Top 5 Pitching Surprises for the 2011 Fantasy Baseball Season

Andrew SwansonContributor IIJune 25, 2011

Top 5 Pitching Surprises for the 2011 Fantasy Baseball Season

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    As a follow up to our popular 5 offensive surprises for the 2011 season, I thought it would be fitting to provide a list of the top 5 pitching surprises as well.  2011 has been a pitching dominated season, with offensive numbers down across the board for every player not named Jose Bautista. 

    This list was difficult to compile, as there were numerous pitching surprises over the first third of the season.  While strong bounce back performances by Josh Beckett and Dan Haren were strongly considered, we decided to focus our attention on players who were complete surprises in 2011.   

    Here are the 5 biggest pitching surprises of the 2011 season: (Through 70 Games)

James Shields, SP Rays

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    Stats: 121.2 IP, 8 W, 117 K, 2.29 ERA, 0.96 WHIP  

    Shields entered the 2011 season as the 213th overall player according to Yahoo Sports, primarily due to the fact that he had a terrible 5.18 ERA in 2010. Shields flashed signs of brilliance over his 6-year MLB career, however, it appears that he has finally put it all together this season. 

    He is currently tied for second in the American League with nine wins including five complete game performances. His 117 strikeouts are just one behind reigning AL Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez for the lead in the American League, while his minuscule 2.29 is among the best in baseball. 

Michael Pineda, SP Mariners

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    Stats: 95.2 IP, 7 W, 94 K, 2.45 ERA, 1.00 WHIP  

    If I were to conduct a preseason poll with 100 leading sportswriters on who would be the top Mariners starting pitcher through 70 games, I would anticipate 100 responses for Felix Hernandez.  After all, King Felix has been one of the most dominating pitchers over the past two seasons, culminating with a much-deserved AL Cy Young award last season. 

    As of the date of publication, Michael Pineda is the top Mariners pitcher and is currently ranked as the seventh-best pitcher in all of fantasy baseball. 

    While we would like to take some credit predicting young Pineda’s success as evidenced in our multiple articles written on the young prospect, even we did not predict this type of success at such a young age.

Alexi Ogando, SP Rangers

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    Stats: 88.0 IP, 7 W, 64 K, 2.66 ERA, 0.98 WHIP  

    Entering the 2011 season, Ogando was a second-year reliever with no major league starts under his belt. He did an excellent job in the bullpen for the Rangers as a set up man for closer Neftali Feliz in 2010, however, there was little evidence pointing to such a successful debut as a starter. 

    Through 14 starts this season, Ogando has been an excellent surprise for the Rangers in the wake of the vacuum the club sustained when Cliff Lee abruptly left for the Phillies. 

    From a fantasy perspective, we are concerned that Ogando’s lack of experience as a starter will lead to a second half breakdown, making him an excellent sell high candidate.  

Kyle Lohse, SP Cardinals

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    Stats: 105 IP, 7 W, 56 K, 2.91 ERA, 1.03 WHIP  

    Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan were given a tough hand of cards (pardon the pun) to start the 2011 season, as ace and CY Young candidate Adam Wainwright went down with season ending Tommy John surgery.  

    Widely respected as one of the best pitching coaches in all of baseball, Duncan responded as he usually does with a career year from journeyman right-hander Kyle Lohse. In 11 major league seasons, Lohse has a 4.61 ERA and has never won more that 15 games in a season. 

    In 2011, Lohse has been dominant with a 2.91 ERA and is poised to set career marks in innings pitched, ERA, strikeouts, and wins.

Ryan Vogelsong

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    Stats: 72.2 IP, 5 W, 57 K, 1.86 ERA, 1.09 WHIP  

    Vogelsong and honorable mention Bartolo Colon are two of the most interesting stories in baseball this season. Originally drafted by the Giants in the fifth round of the 1998 amateur draft, Vogelsong failed to make it with the club and was traded to the Pirates as part of the 2001 deal for Jason Schmidt.   

    After five years in the minors and a stint pitching in the Japanese league, Ryan Vogelsong returned to the Giants as a minor league pick up in 2011. He was given an opportunity to pitch with the big league club after Barry Zito went down with an ankle injury. 

    Vogelsong did not miss out on his second chance with the Giants, posting an impressive 1.86 ERA and 5-1 record over 72.2 innings. 

     

    Honorable Mentions:

    Bartolo Colon, Jair Jurrjens, Jhoulys Chacin, Phil Humber, Josh Collmenter and Ian Kennendy

     

    This article was originally published on www.kramericasports.com, the home of free fantasy baseball news, rankings and advice.