February 25, 2012 posted by Collin Hager

2012 Fantasy Baseball – HVaC Top 50 Pitchers

2012 Fantasy Baseball – HVaC Top 50 Pitchers
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Cliff Lee, Starting Pitcher, Philadelphia Phillies

While rotisserie scoring leagues allow you to accumulate numbers over the course of an entire season, head-to-head leagues limit production to what can happen over a seven-day period. That makes pitching far less important in many respects than it does in the traditional format. Matt Kemp is in your lineup every day and will deliver plenty of numbers as a result. Roy Halladay, at best, helps you twice a week and that second start in a week probably only happens twice a season. The impact of relief pitchers is just as difficult to quantify. Even pitching three times a week, a reliever gives at best five innings. With so few outs to record, the impact across all pitching categories is further limited.

Many analysts are looking at potentially three pitchers having first round value. Justin Verlander, Halladay, and Clayton Kershaw will be the most common names that could come off early on draft boards for rotisserie leagues. When you run the FantasyPros911 projections in the HVaC model, only Kershaw grades out as a true first round selection.

How does that happen? Let’s break it down.

First and foremost, the categories for pitchers are simply the standard five of wins, saves, strikeouts, WHIP, and ERA. Second, the impact of starters needs to be weighted more heavily than relievers. Starters will have more impact on WHIP and ERA because there will be more innings to spread their impact over. One bad outing from a closer in one inning is far less damaging than a starter going five innings and getting lit up. Strikeouts also benefit the starter because there is more opportunity for them to record them.

The final two categories of wins and saves are tougher to draft for. Quite simply, a relief pitcher not getting you saves is not worth owning. Middle relievers in head-to-head formats cannot provide enough numbers to justify a draft slot. Wins are hard to draft for and, just like in rotisserie formats, are often a byproduct of a good offense or “luck.”

Similar to hitters, the categories are weighted based on this surface analysis:












The idea here is to control what you can control. That in mind, it makes sense to weight strikeouts as the more important factor. WHIP can fluctuate the most in a given week, so having a starter project out with a lower mark will help. The average ERA between a starter and reliever has a limited variation. Pitchers with fewer than 85 projected innings total out to an ERA of 3.77 while starters with more than 150 projected innings post a 3.89 mark.

Wins and saves are important but there is such a small margin of error and a limited amount of opportunity to record them it makes sense to put less weight on them. Still, it is a measuring stick and a contributing factor to whether or not a week will be won or loss. It is also the reason to draft Halladay over a pitcher like Felix Hernandez or Craig Kimbrel over setup man extraordinaire David Robertson.

The final piece to the puzzle is how to calculate all of it and come up with the HVaC score. The breaking point is the innings. Relievers and starters need to be approached differently. For the guys on the mound every five days, they are compared and evaluated only to those that fit the same bill. Also, we strip out saves entirely since that is not why they are being drafted. Relief pitchers are compared only to pitchers projected to throw less than 85 innings. They are given weight across all five categories because a win is possible and can offset a blown save (especially where blown saves are not a category).

Just as with hitters, all numbers are taken as a rank based on difference from the average across the entire population of pitchers.

Some thoughts on the rankings:

  • Kimbrel is the highest ranked reliever. His 38 saves and high strikeout rate put him well ahead of all relievers. Jonathan Papelbon takes up the second spot amongst closers. Overall, only seven bullpen arms show up in the overall top-50 pitchers with five out of seven showing up outside the top-30.
  • Stephen Strasburg is the number 13 pitcher overall. The key for him is still health. Strasburg projects to 12 wins and 201 strikeouts. Any setback or problems resulting from taking on a full workload will limit the numbers. He is by far the biggest risk in the top-20.
  • Cliff Lee comes in a spot better than Verlander largely because of the difference in ERA benefits Lee. While the Detroit righty has better strikeout numbers but it does not do enough to overtake Lee for the third spot in the ranks.
  • Check out Matt Moore. He shows up at number 29 right now but has plenty of upside. It has been indicated that there will be no strict innings limit for Moore this season. While he will be watched, as long as he is effective it is very likely that will continue to be put on the mound.
  • There is plenty of depth overall when it comes to pitching. Outside of the top-50, owners will still find Ubaldo Jimenez, Jaime Garcia, Chad Billingsley, Ricky Nolasco, and Yu Darvish among others. It shows that filling up on pitchers early is not necessarily a benefit. Be willing to build depth in the middle to later rounds and patience is likely to be rewarded.

Here is how the rest of the top-50 breaks down.


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