[Editor’s Note: Scott Rudicil, a.k.a. Bodhizefa on many a fantasy baseball message board over the years, agreed to do his annual Tiers of Starting Pitching analysis exclusive for DraftBuddy.com this year. For this we are very grateful, as this one of my most anticipated reads of Spring Training ever since I discovered it two years ago and subsequently drafted Zack Greinke and Josh Johnson for a song in one of my leagues.
Well, Scott just dropped his tome on me last night, topping out at 44 pages. After I read about Brandon Morrow, an article in itself, I thought while I get comfortable editing the rest of the day I might as well post a sampler for everyone to see what is in store. The plan is to publish the entire work on Friday after Scott ranks and tiers all the players. In the meantime, enjoy the first few pages.
Also, here is last year’s which I had to break into three parts after he broke WordPress on me.]
A.J. Burnett, RHP, NYY (5.26 ERA, 4.87 FIP, +0.39 Differential)
Park Factor: – –
I kind of miss the old “Nuke” Burnett of days gone by. Burnett doesn’t have the heat on his fastball that he used to, and he’s finding the adjustment into middle aged pitching to be difficult without it. He’s also trending more and more toward neutral GB/FB results, which means additional opportunities to give up homeruns in what is already a very poor home park for pitchers. He’s shown flashes of good control in seasons past, but he’s never been able to carry it over to the next year. If he wants to improve on a pretty miserable 2010, he’s going to have to either find that control and keep it or unearth his strikeout ability from the (shallow) grave. I’m not terribly optimistic on him, but there’s at least a pretty good probability of improvement. Bank on a 4.30 ERA and a WHIP in the mid to high 1.30’s. He’ll have his uses in deeper leagues as the Yankees earn him Wins. And he’s still got some strikeout value, too, even without his lightning fastball of old.
Aaron Cook, RHP, COL (5.08 ERA, 4.53 FIP, +0.55 Differential)
Park Factor: – –
I wouldn’t touch this guy with a ten-meter cattle prod.
Aaron Harang, RHP, SD (5.32 ERA, 4.68 FIP, +0.64 Differential)
Park Factor: + +
I wonder if Harang going to San Diego had more to do with getting into Petco or if he just wanted to be 3,000 miles away from Dusty Baker at any given moment. Harang has gone on record to say he never felt the same after Baker inexplicably used Harang in a lengthy 2008 relief outing that served very little purpose other than to amuse Baker’s (childlike) mind. Dusty Dice indeed. Anyway, Harang has a chance to be a real bargain for almost any owner now that he’s in Petco Cavern. I’d pay for a 4.00 ERA, a low 1.30’s WHIP and 140+ K, but there’s upside even beyond that line. Injury caveats exist at this point as Harang’s Innings Pitched trend has gone downward ever since the relief outing, but there’s room for optimism far out West. Sign me up for Harang in 2011.
Adam Wainwright, RHP, STL (2.42 ERA, 2.91 FIP, -0.49 Differential)
Park Factor: +
Tommy John surgery put an end to Wainwright’s season before it even started. It’s a huge loss for the Cardinals, but at least most fantasy owners found out about the injury before they drafted him. Here’s hoping he comes back soon.
Anibal Sanchez, RHP, FLA (3.55 ERA, 3.32 FIP, +0.23 Differential)
Park Factor: Neutral
Sanchez was finally healthy last year for the first time since 2006, and he ended up with a pretty good-looking stat line. His HR/FB rate was eerily low, though, and is very unlikely to sustain into the new season. Sure, he could be healthy this year and put up a near 4.00 ERA (with a normalized HR/FB) with 150 K and a middling WHIP, but he’s probably a better bet to throw 120 innings than he is 180. Are you really willing to risk your valuable draft day dollars on someone with this much of an injury-plagued past? I know I’m not.
Armando Galarraga, RHP, ARI (4.49 ERA, 5.14 FIP, -0.65 Differential)
Park Factor: – –
Kevin Towers isn’t very smart. Don’t you make the same mistake.
Barry Zito, LHP, SF (4.15 ERA, 4.22 FIP, -0.07 Differential)
Defense: + +
Park Factor: +
He’s dependable in his mediocrity. San Francisco isn’t the most ideal park for him as it plays a bit bigger for right-handed pitchers, but it’s still a pitcher’s park. And Zito has a very good defense behind him. In other words, there’s some slight upside to his ERA and WHIP if some defensive luck bounces his way, and he offers little in the way of injury downside. He’s not a bad guy to have at the back end of a deeper league staff.
Brad Bergesen, RHP, BAL (4.98 ERA, 5.14 FIP, -0.16 Differential)
Park Factor: –
It’s interesting that out of all the supposed impact Baltimore pitching prospects in the last couple of years, a guy like Bergeson may end up being one of the most useful in real life. He has very little fantasy upside (if any), but he could not totally suck for the O’s (which is more than many of their other pitchers seem capable of handling).
Brandon Morrow, RHP, TOR (4.49 ERA, 3.24 FIP, +1.25 Differential)
Park Factor: –
After getting away from the nightmare that Seattle put him through over the years, Morrow used 2010 to adjust to life as a full-time starter. He finally stopped pumping fastball after fastball toward the plate (and sometimes not toward the plate as his control used to be abhorrent) and learned to mix his secondary pitches into his battle plan. He also took a bit off his fastball and cleaned up his release point of it in order to gain more control.
The battle plan worked, too. Morrow became a very useful fantasy pitcher over the last couple of months of the season as he managed to still strike hitters out at a high percentage while utilizing his newfound control to pop a few of the balloons that had been lifting his walk rate to somewhere in the vicinity of Paradise Falls.
Morrow’s fastball still has good late life and motion on it – moving inwards on right-handed hitters and away from lefties – despite his overall drop in velocity, and he’s still able to gun it up to 96-97mph when he really needs it. Also new was his ability to move the fastball effectively to both sides of the plate. With the movement on his fastball, this was a fairly useful new tool that he will need to continue to hone in the coming season.
Morrow’s secondary offerings are led by a good slider and an on-again off-again curve, and he has a change-up, but it lacks effectiveness as he’s never been comfortable with its release point. The lack of a useable change is one of the main reasons he has trouble with his control against lefties – he nibbles too much on the corners for fear they’ll hit his other stuff hard. Still, he gets strikeouts easily against hitters from both sides.
I describe all this because I want the reader to understand that I like Morrow and that I realize he does indeed have good stuff and his attack plan and control have improved dramatically in a very short time span. Still, he has a lengthy history with injury issues, he is a diabetic which wears on his durability, and people with historically bad control like Morrow used to have very rarely are able to fully turn things around so quickly. For every Randy Johnson, there are a million guys who never figure it out. Even when a pitcher looks like he has found control (like Oliver Perez circa 2004), it goes away just as quickly as it came.
Bid on Morrow to get a lot of strikeouts, have an ERA just north of 4.00, and a WHIP somewhere in the 1.30’s. If you get more, that’s great. But there are enough caution flags (durability/injury issues that could contain him to well under 200 innings as well as a likelihood of regression in his BB/9) to suggest that expectations need to be properly managed.