One of the most important qualities for a fantasy baseball starting pitcher is consistency. Having a pitcher who can deliver a solid performance week in and week out is worth its weight in gold, especially in head-to-head leagues that are scored on a weekly basis.
Even the most seasoned pitcher will have an off night now and then. However, finding a bookend starter who will provide a consistent level of strikeouts and wins with a below-average ERA is the key to a successful season.
This leads me to the curious case of CC Sabathia, a pitcher who has fallen down draft boards this season despite being the epitome of consistency over the past four seasons. During that period, Sabathia averaged 19 wins and an ERA of 3.12, while striking out 213 batters and pitching no less than 200 innings each season.
In addition to his excellent stats, Sabathia has been able to stay relatively injury free while pitching in no less than 27 games in each season of his 10-year major league career. This begs me to wonder why Sabathia has a Mock Draft Central ADP of 49.64, behind Cliff Lee, Jon Lester, Zack Greinke and Dan Haren.
In the case of Greinke and Lee, I believe the media and baseball fans alike have been blinded by the fact that both pitchers have only had a few good seasons apiece.
Aside from Greinke’s Cy Young season of 2009, he has not posted a single winning season and has a career ERA of over 4.00. The move to the National League and the improved run support afforded by the Brewers should help Greinke regain his form. However, I would not feel very comfortable having a No. 1 pitcher with so many question marks.
Lee is still cashing in on an excellent postseason career that was over-hyped in last year’s NLCS, as baseball fans were bombarded with exaggerated comments that would make one think Lee is the second coming of Sandy Koufax. In reality, Lee has posted two consecutive seasons with a pedestrian ERA of 3.20, failing to win more than 14 games in either campaign.
Yes, Lee pitched for a poor Mariner team that failed to provide sufficient run support and a Ranger team that plays in a hitter-friendly park. However, that argument does not hold much water after Felix Hernandez won the 2011 Cy Young under similar circumstances.
Fantasy baseball by definition is unpredictable. Players emerge out of nowhere to become stars only to regress to the shadows as another player steals the spotlight. The unpredictable nature of sport is what makes the game so interesting and so engaging.
Yet as a fantasy owner, having a starting pitcher who can mitigate some of that risk and unpredictability is a very valuable asset. When comparing second-tier pitchers like Lee, Greinke, Lester and Sabathia, consistency and lack of risk should be the determining factor, which is why I believe CC Sabathia is by far the most valuable pitcher of the group.
Please visit www.kramericasports.com for a complete version of this article, including an in-depth statistical analysis of why CC Sabathia is a great value in 2011.