and the other National League lineups. I think he still posts an ERA around 3.50 and a WHIP around 1.2, which will both be excellent. But don’t let yourself get caught bidding on Vazquez on the assumption that he’s going to duplicated 2009, because I just don’t see that happening.


15. Josh Beckett – BOS
W ERA IP K WHIP
17 3.86 212.1 199 1.192
Beckett seems poised to repeat the success he had in 2009, and should provide you with some solid value in all categories. I don’t think there is a lot of upside from the numbers he posted last year though, and even a chance of some regression in WHIP as well.


16. Wandy Rodriguez – HOU
W ERA IP K WHIP
14 3.02 205.2 193 1.240
The numbers appear to be, for the most part, real. The ERA could possibly go up from last year, but the WHIP and strikeouts appear legit. The other thing that I was thinking with Wandy was the fact that it seems unlikely he will win more than the 14 games he did last season. The Astros don’t look particularly good, and that will affect his final numbers slightly.


17. Ubaldo Jimenez – COL
W ERA IP K WHIP
15 3.47 218 198 1.229
Jimenez’s 2009 season was an improvement on 2008, mostly due to him cutting down his walk rate from 4.67 per 9 to 3.51 per 9 innings in 2009. If he can continue that lower walk rate, I don’t see any reason why he can’t perform to the same level in 2010.


18. Cliff Lee – SEA
W ERA IP K WHIP
14 3.22 231.2 181 1.243
Lee has had a whirlwind couple of seasons, having now been traded twice in the span of 5 months. His numbers could see some improvement by moving from Philadelphia to Seattle (mostly due to improved defense and ballpark), but the fact that he will be facing AL lineups again drops him from being a top-10 pitcher in my opinion. He’s still going to be an excellent pitcher, and he’s still going to provide solid numbers across the board. But I think I would rather have some other pitchers first.


19. Jake Peavy – CHW
W ERA IP K WHIP
9 3.45 101.2 110 1.121
Peavy came back late in the season from his injuries and pitched extremely well. He is another pitcher who could very well end up as a top-10 pitcher if he pitches a full season in 2010. But the fact that it took a majority of 2009 to recover from these injuries concerns me, as well as his adaption to pitching outside of Petco. I believe that he’s going to be solid as long as he’s healthy, and potentially elite also. He is not a product of Petco Park, but the place certainly didn’t hurt him as a pitcher.


20. Clayton Kershaw – LAD
W ERA IP K WHIP
8 2.79 171 185 1.228
Kershaw put it all together last season, and still has a lot of room for growth. He’s only going to be 22 years old this season, and should hopefully see him top 200 innings this year. The win total should improve as well, as he pitched a lot better than only getting 8 wins. My only real concern with Kershaw is how he will adjust to trying to throw that many innings. The potential dropoff is still well worth the risk in my opinion, as the upside for Kershaw remains huge.


21. Yovani Gallardo – MIL
W ERA IP K WHIP
13 3.73 185.2 204 1.314
Gallardo pitched the majority of the season last year for the first time, and posted some excellent numbers as a result. I think that he can approach 200 innings this season, but could potentially see a slight regression in ERA and WHIP due to a slightly lower BABIP (.288). The strikeouts are legit, and I could see the wins potentially improving as well. Gallardo is the unquestioned ace of the Brewers staff at this point.


22. Ricky Nolasco – FLA
W ERA IP K WHIP
13 5.06 185 195 1.254
Nolasco’s ERA really appears to be an outlier. Both his BABIP (.336) and FIP (3.35) indicate that the ERA was extremely unlucky. You’re looking at a pitcher who will approach 200 innings, and post excellent numbers in strikeouts, WHIP, and ERA this time around.


23. Matt Garza – TAM
W ERA IP K WHIP
8 3.95 203 189 1.261
Garza appears extremely unlucky in terms of wins. He did post a career high in strikeouts, which was more in-line with his minor league stats. His ERA may be a bit higher this year, but I think he still is right around 4.00.


24. Tommy Hanson – ATL
W ERA IP K WHIP
11 2.89 127.2 116 1.185
The only thing that is keeping me from ranking Hanson higher is the fact that he has not yet done it over a full season. But he’s going to be really good, and will probably post an ERA closer to 3.75 than the 2.89 he posted last season. A lot of upside here though to be sure.


25. Brandon Webb – ARI
W ERA IP K WHIP
0 13.5 4 2 2.00
Talk about a lost season. Webb pitched 4 innings in his first start, and never made it back to the team during the season. But the upside of Webb is a definite top 10 pitcher who could post 200 IP with a sub 3.50 ERA, a 1.25 WHIP, and 175 strikeouts. The risk of injury is the only thing keeping him from being higher up.

Tomorrow I will continue on with my team previews, as I review the American League West this week, starting with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

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