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January 10, 2013

The Keeper Reaper

Starting Pitching for 1/10/13

by Paul Sporer

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This week’s Keeper Reaper with starting pitchers tackles some of the bigger names who might be putting you to a tough decision depending on your league parameters. 

Zack Greinke | Los Angeles Dodgers
Shallow (30 keepers): No
Medium (60 keepers): Fringe
Deep (90 keepers): Yes
NL-only (60 keepers): Yes
Super Deep (200 keepers): Yes

Despite being one of the most coveted free agents during the offseason and joining a new team, Greinke’s family doesn’t have to pack up and move. Well, unless they never fully moved to LA after Zack was traded there from Milwaukee. At any rate, he is staying in LA while heading back to the more favorable league. A sabermetric darling, Greinke enjoyed yet another season where his peripherals suggested that he should have been better than he was, as evidenced by every ERA estimator in existence. It is time to start holding Greinke accountable for missing those marks, however, as we can’t just chalk it up to mere bad luck anymore.

Greinke is prone to more implosion starts than you would expect from guys of his caliber, and those outings conspire to keep his ERA higher than it “should be” based on how great he is in the overwhelming majority of his starts. And if you watch these starts, you see that this isn’t just a rash of bad luck, in most cases, but simply poor performance. Since 2010, his 13 starts of allowing six or more earned runs are tied for the fifth-highest total in baseball.

The guys ahead of him include names you won’t be surprised to see: Jeremy Guthrie (19), A.J. Burnett (18), Justin Masterson (17), Randy Wolf (14), and Luke Hochevar (14). He is tied with five others at 13, and again most of the names won’t surprise: Carl Pavano, Paul Maholm, and Gavin Floyd make you say “yeah, makes sense”, while Yovani Gallardo and Josh Beckett are on or near the level of Greinke in terms of surprise.

We saw in 2009 how amazing he can be, but we are now three years removed from that Cy Young season, and it is time to start preparing for a mid-3.00s ERA while understanding the upside is there if he can avoid some of the meltdown starts. So while he grades out brilliantly with the statistics, and some might see him as worthy of keeping in that shallow format, I would pass and invest elsewhere.

Yu Darvish | Texas Rangers
Shallow (30 keepers): Yes
Medium (60 keepers): Yes
Deep (90 keepers): Yes
AL-only (60 keepers): Yes
Super Deep (200 keepers): Yes

Unless you had expectations for Darvish to match his sub-2.00 ERAs from Japan, it is hard not to see his 2012 MLB debut as a success. He was exactly what I expected with flashes of brilliance but some kinks that led to a solid, though not overwhelmingly amazing, season. His strikeout capability was definitely amazing, and it is his meal ticket to fantasy stardom. An excellent video surfaced this week that cataloged all 221 of his third strikes in crystal clear HD YouTube video. I posted it at my site with a host of second- and third-level statistics about his strikeouts, so feel free to enjoy that after reading through this and every single article on BP. It is hard to pick a favorite of the strikeout stats, but I really liked this one: “Yu’s 59 three-pitch strikeouts were first in the American League and third overall behind Cliff Lee’s 70 and R.A. Dickey’s 62.” It really gets to the heart of his dominance.

His stuff is NSFW, and it sets him up for a huge 2013. Given his early average draft position of 37th overall—the seventh starter off the board—you should consider keeping him in all the formats covered in Keeper Reaper if you want to have a chance at his 275 strikeouts. His sparkling September (2.21 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, 39 K, and 7 BB in 37 innings) shows his potential for greatness, and if he can start carving into his 4.2 BB/9 for sustained periods of time, the American League is in deep trouble.

Aroldis Chapman | Cincinnati Reds
Shallow (30 keepers): No
Medium (60 keepers): No
Deep (90 keepers): Fringe
NL-only (60 keepers): Yes
Super Deep (200 keepers): Yes

This one is really tough for all of the obvious reasons. It seems like we have at least a couple huge reliever-to-starter transitions every year now, including several that worked very well last year, but each case is so unique that even using the recent history really isn’t much help. Chapman was so great as the Reds’ closer last year in 72 innings, but the plan from the jump was to eventually make him a starter; he can offer tons more value in a starter’s allotment of innings than he can in his 70-75 as a reliever, even at his super-elite level. The best way to deploy, at least in my estimation, would be as a 100-120 inning super-reliever, but that role has gone the way of the dodo bird (poor dodo bird).

It’s easy to look at Chapman’s work out of the pen last year and dream of how great he can be as a starter, except it’s not even close to a 1:1 translation. First off, how much of his 98-mph velocity will come to the rotation with him? It’s easy to give it all you’ve got for an inning or two, but you have to pace yourself to go five-plus. Then there is the pesky issue of him not having a viable third pitch. And while he wasn’t exactly Daniel Bard the last time he started (check out his minor league numbers as a starter), he certainly wasn’t conjuring up thoughts of a fantasy ace either. He posted a 4.05 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 10.3 K/9, and 5.4 BB/9 in 67 innings across 13 starts. In short: be careful about placing too much emphasis on what you saw in 2012 because it’s not always a strong indicator of rotation performance. And don’t overpay.

Paul Sporer is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Paul's other articles. You can contact Paul by clicking here

19 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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RotoLando

Interesting case you made about keeping Darvish over Greinke in a shallow league. On the surface, keeping Greinke seems like a no-brainer.

Expanding that out, in a 20-team dynasty league, if you aren't planning on being competitive in the next two years, is it worth holding onto Greinke till 2015-16?

Jan 10, 2013 05:36 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Paul Sporer
BP staff

What is the cost tied to keeping him? My guess is he'd still have significant trade value, especially if you're looking to move him during a great stretch.

I admittedly have limited dynasty experience (hoping to remedy that in '13), but can a team really be SO decimated that you're hopeless for 2-3 years? That'd be rough. I can understand a tear down, but wouldn't you build around some cheap potential and then stockpile studs in the draft in an effort to compete or flip them in June/July to get more of that cheap potential?

Jan 10, 2013 20:34 PM
 
RotoLando

In all my other leagues, 2-3 years would be a long time to have no chance. This is a 20-team head-to-head points league. Most teams have 2-3 studs, some decent players and a whole lot of filler. Lot of teams flounder because they try to compete every year with middling talent.

My strategy is to sell high now, and gather up as much younger or undervalued talent now, so in 2-3 seasons, I have a team of 5-6 studs, a lot of decent players and very little filler. Sure, I could probably field a decent team now, but I want a dynasty that, once it hits it's stride, dominates for multiple years.

You should totally try it. Its fun seeing a master plan come together.

Jan 11, 2013 06:35 AM
rating: 0
 
shantzy11

I've got quite the keeper issue now that I've read this on Darvish. I can only keep 2 of Lee, Bumgarner, and Darvish. Was leaning toward Lee and Bumgarner, but Darvish's strikeouts might be enough to swing me.

Jan 10, 2013 08:34 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Paul Sporer
BP staff

I can speak very highly of all three, but it'd be Lee & Yu for me.

Jan 10, 2013 20:40 PM
 
Chucko

So let me make sure I got this straight. What you're saying is-

Lee and Yu and Yu and Lee
No matter how they tossed the dice, it had to be
The only one for me is Yu. Well, Yu and Lee
So happy together

Awful, but _necessary._

Jan 11, 2013 01:06 AM
rating: 7
 
warpigs

I have the opposite keeper issue...picked up Chapman for cheap reasoning he was a bargain even if he went back to the bullpen. I thought his third pitch issue had been resolved...

Paul, how about taking a closer look at AJ Burnett? 3 games of 6 or more ERs last season and 180 Ks, 3.51 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. Is the improvement mostly from the move from NYY to PIT and can it be sustained?

Jan 10, 2013 08:52 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Paul Sporer
BP staff

Chapman -
He's only thrown four pitches that weren't fastball or slider as a major leaguer (http://brooksbaseball.net/player_cards/player_card.php?player=547973) so I think the 3rd pitch issue is still a concern. Even if he has one that he's working on in side sessions or he has something that's looked good in bullpens, it still hasn't been game-tested and thus we don't really know what to make of it.

Compare that with someone like Chris Sale (http://brooksbaseball.net/player_cards/player_card.php?player=519242) who upped his changeup usage yearly leading into last year's amazing breakout. Everyone wants Chapman to be Sale because he's a lefty success case of RP to SP, but we need to brace ourselves for the fact that it may not work out quite as well as Sale did fantasy-wise. The Ks aren't going anywhere so Aroldis will have fantasy value, but I'd take the over on him matching Sale's 3.05 ERA.

Burnett -
I do think a lot of the improvement is the move to the NL and much better home environs. I loved him last year and his numbers would've been even better if he wouldn't have been saddled with "taking one for the team" in that 12 ER smashing vs. StL.

He had a 3.13 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 7.9 K/9, and 2.9 K/BB in 186.7 IP. And a 15-8 record to boot.

Jan 10, 2013 20:52 PM
 
BP staff member Paul Sporer
BP staff

Those Burnett numbers are after the disaster start vs. StL in case that's unclear.

Jan 10, 2013 20:53 PM
 
warpigs

Thanks for the follow-up...I hope Burnett repeats those pretty stellar numbers cause I am planning to keep him at $10.

Jan 11, 2013 19:15 PM
rating: 0
 
ChicagoOriole

I think we all realize that Chapman could end up a starter or a reliever by the All-Star break. Could you please explain a little more about how you think Chapman's real value to the Reds will influence that decision. I would think that if he is turning out to be an eminently replaceable starter, that he will end up closing again.

That presents both a fantasy valuation problem and a roster management problem. But I don't fear roster management problems. What does the reliever guy think? (Or should I ask for a separate review from the reliever guy?)

Jan 11, 2013 07:43 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Paul Sporer
BP staff

The problem is what if he's solid for real baseball, but not so much for fantasy baseball (and nowhere near his draft value)? That'd be something like a 4.20 ERA. The Reds would still value 180 IP of 4.20ish ERA, but it's not nearly as appealing in fantasy.

And I'm not going to suggest that Broxton is better than Chapman, but they're paying Brox to close, so if Chapman does flop as a starter, I'm not *certain* that he instantly assumes the closer role. You're right that Chapman is a fantasy valuation and roster mgmt conundrum this year. There is just a ton of uncertainty tied to him. I sure hope he just goes into the rotation and dominates, but I wouldn't *bet* on that outcome, too much of a longshot.

It wouldn't hurt to touch base with our Reliever Reaper as I'm not certain he's following this comment thread.

Jan 11, 2013 07:52 AM
 
iorg34

Does Chapman really need a third pitch? I hope there's a real chance that Chapman can employ Randy Johnson's "tall lefty with overwhelming stuff" routine to succeed without needing a changeup much. I realize the Big Unit was a singular pitcher, but hope that Chapman can use his own gobsmacking talent to excel as a starter.

Jan 11, 2013 12:43 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Paul Sporer
BP staff

I hope so, too, but I will tread cautiously because the price won't be cheap.

Jan 11, 2013 16:03 PM
 
ChicagoOriole

Well, I have him and he is in competition with Dickey & Shields for a keeper spot. Talk about a 3-way valuation problem.

Jan 13, 2013 08:47 AM
rating: 0
 
warpigs

I got Chapman at $7 so even though we only get to keep 10 (NL only) I gather the risk is low since it leaves me with a lot of extra $ to pick up what's available in the draft (20 player rosters, including 8 pitchers.

I just finished my first year in this particular league and am also wondering about how many pitchers to keep. On the NL side, most if not all of the guys seem to be keeping 3 pitchers. But on the AL side, all but 1 or 2 are keeping just 2 pitchers. I don't know how or if to take that into consideration while determining my own keepers.

Jan 11, 2013 19:13 PM
rating: 0
 
Robotey

Paul - I heard on the podcast how you and Jason oohed over Darvish and snubbed Greinke and all I can say is how do I sign up to be in a league with either of you? Greinke has been a dominant pitcher for years--yes, he is prone to bad starts, so maybe, maybe, in a head to head league he's dangerous, but I don't care about those--whereas Darvish has been fleetingly dazzling but mostly over-rated. Which one pitches in Rangers Ballpark in a DH league? Which one pitches in traditionally pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium? DO you honestly believe at the end of the year Darvish's numbers will be better than Greinke's?

Jan 14, 2013 19:35 PM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Paul Sporer
BP staff

First off, I think you're vastly overrating the difference I have between the two. I think you're also overstating Greinke's dominance based on his ERA predictors which haven't come to fruition the last three years because of those bad starts. It's time people start accepting that these are part of his game and until they stop, he won't be the guy his xFIPs and SIERAs suggest.

Greinke was 27th in ERA last year, 58th the year before, and 63rd in 2010. At least he's improving. He's undoubtedly a **very** good pitcher, but if anything he's the overrated one here. Or at least has been the last couple of years. He's treated like a first-class ace and the results simply aren't there for such treatment and haven't been since 2009.

I'm not sure how many of Yu's games you saw, but that was hardly fleeting success to any objective eye. This guy has dominance in his game without question. Meanwhile, he was more or less the same home or road, with slight favor to home, believe it or not.

Me preferring Yu to Greinke wouldn't allow you to win any singular league over me and going to that "can I join your league (because I'm implying you suck and you'd be easy to roll because of ONE OPINION)" thing is trite. Reasonable minds can disagree on players and resorting to attacks, even if indirect (and believe me, I know exactly what you were implying in your first line) is wholly unnecessary.

Darvish wasn't even on his full game this year as he was adjusting to America and a much more difficult league yet he still fanned 221 and finished just 9 spots away from Greinke in the ESPN Player Rater. Do you really think it's outrageous to suggest that he can then pass Greinke in 2013?

Jan 14, 2013 20:06 PM
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

I would take Darvish over Greinke 8 days a week if the calendar permitted me to do so. Greinke's inconsistencies have been frustrating and for whatever reason, he's shown a tendency to pitch worse with runners in scoring position each of the past three seasons. Darvish clearly showed signs of "getting it" within the season last year and I'll go out on a short limb here and say he'll finish the season in the top 6 for SP roto values assuming he doesn't get hurt.

Jan 15, 2013 10:07 AM
 
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Hall of Fame Voting (01/09)
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