Friday, March 7, 2008

Matt's Stats: Baseball Preview Edition

This week's preview brings me to the Starting Pitchers that will help your team this season. While I feel that starting pitchers should never be drafted too early, here are 10 difference makers at the position that are better then the rest and will help your team's drive to the championship.

NL Starting Pitchers:

1) Johan Santana (SP - New York Mets) - What more can be said about Santana then the press has already said while every writer around the country was waiting to find out where the Twins would trade him? Santana is 82-35, with a 2.93 ERA, and 1152 K's (an average of 230.4 K's per season) over the last 5 seasons with Minnesota. These stats should only improve in New York, thanks to facing a Pitcher in the 9th spot of the order instead of a DH, moving into a pitchers ballpark in Shea, and having one of the top offenses in the NL hitting behind him. It is not often that SP are recommended to go in the first round, but Santana makes an excellent end of the first round choice in all leagues this season.

2) Jake Peavy (SP - San Diego Padres) - Peavy makes for an easy choice for number 2 on the NL SP Rankings. In 2007 Peavy won the NL Pitching Triple Crown, leading the league in Wins (19), ERA (2.54), and Strikeouts (240). Peavy has shown a lot of consistency over his young career, having won 11 or more games for 5 consecutive seasons, and having had an ERA under 3.00 in 3 of the last 4 seasons. At the age of 26, Peavy has entered his prime and will only continue to get better. If you are looking to draft a SP early in your draft, make sure Peavy is one of the first you plan to take on draft day.

3) Carlos Zambrano (SP - Chicago Cubs) - Zambrano may have his drawbacks, as amplified by his fight with teammate Michael Barrett in their own dugout last year, but luckily you do not have to deal personally with fantasy players, you only want them to produce in the statistical department, and producing stats is exactly with Zambrano does. Zambrano has won at least 13 games for 5 seasons in a row, with an ERA under 4.00 for all 6 full seasons in which he has pitched. In 2007 Zambrano was tied for second in the NL in wins with 18, combined with a 3.95 ERA and 177 strikeouts. Thanks to his 12 career HRs (and 1 already this Spring) Zambrano would also be great evidence for a reason why hitting stats should count for pitchers in NL-Only leagues, as was asked asked by Marc Edelman in his blog on March 3rd. As it stands though, Zambrano's pitching stats are clearly enough to help a fantasy team and he is a top-4 Round pick in all drafts

4) Brandon Webb (SP - Arizona Diamondbacks) - This 2006 NL Cy Young Award Winner actually had a better season in 2007 then in 2006 in almost every category. He improved on his 2006 stats in 2007 by 2 wins (16-18), by .08 in ERA (3.10-3.01), and by 16 Strikeouts (178-194). Those improvements made it 3 consecutive seasons that he improved in all 3 of those main categories from his previous year's stats. Webb is still the ace, but should have less pressure this year in the D'Backs rotation thanks to Haren acquisition, and as a result, Webb's first 20 win season seems to be within reach for Webb in 2008.

5) Aaron Harang (SP - Cincinnati Reds) - Harang is probably the most underrated pitcher in the majors and should not be forgotten on draft day. Harang has had two consecutive seasons of 16 wins, three consecutive seasons of an ERA under 4.00, and two consecutive seasons of at least 216 strikeouts. Adding a better Reds team, and a better Closer in Cordero playing behind him, and Harang should be able to improve and get up to 18 wins this season.

AL Pitchers:

1) Josh Beckett (SP - Boston Red Sox) - Beckett may have finished 2nd in AL Cy Young voting last year, but he is clearly the best pitcher in the AL. Last season Beckett led the majors with 20 wins and had a 3.27 ERA and 194 Strikeouts. There is no reason to think that Boston will not be as good as they were last year when they won the World Series and led the MLB in Wins, which again makes Beckett the top AL pitcher, and a pitcher that should be taken in the top 3 or 4 Rounds of all drafts.

2) C.C. Sabathia (SP - Cleveland Indians) - While Beckett is a great pitcher and had all the playoff success last season, don't forget about Sabathia who had 19 Wins, 209 Strikeouts, and a 3.21 ERA, while winning the 2007 AL Cy Young Award. Sabathia will be motivated for a new contract this season and makes an excellent pick in all leagues.

3) John Lackey (SP - Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) - Lackey has always been a consistent pitcher since bursting onto the scene in the 2002 World Series (winning 10 or more games in the last 5 seasons), but he really elevated his level of play in 2007 with a 19-9 Record, 179 Strikeouts and a 3.01 ERA. The Angels are primed to return to the playoffs in 2008 and Lackey will have to be a big part of that. Don't be afraid to draft Lackey any time in the first five rounds.

4) Fausto Carmona (SP - Cleveland Indians) - Carmona may not be as big of a name as the other three above him on this list, but Carmona had the same amount of wins (19) as Lackey and Sabathia had last year. Carmona does not get the strikeout totals that the other three above him on the list get (only 137 in 215 innings) but his ERA of 3.06 more then makes up for it, as well as a very respectable 1.21 WHIP. Carmona may be underrated a bit, but he is clearly one of the best pitchers in the American League.

5) Justin Verlander (SP - Detroit Tigers) - In two seasons with the Tigers, Verlander has combined for a 35-15 Record with a 3.65 ERA and 307 Strikeouts. Thanks to their offseason additions, the Tigers probably have the best lineup in the majors which will give Verlander added opportunities for wins in 2008, making 20 Wins, 200 Strikeouts, 3.60 ERA a distinct possibly. Verlander is not only a player that should help the Tigers quest for a championship this year, but is also one that will help lead many Fantasy teams to their league championship in 2008.

That's all for now, stay tuned for the Relief Pitchers Preview next week as I conclude the positional preview for the 2008 Fantasy Baseball season. As always, if anyone has any questions specific to their teams or leagues, post them in the comments section and I will be happy to answer them in next week's column. Have a Great Weekend!!

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Marc Edelman said...


I notice that you ranked Aaron Harang no. 5 amongst NL starters, but you left Chris Young off the list.

Care to explain?

Matt Cohen said...

This is where I view a difference between reality and fantasy. Chris Young is a very good pitcher, and probably a better talent then Harrang, but Harrang is better for fantasy purposes.

Young did have a slightly better ERA (3.12 to 3.73), and their WHIP is almost identitical with a 1.10 for Young and 1.14 for Harang last year, but Harang provides a significant advantage in the Win and Strikeout categories. Harang has had back to back seasons of 16 wins, while Young's career high is 12 wins. Harang also has two consecutive seasons of over 215 strikeouts and Young had a career high of only 167 strikeouts last year. Some may argue that Young just happened to be injured bringing his stats down, but he has pitched the same amount of games (30-31) in every season he has been in the majors for a full year. When drafting, health must be taken into account, and until Young pitches a full 35 starts in a season, these are the stats I'd expect from him. Since Harang's totals in wins and k's outweigh the difference in ERA and WHIP by a rather large margin, I view Harang as the better fantasy pitcher.

Joe Romano said...


I agree that Harang may be slightly (very slightly) more valuable than Chris Young, but I think Zambrano represents a major fantasy concern and shouldn't be considered among the top 5. His ERA Walks and WHIP have continuously raised over the past 4 years while this past season his strike outs saw a significant decline. Sure, he won 18 games last season, the most of his career, but this is clearly because of good run support rather than his own performance. Also, Zambrano hasn't been mentioned amongst the hardest workers in the league and his fat new contract probably won't help with his motivation. While MB may not be catching for him anymore, Zambrano posted the same sub par stats without him than he did with him.

He is immensely talented and could bounce back anytime, but I would rather let someone else take the risk and take a much more steady performer, like Chris Young

Matt Cohen said...

Actually Joe, I'm sorry to say but you are incorrect about Zambrano posting the same subpar stats after MB was traded off the team last year. With Geovany Soto catching for him at the end of the year, Zambrano's batting average against was only .143. While it may have been a small sample compared to his whole career, Zambrano's stats improved with Soto as the catcher. Zambrano is still a top 5 pitcher and is better then Chris Young (I actually wouldn't even have Young until the 8th or 9th spot of any NL Rankings).