WHIP


How to Win 2014: WHIP

Your success in WHIP hangs by a thread, stands on a razor’s edge, and a bunch of other violence-threatening metaphors for the imminent likelihood of disaster. 

You’ve noticed by now that baseball has changed in the last few years, and fantasy baseball with it. Pitchers are dominating like the 90’s never happened. The league average (min. 100 IP) starter WHIP was 1.29. For fantasy-viable starters (taking the top 100 SP by FIP as a proxy) it was 1.22. In one competitive roto-style league I played in last year, the WHIP winner had a team number of 1.12—last place was 1.28, or pretty much MLB average. I swear that number would have been competitive just five years ago. 

Expanding out of just my personal experience, let’s say the range of likely team WHIP scores (from last year) was 1.10-1.30. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for error. Hence the menacing metaphors of my intro. By the way, you’ve got the same WHIP-related stress whether you play the game week-by-week in head-to-head formats or all year long in a roto format. If it seems like one bad WHIP guy can kill you…well, he can. Thank you bargain-priced Tim Lincecum.

WHIP is a tricky category, composed in equal parts of two very different aspects of pitching: walk allowance and hitting allowance. The first variable, walks, is highly correlated from one year to the next—hits allowed are a different story. So, to try to catch a little more signal than noise, let’s examine the WHIP leaders over the course of the last three years. 

WHIP 2011-13 (min. 200 IP)

 

Name

WHIP

1

Clayton Kershaw

0.97

2

Jered Weaver

1.05

3

Cliff Lee

1.05

4

Stephen Strasburg

1.07

5

Hisashi Iwakuma

1.07

6

Justin Verlander

1.09

7

Cole Hamels

1.09

8

Matt Cain

1.09

9

Kris Medlen

1.09

10

Chris Sale

1.10

11

Brandon Beachy

1.11

12

Marco Estrada

1.11

13

David Price

1.11

14

Madison Bumgarner

1.12

15

Johnny Cueto

1.13

16

A.J. Griffin

1.13

17

Jordan Zimmermann

1.13

18

Kyle Lohse

1.14

19

James Shields

1.15

20

Adam Wainwright

1.15

21

Jake Peavy

1.16

Check out the analysis below the fold….

Continue reading "How to Win 2014: WHIP" »


Full Story |  Comments (0) | Categories: How to Win | Starters | WHIP

Stock Watch: More of What You Need

So, you're in the top three of your Roto-style league, but you just can't seem to crack the real money spots. Your pitching is pretty good, but nothing you do seems to help you climb up the standings in Runs. Time to make a trade.

You're in the lower half of your Head-to-Head league, with a couple good players on the DL. You know your team should be competitive in September...but getting there might be another story. Each week you seem to split, winning most of the hitting but always falling short in WHIP. Time to make a deal.

Last week on Stock Watch we checked out some players you should target if you're in need of Homers, Batting Average, Wins, or ERA. This week we check out Runs, RBIs, Strikeouts, and WHIP and highlight trade and pickup candidates that might fly just under the radar. 

Runs

Runs are a tough category to win--indeed, the best most common strategy is to draft good hitters and hope things work out. That's what I usually do, at least. So if you're stuck in a Runs rut, here are some hitters to target in trade. Unfortunately this category is unlike stolen bases (or even home runs) in that there are some pretty bad (and therefore cheap) players who can help you a lot; no, you'll have to target players who can actually hit a little.

When searching for potential high-scorers, I went looking for players who hit at or near the top of powerful lineups, like those of the Rays, Tigers, Red Sox, Cardinals, and Orioles. Also the Braves, somewhat, but they need better top-of-the-order hitters.

Austin Jackson has sort of become the Runs poster boy, and RA's Mark Polishuk has a great write-up on him, so I won't say any more. Fellow Tiger Torii Hunter might as well be Jackson's elder clone this season--something tells me that hitting in front of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder is good for your runs total.

The Rays sit Desmond Jennings and Ben Zobrist on the top of their batting order most days, and while both have proved disappointing this year, both should keep scoring runs. Matt Joyce doesn't play every single day, but he tends to score when he does.

Shane Victorino and Daniel Nava benefit from hitting before David Ortiz. If Nava gets to keep hitting on top of the order, he'll have Runs value.

Matt Carpenter is one of the hottest names at second base for his batting average, but if you need to help yourself in two categories, he's your guy. Matt Holliday ought to be coming off the DL soon and he may come at a discount. 

Nate McLouth and Nick Markakis have been setting the table for the O's, while Chris Davis and Adam Jones have been among the best in clearing it. McLouth's steals will drive his price up, but, as with Carpenter, at least you get to help yourself in multiple categories.

In the last month, Chase Utley and Jason Werth have been high-scorers. In fact, Werth has been hitting the cover off the ball.

Alex Rios keeps hearing his name in trade rumors, and I'd bet that if he gets moved, it will be to a team that puts him at the top of the order, making him a good Runs candidate. Of course, this advice could backfire when he gets stuck hitting sixth and scoring RBI's...but maybe you need those too.

RBIs

Jay Bruce, Shin-Soo Choo, and Joey Votto are all among the league's top run scorers. Why do we care in the RBI section? Because you should pick up or trade for anyone who hits behind these guys. Brandon Phillips is having a perfectly pedestrian season--and yet he's among the league leaders in RBIs with over 80. Why? Just look at the names above.

You'll notice that a lot of top RBI guys come from the same lineups as the top run scorers. Take Jhonny Peralta. Between his crazy BABIP and the Biogenesis link, there's every reason to trade him away. And yet, he's hitting behind Prince and Miggy, so if you need RBIs and a shortstop upgrade, he could be your guy. Similarly, Mike Napoli and Jarrod Saltalamacchia are hitting behind Ortiz. 

Allen Craig and Freddie Freeman have disappointed in homers, keeping them from truly elite first base production, but don't make the mistake of thinking the RBIs aren't there. Dan Uggla joins Freeman in a Braves lineup that keeps generating runs.

With his trade to the Yankees (and batting cleanup in his first game), Alfonso Soriano just saw his RBI potential go way up. Now, these Yankees aren't exactly Murderers' Row, but they're better than the Cubs. Hitting behind Robinson Cano shouldn't bother anyone.

Strikeouts

You can get to the top of the standings in Strikeouts just by pitching the most games, but there are all kinds of obstacles to that: innings limits, anti-streaming rules, and the poor performance of volume-heavy pitching staffs. So here are some guys who can help you compete in K's. Many of them are widely available, so that's nice too.

Hector Santiago (13% owned in Yahoo! leagues), Corey Kluber (29%), and Tony Cingrani (49%) are all striking out more than a batter per inning without killing your ERA. (They aren't all great for your WHIP, I admit.) As you can see, there's a good chance that one of them is available on your league's waiver wire.

Francisco Liriano, Jeff Samardzija, and Justin Masterson are a step above Santiago and company, and they'll require a trade to go after.  They will probably be better for your rate stats. Ubaldo Jimenez, is a step below, but only owned in 17% of Yahoo! leagues. He will kill your WHIP, though.

In the last month, several pitchers have stepped up their strikeout game: Tim Lincecum and Mat Latos are striking out over 11 batters per nine IP. John Lackey and (to my great surprise) Jeremy Hellickson are whiffing more than a batter per inning. 

On the lower end of the scale, Jose Quintana (18% owned in Yahoo! leagues), Tom Gorzelanny (5%), Jonathan Pettibone (5%), and Erik Bedard (2%) are screamingly available and all generating strikeouts over the last month. If you're in position to play the hot hand in a deep league, these are the guys to look out for.

WHIP

I can't do much about the hits part of WHIP--it's notoriously luck-dependent, all the more so over as short a time span as what remains of the season. So, let's take a look at the BB/9 half instead.

Jordan Zimmermann hasn't pitched well in his last few starts, but he's still got a 1.34 BB/9 on the season. If you want to risk that his recent slump is temporary (I would), he could be a big help to anyone's WHIP category.

Hiroki Kuroda's 1.76 BB/9 looks good, but his ERA is already so lucky that you should be prepared for it to rise even if he helps your WHIP. 

With Tim Hudson's injury, the chatter about Julio Teheran getting dropped from the rotation with Brandon Beachy's return from the DL has ended, though his 1.89 BB/9 suggests that such talk might never have been serious.

Ervin Santana and A.J. Griffin share 1.95 BB/9 marks, though if Santana gets traded he'll lose the benefit of baseball's top defense.

Rick Porcello (1.86 BB/9) is only 14% owned in Yahoo! leagues, and Eric Stults (1.98 BB/9) is only 31% owned. 

Some pitchers who've been hot this month include Bronson Arroyo (49% owned), Bartolo Colon, Kyle Lohse, John Danks (3% ), and Scott Feldman (41%). All five have BB/9 rates of 1.10 or below in the last 30 days, though Colon comes with significant baggage.

Some Guys Worth Picking Up

Christian Yelich is owned in every daily and keeper league, I know. But don't give up on him in weekly formats.

David DeJesus is returning from the DL, as should be half the Yankees' infield. Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez aren't exactly who they used to be, but both could pay dividends for a waiver claim. Long-term, we can expect Biogenesis fallout for A-Rod, but don't be shocked if the appeals process lets him play most of the rest of the season. Whether or no he hits is another story. 

Warning: A previous version of this article contained an unintelligible section. It has been altered from that sorry condition. 



2013 Position Rankings: Starting Pitchers 1-40

You've waited a long time for these (two whole days!), so I'll keep the intro short. Starting pitching is deep again this year, so expect more from your staff. Don't go accepting WHIP's of 1.30, or K/9 rates of 6.8% if you don't have to. Whether you believe in piling on starters early, or waiting for the sake of your offense, there's plenty of good pitching to fill in mixed league staffs. It's getting great pitching that's the trick. The very best will give you all four categories in spades, all for a low level of risk. Yeah, not so many guys fit that bill.

Monday featured the pitchers ranked 41-80, not to mention a hoard of deep-league fill-ins. Before that, we ranked the Relievers and all the hitters ShortstopsThird BasemenSecond BasemenFirst BasemenCatchers, and  Outfielders. Today's rankings come from a team discussion, featuring Tim Dierkes and the entire RotoAuthority staff. As always, they're divided into groups of similar value, and tiered by where they deserve to be drafted in a standard league. If you're bidding in an auction, consider players in the same tier to be of similar price.

Different leagues will take starters at different paces, and slight variations in scoring systems can completely change the value of pitchers relative to position players. Because of this, the round labels on these tiers are a looser guideline than for other positions.

1st Round

1. Stephen Strasburg, WAS

I've said before that Strasburg is the top pitcher, and the only one to belong in the first round--I'm certainly not going back on it now. He gives you Wins, ERA, and WHIP to equal anyone else in baseball, and piles on the strikeouts. If I'm choosing between him and a broken down OF, I know who to take.

2nd Round

2. Justin Verlander, DET
3. Clayton Kershaw, LAD

Just as Strasburg is alone in the first, no one belongs with this pair in the second. Verlander's longer track record gives him the slightest of edges in my book. If you disagree, that's fine, because either is a great choice.

3rd-4th Rounds

4. Cole Hamels, PHI
5. Felix Hernandez, SEA
6. Cliff Lee, PHI
7. R.A. Dickey, TOR
8. David Price, TBR
9. CC Sabathia, NYY
10. Adam Wainwright, STL

Hamels does everything, just like the top three...but he does just a little less. Also, the Phillies don't have the offense they used to. With a better lineup, you could take Hernandez with Verlander and Kershaw, easily. Lee's age worries some, but I'm all about that 7.39 K/BB rate. Knuckleballers scare people, and so does anything they didn't see coming, so this ranking for Dickey is bold. I figure he can regress a lot and still be a top-flight pitcher, enjoying the run support in Toronto. Price is a great pitcher and a rising star, but he did overperform his FIP by almost half a run (0.49, actually); it's not that I'm down on him, just that my expectations are a little tempered. So far, Sabathia has been on schedule, which means he'll just keep dominating for a New York team that will find some way to get him run support. Keep an eye on his health, though. Speaking of health, Wainwright seems to have it back, which means he's one of baseball's best again.

Rounds 5-6

11. Gio Gonzalez, WAS
12. Madison Bumgarner, SFG
13. Max Scherzer, DET
14. Yu Darvish, TEX
15. Matt Cain, SFG
16. Mat Latos, CIN
17. Zack Greinke, LAD
18. Yovani Gallardo, MIL
19. James Shields

Gonzalez has a PED investigation hanging over his head, but the walks are a bigger cloud for me. Bumgarner fizzled a little at the end of the year, but his overall trend is still sky-high. Scherzer and Darvish are like Strasburg with the strikeouts, but like Monday's pitchers for WHIP. We all believe that Cain's actual performance beats his advanced metrics...but he still doesn't get enough strikeouts to be fully elite. Latos improved considerably after an abysmal start, and he gets to pitch in front of a great lineup. Health issues loom over Greinke's status, but his talent should flourish in his NL return and a pitcher's park. Gallardo more than makes up for his walks with all those strikeouts. Shields will miss the run and park support he had in Tampa Bay.

7th-8th Rounds

20. Chris Sale, CHW
21. Johnny Cueto, CIN
22. Jered Weaver, LAA
23. Roy Halladay, PHI
24. Kris Medlen, ATL
25. Ian Kennedy, ARI
26. Aroldis Chapman, CIN
27. Jordan Zimmermann, WAS
28. Jake Peavy, CHW
29. Jeff Samardzija, CHC
30. Matt Moore, TBR 

Sale slowed down over the course of the season, and will be expected to pitch even more innings next year--there is considerable downside here to go with his great potential. Cueto doesn't miss enough bats to be an ace, but he's a very good pitcher on a very good team. Though he has the reputation of being more, so is Weaver. That sub 7.00 K/9 doesn't hold up very well unless you win 20 games and outperform your FIP by nearly a run. I would have put Halladay up a lot higher, but his springtime troubles make me worry about lingering injury or imminent decline. Medlen's amazing third of a season has people excited for good reason. A little too excited, but still, he's very worth owning. Kennedy's ERA was higher than I'd like last year, but his peripherals still looked good; I anticipate a rebound. Chapman might be returning to the bullpen, but this is where I'd take the chance if he does start. Zimmermann is a quietly high-quality starter. Peavy proved his critics wrong (and had me kicking myself for not taking him when I had the chance) last year, but his fragility still hurts his value. Samardzija proved to be a strikeout wizard. Another season like that and he'll join the near-elite. Moore could make a big jump, and that potential is part of his price tag. Fortunately, he's already quite good.

Rounds 9-10

31. Josh Johnson, TOR
32. Jon Niese, NYM
33. Homer Bailey, CIN
34. A.J. Burnett, PIT
35. Tim Lincecum, SFG
36. Anibal Sanchez, DET
37. Marco Estrada, MIL
38. Doug Fister, DET
39. Brandon Morrow, TOR
40. Lance Lynn, STL

To me, there's a pretty big jump between the pitchers in Rounds 7-8, and those in 9-10. Johnson had an uncharacteristic 2012: he was healthy and non-elite. If he stays healthy, and returns to form, than he's a top ten pitcher in Toronto. If he stays healthy and stays the same, he's still a very good pitcher to have. If he stays healthy. Niese has gone two years in a row striking out over three times as many batters as he walks. Maybe it's time for him to go from "quietly good" to regular good. Bailey has been around forever, but he only just put together his first full season. It was really good though. Speaking of really good, Burnett was too, making him the Pirates' highest-ranked fantasy pitcher in...maybe ever. His K/9 was back where it belongs, and his K/BB was his highest since 2008. Lincecum was not good, but you can't write his whole career off. Even a partial return to form would mean big value here. Sanchez didn't adjust to the AL immediately, but a whole season pitching in front of the Detroit offense should agree with him. Estrada has become a trendy pick for good reason, but I have to remind myself that he doesn't exactly have much track record. Fister's strikeouts (or lack thereof) always made me wary of him, but he kept 'em up in Detroit. He'll have to with that infield. I'm not nearly as intrigued by Morrow's suddenly-great ERA as I am worried about his fallen strikeout rate. I had thought that Lynn was just a flash-in-the-pan, and his lousy August pretty much confirmed that...but then he was good again in September. I don't know exactly what he is, other than a guy who struck out more than a batter per inning last year.

You already know the end of this story, and you know how and when to draft pitchers in various types of leagues, so I'll finish off this series with a simple reminder: there are a lot of good pitchers out there. There aren't very many great ones. 


Full Story |  Comments (0) | Categories: ERA | Starters | Strikeouts | WHIP | Wins

2013 Position Rankings: Starting Pitchers 41-80

There are rules for drafting starters, or spending on them in an auction. They've accumulated over time, and they involve spending only so much, or only so many high picks on the position. Those are fine rules, and I'm not here to knock them over. Your leaguemates might, though, and if they do, you'll have to choose: go with the flow...or against it. I've had both strategies work out. And fail. It's for this reason that you should consider the recommended rounds to be much more fluid at this position than in others. Every draft will take its own course.

Pitchers are volatile commodities, and even the best ones can't be fully trusted. How many of us took Roy Halladay early last year and thought we couldn't be safer? New opportunities show up throughout the year, in the form of top prospects and out-of-nowhere surprises. Marco Estrada and Wade Miley probably helped a lot of us to championships. So, don't be afraid to wait a little on starters during the draft: the conventional wisdom is there for a reason. (Now, I know I must be getting old.)

Last week, we ranked the Relievers and finished all the hitters:  ShortstopsThird BasemenSecond BasemenFirst BasemenCatchers, and  Outfielders. Today's rankings come from a team discussion, featuring Tim Dierkes and the entire RotoAuthority staff. As always, they're divided into groups of similar value, and tiered by where they deserve to be drafted in a standard league. If you're bidding in an auction, consider players in the same tier to be of similar price.We start in the middle, with number 41, and continue to number 80. After that, you're drafting to fill various needs, so we highlight the strengths and potentials of unranked starters. 

What about the top 40 starters? You'll have to wait, but only two more days--the climax of our rankings series comes out on Wednesday. 

Rounds 11-12

41. Mike Minor, ATL
42. Andy Pettitte, NYY
43. Hiroki Kuroda, NYY
44. Dan Haren, WAS
45. Wade Miley, ARI
46. C.J. Wilson, LAA
47. Jon Lester, BOS
48. Ryan Vogelsong, SFG

It's mid-draft and you've probably got your top two starters, maybe your top three. The elite pitchers are gone and you're left to choose from a mix of good and steady ones, and ones with higher risk and reward. Minor fits in the second category, but given the way he improved over the course of last season, I'd say he's heavier on the "reward" side of things. Ditto for Pettitte, who just pitched his first spring outing and could be a high-quality pitcher with extra help in wins. Kuroda's strikeouts slipped a bit, but he's a low risk guy on what should still be a good Yankees team. Haren terrifies me, with spring velocity issues and heath concerns that led the Angels to practically throw him out of town. Miley would be a lot higher if he just struck anyone out. Wilson, Lester, and Vogelsong have all shown good and ugly sides in the last years. Expect a bit of both from them next year, but more of the good.

Rounds 13-14

49. Ryan Dempster, BOS
50. Phil Hughes, NYY
51. Edwin Jackson, CHC
52. Brett Anderson, OAK
53. Alexi Ogando, TEX
54. Matt Harvey, NYM
55. Hisashi Iwakuma, SEA
56. Tim Hudson, ATL
57. Tommy Milone, OAK

Dempster and Hughes might not be great for your rate stats, but they should be assets in K's and Wins. Jackson is as steady as they come, and he has an above-average strikeout rate. Anderson has tons of talent, but he's made of glass. Ogando is talented too, but he's still an unproven commodity as a starter. Harvey's K/9 rate alone makes him worth owning. Iwakuma, Hudson, and Milone are all relatively safe picks. Wins are a limitation for Iwakuma, strikeouts are for the other two.

Rounds 15-16

58. Jarrod Parker, OAK
59. Matt Harrison, TEX
60. Mike Fiers, MIL
61. Dillon Gee, NYM
62. Matt Garza, CHC
63. James McDonald, PIT
64. Jason Hammel, BAL
65. Wei-Yin Chen, BAL
66. Trevor Cahill, ARI

Parker and Harrison pitched to good seasons last year, and could be in line to improve, but I wouldn't expect another 18 wins from Harrison. Fiers and Gee both pitched very well in limited time last year, though Fiers flamed out in September. Both are high-risk, high-reward guys. Garza will be on the shelf until "possibly early May," but if you can wait, he's a fantasy asset when healthy. McDonald went all Jekyll and Hyde last year, with great and horrible parts to his season. On balance, he's still worth having. Hammel seems healthy so far; if durable he could be very high on this list. Chen and Cahill don't have huge upside, but they can capably round out a fantasy staff. 

Rounds 17-18

67. Joe Blanton, LAA
68. Shaun Marcum, NYM
69. Alex Cobb, TBR
70. Scott Baker, CHC
71. Trevor Bauer, CLE
72. A.J. Griffin, OAK
73. Josh Beckett, LAD
74. Chris Capuano, LAD
75. Derek Holland, TEX
76. Johan Santana, NYM

I know Blanton was awful last year, but his peripherals were just so good. I can't help taking a chance on a guy with a 4.88 K/BB. Marcum is a great pitcher when he's healthy, but the contract he got tells me that most teams in baseball didn't think he was worth taking a chance on. Of course, we aren't risking millions of dollars here. Maybe mock drafters don't know Baker isn't scheduled to be ready by Opening Day. He's a huge risk, but the upside could be 160 IP of nearly ace-level pitching. Like pretty much everyone else that pitches for Oakland, Griffin looked pretty good without very many strikeouts last year. Theoretically, Beckett could return to form in the NL. I'll believe it when I see it, probably on someone else's team. Capuano is easily one of the five best pitchers on the Dodgers, but he still might pitch in the bullpen. Sometimes life isn't fair. Holland took a bit of a backwards step last year, but he's still interesting. I had been excited about Santana, but the spring reports haven't been encouraging. His talent is still worth taking a chance on.

Rounds 19-20

77. Brandon McCarthy, ARI
78. Patrick Corbin, ARI
79. Bud Norris, HOU
80. Wandy Rodriguez, PIT

McCarthy was healthier than usual last year, but his strikeouts disappeared. If Corbin wins the fifth starter's job, he's got intriguing peripherals. Norris is a strikeout machine, but the Astros are just so bad. And his rate stats aren't great either. If the rumors of a trade to St. Louis come to fruition, though, bump him up ten or twenty spots as a wins and K's guy. "Magic" Wandy's strikeout numbers keep trending down, but he's still decent overall, and so are the Pirates. I suppose more pitchers can and should go in these rounds, but at some point the numbers lose their meaning, and all that matters is what kind of pitcher you need, and which kind of risks your team is ready to take. 

Deep League Options

Injury Returners: Cory Luebke, SDP (midseason), Colby Lewis, TEX (late May), Neftali Feliz, TEX (July), Brandon Beachy (June)

Wins: Bronson Arroyo, CIN, Mark Buehrle, TOR, Clay Buchholz, BOS, Ivan Nova, NYY, Paul Maholm, ATL

Strikeouts: Edinson Volquez, SDP, Felix Doubront, BOS, Chris Narveson, MIL

Prospects: Dylan Bundy, BAL, Shelby Miller, STL, Tyler Skaggs, ARI, Danny Hultzen, SEA, Julio Teheran, ATL, Gerrit Cole, PIT, Zack Wheeler, NYM, Dan Straily, OAK, Chris Archer, TBR

If I Only Had a Job: Kyle Lohse, FA, Hyun-Jin Ryu, LAD, Aaron Harang, LAD, Ted Lilly, LAD, Carlos Villanueva, CHC, Mark Rogers, MIL

High Risk (Moderate-High Reward): Chad Billingsley, LAD, Tommy Hanson, LAA, Ervin Santana, KCR, Chris Tillman, BAL, John Lackey, BOS, Ubaldo Jimenez, CLE, Scott Kazmir, CLE, Erik Bedard, HOU, Jorge De La Rosa, COL, Wily Peralta, MIL, Jaime Garcia, STL

Low Risk (Low-Moderate Reward): Lucas Harrell, HOU, Gavin Floyd, CHW, Jeff Karstens, PIT, Jason Vargas, LAA, Bartolo Colon, OAK,  Miguel Gonzalez, BAL, John Danks, CHW, Jose Quintana, CHW, Zach McAllister, CLE, Brett Myers, CLE, Rick Porcello, DET, Jeremy Guthrie, KCR, Wade Davis, KCR, Vance Worley, MIN, Joe Saunders, SEA, Jeff Niemann, TBR, Jeremy Hellickson, TBR, Ricky Nolasco, MIA, John Lannan, PHI, Clayton Richard, SDP, Freddy Garcia, SDP, Jake Westbrook, STL, Barry Zito, SFG, Ross Detwiler, WAS

No, the above isn't quite an exhaustive list of Major League starters, but it is pretty close. If your league goes deep, you might just need several of these guys. If it's shallow you can stick to the top 80, and don't forget to tune in on Wednesday to find who our top starters are.



How to Win: WHIP

It's time to WHIP your roster into shape. Let's WHIP up a great pitching staff. Who's the majority WHIP of your fantasy team? And as many other cliched puns on WHIP as you can think of. Now that we've gotten that out of our systems, we can all agree never to speak of this again.

Another thing we can agree on is this: WHIP is a great category. After all the team- and luck-dependencies of Runs Scored and ERA, WHIP should come as a breath of fresh air. It's not that there isn't any luck that goes into the process--there certainly is--but there isn't nearly as much of it. WHIP tells us a lot about a pitcher's true talent level, which is nice--we can trust it. The only downside is that everyone else can trust it and the opportunity to game this system is a lot less than it could be. The good news, though, is that we get to list 24 pitchers below, precisely because we can expect most of them to be among the league leaders. To give you a little extra edge, the minimum IP for these guys is just 120, so maybe some of them will have slipped through the cracks of your opponents' preparation. 

 2012's Top 24

1. Kris Medlen                       0.91
2. Jered Weaver                   1.02
2. Clayton Kershaw             1.02
4. Matt Cain                            1.04
5. R.A. Dickey                        1.05
6. Justin Verlander              1.06
7. Kyle Lohse                          1.09
8. Jake Peavy                          1.10
8. David Price                          1.10
10. Madison Bumgarner     1.11
10. Cliff Lee                              1.11
10. Brandon Morrow           1.11
13. Cole Hamels                     1.12
14. Gio Gonzalez                    1.13
15. Chris Sale                          1.14
15. CC Sabathia                      1.14
15. Marco Estrada                1.14
15. Felix Hernandez            1.14
19. Mike Minor                      1.15
19. Stephen Strasburg         1.15
21. Mat Latos                         1.16
22. Hiroki Kuroda               1.17
22. James Shields                1.17
22. Jordan Zimmermann 1.17
22. Johnny Cueto                1.17
22. Mark Buehrle                 1.17
22. Jon Niese                        1.17 

Did you notice the freebies? Thanks to the miracle of rounding, a six-way tie brought us to 27 names. Lucky us. By the way, when I searched for pitchers who threw at least 120 innings, I got 121 entries. The worst WHIP belonged to Ricky Romero--an ugly 1.67. More usefully, perhaps, the median number is 1.27 and is shared by many; the 2012 average was 1.31. Interestingly, as recently as 2009, the league average was 1.39. So don't be too impressed with WHIP's in the 20's. Baseball isn't the same game as it was half a decade ago, and you get to have higher expectations from your pitchers.

WHIP comes from two places, obviously enough: walks allowed and hits allowed. A pitcher with a consistently low WHIP probably keeps both of them pretty far down, most of the time. That said, one is much easier to control than another, and it is, you guessed it, that walk rate. Who's keeping their walks down? Let's see:

BB/9 

1. Cliff Lee                                1.19

2. Bartolo Colon                      1.36

3. Blake Beavan                       1.42

4. Kris Medlen                         1.50

5. Bronson Arroyo                  1.56

6. Joe Blanton                         1.60

7. Scott Diamond                    1.61

8. Kyle Lohse                           1.62

9. Tommy Milone                   1.71

9. Wade Miley                         1.71

10. Clayton Richard              1.73

11. Mark Buehrle                    1.78

12. Tommy Hunter                1.82

13. Marco Estrada                 1.89

14. Dan Haren                       1.94

15. Jordan Zimmermann    1.98

15. CC Sabathia                      1.98

Of these pitchers (all those under the arbitrary milestone of 2.00/9 with at least 120 IP), most had helpful WHIP's. Some had very helpful numbers. A couple were...not so helpful: Beavan, Blanton, and Richard were barely better than average (for their inning count), while Milone and Haren were both worse than average. For Haren, it seems to be related to his injury issues last year. For Blanton, it seems to be that he's chronically too hittable. The others could have had similar issues, or they just could have gotten a few bad bounces on balls in play.

A couple more names stand out to me on this list: check out Zimmermann and Sabathia riding the end of it. Right now, they are the 23rd and 20th starters off the board at MockDraftCentral, giving both triple-digit ADP's. Keeping their walks down and pitching in front of powerful offenses seems like a recipe for more success than they're being given credit for. 

Miley's presence here is also interesting. When I see a young starter have surprising Big League success, I'm usually a little hesitant. Usually someone like that has great stuff, no idea how to harness it, and the league will figure him out by his second season. A good red flag for a guy like that is, of course, his walk rate. Miley's kind of the opposite, and that makes him interesting. Especially for this category.

I'd also like to use this opportunity to plug Marco Estrada. Again. Look how good he is! 

 Good WHIP, Lousy ERA

If WHIP and ERA are siblings, WHIP is the quiet, studious one and ERA is the high-drama, high-energy one. Guess which one gets more attention? Guess which one we'll vote Most Likely to Succeed in the end? A pitcher with a great ERA will never fly under the radar. Even Joe Morgan will notice. Someone with a good or great WHIP, but a mediocre or lousy ERA might just escape some notice. Not only that, but just about anyone is more likely to underperform their true talent in ERA than overperform it in WHIP. Peavy, Bumgarner, Sabathia, and Estrada all had top-20 WHIP's, but ERA's in the 3.30's. Mike Minor was right there with them in WHIP, but sported a 4.16 ERA.

Some more pitchers on the WHIP leaderboard but closer to the middle of the pack in ERA include: Latos, Kuroda, Shields, Buehrle, Niese, Jason Vargas, Miley, Doug Fister, Zack Greinke, Ryan Dempster, and Travis Wood.

After Wood, we start getting past WHIP's of 1.20 and into the territory where both numbers are in the middle of the pack. To make a real mark in team WHIP, a pitcher has to be very good indeed, because the median is so low.

A Few Final Words 

The best thing you can do for your team WHIP is to be aggressive when you bid or draft. Jump an extra dollar or an extra round on one of those pitchers with a helpful WHIP, even if they came with a marginal ERA last year. The band of successful pitchers in this category is pretty small. As pitching has gotten better in the last couple years, so have the numbers required to win your fantasy league. Because WHIP is so (relatively) predictable, I suggest aiming high and getting multiple good-to-great WHIP starters, and peppering your staff with relievers who get saves or strikeouts and--quietly--don't walk anyone. 




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