MLB
February 6, 2013 posted by Matthew Dewoskin

NL SP Individual Blurbs – Top Tier

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Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

We roll right along into our top tier of our starting pitcher rankings.

Clayton Kershaw

The only issue with Kershaw is the right hip impingement he was diagnosed with last September. His BABIP was only .262 last year, but he comes with a .275 career average. His lower than average BABIP is likely a function of hitters unable to square up and make solid contact. He does everything a fantasy GM could want from a fantasy ace.

Stephen Strasburg

Strasburgh is no longer a mutant throwing a 97 MPH average fastball. He now owns a pedestrian 95 MPH average fastball. Ho-hum. The Nationals frustrated fantasy GMs by shutting Strasburg down after 159 1/3 innings. The innings cap for Strasburg appears to be gone for 2013. Nationals manager Davey Johnson claimed he’d like to see Strasburg toss around 200 innings. Given Strasburg’s ridiculous 11.13 K/9 and his more than competent 2.71 BB/9, he could very well end up the best pitcher in fantasy baseball.

Cole Hamels

Hamels has made more than 30 starts for each of the past five seasons. He’s been about as healthy as an elite level starter can get. So, why was Hamels told to stop his throwing program in the middle of the winter? Supposedly, he was experiencing soreness in his throwing shoulder. Both Hamels and the Phillies claim he’s going to be all systems go for spring training. There really aren’t any concerns about Hamels for 2013 other than this minor shoulder issue he reported.

Cliff Lee

Lee went out of his way to show that pitcher’s wins is a BS stat. Lee struck out 8.83 batters per nine and walked only 1.19 batters per nine in 211 innings. He won six games. Six. Matt Harrison won 18. He was a little unlucky on balls in play (.309 BABIP vs. .296 career average) and balls hit in the air (11.8% HR:FB ratio vs. 8.6% career average), but six wins? Really? Shouldn’t double digit wins be automatic for pitchers who make over 30 starts? John Danks won three games in nine starts and needed surgery. Lee had 21 quality starts last year, but only managed six wins. Do you think he even talks to any of the guys in the lineup or he just ignores them?

Adam Wainwright

Wainwright overcame Tommy John surgery to suffer through a season in which he was more than a little unlucky. Wainwright’s .315 BABIP was over 20 points higher than his .293 career average and his 3.23 xFIP disagreed with his 3.94 actual ERA. The good new is that he was basically the same guy as he was before the surgery. His velocity was basically the same as it was in 2008 and 2009 and he added a cut fastball to his repertoire. Wainwright didn’t suffer any setbacks other than the normal strengthening period and appears to be a solid bet for a bounceback year.

Matt Cain

Cain looks like a pitcher coming off a career year. He posted his highest K/9 (7.92) since his rookie year. He posted a career low 2.09 BB/9 and he won a career high 16 games. He outperformed his xFIP by almost a full point, but he does that every year. He’s a fly ball pitcher who takes full advantage of his home park. He owned a 2.03 ERA at home in 2012.

Mat Latos

To the surprise of most, Latos was actually pretty good pitching in the GAB last year. Latos owned better ERA at home (3.18) than on the road (3.93). He got by with a .266 BABIP, but owns a .272 career average thanks in part to his career 16.7% career LD %. He simply doesn’t knocked around.

Dan Haren

Owning Haren in 2013 is going to be a gamble. Fantasy GMs that have Haren on their roster are betting that his drop in velocity is due to the back and hip issues that plagued Haren in 2012. He’s entering his age 33 season and his average fastball velocity was a career low 88.5 MPH. He still has the same control (1.94 BB/9 last year) and he’s switching the leagues. There is potential upside, but it comes with a high risk level.

Johnny Cueto

When we last saw Johnny Cueto he was missing the playoffs with an oblique strain. Reds GM Walt Jocketty claims Cueto has a clean bill of health and should be ready to go when pitchers and catchers report. In 2012 Cueto managed to strike out more than seven batters per nine while walking fewer than three batters per nine for the first time in his career. The only real red flag, other than coming off a career year, is Cueto’s 3.65 xFIP compared to his 2.78 actual ERA, but he’s dramatically outperformed his xFIP for the past three years.

Madison Bumgarner

Bumgarner 2012 season was almost identical to his 2011 season. He reached double digit wins, posted a K/9 over 8.00, posted a BB/9 under 2.20 and an ERA in the low threes. His second consecutive year of throwing over 200 innings with a slider % over 30% is a concern for the future. The slider is the pitch that chews up elbow ligaments and sends pitchers screaming to Dr. Andrews. That’s the closest I can come to a red flag on Bumgarner.

Zack Greinke

Zack Greinke is about as solid as it gets. He might be a head case, but who cares? He produces the numbers that fantasy GMs should get excited for. He struck out 8.48 batters per nine and only walked 2.29 batters per nine. It’s really hard to find anything negative to write about Greinke.

Jordan Zimmerman

Zimmerman looks like he’s coming in at more than a little overrated for 2013 and is a definite overdraft candidate. Zimmerman finally posted a K/9 over 7.00 in a full big league season and kept his BB/9 under 2.00. He got a little lucky on balls in play last year. His BABIP was .288 which isn’t that far off his .295 career average. The problem is that he owned a 23.2% LD %. He gives up a lot of hard hit balls and his 3.78 xFIP indicates that his 2.94 actual ERA was a mirage.

Yovani Gallardo

Gallardo would be a lot higher on this list if his BB/9 hadn’t jumped from 2.56 in 2011 to 3.57 in 2012. Also, his average fastball velocity dipped below 92 MPH for this first time since his 2008 cup of coffee. There’s also the issue of his swinging strike %. Gallardo posted a 7.8% swinging strike % last year. His previous career low was 8.4%. 7.8% is awfully low for a guy with a 9.00 K/9. Gallardo’s strikeout totals could plunge if that number decreases any further. Also, Gallardo got absolutely murdered on balls in the air while pitching at home. He posted a 20.2% HR:FB ratio with a 32.4% FB % at Miller Park last year. His luck on fly balls should normalize in 2013, but his dip in velocity with his falling swinging strike % and rising BB/9 are concerns.

Aroldis Chapman

Chapman is the hardest pitcher on this list to evaluate for the 2013 season because his role is still up in the air. He’s been told to prepare as a starter, but he could still end up in the bullpen. Chapman could be elite either way, but he proved himself as a dominant closer in 2012. The last time he was even a part-time starter was in 2010 at Triple-A. Walks were a problem then (4.94 BB/9), but it was obvious that he matured as a pitcher in 2012. There simply isn’t enough information to properly evaluate Chapman as a starter. Endurance could be an issue in the second half if he sticks in the rotation.

Gio Gonzalez

Gio could be facing a suspension for PED usage. PEDs could explain how Gonzalez was able to maintain his elite-level production for a full-season. He posted the highest average velocity in his career and maintained it for a full season. Even without the PED allegations Gonzalez is coming off a career year and is a solid bet to suffer some regression. He posted a .267 BABIP in 2012, but owns a .286 career average. He was even a little lucky on balls hit in the air. His 5.8% HR:FB ratio was under his 9.3% career average. Fantasy GMs need to be careful when considering Gio, but not as careful as when they look at…

Tim Lincecum

Lincecum’s 2012 season has been picked apart from his first start in April to his last appearance in the playoffs. His average fastball velocity was only 90.4 MPH, but he was still able to miss bats. Lincecum’s 11.3% swinging strike % was actually above his 11.0% career average and he posted a 9.19 K/9. Lincecum can still pitch and he still has value in fantasy leagues. Both his BABIP (.309) and his HR:FB (14.6%) were above his career averages (.295 and 8.5%, respectively). His 3.82 xFIP claimed that his 5.18 actual ERA was a mirage. Lincecum could very well be in for a bounceback year…or he could continue to lose velocity and wind up out of the league in two years. The sabrmetric numbers claim it was mostly a statistical variance. The eye test says that Lincecum isn’t the same pitcher he was. It’s unclear which one will prove to be correct at this point.

Jeff Samardzija

The Shark got a full season of work and did really well with it. He posted a K/9 over 9.00 and a BB/9 under 3.00. His luck stats appear to be normal and his 3.38 xFIP indicates he was better than his 3.81 actual ERA. He misses bats (12.1% swinging strike %) and his 95 MPH average velocity is impressive to say the least. The only concern is that the Cubs won’t score enough to help Samardzija earn enough W’s.

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