Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Fantasy Preview - Starting Pitchers

Before I get into pitching, I neglected to mention a key drafting strategy for people who play in a 5x5 roto league with a fantasy budget. Most strategists say, and I agree with them, that you should not allocate a 50-50 split between hitting and pitching. Most recommend a 65-35 split, and there are two reasons for this. First of all, generally speaking you will usually have to draft more offensive than defensive (pitching) players. Also, hitting is much more predictable. Oh, sure, people have career years (or career off-years), and players get hurt, but you can often reasonably assume that a hitter will generally meet expectations.

Pitching is different, and much more unpredictable. Part of the problem is that it depends much more on luck. For example, wins are a near impossible category to predict. Pedro Martinez pitched like a 22-game winner last season, but his bullpen cost him several games. This year, with Billy Wagner closing and a somewhat more reliable crew behind him, Pedro's luck should improve. But it's still impossible to guarantee a pitcher's win total. A bad bounce here and a defensive miscue there, and the win totals dwindle. But then you could be Mike Mussina, pitch like crap, and still win 15 because your offense scores a bundle of runs behind you.

Well, with that out of the way, a time to look at starting pitchers.

Player Value
Johan Santana 57.45
Pedro Martinez 51.57

Jake Peavy 46.97
Randy Johnson 40.31
John Smoltz 39.23
Ben Sheets 38.21
Roy Oswalt 37.62
Carlos Zambrano 36.05
Chris Carpenter 35.51
Roy Halladay 35.31
Jason Schmidt 35.16
Andy Pettite 33.85
Mark Buehrle 33.07
Bartolo Colon 31.26
Dontrelle Willis 30.80
Rich Harden 30.26

Mark Prior 29.74
Barry Zito 29.26
Zach Duke 29.15
C.C. Sabathia 27.54
Doug Davis 26.54
Livian Hernandez 26.46
Tim Hudson 26.44
Josh Becket 25.94
Felix Hernandez 25.76
Freddy Garcia 24.32
Javier Vasquez 24.30
Mark Mulder 24.16
Aaron Heilman 23.81
John Patterson 23.73
John Lackey 23.66
A.J. Burnett 23.48
Cliff Lee 23.06
Derek Lowe 22.96
Odalis Perez 22.92
Noah Lowry 22.85
Curt Schilling 22.72
Kevin Millwood 22.66
Brett Myers 22.54

Dan Haren 21.70
Jeff Weaver 21.68
Chris Capuano 21.62
Kelvim Escobar 21.56
Bred Penny 21.48
Scott Kazmir 21.35
Mike Mussina 20.97
Greg Maddux 20.80
Jon Garland 20.58
Jake Westbrook 20.34
Kerry Wood 20.31

Esteban Loiza 20.16
Matt Clement 19.34
Jeremy Bonderman 19.25
Brad Radke 19.19
Matt Cain 19.10
Joe Blanton 18.98
Aaron Harang 18.65
Brian Lawrence 18.19
Jon Lieber 18.16
Jarrod Washburn 17.89
Jeff Suppan 17.77
Miguel Batista 17.42
Kenny Rogers 17.21
Bronson Arroyo 17.04
Paul Byrd 16.88
John Thompson 16.41
Jorge Sosa 16.32
Oliver Perez 16.29
Chris Young 16.26
David Wells 16.09
Matt Morris 15.92
Tim Wakefield 15.81

Erik Bedard 15.49
Joel Pineiro 15.07
Nate Robertson 14.83
Adam Eaton 14.78
Gustavo Chacin 14.65
Ted Lilly 14.65
Carl Pavano 14.63
Josh Towers 14.61
Scott Baker 14.57
Jason Marquis 14.17
Kris Benson 13.89
Carlos Silva 13.82
Brandon Claussen 13.57
Ryan Franklin 12.53
Kyle Lohse 11.81
Daniel Cabrera 11.23

Ervin Santana 10.41
Horacio Ramirez 10.28
Anthony Reyes 10.09
Chien-Ming Wang 7.24
Brandon Backe 7.03
Tony Armas 6.42

Many of the guys at the top have some questions that should give you pause before you spend mucho denaro on them. Pedro, Ben Sheets, and Mark Prior all have injury concerns. Prior will almost certainly be starting the season on the DL, as will Ben Sheets. And both Sheets and Prior have a history of injury concerns, though Prior more extensively so. And we all know that Pedro always seems like he's one bad step from a season-ending injury. But if Martinez gets 30 or more starts, he's a prime contender for the Cy Young and a 20-win season.

Then there are senior statemen - Smoltz and Johnson. Smoltz has not shown signs of slowing down, but Randy is starting to put the age of 40 more and more in the rearview. I'd think twice before burning an early round draft pick on him.

And then there are the inconsistent guys - Willis, Schmidt, Halladay, and Becket - though Becket is more of the injury-prone type concern. Willis finally put it together for a full season last year, but expect a comedown this season, particularly as he now starts for a young team that might often fail to give him run support. Halladay has looked great so far this Spring, so there might be less need for caution as far as he is concerned.

Sleepers? I don't know if you'd qualify Barry Zito as a sleeper, but he is in the walk year of a contract, and he's pitching for some money. I fully edxpect a return to the form of earlier in the decade.

Brandon Webb is set to have his breakout season. He's in his third year, which is usually when a pitcher blossoms. If his teammates can provide any sort of run support, watch for him to have a very big year.

What will become of Aaron Heilman? Brian Bannister is giving him a run for the money as the fifth starter in the Mets rotation (why Victor Zambrano has locked up the fourth spot is beyond me). Even if Heilman wins the job, he might be bumped a few times in the early months of the season. But if he is in the rotation, he's the sleeper pick of the draft. Expect 12-15 wins, a low ERA and WHIP, and around 150-160 K's. He'll be a bargain, and a great mid-to-late round pickup. Hopefully Willie will have made his decision before your draft takes place.

I've left Roger Clemens off the list for now. Who the heck knows if this guy is gonna come back, but the odds are he will at some point. It's not unreasonable to select him for the your bench if you are allotted one. Would I waste a draft pick? - maybe my last or next-to-last. If he comes back, or should I say when he comes back, he will have been away for a couple of months, and even Roger Clemens is (I think) human. But he's also the best pitcher of the last thirty years and maybe longer, and it would be awfully nice to have that weapon in your arsenal.

In the end, when it comes to late-round picks the aim should almost be the same as it is for catchers. Find someone who won't necessarily hurt you because you're not going to wind up with five aces, and if you have you probably have no offense to speak of. But first solidy the rotation with at least two studs at the top. Don't try to be el cheapo and pick up a superstar and piece together a shoestring rotation for the remainder. It's honestly a tough category to pick because, again, it's more unpredictable than any other category.


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