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Dead Weight: Pitchers - 7 comments

By Cary James

It’s the end of the fantasy season, so let’s take stock of this season’s draft busts and see how they will influence your draft next season. I contend that paying early for starters or closers is too risky a proposition. For every Roy Halladay or Mariano Rivera, there are Ervin Santana’s or Brad Lidge’s waiting to blow up. Let’s take stock and see what we learned.

Reasons to not draft pitchers early:

Jake Peavy (PAD)

A lot of people want to knock him down for next season. He’s pitching in the American League, he’s older, less durable, and he no longer pitches in camouflage uniforms. I say who cares. You can get him relatively cheap next season (rounds 6 or 7 hopefully), but you spent most of this season hating the guts out of Peavy. Put it behind you and draft with confidence next season.

Brandon Webb (ARI)

Webb is a tragic case. Touted year in and year out for being durable, Webb’s elbow finally ignored its supporters and destroyed many a fantasy team’s trophy chances. Not only that, he’s lost a significant amount of leverage this off-season with potential suitors. You hope that Webb sticks in the National League, and perhaps his arm problems are mentioned enough to scare everyone else off. Pursue, but do so with caution.

Cole Hamels (PHI)

The face of bust. He’s even more obnoxious than Peavy or Webb because injuries are not his problem. Ten wins on a 90-win team with the kind of stuff he has? His walk and strikeout rates remain superb, but his hit rate per nine innings is at a career-high 9.6. Nothing more annoying than drafting a guy with great stuff on a great team and have luck kick your counting stats in the teeth. Depending on his workload during the playoffs, you should be able to draft him with confidence next season.

Francisco Liriano (MIN)

Liriano came with a lot of risk. Steer clear of this former phenom unless it’s very late in the draft. He’s been nothing short of horrific all season, and I’m not sure I could recommend him in anything short of a 10-team AL-only league. Liriano is an Icarus of sorts, a star who burned too brightly. Good for a speculative pick next season if you’re feeling lucky.

Joba Chamberlain (NYY)

Blargh. Blurf. Insert other vomiting sound effects. The hype machine really inspired a lot of false confidence in this chunky fellow. He was merely passable for most of the season, and then the Joba Rules set in. He’s got a great skill set, but he does not know how to use it as a starter. Perhaps with a season behind him, Joba will improve. My advice is to avoid at all cost. A pitcher of similar value next season is Brandon Morrow. And no, you wouldn’t draft Morrow anywhere near the first 20 rounds, would you? Let someone else take the chance next season.

Studs drafted after the studs:

Zach Grienke (KAN)

It’ll be a shame if he doesn’t win the Cy Young this season. I feel like he’s almost 1st Round material next year, but you can have him there. He’ll more likely end up getting drafted in the 2nd or early 3rd round depending on the level of hype next March. Grienke is stone-cold stud, and you likely won’t see him drafted past the 10th round until he’s 40. Hope you enjoyed the ridiculous return on your modest investment.

Matt Cain (SF)

A guy I avoided this year because I believed he would regress. He showed remarkable composure for a pitcher with such bad luck (bad run support, possible confidence issues pitching next to Tiny Tim) and posted an incredible line. A sub 3.00 ERA with a 1.18 ERA, and that was with a vastly reduced strike out rate. He pitches in the soft NL West and I love his chances for next season. He will fall further than you think in drafts next year.

Chris Carpenter (STL)

I don’t understand it. Peavy and Webb go down, but Carpenter survives into the postseason? What? He’s the 12th best player in the Yahoo game despite missing part of April? The ratios are mouth-watering, he pitches for a winning team, and he’s healthy. I’m pretty sure this is a perfect storm-type season for Carpenter, and hopefully you were lucky enough to believe the unbelievable. As for next season, cojones will be necessary if you’d like to reach for his services.

Kevin Correia (PAD)

Another NL wunderkid, Correia has been on sleeper lists and then was roundly forgotten. Fast-forward to this season, and he’s traded to the Padres. NL West plus Petco equals Wandy-like home/away splits. As long he sticks with the Pads he’ll make a great value pick towards the end of drafts. 21 quality starts, a sub-4.00 ERA, and a promising second half performance show us there is talent left after Peavy split.

Fernando Rodney (DET)

I’m not sure how this happened. Everyone drafted Brandon Lyon. If you drafted Rodney, you expected two or three saves and terrible ratios. He was a late-round closer who was disposable. 36 saves, 2 wins, and 60 strike outs later and I still don’t believe it. Yeah, his ratios were horrible, but you got those dirty, grimy saves anyway. The save is such an ugly, ugly stat.

Hopefully we’ll all go into next season realizing we don’t need to draft Mariano Rivera in the early rounds, or Tim Lincecum in the first. There is value everywhere in major league pitching. Jered Weaver, Jair Jurrjens and others will attest to that. Till next time, or you can catch me on the forums under the name Tom Sellecks Beautiful Mustache. Thanks for reading!

Residing in Chicago with my ever-patient wife, I live a quiet life of grad school, two jobs, and writing with a little music mixed in. I particularly enjoy when one of my pitchers gives up a homer to one of my hitters. Jones!
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7 Responses to “Dead Weight: Pitchers”

  1. User avatar Montana168 says:

    i hate when people say pitching shouldn’t be drafted early, and then point to stud pitchers who got injured or had bad years like mentioned above. if thats your argument, then you shouldnt draft hitters early either. look at david wright, jose reyes, a-rod, sizemore etc…all were 1st round, the first 3 were top 5 studs, but they had worse years than ben zobrist, mark reynolds and aaron hill. bottom line is every player that you take is risky but to say you should wait on pitching just because some studs worked out and some didnt is a terrible argument. yes, you shouldnt go and draft lincecum, hamels, sabathia, peavy in 4 straight rounds but i think 1 or 2 studs can be valuable if you mix them with kershaw, josh johnson, or jon lester type young guys later then leave room to pick up pitchers along the way that end up working out through out the year.

  2. User avatar chalklounge says:

    Hamels has been better this year than you suggest. He actually lowered his BB rate substantially over 2008, and improved his K rate. He appears to be a victim of some bad luck (an inflated BABIP of .325) and a crap first month or so. This guy is gonna be a steal next season.

  3. @Montana168 – Risk and luck are inherent qualities of fantasy sports. My point is that if you were to lose a stud pitcher due to injury or mediocrity, you’re going to have a much tougher time replacing him than a stud hitter. Picking an ace early and waiting for mid-to-late round value is a perfectly fine and well-practiced drafting strategy. However, to ignore the injuries and sub-par performances of top-40 players is to do yourself a disservice. It’s like when an analyst looks at a pitcher’s season stats and says, “Hey, if you ignore those four outings where he gave up a combined 30 runs in 9 innings, he had a GREAT year.” I’m just saying you can get a better return on your pitching investments later in the draft. I don’t want people to hurt themselves when they draft Grienke super early next season and get the 2008 Grienke. Like you said, every player is a risk.

    @chalklounge – This is what I wrote.”His walk and strikeout rates remain superb, but his hit rate per nine innings is at a career-high 9.6. Nothing more annoying than drafting a guy with great stuff on a great team and have luck kick your counting stats in the teeth.” So I guess we agree?

  4. Surfs up says:

    What about a guy like Lackey? He started on the DL and started slow but was strong mid way through the season. He has hit some bumpy roads toward the end of the season. Where is he drafted? Do we take him ahead of a guy like J. Vazquez?

  5. jonboy418 says:

    @Montana168 – I think the point of not drafting aces early is because of the depth at SP. Of course, you’ll have pitchers and batters you under perform their ADP, but the glut of pitchers who come into the league through the WW and FA is much more numerous. Look at this (I’m using the stats in my 15×15 league, so players will differ from a 5×5 league):

    The ADP of a top 20 pitcher is 127.6, which is good for the 13th round.

    The ADP of a top 20 hitter is 51.7, which is good for the 6th round.

    Of these top 20, in a standard 10 team league, you only had two batters with an ADP over 100: Adam Lind and Todd Helton.
    Of the SP, you had 12 batters with an ADP over 100 (5 over 200).

    The point is, in order to get a top 20 batter, you need to use a higher draft pick. Once you start picking and choosing specific players, like a Jose Reyes, yes you can point to a Ben Zobrist, or Bartlett or Scutaro.

    But in pitching for every Brandon Webb, I can point to Vazquez, or Carpenter, or Verlander, or Wainwright, or Grenkie, or W. Rodriguez, or Jair Jurrjens, or Randy Wolf.

    My point is it’s better to use your early draft picks for batters, since you have, statistically, a better chance of landing a top player. Pitching is always deep, so it’s easier to wait.

  6. @Surfs Up – I dig Lackey for next season, especially value-wise. If you’re lucky, you could get him in the 7th or 8th rounds. Temper expectations though as the yearly hype-machine will probably bring Lackey’s value closer to the norm as we approach opening day. As long as Javier Vazquez pitches in Atlanta, I’m taking him over Lackey. He will be pretty pricey next season, though, so draft him knowing you’ll be paying premium dollars. Another Atlanta pitcher you can get relatively cheap next season is Tim Hudson.

  7. User avatar kab21 says:

    Ervin Santana deserves honorable mention in the bust category. Fortunately I only got him on one team. Also fortunately an HM stud after studs Jair Jurrjens balanced that out.

    I agree – load up on pitchers in the middle rounds.


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