The 2011 Guide to Drafting Starting Pitchers in Fantasy Baseball

George FitopoulosContributor IMarch 12, 2011

The 2011 Guide to Drafting Starting Pitchers in Fantasy Baseball

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    CLEARWATER, FL - FEBRUARY 22: Roy Halladay #34 of the Philadelphia Phillies poses for a photo during Spring Training Media Photo Day at Bright House Networks Field on February 22, 2011 in Clearwater, Florida.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    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

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    SURPRISE, AZ - MARCH 11:  Starting pitcher Colby Lewis #48 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the Cincinnati Reds during the spring training game at Surprise Stadium on March 11, 2011 in Surprise, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    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

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    PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 10:  Pitcher Zack Greinke #13  of the Milwaukee Brewers  during the spring training baseball game against Colorado Rockies at Maryvale Baseball Park on March 10, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    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

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    PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 06:  Travis Wood #30 of the Cincinnati Reds delivers in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on October 6, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
    Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

    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 LeeJustin VerlanderMat 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

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    PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 16:  (L-R) Pitchers Trevor Cahill #53 and Brett Anderson #49 of the Oakland Athletics warm up during a MLB spring training practice at Phoenix Municipal Stadium on February 16, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    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

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    MARYVALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 24:  Yovani Gallardo #49 of the Milwaukee Brewers poses for a portrait during Spring Training Media Day on February 24, 2011 at Maryvale Stadium in Maryvale, Arizona.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    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

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    PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 28:  Gavin Floyd #34 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers during spring training at Camelback Ranch on February 28, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
    Harry How/Getty Images

    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

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    TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Pitcher Cole Hamels #35 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches against the New York Yankees during a Grapefruit League Spring Training Game at George M. Steinbrenner Field on February 26, 2011 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    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.

More from Baseball Professor

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    PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 10:  Milwaukee Brewers and Colorado Rockies during the spring training baseball game at Maryvale Baseball Park on March 10, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

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