While it’s generally wise to wait to draft starting pitching in fantasy baseball, that doesn’t mean it’s unimportant.In fact, it’s the owners who find the most bang for the buck with their pitching selections who generally win leagues. And there’s a lot of bang to be found. Quite simply, the reason why we wait to draft pitching is that the opinions on them are so varied. There’s convergence of opinion on hitters. So if you merely take the highest ranked hitter in your queue when it’s your turn to draft, you’ll be fine. That’s also the reason why we have to draft hitters before pitchers. The ones we’re projecting to be good are usually projected to be good by everyone. [Also: Dodgers pitcher Zach Greinke feels 'pretty good' after throwing session]
But pitching is different. Here, there’s divergence of opinion. Many times, you’ll disagree vehemently that the top pitcher in the queue is the best one – and rightfully so. But the risk is that given all this divergence, we’ll simply operate on a gut level to make these important decisions. And as followers of this column know, I hate listening to my gut unless it’s saying “Five Guys” or “Pizza.”So let’s kick off this first of two parts, super-sized, Pitching by the Numbers 2013 Primer by modeling starting pitchers as objectively as possible. We’re going to rank them based only on performance in a handful of categories – K/9, K/BB ratio, ERA adjusted for league and park (especially important for pitchers changing teams and leagues) and the stat that I discovered last year for fantasy projection purposes http://sports.yahoo.com/news/pitching-by-the-numbers--weak-contact-.html – isolated slugging allowed. ISO is merely the difference between the slugging average and the batting average allowed. I like it because it isolates the most damaging, run-causing extra-base hits. Pitchers with the lowest ISOs require the opponent to get more hits to score runs. Plus, it’s these singles that are most subjected to Balls in Play (BIP) variance/luck. To be ranked, pitchers needed to average at least 6.5 Ks/9 with at least 29 starts in the period, but all stats (even in relief) are included. I’ve also noted where some select 2012 starting pitchers who did not meet that threshold of starts would have ranked if they made the requisite starts (with similar stats). The overall ranking is merely the total of the cumulative ranking in each category (lowest is best), though the individual category rank is also noted. I rank these categories instead of the actual fantasy ones because we are trying to find outliers here. Everyone knows who has done well in fantasy cats. I ignore wins because that’s a team stat.
Ogando is the tough call here. You can’t draft him at this slot, of course. But you should draft him. He’s back in the rotation, for now, and pitched well there (though not at this ranking level) in 2011. Pettitte isn’t going to pitch more than 150 innings, but he should be on a roster for all of them in all formats. Griffin and Ramirez are two more small-sample-size guys. I love them both, but prefer Ramirez who I guarantee will be a mixed-league asset this year with his low-to-mid 90s fastball and one of the best changeups in baseball. Griffin is like Fiers in that he’s engenders skepticism due to sub-par velocity. If you have them as your fifth and sixth starters in mixers, I’ll bet you’ll be fine. (And if I’m wrong, what has it cost you?) Cross Carpenter and Pineda (shoulders) off all of your lists. Dickey is the anti-Johnson. You want to move him up if you believe his knuckler was evidence of long-practiced mastery – as I do – and not some fluke. I confidently would draft Dickey top 10 among starting pitchers.
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