Pitching by the Numbers: In-season values

Regardless of whether you play in auction leagues, auction dollar calculators are the best way to assess in-season value.

There are two great sources for this. TG Fantasy Baseball has one that allows you to enter number of teams and league type. The values you see below come courtesy of TG Fantasy and are based on 12-team mixed leagues with a standard $260 budget. Remember, even if you play in a draft league, this is a very precise way to rank pitchers based on current, standard 5x5 fantasy statistics.

Another place I highly recommend for in-season values is the great Alex Patton’s player database that also includes an archive of player comments from some of the sharpest minds around, including Rotoman Peter Kruetzer – You have to register, but access is free.

Here are all the pitchers who are currently earning double digits in 5 x 5, 12-team mixed leagues. Following the chart are buy/sell/hold recommendations.

Remember our earlier column about elevated strikeout rates league wide. Presently, the MLB-wide K-rate is 7.6. And for starters alone, it’s 7.2. That’s what you need from your pitchers to basically tread water. So, again, the K math has changed and we need to change with it.

So we have to sell the pitchers who are earning a lot of money based on wins, which are a team stat that is largely random. Look no further than Jordan Zimmermann (seven wins) and Stephen Strasburg (two) for the same Nationals team. Clearly, sell Zimmermann. Try to trade him for Strasburg. And Zimmermann owners, I’m not saying he’s a dog. He’s a very good pitcher but likely to be better in reality than in fantasy due to that sub-par K rate. The raw stuff seems there in his case, I admit. I don’t understand why he doesn’t strike out more batters and I will stipulate that a spike is possible given his velocity. But I do not think it’s likely, near term.

Patrick Corbin also is middling in K-rate and will regress, of course. But I’m not confident at all that Corbin owners generally can get half of that $31 in return for him. And I would not sell him for less than that, not even for a hitter.

Cliff Lee is still a quality pitcher. But he’s going to be 35 in August and his velocity is down a mile-plus with a swinging-strike rate at a six-year low. I don’t think the K-rate is coming back. And it’s also being propped up by this high-K environment. I’d take a middle-round hitter I like for him and I think you should, too.

Matt Moore is a big question mark for me. He’s last among over 100 starters right now in strike percentage. This worries me. His velocity is also down. But when I see him, he’s very impressive. And I am not convinced he even needs a mid-90s fastball. He’d be on the table if I owned him, but I wouldn’t be shopping him actively. And I’d pretend I love him in trade negotiations (even though I am not quite there).

Justin Masterson is another guy I don’t understand. His velocity can be very good but he hardly throws any four seamers. He has no off-speed pitch (just a hard slider, which he throws so often that I worry about his elbow). But we all like tall pitchers because their longer strides can shorten the distance to home plate by a foot or more. Still, I have to go with the weight of the career data and sell him now, at a tidy profit. I’d take 75 cents on that auction value dollar for a hitter, for sure.

Travis Wood is another guy who has to go based on that K rate, especially given how hard wins are to come by in Chicago.

Tom Wilhelmsen is a closer I don’t trust on the surface because his strikeouts are so low. But his velocity is stable (96.3 mph) and his swinging strike rate hasn’t cratered. Okay, I’ve talked myself out of it. Hold Wilhelmsen.

Finally, I’m sure some of you are looking for your pitchers on this list and wondering where the heck they are. Justin Verlander has returned just $5 of value so far. Gio Gonzalez $3. I’m mildly worried about Verlander and not worried at all about Gonzalez. Other notables that I like a lot more, prospectively: Jeff Samardzija ($8), Andrew Cashner ($3) and Hector Santiago ($2, and I know starting opportunity is a big issue with him). With Samardzija, I can live with the likely lack of wins given the very high likelihood of elite Ks and at least solid averages.

Middle relievers who have proven to be very valuable so far even in mixers: Tanner Scheppers ($7), Mark Melancon ($6) and Steve Delabar ($4). Plus they each have the stuff to close if the opportunity arises.

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