2013 Fantasy BaseballFantasy Baseball

2013 Fantasy Baseball, Total Run Series: SP Group A

If you want to get a good argument started amongst scouts and baseball insiders, float out the competing ideas of a number one starter and an ace. That should keep you going for a couple of hours at least. If you want to kindle that conversation then throw out a few names and see where the conversation goes. The distinction between the staff ace and number one starter is both fascinating and maddening at the same time. Apparently, every team has a number one starter, but the concept of the ace is more esoteric in nature. Everyone has their own definition until it becomes a case of “we can’t define it, but we know it when we see it.”

In fantasy baseball circles, the concept of a staff ace is irrelevant. We are interested only in performance and since there are 30 teams, I decided to go the number one starter route and identify the top 30 pitchers. How could I possibly do that? Well, we are using the same metric we used with the position players. Bill James used a total runs metric for pitching runs. His rankings include pitcher fielding and hitting, but I’ve distilled those out so we can look purely at the pitcher runs. You’ll obviously notice that some teams are represented more than once (two teams are represented three times) while others aren’t at all. Take a quick look at the standings and see if you notice any correlations. I’ll bet you do.

Team

PR

Hisashi Iwakuma Mariners

48

Matt Harvey Mets

47

Felix Hernandez Mariners

46

Clay Buchholz Red Sox

46

Justin Masterson Indians

44

Clayton Kershaw Dodgers

43

Yu Darvish Rangers

41

Adam Wainright Cardinals

41

Cliff Lee Phillies

41

James Shields Royals

40

Matt Moore Rays

39

Jordan Zimmerman Nationals

39

Alex Cobb Rays

39

Anibal Sanchez Tigers

39

Hiroki Kuroda Yankees

38

Chris Sale White Sox

37

Jason Vargas Angels

37

Max Scherzer Tigers

36

Shelby Miller Cardinals

36

Lance Lynn Cardinals

36

A.J. Burnett Pirates

35

Madison Bumgarner Giants

34

Ervin Santana Royals

34

Jake Peavy White Sox

34

Patrick Corbin Diamondbacks

33

Jon Lester Red Sox

33

Mike Minor Braves

33

Jeff Samardzija Cubs

33

Travis Wood Cubs

32

Justin Verlander Tigers

32

Hisashi Iwakuma– Seattle Mariners

I haven’t heard any rumors here, but I’m putting two and two together. First, you have a player that is playing way above his head. So, his value could not be any higher on the open market. Naturally, pitching¬†rankings are a snapshot in time and this snapshot was taken at the end of the previous week. So, he may not be number one now, but he is firmly in the top ten. There isn’t one scout or talking head that would have put him among the top ten starters in baseball at the beginning of the season.

The other two factors putting him on the block in my mind are the state of the current Mariners franchise and the state of their farm system to date. The Mariners have a few promising young arms that will either make their debut later on this season or at some point next season. Pitching is never a surplus, but when you have someone that is overachieving, it is a good idea to get what you can for them at that point. Unlike position players, there isn’t a contender out there that couldn’t use one of the top ten pitchers in baseball.

Cliff Lee– Philadelphia Phillies

There is a movement afoot to legally change Cliff Lee’s first name to “Poor”. Whether you love or hate the Phillies, you have to feel for Lee and his lack of run support. Baseball executives are wise to the irrelevance of won-loss records and see pitchers for what they really are. Lee is consistently among the top ten in the game and if the Phillies find themselves out of the hunt, they may dangle Lee out there to see what they can get. One thing is for sure, Lee has history on his side.

Both the Phillies and the Rangers have acquired Lee at the deadline and used his arm to get to the World Series. He traditionally steps up at that time of year, so a contending team would be wise to put him on their shopping list come July. As for the Phillies, they will lose Roy Halladay to free agency and could possibly also cut veteran contracts like Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. If they were able to cut all of those contracts, that would be worth more than the prospects they got in return.

Jason Vargas– Los Angeles Angels

Who is the best pitcher on the Angels? If you had bet Jason Vargas at the beginning of the season you may have been able to retire on those odds. Granted, Jered Weaver missed a lot of time, but Vargas was supposed to be a bottom of the rotation guy when the Angels acquired him for Kendrys Morales. Vargas has definitely kept up his end of the bargain, but the rest of the Angels staff has left a lot to be desired. More to the point, their offense has let a lot of people down in the early going.

The Angels are still close enough to be considered contenders and their recent good play has given the organization and the fans hope. Still, if they find themselves below .500 in July, they will have to consider selling off some spare parts to replenish that farm system. Could you imagine how good they would look with Jean Segura at shortstop? They need to get some prospects like that back in the fold.

Jake Peavy– Chicago White Sox

No team is more prepared to sell than the White Sox. The only thing getting in their way is themselves. They have two very productive and tradeable outfield pieces. They have a very marketable shortstop and they have a few arms teams would love to get their hands on. Chris Sale is a revelation in the rotation and Peavy has returned to prominence, but he will not be a prominent member of the next White Sox playoff team. He is the guy you trade to get the pieces that will be on that team.

If the White Sox did nothing more than trade Peavy, Alex Rios, and Alexei Ramirez they would likely be able to add as many as ten prospects to a moribund farm system. Add that to another solid draft and they would go from being one of the worst farm systems in baseball to the middle of the pack. Behind it all, this is an old team that isn’t getting any younger and Peavy is one of those guys that won’t be marketable for long.

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