While the elite pitchers are some of the safer selections on a yearly basis, what happens in the middle rounds can do more to boost or destroy a rotation than simply drafting Roy Halladay.
I have to provide full disclosure here: I find drafting pitching to be a necessary evil. In most leagues, pitchers have full control over largely one or two categories. On offense, there is much more that a batter can do to induce statistics than a pitcher can. Wins are out the door and saves are a product of opportunity. It makes me more jaded in looking at some of the earlier starters and more looking to find value in the second and third tiers.
That is where we find one pitcher that should be on bust watch â€“ Josh Beckett of the Red Sox.
Beckett has become an easy target after the disaster of September in Boston. The tough news comes in the fact it was more than just an ankle injury and some beer. He was just 5-4 in the second half of last season with an ERA 1.50 runs worse than in the first half of the season. The big righty gave up 14 home runs and 74 hits in just 82 innings.
Similar numbers dogged Beckett in 2010 and 2009. While he performs well in the early part of the season, he falls apart after the All-Star break. His starts were limited in 2010, but all major statistical marks were markedly worse. In 2009, the separation was even greater. Again his ERA jumped by a full run and he gave up more than a hit an inning while seeing his whip jump a tenth of a point.
Numbers from 2011 should also keep an owner on their toes. Beckett stranded 80 percent of runners that got on base and held batters to a .245 BABIP. Both numbers were career-best marks that came at age 30. Add to it the fact his 1.03 WHIP was also the best mark he has ever posted and there is certainly some discussion to be had about his ability to duplicate numbers that were undoubtedly still skewed by what he put up prior to the middle of July.
The point here is to emphasize that there can no longer be a continuation of valuing Beckett by what he did in 2007. Since that time, he has been a one-half pitcher. There may be some motivation and incentive for Beckett to pitch better than he did last season and prove critics wrong. Until he shows that he can both be healthy and consistent over a full season, there should be some reservations on selecting him. The starter has come off the board as early as number 71 overall and has an ADP according to MockDraftCentral.com of 92. This makes him the 24th pitcher overall off the board and a number two or three starter for most leagues.
Other Names to Watch
Keep an eye on James Shields. While his poor second half is skewed by a horrific July, five of his final 14 starts had him giving up four or more earned runs. Shields is another pitcher with a high strand rate, keeping 79 percent of the runners that took base from crossing the plate. Career-best marks in ERA and BABIP also should keep owners questioning whether he is worth a selection at 67 overall.
Gio Gonzalez spent the bulk of his games pitching in some very friendly parks out in the AL West. His home numbers reflect the great conditions he saw in 2010 and they might not be as friendly in Washington. While he will get the benefit of losing the DH, the lineups in Atlanta, Philadelphia, and potentially Miami could pose greater problems than what he saw in Seattle and the run production out of the Angels last season as well. Gonzalez continues to have issues with walks and though it is trending in the right direction, averaging over four walks every nine innings is a problem that he needs to address.