So the focus of these pieces has been on offense. The reason behind that is we see hitters with overall control over every category in which they play. Pitchers, on the other hand, are dependent on a number of other factors to be successful â€“ the defense behind them, the offense supporting them, the situation materializing for a save. On any given day, they can control only a portion of the end result. That said, half of any league is pitching focused and that needs to be addressed in any head-to-head format.
For it to work, a couple changes were made from the stats at the beginning of the season. With wins, saves, and strikeouts being cumulative stats, the weighting is made equal between starters and relievers. For ERA and WHIP, starters can have more impact than a reliever because of the volume of innings pitched therefore need to be looked at more closely. The positive and negative impact creates a major swing for owners.
Early season starts in general mean large movements in those two numbers as well, making rankings far more fluid than with hitters. Several are noted below based on where they show up as of today.
That brings us to what we have seen over the first seven weeks of the season. Hera are some of the highlights. Numbers referenced are through games on Monday, May 21st.
- Only four real closers (Fernando Rodney, Jim Johnson, Jonathan Papelbon, and Santiago Casilla) rank inside the top-50. The saves are nice, but their impact across the other four categories is simply limited. In other words, in a head-to-head league, punting on saves is not necessarily a bad thingâ€¦depending on the roster set up.
- Where is Craig Kimbrel? Just outside this list at number 56 overall. His problem is WHIP and ERA compared to his fellow pitchers. His numbers are not bad, just not as dominant as the top four mentioned above. In fact, 67 pitchers have a WHIP below 1.00 while Kimbrel checks in at 1.25.
- There should not necessarily be debate about the names in the top. The elite pitchers are falling right around where they should even if some may dispute the order. One of the more interesting names inside the top-15 is Colby Lewis. His four wins, 53 strikeouts, 1.10 WHIP, and 3.30 ERA make him more valuable than others just because of the balance and production across the board. Something to be said for a steady hand.
- Interesting to see Bud Norris and Chris Capuano as high as they are. Norris has always been able to strike people out, but his five wins early this season give him plenty of value. Capuanoâ€™s six wins are tied for best in the league. The question for both will be their ability to continue at this rate. Capuano has struggled to put it all together and Norris has not shown a full season at this rate either.
- I admit to having been skeptical on Yu Darvish before the season started but he is doing everything to prove all doubters wrong. Yes, there was a rough outing last time out but his six wins and 63 strikeouts are huge. His WHIP and ERA took a tumble in his last start but he has been consistent enough to earn his top-30 ranking.
- Some other key names inside the top-50: Roy Halladay (20, ERA hurting him right now),Â Jason Vargas (28, carried by five wins), Jason Hammel (21, just needs better strikeout numbers), Ian Kennedy (44, but rough ERA and only three wins), Josh Beckett (48, only really one bad outing), and Jaime Garcia (49, just an uneven)
- Hanging out just outside the top-50: Kyle Lohse (56), Tim Lincecum (59), Yovani Gallardo (62), Ted Lilly (74, regression is going to kill his WHIP and ERA), Josh Johnson (81, buy low)
Here is the rest of the top-50: