Big Baseball Update To Start The Week

Okay, I know it is Tuesday, but that was supposed to be the lead headline yesterday on the website. It was a marathon session to get as much updated as possible for the fantasy baseball Cheatsheet Compiler & Draft Buddy since our prior update, last week.

I noticed the Zeile Consensus Projections from FantasyPros got updated over the weekend, plus our depth charts were getting a bit stale. So I started first thing Monday morning updating those projections, all of our depth charts (except the Chicago Cubs – nothing personal, there was no new roster info on them from our stats provider), and the Average Draft Position data from each of our sources, Mock Draft Central, FantasyPros and National Fantasy Baseball Championship.

That sounds like a pretty good update, right? I thought so, and I had that all finished Monday afternoon. You should have heard about it then (and if you clicked the “Check for Update” button in the Cheatsheet Compiler it would have told you there was an update).

However… before I announced the update, I got tinkering around with some of our pages on the website. Mainly the player pages, like this one for Joey Votto, or if you prefer a pitcher, how about David Price. I added player rankings, by position and overall, to the players pages. The rankings are highlighted in the upper-right, and also there is a short rankings box below the stats and projections showing not only the player’s ranking, but the players ranked right around that player.

I was pretty happy with the results. Then I continued tinkering on some of the formatting of our tables to give them a sharper look and feel. By the time all of this tinkering got done, it was late, I was tired, so I figured I would start first thing Tuesday properly announcing the update.

Lo and behold, this morning I wake up and FantasyPros updated the Zeile projections again, so back to work I go. And it was quite an update. For those who like deep, deep fantasy baseball projections, you should like this. The number of hitter projections expanded from 407 players to a whopping 702. On the pitchers side, they increased from 283 to 690.

Finally my day and half journey is finished so I can announce the projections update. Open your copy of the Cheatsheet Compiler, make sure on the update tab the projection source is set to Zeile (FantasyPros), and hit Update Projections. This will also bring in updated ADP and depth charts. The latest download file – make sure you are updated to version 1.1 – includes this latest update.

Have fun prepping for your fantasy drafts.

Tiers of Starting Pitching – Elite, Superstars and Studs

Cheatsheet Compiler & Draft Buddy BaseballLadies and gentlemen, I bring you my Tiers of Starting Pitching for 2011.

This year, I’ve incorporated Defense Factors, as explained in my Team Defense Grades article, as well as Park Factors, both of which have a huge impact on pitching analysis in my opinion. The plus and minus symbols for each are from the perspective of the pitcher. A plus sign is good for the pitcher, while a plus sign plus sign is better. A minus sign is bad for the pitcher, while a minus sign minus sign is worse, and some are graded Neutral, or average. For more detail on the defense grades, check the introduction and legend in the aforementioned article.

A big thanks to FanGraphs, Baseball Prospectus, ESPN, Baseball Reference, and my old friends at Mastersball.com and RotoJunkieFix for all their help over the years in figuring things out.

I hope these rankings help you find great fantasy value drafting your starting rotation this season. Post questions and comments below, or in the forum, as I’d be happy to discuss any of the rankings.

[Editor's Note: Rankings updated March 21st.]

Tier 1: The King’s Throne

1st round talent

1. Felix Hernandez, RHP, SEA (2.27 ERA, 3.11 FIP, -0.84 Differential)
Defense: plus sign plus sign
Park Factor: plus sign
I once had a man crush on Austin Kearns, so I bought a bobblehead of him. He proceeded to suck ever since. Then I fell for Travis Hafner. He peaked soon thereafter, and then he fell off the face of the earth. I won’t be purchasing a Felix Hernandez bobblehead. You’re welcome. Long live the King.

2. Roy Halladay, RHP, PHI (2.44 ERA, 3.07 FIP, -0.63 Differential)
Defense: Neutral
Park Factor: Neutral
He’s amazing, and he’s a helluva lot of fun to own on your team, both real and fantasy. Draft and enjoy.

 

Tier 1.5: The Superstars

Pitchers who have Tier 1 ability but are more likely to be Tier 2

3. Tim Lincecum, RHP, SF (3.43 ERA, 3.13 FIP, +0.30 Differential)
Defense: plus sign plus sign
Park Factor: plus sign
Right-handed pitchers are always going to find it easier to pitch in AT&T Park as it’s very difficult for left-handed hitters to hit anything over the wall in right. We miss you, Barry Bonds. In other words, even as Lincecum’s fastball has continued to decline, he’s been able to fend off a massive spike in homerun rate in part due to his home park (and in part due to the fact that he’s a fairly crafty pitcher who has continued to up his groundball rates every single year in the league). I don’t think he’s an unmitigated fantasy uber-star any longer, but he’s still an ace pitcher who you can expect to have an ERA in the high 2.00′s or low 3.00′s along with elite strikeout rates and a WHIP in the 1.10′s. I still love me some Timmah!

4. Clayton Kershaw, LHP, LAD (2.91 ERA, 3.07 FIP, -0.16 Differential)
Defense: Neutral
Park Factor: plus sign
At 23, Kershaw is already one of the better pitchers in all of baseball, and there’s a chance he continues to improve in 2011. His control steadily improved over the course of last season (with the one blip being August) to where he was throwing a 4.57 K/BB in September. He has elite level talent and could eventually become the type of low-2′s ERA, 1.00′s WHIP, 230+ strikeout pitcher that dominates fantasy leagues. I don’t quite expect that from him in 2011, but what I do anticipate is for him to throw more innings this season allowing for 220+ strikeouts with his ERA maybe rising a tad due to increased homeruns given up against right-handers and the other stats staying pretty similar to 2010. He’s already an awesome hurler who could be one of the best 3 or 4 pitchers in baseball in the next year or two.

5. Cliff Lee, LHP, PHI (3.18 ERA, 2.63 FIP, +0.55 Differential)
Defense: Neutral
Park Factor: Neutral
My favorite thing about Lee is that he seems more likely to walk across his lawn than walk a hitter these days. That’s a daily counter I’d love to see on ESPN’s ticker. Fantasy-wise, he’s a workhorse who will give you a low 3′s ERA, 180+ K’s, and an elite level WHIP to go with lots of Wins. The move to the NL full-time will serve him well. I’m a fan – big time.

 

Tier 2: The Superstars, Part Deux

6. CC Sabathia, LHP, NYY (3.18 ERA, 3.54 FIP, -0.36 Differential)
Defense: plus sign
Park Factor: minus sign
New York’s park factor doesn’t really affect CC as much because being left-handed allows him to neutralize it a bit. And yes, I realize he’s trended downward peripherally the last couple of seasons, but I’m not too worried about it. Expect much more of the same with Sabathia as he puts up a FIP near 3.40 but likely outperforms it due to the good outfield defense for the Yankees. He’ll add 190+ strikeouts, a good WHIP, and a bevy of Wins. And hey, he’s slimmer this year, too, so you can even enjoy watching him more as he jiggles less on the mound!

7. Mat Latos, RHP, SD (2.92 ERA, 3.03 FIP, -0.11 Differential)
Defense: plus sign
Park Factor: plus sign plus sign
Latos is an elite pitching talent in an elite pitcher’s park with a good defense behind him. In other words, he’s an elite fantasy pitcher. It’s possible the Padres may put an innings cap on him, so don’t bid for more than 200 innings of production. He’s basically Jake Peavy 2.0, and I’m looking at Peavy’s 2005 season as my optimistic projection for Latos this season.

8. Justin Verlander, RHP, DET (3.37 ERA, 3.04 FIP, +0.33 Differential)
Defense: plus sign
Park Factor: Neutral
Another season with a 3.25-3.50 ERA, 1.20ish WHIP (you can go a little lower if you like here), and 215 K sounds pretty nice. Sign me up for this workhorse.

9. Jon Lester, LHP, BOS (3.25 ERA, 3.21 FIP, +0.04 Differential)
Defense: plus sign
Park Factor: minus sign
Lester’s an ace, and he’s fun to both watch and to own. He’s already a strikeout machine, he keeps the ball in the park, and he induces groundballs at a very high clip. There’s even room for improvement in his walk rate. Bid on more of the same from him in 2011 as he showed in 2010, and there’s small hope for a high 2.00′s ERA within him.

10. Josh Johnson, RHP, FLA (2.30 ERA, 2.46 FIP, -0.16 Differential)
Defense: minus sign
Park Factor: Neutral
Johnson is a certified fantasy ace at this point, but it’s tough to project him for much more than 190 innings with his injury history. Last year may also be the peak of what you could expect from him strikeout-wise, too. I lean toward him having an ERA in the very low 3.00′s, 190+ K, and a WHIP in the 1.10′s.

11. Tommy Hanson, RHP, ATL (3.33 ERA, 3.34 FIP, -0.01 Differential)
Defense: minus sign minus sign
Park Factor: Neutral
I think he finally puts it all together this year and makes a run at 190+ K with a low 3.00′s ERA and a WHIP in the low-to-mid 1.10′s. We have a fantasy ace in the making right here.

12. Jered Weaver, RHP, LAA (3.01 ERA, 3.13 FIP, -0.12 Differential)
Defense: plus sign
Park Factor: Neutral
Weaver went out and became an ace last year which was somewhat unexpected given his stagnant growth curve. Everyone will assume regression, and they’d be right, but Bourjos in the outfield for a guy like Weaver could mean a world of difference for the likes of Weaver and his flyballing ways. Even with regression in ERA, a 3.50 ERA, an excellent mid-1.10′s WHIP, and 190 K doesn’t seem out of reach.

 

Tier 3: The Studs

13. David Price, LHP, TB (2.72 ERA, 3.48 FIP, -0.76 Differential)
Defense: plus sign plus sign
Park Factor: plus sign plus sign
Part of the reason David Price was able to outperform his FIP last year was because his big park and excellent defense aided him to a 1.96 ERA at home. Those factors really haven’t changed much as both project to be extremely favorable for Price in 2011. So while everyone exclaims that Price is due for a regression, note that the regression may not be as severe as everyone believes. If I were a betting man, I’d bet on Price outperforming his FIP again, although more in the -0.20 to -0.30 Differential range than the -0.76 he posted last year. There’s also still a good chance that Price continues to hone his control, too, which could help offset a probable increase in his homeruns allowed. I’ve learned to trust talent in the past when it’s borderline as to how the numbers will fall. In Price’s case, he’s plenty talented. And so is that defense. I’d go pretty strong on Price in 2011.

14. Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP, COL (2.88 ERA, 3.08 FIP, -0.20 Differential)
Defense: minus sign
Park Factor: minus sign minus sign
Expectations have to be managed here as Ubaldo is obviously a very solid pitcher, but there’s some normalization in store for him on multiple fronts (BABIP, HR/9, and probably LOB% as well). Not to mention the fact that he’s working in an awful ballpark with what is now a mediocre to bad defense. Maybe I’m the only one who thinks Jimenez was in a little over his head last year in terms of his fantasy rate stats, but I’d rather win by being a bit too cautious with a Coors pitcher than being too cavalier. He seems likely to return to 3.25-3.50 ERA territory with low 1.20′s WHIP and 200+ K. Those are great numbers, but they’re not elite. Know the difference.

15. Chris Carpenter, RHP, STL (3.22 ERA, 3.71 FIP, -0.49 Differential)
Defense: minus sign
Park Factor: plus sign
Early injury issues this Spring remind me that Carpenter’s not getting any younger. For his career, Carpenter has been pretty much a workhorse unless he had a major injury. But I think he’s at the age where we can start to anticipate incremental drops in innings each year due to small, nagging injuries. When he’s on the field, he’s going to be vintage Carpenter, but I’d project 190 innings with anything else being extra value.

16. Dan Haren, RHP, LAA (3.91 ERA, 3.71 FIP, +0.20 Differential)
Defense: plus sign
Park Factor: Neutral
Haren’s due for a solid bounceback season as his HR/FB normalizes. And as long as Peter Bourjos is in the outfield, the Angels profile as a plus defense. He’s one of the more durable and reliable pitchers in baseball, so while he probably won’t be able to put up low-3.00 ERA’s in the AL, I’d still anticipate mid-3.00′s with plenty of K and a good WHIP in the high 1.10′s.

17. Cole Hamels, LHP, PHI (3.06 ERA, 3.67 FIP, -0.61 Differential)
Defense: Neutral
Park Factor: Neutral
Noteworthy for Hamels in 2010 was an uptick in velocity, a large increase in strikeout rate from the past couple of seasons, and the addition of a cut fastball as a new look pitch. He’s also a pitcher who has a lot of variance from his ERA to FIP. Occasionally, there are pitchers who are able to consistently out-produce their FIP’s, and Hamels has done that three out of the last four seasons. Does that mean he’ll do it again? I have no clue. But he’s a good pitcher who you can probably count on for 180 K, a WHIP in the 1.10′s, and an ERA south of 3.50. Bid on those numbers and you’re unlikely to be disappointed. And if you happen to catch him in Spring Training, look at the velo numbers on the radar gun. The closer they are to 92+ mph on the fastball, the more confident I am that he can increase the K’s and lower the ERA from that projection.

18. Francisco Liriano, LHP, MIN (3.62 ERA, 2.73 FIP, +0.89 Differential)
Defense: Neutral
Park Factor: Neutral
The Minnesota coaches and brass obviously aren’t in love with him for some reason, but I think it’s easy to have a man crush on this guy as a fantasy owner. He has excellent component stats, his fastball is back, and it’s always more fun loving a guy who isn’t even appreciated properly by his own team. Injury caveats apply, of course, so don’t bid on much more than 190 innings worth of production. But who doesn’t want a 3.25+ ERA, 190+ K and a WHIP in the low 1.20′s?

19. Yovani Gallardo, RHP, MIL (3.84 ERA, 3.02 FIP, +0.82 Differential)
Defense: minus sign minus sign
Park Factor: Neutral
He’s getting better, but I wonder how much his control can continue improving. And he’s going to need it to improve with the likes of Yuniesky Betancourt and the rest of the poor defense behind him. In any case, I think he’s good for a 3.50-3.75 ERA, a 1.28-1.34 WHIP, and 200 or so strikeouts. He isn’t the most durable of pitchers, so bet on 180 innings with anything more being a bonus. He’s got upside, though, so if you’re high on him, I can understand the sentiment. But don’t forget – Yuni!

20. Matt Cain, RHP, SF (3.14 ERA, 3.67 FIP, -0.53 Differential)
Defense: plus sign plus sign
Park Factor: plus sign plus sign
Ability to Annoy Sabermetricians of Old: plus sign plus sign
Cain’s scare with his elbow this Spring was an especially stark shock considering how much of a workhorse he has become. Let’s hope it was just a bump in the road, but knock down inning projections slightly on him (to 205) as the Giants may want to make sure they protect their investment what with all the added playoff innings he tossed last year. As for his stats, I’d guess on an ERA in the low 3′s with the positive park and defense factors coupled with his anti-FIP x-factor ability extraordinaire.

21. Daniel Hudson, RHP, ARI (2.45 ERA, 3.38 FIP, -0.93 Differential)
Defense: plus sign
Park Factor: minus sign minus sign
Unfortunately, the sterling ERA after he was shipped to Arizona in the Edwin Jackson trade probably means he won’t be too much of a bargain on draft day. What I really like about Hudson is that he’s got a good means of attack versus lefties or righties. Against lefties, his change-up is an excellent offering, and that plus good command of his fastball allows him to overmatch left-handed hitters. And against righties, his delivery is a bit deceptive and allows him to eat them up high in the zone (as evidenced in his high Infield Flyball Rate against right-handed hitters). Overall upside if he’s healthy: 3.25 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 175 K. There’s downside in the HR/FB ratio, so his ERA could blimp upwards with some bad luck in the homerun department. Still, I like his approach and stuff (and defense) enough that I would bid fairly aggressively on him.

22. Wandy Rodriguez, LHP, HOU (3.60 ERA, 3.53 FIP, +0.07 Differential)
Defense: Neutral
Park Factor: plus sign
Wandy rate stats are pretty strong and steady. He’s an excellent bet to go for a 3.50-3.70 ERA, a mid 1.20′s WHIP and healthy amount of K (think 180+). I hate his nickname, but I love his steady fantasy product.

23. Max Scherzer, RHP, DET (3.50 ERA, 3.77 FIP, -0.27 Differential)
Defense: plus sign
Park Factor: Neutral
There’s some strikeout upside in his K/9. Combine that with a probable innings increase and you have a pitcher with 200+ strikeout upside. I wouldn’t project him for much better than a 3.50 ERA or high 1.20′s WHIP just yet as he learns how to sequence his pitches better, but Scherzer is a solid play this year.

24. Roy Oswalt, RHP, PHI (2.76 ERA, 3.32 FIP, -0.56 Differential)
Defense: Neutral
Park Factor: Neutral
I expect him to veer more into the mid-3.00′s with his ERA this year with a WHIP closer to 1.20 than 1.00 and 175 K instead of 190. But he’s still a fine pitcher to own on a fantasy team, and the Phillies should provide him with a few more Wins than he’s been accustomed to in the last couple of years.

25. Chad Billingsley, RHP, LAD (3.57 ERA, 3.04 FIP, +0.53 Differential)
Defense: Neutral
Park Factor: plus sign
Lost a bit behind the Kershaw breakout was a nice improvement by Chad Billingsley. His BB/9 moved closer to 3 than 4 for the first time in his career, and his FIP dipped noticeably because of it. There’s some noise in a lot of his peripheral numbers, but the short of it is that he could probably produce a similar ERA this year compared to last year’s even while seeing an increase in his FIP to the mid-3′s. In other words, bid on repeat numbers as last year from Bills. He’s even got a bit of upside in strikeouts.

26. Shaun Marcum, RHP, MIL (3.64 ERA, 3.77 FIP, -0.13 Differential)
Defense: minus sign minus sign
Park Factor: Neutral
The shift to the NL should help him navigate the downgrade in defense behind him. He’s an underrated fantasy asset at this point with high-3′s ERA potential to go along with a good WHIP (low 1.20′s), 165+ K, and a healthy amount of Wins.

27. Madison Bumgarner, LHP, SF (3.00 ERA, 3.68 FIP, -0.68 Differential)
Defense: plus sign plus sign
Park Factor: plus sign
He displayed great control as a rookie (2.11 BB/9), he can strike hitters out at an above average clip (6.97 K/9 last year), and he has an excellent defense helping him out. I think you can probably expect an ERA in the 3.30-3.50 range, a WHIP in the high 1.10′s or low 1.20′s, and 150+ K. He’s for real, and I like him quite a bit in 2011.

28. Colby Lewis, RHP, TEX (3.72 ERA, 3.62 FIP, +0.10 Differential)
Defense: plus sign plus sign
Park Factor: minus sign
I’m a fan. He’s a better pitcher than C.J. Wilson, at least in terms of fantasy potential, as he should provide more K’s and a better WHIP while posting a similar ERA. I expect some regression as his BABIP normalizes a bit, but the excellent defense in Texas will mitigate that a bit. A similar ERA with a bit of a higher WHIP (think something in the mid-to-high 1.20′s) and 180+ strikeouts sounds like a really solid investment to me.

29. Clay Buchholz, RHP, BOS (2.33 ERA, 3.67 FIP, -1.34 Differential)
Defense: plus sign
Park Factor: minus sign
A rise in ERA due to HR/9 and BABIP regressions is a given. Still, he’s a solid bet to outperform his FIP due to the good defense in Boston, and he’s got a good enough groundball ratio to keep his HR/9 better than average. A mid-to-high 3′s ERA along with a healthy 150+ K’s is probably in order. Just be wary of those that expect even better, and allow them to overbid on him if they want.

30. Brett Anderson, LHP, OAK (2.80 ERA, 3.24 FIP, -0.44 Differential)
Defense: plus sign plus sign
Park Factor: plus sign
Anderson is still much the same in terms of how I think about him now versus last year at this time – which is to say quite positive – only now he comes with the caveat of being an injury risk. I’ve seen him fall in a number of drafts, though, so I believe there’s a great opportunity for a value buy on him in 2011. He still has very good groundball ratios and control (the 1.76 BB/9 last year was an eye-popper), and while his strikeouts dipped in 2010 in his limited time on the mound, I expect that to loft back up a bit as his stuff was never discernibly hampered by his injuries. He has a great defense behind him, and Oakland’s coliseum plays a lot bigger for southpaws than it does for righties (meaning the park is close to a + + factor for lefty pitchers). In other words, Anderson has a lot going for him, and I would have him at the top of my sleeper list this season. I could easily see Anderson out-earning a guy like Brandon Morrow, for example, despite Morrow going a couple of rounds earlier in ADP thus far into the pre-season.

Solid Gents and Upside Plays »»

Double Dipping Two-Start Pitchers, Week 26

In the last week of the season, you will see a lot of things happening that didn’t happen over the first 25 weeks. You will see teams who have already locked up playoff berths sit their starters to make sure they are fresh for the playoffs. Starting rotations will be jumbled as aces will be bumped a day or two to position them for specific days of playoff action. Rookies will get more playing time and vets will sit as teams out of contention look to the future. There is no rhyme or reason to some of the decisions made, just be prepared to watch your pitching matchups vanish into thin air or your stud hitter watch more games from the bench then from his usual fielding position.

This week, Cleveland, New York (AL), Arizona, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Houston, Los Angeles (NL), Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington are all on the docket for six. All others are scheduled for seven games this week.

Now, the projected 2-start pitchers for this week. For those of you in leagues who require you to set your lineup at the beginning of the week, these are guys you should strongly consider:

American League
BAL Brain Matusz, Brad Bergeson
BOS Clay Buchholz, John Lackey
CWS Mark Buehrle, Edwin Jackson
CLE Carlos Carrasco
DET Armando Galarraga, Max Scherzer
KC Kyle Davies, Sean O’Sullivan
LAA Ervin Santana, Dan Haren
MIN Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn
NYY A.J. Burnett
OAK Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden
SEA David Pauley, Felix Hernandez
TB Wade Davis, David Price
TEX C.J. Wilson, Cliff Lee
TOR Marc Rzepczynski, Kyle Drabek
  
National League
ARI Rodrigo Lopez
ATL Tommy Hanson
CHC Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster
CIN Edinson Volquez
COL Ubaldo Jimenez, Jeff Francis
FLA Alex Sanabia, Anibal Sanchez
HOU Wandy Rodriguez
LAD Ted Lilly
MIL David Bush, Randy Wolf
NYM Mike Pelfrey, Jon Niese
PHI Roy Halladay
PIT Charlie Morton, Brian Burres
SD Tim Stauffer, Mat Latos
SF Jonathan Sanchez
STL Kyle Lohse, Jeff Suppan
WAS John Lannan


Rick’s Picks

Five best bets for double-start pitchers this week

1. David Price gets Baltimore on the road then Kansas City at home. He will most likely start two games this week as the Rays are in contention for the division title and top record in the American League. The opponents are already making off-season plans, so Price should be in for a big week.

2. Wade Davis’ week looks just like Price’s above. Davis problem has been a sore shoulder that landed him on the disabled list last month. He has been very good since returning, so it looks like the rest did him good.

3. Jonathan Sanchez gets two weak offenses at home (vs ARZ, vs SD) as the Giants look to lock up the division and head for the playoffs. Since Sanchez is unlikely to be on the front end of the Giants playoff rotation, he will almost assuredly get both starts this week.

4. Edinson Volquez is trying ot prove that he belongs in the playoff rotation and will have two home games (vs HOU, vs MLW) this week to show his stuff. Look for Volquez to have a big week.

5. Tommy Hanson has scuffled in his sophomore season, but is still a good pitcher. With the Braves fighting for their playoff lives, they get the Marlins and Phillies at home. The Marlins are playing out the streak and the Phillies will be resting their starters for the upcoming playoffs, so Hanson is a good bet this week.

Note: If Roy Halladay gets two starts this week, he is easily the #1 choice for the list. But since the Phils will likely bump him from his second start to allow him to start game 1 of the NLDS, don’t count on him taking the mound twice this week.