The 2011 Guide to Drafting Starting Pitchers in Fantasy Baseball
I'm sure you've heard it a million times by now—starting pitching is very deep.
Because of the plethora of quality pitchers in the major leagues, there are plenty of bargains to be had in the middle-to-late rounds of your draft. But how do you know who you should take?
Last year, I put together a criteria of categories that you should pay attention to when drafting a starting pitcher. Because wins, ERA, WHIP and strikeouts are the categories where pitchers earn us points during the season, we tend to look at those numbers rather than the ones that actually tell us the whole story. We call these the peripheral stats.
I weakened the criteria a bit this year to better fit what I like in a pitcher. I added GB/FB ratio because I like my pitchers to be ground ball pitchers first and strikeout pitchers second. You can always find strikeouts, but a good WHIP is hard to come by and ground ball pitchers tend to have good WHIPs.
The New Criteria
Innings pitched: 100 or higher
Strikeout-to-walk ratio: 2.5 or higher
Strikeouts per nine: 6.5 or higher
Walks per nine: 3.o or lower
Hits per nine: 9.0 or lower
Home runs per nine: 1.0 or lower
Ground ball-to-fly ball ratio: 1.2 or higher
Who Made the Cut
Adam Wainwright, Brett Myers, C.C. Sabathia, Chris Carpenter, Felix Hernandez, Francisco Liriano, Hiroki Kuroda, Josh Johnson, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Zack Greinke
No surprise to see the other regulars here, but the most notable is Zack Greinke. Even in his down 2010 season, Greinke managed to qualify in each category. The move to the National League will only help his numbers and his most recent injury should drop him in drafts, making him a bargain. Remember Cliff Lee missed his first couple starts of 2010 and finished the year as a Top 10 pitcher.
Brett Myers and Hiroki Kuroda are great values in drafts because, when healthy, they have shown they can be very efficient. Myers had a career-year with the Astros where he threw 24 quality starts and lasted at least six innings in all of his starts except his final start (5 2/3 IP).
And now for some pitchers who made it oh, so close to making the cut...
Missed Because of GB/FB Ratio
Cliff Lee (1.04 GB/FB), Colby Lewis (0.84), Jered Weaver (0.75), Johan Santana (0.76), Justin Verlander (1.02), Mat Latos (1.10), Matt Cain (0.78), Tommy Hanson (1.00), Travis Wood (0.63)
I'll admit that this part of the criteria was just because of my personal preference. In reality, a starting pitcher should have at least a ratio of one or greater, but I upped it to 1.2, which was still under the average (1.28) of the 102 pitchers who pitched over 100 innings last year.
Obviously Cliff Lee, Justin Verlander, Mat Latos and Tommy Hanson are still very valuable in drafts, and their GB/FB rates should not alarm you at all. Travis Wood is a popular sleeper among the fantasy community, but temper your expectations because his GB/FB rate is below average and could lead to a lot of home runs.
No Punch Outs
Brett Anderson (6.01 K/9), R.A. Dickey (5.35 K/9)
These two pitchers missed the cut because of the low K-rates. Chalk up Brett Anderson's low rate to his elbow issues all season. In 2009, Anderson managed to strikeout 7.7 batters per nine so expect him to get over the 6.5 mark IF (that's a big if for those keeping score at home) healthy.
As for R.A. Dickey, I don't really trust knuckleball pitchers so I would probably avoid him in drafts. He is better utilized as a spot starter in standard leagues.
Out of Control
Jon Lester (3.59 BB/9), Tim Lincecum (3.22 BB/9), Wandy Rodriguez (3.14 BB/9), Yovani Gallardo (3.65 BB/9)
Some big names in the group missed the cut because of their walk totals. I'm not worried about Jon Lester or Tim Lincecum as No. 1 starters, although they probably won't be on any of my teams this year because I don't draft pitching early. I've always liked Wandy Rodriguez for his good WHIP and strikeouts and he is dominant at home so start him there with the utmost confidence. Yovani Gallardo has the highest walk rate of this group, but last year it was 0.91 lower than 2009. That's a lot of improvement in one year and it looks like YoGa is on his way to becoming a true fantasy stud.
Just Like Batting Practice
Gavin Floyd (9.57 H/9), Jason Hammel (10.21 H/9)
This pair missed the cut because of their tendency to allow hits. I like Gavin Floyd out of this pair as he tends to turn it on in the second half of the season. Last year, he had a two-month stretch where he posted a 1.75 ERA with a 1.03 WHIP over 73 innings.
Loving the Long Ball
Cole Hamels (1.12 HR/9)
Cole Hamels was the only one who missed the cut just because of his home-run rate; however, 1.12 is not a bad rate at all and should not keep you from drafting Hamels as a mid-to-low No. 2/high-end No. 3 fantasy starter.
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