When to take starting pitching is a hot button topic. Of course, league context is everything, but the majority of pundits still advise to wait on your arms. However, the more successful owners in the high stakes National Fantasy Baseball Championship are starting their staffs earlier. Remember, context matters. Today, the Knights will be ranking a quartet of pitchers that could be the ace of a staff if you wait on pitching. Joining us is Paul Sporer of Baseball Prospectus and co-host of the "Towers of Power" fantasy baseball podcast. Paul also authors the "2013 Starting Pitcher Guide," which is available for purchase from his website, Baseball by Paul.
Let's rank the following four starting pitchers. Would you be comfortable having any of them as your mixed staff anchor?
Adam Wainwright, R.A. Dickey, Yu Darvish and Zack Greinke
Perry Van Hook
Darvish, Wainwright, Greinke, Dickey
I would prefer in a mixed league that any of them be my SP2 at the highest - but that is somewhat dependent on draft position and league/competition structure. I would be fine with any of the top three as my SP1 in a single league format but in NFBC where there is league and overall scoring, I need more strikeouts. Dickey is by far the toughest to project, moving from the National League and facing pitchers to the American League East and facing designated hitters and pitching in the Rogers Homerdome.
I'd rank them Darvish, Wainwright, Dickey, Greinke.
Will Darvish squeeze back?
I'd gladly have any of the four as my ace especially because in straight drafts, I won't take a starting pitcher early enough for Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Davis Price, Felix Hernandez, etc.
Some feel the industry's Darvish love is based solely on September, but it's the entire season that has me sold. He pitched almost exactly as I expected (except with even more Ks) and while there were bumps, the stretches of dominance told me plenty. Wainwright's skills were intact in year one after Tommy John surgery - look out NL, you're in trouble.
I know there was plenty of talk that Rogers Centre, a controlled weather environment, would actually be a better spot for RA's knuckleball. Not sure if there is any definitive proof as I haven't had time to read much/any of the analysis. Of course any dome advantage is probably mitigated by the SP --> DH transition. That said, at least those two can possibly cancel out instead of the transition being all a negative.
My ranking would be - Darvish, Wainwright, Greinke and Dickey.
I would be OK having any of the four as my mixed league anchor, but personally have more faith in Darvish and Wainwright to deliver better counting stats. With Greinke and Dickey, I will be more likely to move more quickly on my SP2.
While Wainwright's return from TJS was very impressive, and he seemed like he was all the way back by season's end, I still give Darvish the edge thanks to better K numbers. If I was near a turn, and I wanted both, I may go Wainwright first, since I think many are still undervaluing Darvish due to the shaky control he displayed last year, and of the two he'd be the one most likely to slide around. But if I am going for just one, then I want the guy who can deliver the most K's, and who we haven't seen the best of yet. Darvish has last year under his belt, and hopefully his September, where he more than cut his BB% in half to 5.2%, signals that he finally had figured out how work the strike zone. If that's the case, he could lead the majors in K's and significantly lower those ratios.
I agree with Perry's and Ryan's ranking. One potential factor not yet mentioned is Wainwright's impending free agency. I know different players react differently to being in their "contract year," but with Chris Carpenter out of the picture, Wainwright steps into the stopper role for the Cardinals. I think he will be up for it. On the other end of the contract spectrum are Grienke and Dickey, in the first years of their new contracts with new teams. There could be an adjustment period as they change leagues this season, though it may not be major as they both have extensive histories in their new (old) leagues.
Darvish, Wainwright, Greinke, Dickey
Yu's potential with a year of experience under his belt made him an easy #1.
Pre-ASB: 117 K/53 BB
Post-ASB: 104 K/36 BB
Last 7 starts: 59K/10 BB
Darvish's walks were a product of not trusting his stuff, not an inability to command the strike zone. He slowly gained confidence as the year wore on. He had 221 K's in just 29 starts. What happens if he starts 30+ and pounds the strike zone like he's capable of?
Greinke is such a tease with his FIP/ERA differentials, but there's no guarantee that his big inning disease will ever go away. The risk of a slight TJS hangover looms with Wainwright, but his Post-ASB 1.14 WHIP and K/B ratio should assuage such fears.
Dickey's trip to the AL East places him firmly behind these three aces.
Don Drooker: My inclination in mixed leagues is ...
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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