My inclination in mixed leagues is always to favor the NL starters, so my ranking is significantly different than most:
Wainwright, Greinke, Darvish, Dickey
The top three are very close and any one of them would provide an excellent cornerstone for a staff. Dickey isn't in the same category due to changing leagues and ballparks.
A question for Paul mainly, but anyone can chime in. I remember last year, there was plenty of grumbling that Darvish was regularly getting squeezed by umpires, especially early in the year. Do you have any evidence to back that up and if so do you think he'll get a better shake in his second season?
Thank you Greg, Finally someone else recognizes Greinke's issue and doesn't just say "Oh FIP/ERA split, he's so unlucky."
Darvish was in fact squeezed, Ryan.
Looking at pitches in the strike zone that were called balls, Darvish was squeezed especially tight early on - presumably as umpires learned what he was all about and how his many pitches moved - and tapered off as the season went on, but still ended up with the 13th-most such pitches.
Apr - 33 (3rd in MLB)
May - 37 (2nd)
Jun - 15 (84th)
Jul - 15 (77th)
Aug - 19 (51st)
Sep - 13 (115th)
62 vs. LHB (14th)
70 vs. RHB (38th)
Will Greinke go Hollywood?
Who was most-squeezed by this methodology? Perhaps surprisingly, C.J. Wilson was with 189 pitches, easily out-pacing Justin Masterson's 164 in 2nd place.
(Interesting side note: Masterson's 93 vs. LHB was an MLB high by 16 over 2nd place ... as if LHB need extra help vs. Masterson, sheesh!)
I agree with Perry that I probably would not want any of the quartet as a #1, however, I would love a rotation with more than one of the four and could easily go in that direction rather than draft a true #1.
In other words, I am happy these days to draft without what is considered a true #1 as long as the supporting cast is strong enough. Furthermore, being last on this list is not a slight: I like all of these guys.
That said, my order would be:
Wainwright: looks to be fully TJ recovered, and really posted #1 numbers before he got hurt.
Grienke: going into his 10th season, with a "real" team for the first time, and still shy of 30. Kapow.
Dickey: there is no reason to expect Dickey to turn into Steve Blass. The worst thing he has going for him is how iffy his team could be.
Darvish: I like Darvish and his whiffs, and I like his team and manager. And, I expect a few lumps his second year as hitters have some kind of book and the sophomore adjustments occur. Mind you, that means maybe 13-10, 3.53, with 174 whiffs. Good, but I think overall the other three will do even better.
To me these guys are all interchangeable. In single league play you are talking about a $20 pitcher. So I'm more focused on my need of the moment and really the phase of the draft meaning when I can get one at or a few bucks shy of full value. So I would rank them differently and target the one with the least buzz. That probably would end up in landing me Dickey rather than chase Darvish, who some might be chasing into the mid 20s.
Forced to answer the question and actually value rank them:
Greinke - most likely to post a sub 3.25 ERA given overall skill set, park conditions, and not having to regularly face the DH
Wainwright - NL; fully recovered
Darvish - could find his Japan pinpoint control and win the Cy Young but still pitches in Texas; not going to go for a sub 3.5 BB/9 till he shows it here
Dickey could be the safest and cheapest option. K/9 may be an outlier and will regress no matter what.
Zach Steinhorn: I'd go ...
About Todd Zola, MastersBall.com
Focusing primarily on the science of player valuation and game theory starting in 1997, Todd Zola and Mastersball carved out an important niche in the fantasy industry. In 2006, Todd became the Research Director for fantasybaseball.com, and in 2009, he relaunched Mastersball and is now a managing partner.
Todd competes in Tout Wars and the XFL, and has been a multiple-time league champion in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. He has been a contributor to the fantasy content at MLB.com and SI.com, is a frequent guest on Sirius/XM and Blog Talk Radio and is an annual speaker at the spring and fall First Pitch Forum symposiums.
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