April 23, 2012
Resident Fantasy Genius
Keep Calm and Carry On
Last Thursday, I decided to have a little fun with small sample sizes, checking out the success (or lack thereof) of my value picks from my preseason Fantasy Tier Rankings. While I looked at the hitters on Thursday, today we’ll move on and inspect the starting pitchers.
As I did last time, I’m going to ignore the Four- and Five-Star Value Picks because, well, most of them weren’t really values. Everyone knows that Clayton Kershaw is a good player, so I’m not going to bother going over him. Instead, I’ll focus on the one-, two-, and three-star guys that you likely acquired on the cheap. These are going to be the money-makers of a fantasy team, the guys that you’re hoping to make big profits on.
Also, keep in mind that this list ignores players that I really liked but who didn’t get the Value Pick label—which is especially true for pitchers, since there’s a total of just six guys who got the VP label. For example, I talked about how much I liked Danny Duffy (2.13 ERA) as a one-star American League pitcher, but Hector Noesi (9.49 ERA) got the VP sticker—with the caveat that “a case could be made for a half-dozen others.”
So let’s dive in:
It’s funny how quickly stats can change in a small sample. Had I posted this on Thursday with the hitters, that ERA and WHIP would have been significantly lower at 2.91 and 1.11, respectively. Some poor starts from Morrow, Dickey, and Noesi over the weekend cranked them up significantly, and a couple of good ones could bring them right down. You gotta love April.
Bedard has been great on the surface, but that success hasn’t been accompanied by his usual stellar strikeout rates. His fastball velocity is down 2 mph, which is a bit worrisome, but at least he’s looking healthy. I’ll reserve criticism for another few weeks.
But in September, Felix Hernandez suggested he tweak his motion, and wouldn't you know Vargas had the best month of his career. Before the change—a little extra torso twist on his leg kick—Vargas' fastball averaged 87.1 mph; after, it was 88.2. The effects cascaded. He began to throw his changeup half as often. Consequently, when he did throw the changeup, his whiff rate went way up, and his overall strike rate also improved.
That change appears to have stuck, as Vargas’ fastball is back up over 88 this year with the same increased usage pattern he employed in September. As a result, his off-speed pitches have been more effective, with the curve taking some of the credit in 2012. Vargas is not a 2.84 ERA pitcher (or even a 3.30 FIP pitcher), but he should be quite good going forward.
Noesi hasn’t been as bad as that ERA indicates, but he hasn’t been particularly good either. His velocity and stuff look the same, however, and he is striking out 7.3 batters per nine. For a one-star, AL-only pitcher, I still have confidence in Noesi’s ability to turn it around and have a solid season.
I may sound like a broken record (yes, I know, Rob McQuown hates the phrase; I was going to go with asstarr1’s suggested replacement phrase “Skip Bayless,” but let’s be honest—when does Bayless talk about small sample sizes and expected ERA indicators?), but the moral of the story is this: stay calm. It’s only been a couple of weeks. Some pitchers are overperforming; some are underperforming. Things will even out more as we move deeper into the season, so don’t jump ship (or onto a bandwagon) without a really good reason.