I'd go Wainwright, Greinke, Darvish, Dickey. Greinke vs. Darvish is close but I'll give the edge to Greinke based on home ballpark, division and track record. Wainwright pitched exceptionally well in the second half last year and he already has a pair of Cy Young worthy seasons on his resume. I'm really liking him as a legit ace who you won't have to pay a true ace-level price to draft. Dickey is the only guy who I wouldn't feel comfortable with as my ace. There are just too many question marks surrounding him. You've got the new league, the new division, the new home park, and the chance that he loses some of the effectiveness of that knuckleball to the point where he becomes Tim Wakefield, a good pitcher but not a great pitcher.
Willing to mess with Dickey?
My rank goes Wainwright, Darvish, Greinke and Dickey, but all four of these fall in the tier where I start considering SPs in a mixed league, so there's a smidge of a difference between them.
As raised several times already in this discussion, the Darvish-Greinke quandary was my biggest. I concur with Paul's point that Darvish grew plenty in his strike zone aggressiveness down the stretch. His weaning off a nibbling approach after coming stateside should do wonders and, all things equal, gives him more to gain than Greinke, and I don't fear the Texas environment with the import. Small sample size alert, but Greinke wasn't exactly a gem in pitcher-friendly Anaheim, and despite his favorable home digs and move back to the NL, there are still some flaws in his game, including the fact he relies heavily on high LOB% to succeed. And in his case, you almost wish he gave up more flies to take advantage of Chavez Ravine; he's given up a lot of liners over the last few years and has fluctuated in his empty-hack inducement.
And are we so certain the Dodgers will pad his run support? I like him as, say, a top-20 dual-universe arm, but I think the Cy Young talk is a tad overblown.
The Dickey move-to-AL hate is too strong, as well, and just because he's last in these ranks doesn't mean I'd avoid him. The regression factor doesn't mean he'll fall far below SP2 numbers - it's just that he has the least upward mobility in this quartet.
My broken record looks like Tim's and a few others' (as well as KFFL's rankings): Wainwright (by a nice distance), Darvish, Greinke, Dickey.
I think you all have highlighted the reasons I'd rank them this way. I wouldn't be surprised to see Darvish compete with Waino for the top spot on this list and for them both to be in the top five in mixed-league rankings at the end of the season. I'd be more comfortable with Wainwright as my mixed-league ace than Darvish.
Regarding Rob's comments, will I pay what any of them are going to cost in an auction? I suppose it depends on the source fueling my opposition's optimism. Not everyone is so high on Darvish and/or Wainwright. I don't envision myself owning Dickey unless the bidding starts to stall relatively early - mid-teens, perhaps? Greinke's ill habits concern me, too, and I'm not as certain as others are that being in NL Hollywood is so great for him. The Dodgers reek of potential disaster. I'm curious about how the righty would hold up if it began to fall apart in Chavez Ravine. Just thoughts off the top my head, though.
In some defense of Greinke, I would hardly call Greinke's LOB% high. His career left on base numbers are below 73% and he has not produced a number higher than that since 2009. So overall we're talking about someone pretty average. Glancing at his other numbers (BABIP, HR/FB, etc) they're all pretty close to average too so we're not talking about someone who has been pitching much under or over his head who is going to significantly regress. I do concede that as a ground ball pitcher, Greinke won't benefit from LA as much as a pure fly-baller would.
Overall, the reason I named Greinke my primary choice is for his consistency of skills since 2008 and because he at 29 does not appear ready to fall suddenly off a cliff.
At auction, for me, it's about my budget which is typically to the dollar (though flexible) by roster slot. So if I have a pitcher slot at a certain price, I have several pitchers who fit that bill. So I'd probably be "in" on all of them, landing one depending on the timing of the draft/the interest on others of spending that amount on that slot at that particular phase of the draft.
Lord Zola's Wrap-Up
Here are a few of general comments while I procrastinate sharing my own ranking -- dang it's tough.
There were a couple of references to NL versus AL. While I admit I may be more based in projections than some, the easy way to address this is to come up with an expectation within league context and then compare. To further dock an AL pitcher is double dipping. His expectation should already account for the AL aspect.
The disconnect between Greinke's real ERA and FIP/xFIP is interesting. Greg and Paul cited Greinke's penchant for big innings. I personally believe he is a much better pitcher out of the wind-up, as are most starters, but the difference between Greinke from the wind-up and Greinke from the stretch exceeds that of the average. In fact, I hypothesize this could explain the difference between ERA and expected ERA in general. The better pitchers are better from the stretch.
I got a kick out of Ryan suggesting he would take Wainwright then Darvish on the wheel if he wanted both. In the recent Fantasy Sports Trade Association draft, Lawr and I selected that very pair but we chose Darvish first as he is a huge favorite of our industry brethren. That said, taking Darvish that high is a bit of betting on the come.
OK, my rankings, I'm putting Wainwright first with Darvish second, but for the very reason just discussed; I'd take Darvish first if I wanted to team then up at the turn. Greinke is third with Dickey actually a distant fourth. I know he throws his knuckler harder and I don't care about the fact he is indoors, I just don't think Dickey can continue his success, especially the strikeouts and limiting home runs. Not that it is apropos to this discussion, but I am concerned about the Blue Jays' rotation in general and would not be so quick to hand them the AL East, let alone put them in the World Series.
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.