Before we get going on what will be a long piece, let me give you a little bit of personal background, and maybe it will shed some light on why I flock to the kind of players that I’m writing about here. When it comes to fantasy baseball experience, I have less than both Nash and Clave. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a rookie and have enjoyed some success, but when it comes to laying out great strategies in February to stick with through September, I have to defer to them.
Where I have them beat is that I follow the game a lot closer. Don’t get me wrong, they’re fans, but I have more access to things. For example, Clave is married with children. By the time the 2013 season starts up, Nash will be married. I’m not married or engaged, nor do I have children. As a result, I have a lot more free time on my hands. I’ve also always had day jobs that encouraged me to follow sports closely. Last but not least, I live in the Bay Area, which is the home of an American League team and a National League team. So, I am a little more in tuned with who’s really hot at a given time and what teams are doing. So, for things like Dixon’s Picks, I am good. That’s not laying out a full season strategy, but it is giving other ways to remain competitive when things go awry.
Because of my background, I’m always drawn to the players who wow you. They may make you scratch your head, but they will also make the game incredibly fun to watch. So, “10 Shaky Pitchers That You Can Never Afford to Bench” is right up my alley. But enough about me, let’s take a look back at the guys I went with before 2012 started up.
Quite the assortment, is it not? Well, let’s start from the top.
I really wish that I could blame this on going from a playoff-caliber team in the Giants to a bad team like the Royals and eventually the Rockies. But the bottom line is that Sanchez was just dismal in 2012.
As a Giants’ fan, I followed Sanchez a lot. So, let me give you an idea of what I came to expect from him every time he toed the rubber.
Five innings, two earned runs, 8 strikeouts, 5 walks.
But looking back at those numbers, there’s just nothing to be encouraged with.
I wish I could tell you that Sanchez would be better next year, but at this point I wouldn’t even bet that he’ll be on a Major League roster in 2013. Sanchez will turn 30 in November and has only gotten more sporadic as he’s gotten older. Obviously in 2013, sporadic took a backseat to bad. General Managers aren’t exactly looking for players who get worse as they age. There may be a Ryan Vogelsong-like comeback story here, but I wouldn’t bet on that for a fantasy team.
Well, I know this list gets a little better down the line, but we’re starting with a few clunkers. Juurjens has dealt with injuries, inconsistency, and an incredibly deep rotation in Atlanta. But look at it this way, if Juurjens had only allowed a hit an inning (rounding down to a clean 41), he’d still have a WHIP just a little bit under 1.40. As it is, the numbers are quite a bit more gaudy.
There are a few things to look at here. One, if Jurrjens remains a Brave (a big if), Atlanta is still a good team to pitch for. They play strong defense, provide good run support, and Turner Field is quite spacious. Two, Jurrjens has had a strange every other year trend going for a while. Seriously, 2010 and 2012 were terrible, while 2009 and 2011 were well above average. If that trend continues, 2013 will be good again. Three, he’ll only be 27 on Opening Day next year, so there is time.
Still, I can’t see him starting the year in a starting rotation, especially Atlanta’s. There are just too many good pitchers on that team. He shouldn’t be on your draft boards at all next fall. Let him work his way into a rotation, then add him in free agency if he’s doing enough.
The bottom line is that Liriano just walks too many guys. The hits per nine innings number of 8.2 could be better, but it could be a lot worse too. But when you strike out more than one hitter per inning and still can’t manage better than a 2:1 Strikeout to walk ratio, there’s a problem. The problem with Liriano is that he’s had these problems his entire career, Another problem is that he’s oft-injured.
The only thing that really improved when Liriano went from Minnesota to Chicago was his win-loss record, which is hardly a surprise. Where Liriano ends up in 2013 is still something of a mystery, but he’ll need to go to a team in a park like Target Field with the kind of run support that the White Sox give to have any value beyond just a spot starter on your fantasy baseball team.
I don’t get to claim many victories, but I am going to claim this one. When I released the initial list, I projected that Morrow would have a 1.19 ERA. In a Crackerjack email, I received the following message from Clave:
This IS a great list. I will kiss a horse if Morrow has a WHIP that low though. He walks toooo many.
Now, an injury cut Morrow’s season short, so I won’t make Clave kiss a horse, but I needed to point that out. In all honesty, Morrow turned a serious corner this year and was even strong after returning from the DL, so the injury that plagued his summer doesn’t seem to be a big factor anymore.
Unlike some of the other guys on this list, Morrow has actually become a better overall pitcher as he’s gotten older. He’ll be 29 next summer, so Morrow isn’t young, but still has a few good years left. Even if it is in an injury-shortened season, anyone who can post a sub 3.00 ERA and sub 1.20 WHIP in the American League East can clearly deal.
I like Morrow an awful lot in 2013. My only concern with him is health, but I would advise anyone find room for Morrow on their team. I could actually see him being a Top-20 pitcher in 2013.
Obviously the Tigers thought enough of Sanchez to trade for him in a playoff chase. As far as Sanchez’s fantasy stats go, the move was pretty lateral. He was 5-7 in Miami and 4-6 in Detroit. His ERA in Miami was 3.94 while it was 3.74 in Detroit, but Sanchez’s WHIP with the Marlins was only 1.256 compared to 1.286 with the Tigers. But when you have a guy allow more than a hit an inning and still come out with a WHIP below 1.30 and sub 4.00 ERA, he’s doing a decent job.
I really need to know where he’s going to be pitching next year. A pitcher going from a pitcher-friendly environment (as both Miami and Detroit are) to a hitter’s park is a bit of a gamble. Sanchez is a free agent this year, so he may end up in a tougher situation. Still, since 2009, Sanchez’s lowest full season ERA was 3.55 while his highest was 3.87. His WHIP has been a little more inconsistent, ranging from 1.267 to 1.512, but the runners are clearly not scoring at a greater clip.
Basically, that’s what you can expect. If he goes to a bad team in a hitter’s park (Colorado Rockies, Houston Astros), I may revisit this, but Sanchez basically belongs in the same place he’s been for the last few seasons.
As was the case with Morrow, a pretty decent year was thwarted by injuries. Garza hasn’t necessarily had that problem recently, but he’ll be 29 next year, so it’s something to watch. But the numbers don’t lie in fantasy. Playing for the Cubs won’t help anyone’s record, nor will pitching in the National League Central be kind to anyone’s ERA. Still, a sub 1.20 WHIP with a strong strikeout rate is something to hang your hat on.
Where, oh where, will Garza be next year? I fully expect the Cubs to shop him pretty hard. The good news is that the 2012 Cubs provided a pretty unfriendly pitching environment. They didn’t score a lot of runs, and Wrigley Field is a tough place to pitch. So, even if he goes to a good hitter’s park next year, it won’t be a serious adjustment.
Garza will need to keep the ball in the park better, as 15 homers in just over 100 innings is excessive. But again, he doesn’t have a history of injuries and it’s not likely he’ll be in a less pitcher-friendly situation next year. I’d be confident with Garza on my fantasy team in 2013.
Gonzalez has incredible stuff, which is nothing new. He’s been a solid pitcher for a few years. Moving to the National League didn’t hurt him, but he also attacked the strike zone a lot more in 2012. Gio struck out 10 more hitters in 2012 than he did in 2011, while walking 15 fewer. With stuff like his, that’s a recipe for success.
The walks are still a little high, but Gonzalez has certainly improved over the last three years. That says a lot because he was never exactly bad. You can look for about 200 innings pitched with about one K per inning. The ERA will probably be somewhere around 3.00, give or take a little, and he’ll likely be between 15-20 wins. There’s not much he really does wrong. He’s one of the best pitchers in the game, fantasy or otherwise.
Dempster’s winning percentage improved when he went from Chicago to Texas, that’s not a surprise. But Dempster was otherwise a complete dud in Texas, sporting a 5.09 ERA with a 1.435 WHIP in a Rangers’ uniform. He went from a valuable fantasy weapon to a dud with the snap of a finger. Wrigley Field is not exactly a hitter-friendly environment, but he was much better there than in Texas. Maybe the pressure of pitching in a pennant race got to him, maybe he just had a hard time adjusting to the midseason trade. Whatever it was, 2012 was effectively two different seasons for Dempster.
Dempster is a free agent, and we learned last year that where he goes is very important. Dempster will turn 36 early next season, and the end of last year made me question what he has in the tank. When you draft, see where he’s going in most leagues and add at least one round in your own mind. I may revise this if he ends up in a pitching park, but a pitcher in his mid-30′s collapsing at the end of the year is a big warning.
Despite a 5.16 ERA, Santana showed that he is still tough to hit. His Hits to innings pitched ratio is pretty decent. Santana had two problems in 2012, and one has something to do with the other.
- He has problems throwing strikes. A 1.270 WHIP is way too high for someone with 13 fewer hits than innings pitched.
- Partially beause of his control issues, Santana is forced to challenge the middle of the plate. Allowing the longball isn’t always a big deal for a pitcher, as Santana hasn’t allowed fewer than 20 homers since his rookie year of 2005, when he allowed 17 despite not pitching a full season. But in 2012, Santana allowed 39, which is just too many.
It seems likely that Santana’s career as an Angel is done, and he needs to go somewhere that favors the pitcher. That says something, because the Angels don’t exactly play in a live yard, but Santana gives up the long ball with best of them. Overall, I still trust Santana. Yes, 2012 was rough, but it followed two seasons where he had a sub 4.00 ERA. He’s not a staff ace or anything, but Santana’s been durable. If he goes to a favorable pitching situation, I expect a year closer to 2011′s totals.
Sometimes two years can feel like nothing. Other times, it can feel like a lifetime ago. Jimenez falls into the latter category. It was only 2010 where he was starting the All-Star Game for the National League, having thrown a no-hitter in the same season. Two years later, he’s coming off of a season where he allowed 190 hits in fewer than 180 innings. That just doesn’t seem possible. In 2010, he allowed only 10 homers. That’s a low number for anyone, let alone someone who at the time called Coors Field home. In 2012, that number was 25. Jimenez will only be 29 next season so age didn’t get in the way. I just don’t get this one.
I don’t get it, but don’t gamble on Jimenez and expect him to return to 2010 form. He walks too many hitters and his stuff clearly doesn’t fool anyone anymore. This is a guy to leave on the waiver wire until he shows that he can still pitch.