That San Francisco Giants rotation! That damn San Francisco Giants rotation!!
They are the only reason my home-state Texas Rangers are not the current World Series champions (I refuse to give credit to Juan Uribe, Edgar Renteria or Cody Ross).
And now I have to spend an hour or two looking at their names and discussing them. I will not enjoy this preview, but I hope you do and that you take some useful information from it.
The ace of the staff is "The Freak," Tim Lincecum. There is no need to tell you in great detail why he is a fantasy stud, because you already know.
But one of the head honchos here at The Fix, Alan, tweeted this impressive stat a few days ago, "Most strikeouts from 2008-2010? Tim Lincecum with 757. Second best? Justin Verlander with 651."
With Matt Cain, the Giants also have one of the three or four best 1-2 punches in the league (Phillies, Angels and Cardinals would be the others).
There has been some conversation over at Fangraphs recently about how Cain has been able to keep fly balls from leaving the park so consistently over his five-year career. HR/FB rate is thought of as something that is somewhat variable and not always completely within the pitcher's control. For Cain, factors such as a favorable park and an emphasis on keeping the ball down in the zone, have been mentioned as possibilities.
The follow-up question to that inquiry is whether he can keep the low HR/FB rate going.
I would say he has a pretty good track record at this point and is still in the same favorable home ballpark. When you add Cain's consistency in the strikeout department and his improved control (which helped him post a 1.08 WHIP last year) to his ability to keep balls in the yard, you get a top-20, maybe even top-15, pitcher.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have always thought of Jonathan Sanchez as overrated. Admittedly, the season he turned in last year (3.07 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 205 K’s) makes it look like I was wrong about him.
But I would like to submit to you the following facts from Sanchez's 2010 numbers:
His BABIP was 37 points lower than his career average, his strand rate was over seven percent higher than his career average, his ERA was below 4.00 for the first time in his career despite his FIP and xFIP remaining in the four's and his control still sucks (4.47 BB/9).
I am not saying Sanchez is not a mixed league-worthy pitcher, but I am saying that I disagree with everyone else here ranking him so high. He is the No. 32 starting pitcher in TheFantasyFix.com's new draft guide (BUY IT NOW!!!). That being said, I've even seen him as low as 27 on other sites!
I would, without a doubt, rather have Daniel Hudson (40), Hiroki Kuroda (41), Ted Lilly (43) and Ricky Romero (54). I just do not see how a guy who will be average in wins and ERA is a potential WHIP killer (combined WHIP of 1.40 in 2008 and 2009), and the fact that he only stands out in K's, makes him a borderline top-30 option.
Speaking of guys I feel are improperly ranked everywhere, can somebody please explain to me how in the hell Madison Bumgarner is a top-50 starting pitcher? There is no reason to think such a young arm is going to be a 200+ inning pitcher who throws deep enough into games to rack up the W's.
Bill James has him projected for 12 wins, and with Bumgarner likely to throw somewhere between 175 and 190 innings, 12 wins seems like the high end for his win projection.
He is no strikeout stud either. In 107 innings at AA, Bumgarner had a 5.80 K/9, and in 82.2 innings at AAA, he had a 6.42 K/9. Not exactly what I would call overpowering lesser minor league talent. What the kid does do well is throw strikes,—he has good BB/9 numbers at every level—but a low walk total does not always translate to stellar WHIP.
Between AAA and the majors, Bumgarner has given up more than a hit per inning. So, if his WHIP was just a HIP (WHIP minus the walks, obviously), it would be a 1.06. Add the walks to that, and there is little chance Bumgarner gets the WHIP under 1.25 in 2011.
There is nothing wrong with a 1.30-ish WHIP, but when that is supposed to be your strength, you are probably not a strong starting pitching option.
Barry Zito is not the Cy Young-caliber pitcher he once was, and he is definitely not worth that monstrosity of a contract. But just because he is not a fantasy ace anymore does not mean he is no longer useful.
Since 2006, Zito has been remarkably consistent, if you exclude the train wreck he had in 2008. He usually posts about 10 wins, along with an ERA near 4.0, a WHIP between 1.35 and 1.40 and a K/9 around 6.00. While not usable in mixed leagues, consistent numbers like that have value in NL-only leagues.
There is always the risk that Zito has another train wreck in 2011, but he should be a solid fourth or fifth starter for NL-only owners.
Written by Brett Talley exclusively for thefantasyfix.com. Brett is a law student in Dallas who would also like to point out that Madison Bumgarner's strand rate was 10 percent higher than the league average last season. You can follow him on Twitter @therealTAL.