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Shuffle Up: Poison Mound in Boston; the Tim Lincecum dilemma

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High ratios sweep The Hub (Associated Press)

While every Shuffle Up is important, the starting pitching ranks are always the most critical (and generally, the most debated). It's the volatility position in our game, the high-risk, high-reward spot.

Read on and you'll find how I price the starting pitcher market from today-onward for a 5x5 rotisserie format, assuming a mixed league. What's happened to this point is merely an audition. I've removed relief pitchers who have the SP tag; you won't find Brett Myers here. I also passed on ranking Daniel Bard, since I fully expect him to be in the bullpen (for good) fairly soon.

You should find plenty to disagree with: the list is over 130 names deep and our game is build on disagreement to begin with. I welcome your feedback in the comments, but bring your best game: intelligent, reasoned, respectful disagreement is enjoyable and helpful; brief rants (lacking any insight) are just a waste of everyone's time. Respect the room. Respect yourself.

I'm not ranking any pitcher who is on the DL long-term (Tim Hudson was the notable exception, he's ready to come back) or anyone in the minors. Reasoning: the value of those commodities is very relative. Some of you have DL spots and/or deep benches, some don't. So don't look for Cliff Lee, Ryan Dempster, Doug Fister, Trevor Bauer or Andy Pettitte on this list (or anyone else hurt or in the minors) - they're not here. I'll probably discuss them in the comments if there's a good discourse, but it doesn't make sense to force them into this exercise.

I've learned from past experience: I tend to be more pessimistic on hurt and unproven players than the average bear. Furthermore, I think you can trade off public confidence/optimism with hurt players or buzzy prospects, booking an easy profit in many pools. Today has always been an underrated roto commodity to me, and tomorrow is overrated. You'll have to make your own calls on the walking wounded and those down on the farm.

Don't obsess over the dollar amounts; what matters is how the players relate to one another. Pitchers at the same price are considered even. I'll add comments later in the day, and I reserve the right to tweak this list at any point on Friday. Win the debate, you may encourage a change. We're all in this together.

$33 Clayton Kershaw
$32 Roy Halladay
$32 Justin Verlander
$31 Jered Weaver
$30 Felix Hernandez
$30 Cole Hamels
$28 CC Sabathia
$26 Matt Cain
$25 Dan Haren
$25 Zack Greinke
$24 David Price
$23 Stephen Strasburg
$22 Madison Bumgarner
$22 James Shields
$21 Matt Garza
$21 Gio Gonzalez
$20 Ian Kennedy
$20 Yu Darvish
$19 Jon Lester
$19 Adam Wainwright
$19 C.J. Wilson

What's the big deal with Lester? Have we been overrating him for a few years now? He was the 31st-ranked starting pitcher in Yahoo scoring last year. WHIP under 1.20? Never done it. ERA under 3.21? Never done it. His strikeout rate dropped notably last year (it's still excellent, mind you) and he had more trouble putting right-handed batters away. The AL East environment can't be understated: Fenway is an offensive Disneyland, and the other four teams in division can all hurt you (even Baltimore). Lester is seen as an ace in most circles, a fantasy No. 1 or No. 2 in a mixer, but I'd want two better pitchers on most of my staffs. … If I knew Strasburg would pitch a full season, he'd be in the $27-29 range. … I doubt you can really buy low on Haren in any sharp leagues, but maybe it's out there for a few of you. There are a lot of things I don't like about the current construction of the Angels, but their Big 3 in the rotation remain very safe investments. … The main concern with Gonzalez is health, with a spec of wildness tax thrown in. Otherwise, he's got wipeout stuff, Cy Young contender stuff. If I had to pick an NL East champion right now, I'd take the Nationals, weak early schedule to the side.

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Dazed and Confused (US Presswire)

$18 Ricky Romero
$18 Jordan Zimmermann
$18 Yovani Gallardo
$18 Brandon Beachy
$18 Anibal Sanchez
$18 Tim Lincecum
$17 Matt Moore
$17 Josh Johnson
$16 Tommy Hanson
$16 Cory Luebke
$15 Shaun Marcum
$15 Vance Worley
$15 Johnny Cueto
$14 Brandon Morrow
$14 Chris Sale
$14 Jake Peavy
$13 Mat Latos
$13 Josh Beckett
$13 Derek Holland
$13 Johan Santana
$13 Mike Minor
$13 Colby Lewis
$12 Jaime Garcia
$12 Jeremy Hellickson
$12 Chad Billingsley
$12 Jonathon Niese
$12 Ted Lilly

There's a Lincecum argument to be made in almost any direction; jump onto his Fangraphs page and pick out what you like or don't like. On the plus side, he's still getting plenty of strikeouts (11.6/9) and his swinging-strike percentage is right at his career average. And like with any giant ERA, the luck outlier signs are flashing: .421 BABIP, 55.9 percent strand rate, bloated HR/FB clip. That said, batters have been making their own luck against Lincecum, to the tune of a 31-percent line drive percentage, and his velocity (as you've no doubt heard) is down significantly. His fastball used to live in the 92-94 range, now it averages 90.1 mph. And we also have to consider that Lincecum's ratio stats from 2010 and 2011 were a step back from the level he established in his first two full seasons. When you consider his unusual mechanics and the strain he puts on his body, I find myself more cautious with this pitcher than the general consensus is. How are you playing it?

I'm glad I don't have Latos anywhere. This is the classic case of a pitcher who's got multi-million ability and no mental idea what to do with it. Are Dusty Baker and Bryan Price the men to get the most out of Latos? How much is the park going to hurt the righty? Count me out. … Last year Niese had a 4.40 standard ERA and a 3.36 FIP. This year things make more sense: 2.81 ERA, 2.93 FIP. Never bet against a new nose. He's underowned in Yahoo, taken in just 52 percent of leagues. … It's been a bizarro start for Morrow: the ratio stats are coming down but the strikeouts have disappeared. There's been a nifty ground-ball spike, but when batters do elevate the ball, it's leaving the park far too often. Bottom line, when you own Brandon Morrow, you're guaranteed to be frustrated at some point in time. … Beckett's career ERA at Fenway Park is 4.23 and his career ERA against the Yankees is 5.36. How many spots do you feel comfortable using him? Beckett has significantly underperformed his xFIP in four of his full Boston seasons, to the point that I refuse to look at that as a fluke. It's who he is.

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Wainwright and Lohse (USP)


$11 Neftali Feliz
$11 Lance Lynn
$10 Max Scherzer
$10 Edinson Volquez
$10 Edwin Jackson
$10 Wandy Rodriguez
$10 Kyle Lohse
$9 Bud Norris
$9 Tim Hudson
$9 Ryan Vogelsong
$8 Ervin Santana
$8 Philip Humber
$8 Erik Bedard
$8 A.J. Burnett
$7 Brandon McCarthy
$7 Hiroki Kuroda
$7 Ubaldo Jimenez
$7 Jarrod Parker
$7 Gavin Floyd
$7 Ivan Nova
$7 Mark Buehrle
$6 Trevor Cahill
$6 Ricky Nolasco
$6 Matt Harrison
$6 Bartolo Colon

Lohse got off to a fast start last year as well, and maybe there's some logic to that: he's a no-nonsense strike thrower, a control artist, and perhaps that's the type of pitcher who will be ahead of batters in April. Lohse's full career splits don't fit the narrative, but as we all know, veteran pitchers usually get transformed under the archway (at least they did during the Days of Duncan). Full disclosure, Lohse was also strong last September, after three months of batting practice. I'm going to stream him this weekend, at home against Milwaukee. … Bedard and Burnett are in a perfect setup for them — a homer-deflating park and a city where there are no heavy expectations. Burnett probably needs the low-pressure environment more than Bedard does. … McCarthy was so underrated during his preseason media campaign, he shifted into overrated mode. Remember he's had trouble staying healthy. … I generally don't expect much from pitchers in their first start off the DL, but it will be very tempting to use Hudson against Pittsburgh, assuming he makes the Sunday turn as scheduled. … If you follow the walks and strikeouts (generally a smart idea) you might talk yourself into Nova. But his ground-ball bias has disappeared this year (small sample and all) and his strand rate is through the roof. I still have him in the "preferred streamer pile" (as much as you can trust anyone in this division), but be very careful where you execute the plan.

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Hammer Time (USP)

$5 Justin Masterson
$5 Jeff Samardzija
$5 Jason Hammel
$4 John Danks
$4 Danny Duffy
$4 Chris Capuano
$4 Carlos Zambrano
$3 Jhoulys Chacin
$3 Jake Arrieta
$3 R.A. Dickey
$3 Jeff Niemann
$3 Kyle Drabek
$3 Tommy Milone
$3 Ross Detwiler
$2 Clay Buchholz
$2 Randy Wolf
$2 Henderson Alvarez
$2 Homer Bailey
$2 James McDonald
$2 Bronson Arroyo
$2 Jake Westbrook
$2 Barry Zito
$2 Jason Vargas
$1 Brian Matusz
$1 Mike Leake
$1 Clayton Richard
$1 Aaron Harang
$1 Josh Tomlin
$1 Juan Nicasio
$1 Lucas Harrell
$1 Felix Doubront
$1 Luke Hochevar
$1 Jamie Moyer
$1 Blake Beavan
$1 Charlie Morton
$1 Tyson Ross
$1 Wei-Yin Chen
$1 Drew Smyly
$1 Marco Estrada
$1 Anthony Bass
$1 Joe Saunders

Hammel's fast start grabs your attention (take note of his spike with swinging strikes), but do you really have the guts to start him at New York and at Boston next week? I'll watch this one from afar. … Duffy's still got some flaws in his game, but when in doubt, chase pedigree and chase after strikeout upside. And don't let the 12-game losing streak in Kansas City throw you: this is still a respectable club, a team that's better than Minnesota and probably even to Cleveland. I still think they need to sack Ned Yost, but I don't mind the roster. … If I knew the Nats were committed to keeping Detwiler in the rotation all year, I'd have him in the $5-6 range. Give him a look Friday night if you can, in Los Angeles and up against Clayton Kershaw.

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Nowhere Man (USP)


$0 Kevin Millwood
$0 Drew Hutchison
$0 Joe Blanton
$0 Francisco Liriano
$0 J.A. Happ
$0 Carl Pavano
$0 Derek Lowe
$0 Bruce Chen
$0 Kevin Correia
$0 Wade Miley
-$1 Hector Noesi
-$1 Kyle Kendrick
-$1 Liam Hendriks
-$1 Jeremy Guthrie
-$1 Jerome Williams
-$1 Dillon Gee
-$1 Tommy Hunter
-$1 Randall Delgado
-$2 Josh Collmenter
-$2 Jonathan Sanchez
-$2 Phil Hughes
-$2 Drew Pomeranz
-$3 Freddy Garcia
-$3 Rick Porcello

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