Fantasy Baseball 2012: Adjusted Strikeout Projections for Starting Pitchers

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Fantasy Baseball 2012: Adjusted Strikeout Projections for Starting Pitchers
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Tigers ace Justin Verlander, the reigning American League Cy Young and MVP, is a reasonable target for 20 wins and 215 strikeouts this season.

AccuScore, a company that specializes in thorough game simulations, has made a few on-the-fly revisions to its seasonal projections.

These 45 pitchers, based on AccuScore projections, will register 155 or more strikeouts from this point forward (April 26-Sept. 30).

1. Justin Verlander, Tigers—209
2. Tim Lincecum, Giants—198
3. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers—198
4. Zack Greinke, Brewers—195
5. Roy Halladay, Phillies—191
6. Felix Hernandez, Mariners—188
7. Brandon Morrow, Blue Jays—184
8. CC Sabathia, Yankees—184
9. Yovani Gallardo, Brewers—184
10. Yu Darvish, Rangers—183

 

Breakdown

Tim Lincecum (1-2, 8.20 ERA, 1.88 WHIP, 24/9 K-BB ratio) doesn't need to go seven or eight innings to achieve his per-game strikeout goals, but it would be nice to see a dramatic reduction in walks in the not-too-distant future. Lincecum and Brandon Morrow are the only wild cards among the top 10.

It's hard to skew AccuScore's projections when Verlander essentially has a game-and-a-half lead over Lincecum, Kershaw and Greinke. In a separate blog entry last week, I expressed my remorse for thinking—way back in March—that Verlander (2-1, 1.72 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 31/8 K-BB) would have difficulty contending for back-to-back Cy Young honors—citing the law of averages.

Of the top-10 pitchers here, AccuScore has only Halladay, Verlander and Sabathia logging 200 innings from this point forward. That's a definite advantage in the race for strikeouts (duh).

 

11. Jered Weaver, Angels—182
12. Cory Luebke, Padres—181
13. Brandon Beachy, Braves—180
14. Cliff Lee, Phillies—178
15. Marco Estrada, Brewers—177
16. Cole Hamels, Phillies—177
17. Gio Gonzalez, Nationals—176
18. Daniel Bard, Red Sox—176
19. David Price, Rays—176
20. Anibal Sanchez, Marlins—173
21. James Shields, Rays—172
22. Jon Lester, Red Sox—171
23. Matt Garza, Cubs—171
24. Edinson Volquez, Padres—169
25. Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks—169
26. Mat Latos, Reds—169
27. Dan Haren, Angels—168
28. Bud Norris, Astros—164
29. Chris Sale, White Sox—164

 

Breakdown

At first glance, Marco Estrada stands out like a sore thumb. But let's give the guy his due.

Estrada fanned nine hitters (five innings) in his starting debut on April 21. He has a 13.1 K/9 ratio; and given the season-ending injury to Chris Narveson, Estrada might have a clear shot at a starting role for the foreseeable future (Milwaukee has some good pitching prospects in the minors, but Estrada could easily take 2012 honors).

Chris Sale (2-1, 3.12 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 26/7 K-BB) has done a superb job with his on-the-fly transition from reliever to starter; and if AccuScore's projections are accurate, he'll be a prime candidate for 190 strikeouts.

Volquez (4.30 ERA, 1.48 WHIP) seems like a long shot for 169 strikeouts from this point forward. He's only logged more than 20 starts once in his MLB career, and he averaged only 5.2 Ks in his first four starts.

All things considered, Volquez is a tough sell for 12-team mixed leagues that prioritize high strikeouts and low WHIP.

 

30. Ubaldo Jimenez, Indians—162
31. Jonathan Sanchez, Royals—160
32. Colby Lewis, Rangers—160
33. Josh Beckett, Red Sox—159
34. Stephen Strasburg, Nationals—159
35. Felipe Paulino, Royals—159
36. Matt Cain, Giants—158
37. Vance Worley, Phillies—157
38. Ricky Romero, Blue Jays—157
39. Wandy Rodriguez, Astros—157
40. Madison Bumgarner, Giants—156
41. C.J. Wilson, Angels—156
42. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals—155
43. Tommy Hanson, Braves—155
44. Francisco Liriano, Twins—155
45. Jeff Samardzija, Cubs—155

 

Breakdown

Cain (1-1, 2.37 ERA, 0.63 WHIP, 26/5 K-BB) is just a shade below the pace of a 200-strikeout marvel. As stated many times in this blog, he needs that arbitrary figure to confirm his ascension into the elite strata of fantasy pitchers.

Of course, if Cain maintains a sub-0.70 WHIP all season, it probably won't matter how many strikeouts he tallies or how low his ERA can get. He'll be a prohibitive favorite for National League Cy Young anyway.

Of the 45 pitchers listed here, AccuScore projects the least innings for Strasburg (150.4) from this point forward—and yet he's a virtual lock for a 1/1 strikeouts-to-walk ratio, and cumulatively speaking, a solid bet for 190 strikeouts.

I have immense faith in Strasburg (1.08 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 25/6 K-BB) staying healthy all season and carrying fantasy teams on his back—seven innings at a time.

If I were a betting man or hanging out at a Vegas bachelor party this weekend, I would place a confident bet that Liriano (0-3, 11.02 ERA, 2.33 WHIP, 12/13 K-BB) falls short of 167 strikeouts for the season (155 from this point forward).

For whatever reason, Liriano has been a regular-season washout after dominating hitters like no other in Grapefruit League action (2-1, 2.33 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 33/5 K-BB). On the plus side, you can trade for Liriano at basically any bottom-barrel rate right now. Seriously. Name your price.

AccuScore has Paulino getting 100 percent of the 159 strikeouts from May 4 (his projected return date to the majors) to Sept. 30. That's an incredible leap of faith for a pitcher with only 320 career strikeouts—and at 28, he's no bouncing baby boy or spring chicken (whatever that means), in the scope of professional sports.

Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.

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