Passing Judgment: Fantasy Baseball – Bitching About Pitching

Starting pitchers have a certain value depending on what type of fantasy baseball league you play in.  In roto leagues, you clearly want pitchers who will get wins or quality starts along with a high strikeout rate, low ERA and low WHIP.  There are a handful of pitchers who are generally accepted as being considered elite for purposes of significantly contributing in those categories.  Understandably, these pitchers are typically the first ones selected in a snake draft or the most expensive ones purchased in an auction.  However, fantasy baseball owners have been greatly disappointed by the dismal performances of many of the top pitchers in MLB.  Granted, some have sustained an injury which is equally as frustrating.  But the disastrous statistics accumulated by some of baseball’s best has left fantasy owners pulling their hair out.

Fantasy studs such as Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Adam Wainwright and Felix Hernandez have been just fine.  Stephen Strasburg is only 2-5, but he has pitched great and has been the victim of poor run support.  Matt Harvey has exceeded everyone’s expectations by dominating the league with a 5-0 record and miniscule ERA and WHIP.  But, they are the exceptions to the rule thus far in 2013. 

David PriceBoth 2012 Cy Young winners have been abysmal to date.  David Price is now on the disabled list with a triceps injury, but this could turn out to be the best thing for him because he began the year 1-4 with a 5.23 ERA and 1.43 WHIP.  It was expected that he would have a big year given Tampa Bay was going to have to make a decision on whether to trade him or sign him to an extension.  But instead, Price has been a disaster for those fantasy owners who spent an early pick or big auction dollars on him.

R.A. Dickey was traded last winter to the Blue Jays who were expecting him to be the final piece of the puzzle.  Instead, Dickey’s knuckleball hasn’t fooled anyone.  He has already lost five games (he lost six in 2012) with a 4.83 ERA through his first nine starts.  He did pitch better his last time out with ten strikeouts.  But it is clear that Dickey’s inflated value coming into 2013 hasn’t translated into the success that was projected for him.

Former World Series MVP Cole Hamels signed a lucrative contract extension in 2012, so he is no longer pitching to get the big bucks.  He got them already.  Whether this lack of motivation is an excuse for his porous start is unknown, but it can’t be dismissed.  Hamels has already lost six games this season after only losing six games all last year.  His 4.61 ERA and 1.28 WHIP are cause for concern, especially the fact he has walked more batters than anyone else (24).

How about last year’s starting pitcher for the National League in the All Star game?  Matt Cain has been dreadful as well despite having a 3-2 record.  His 5.43 ERA is awful as he has given up an incredible 13 homeruns already this season.  Keep in mind he gave up nine homeruns TOTAL in 2011. 

One of the biggest fantasy baseball stories in 2012 was the emergence of Braves pitcher Kris Medlen.  He took the league by storm going 10-1 in the second half and was anointed one of the top rising fantasy stars.  However, he has gotten off to a 1-5 start this year with a 1.40 WHIP and a terrible walk rate. 

These are the most glaring disappointments given what was expected of them and what they have produced.  Other fantasy mainstays such as C.C. Sabathia and Yovani Gallardo have been pedestrian at best.  And then there are several pitchers who have been injured most of the year such as Jered Weaver, Josh Johnson, Roy Halladay and Zack Greinke.  However, injuries to Halladay and Johnson were as good as a Christmas present to fantasy owners.

It is fascinating to look at all of these supposedly upper-echelon pitchers and see how terrible they have been.  If you are doing well in your leagues, it is likely because you have found other diamonds in the rough to rely upon for pitching production.  Let this be a lesson that you cannot ever truly depend on pitchers no matter how good they are or have been in the past. 



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