2014 Fantasy BaseballFantasy Baseball

2014 Fantasy Baseball: The Starting Pitcher Market — AL East

Masahiro Tanaka fantasy baseball
Photo credit: Hiro Sensei

Dumpster diving is fairly straightforward when it comes to position players, but it gets rather difficult when it comes to starting pitchers. Unfortunately, pitchers must rely on their teammates for much of their statistical outputs (cough wins cough), so instead of looking at only undrafted and unowned pitchers, we’re going to look at all of them. At least, we are going to look at all that have enough innings to make sense of their performance.

We will divide pitchers into three tiers using their SIERA from Fangraphs. Pitchers must have at least 60 innings to qualify for the study. Pitchers with SIERAs under 3.00 will be in the first tier. The second tier will be for pitchers with SIERAs between three and four. The last tier will be for pitchers with SIERAs above four. As we go, we will find pitchers that have underperformed and overperformed and therefore will find some players worth acquiring.

Before we dive into the players we should take a look of the relevant numbers we will use. The primary luck numbers are batting average on balls in play. The league average tends to be around .300. The second number is the left on base percentage. The league average there tends to be around 71-72 percent. When we see a large fluctuation in any of those numbers it often helps to explain large variances in ERA. Otherwise, we will include the standard strikeout and walk percentage as well. Numbers for all of the starting pitchers were as of June 13th.

INN

BABIP

LOB%

K/9

BB/9

ERA

SIERA

Masahiro Tanaka

93.2

.277

85.3

9.90

1.35

2.02

2.45

Jon Lester

84.1

.342

70.6

10.14

2.45

3.52

2.99

David Price

99.2

.332

67.5

10.02

0.90

3.97

2.60

I suppose the Yankees can claim they knew all along that Tanaka would be this good. He currently stands at 10-1. That means he has an outrageous winning percentage over the past two seasons. I didn’t even post wins because they are so fickle. Tanaka has benefited from some serious batted ball luck when you look at both the left on base percentage and BABIP. However, even when you allow for that luck, he is still on pace to be a very intriguing Cy Young Award candidate.

The other two have gone down with the ship so to speak. However, that bears watching. Both players have been mentioned as potential trade candidates and if that happens to either one (or both) then they are liable to see a significant improvement in performance. Both the Rays and the Red Sox have struggled and that includes some defensive struggles. Normally, the Rays are among the top defensive teams in the league. This year, their .689 defensive efficiency rating puts them below the league average. Boston’s .672 DER puts them near the bottom of the league.

INN

BABIP

LOB%

SO/9

BB/9

ERA

SIERA

Wei-Yen Chen

76.2

.319

76.1

6.69

1.29

3.76

3.60

John Lackey

87.2

.317

75.1

7.80

1.75

3.18

3.36

Hiroki Kuroda

78.2

.289

65.5

6.18

1.60

4.12

3.80

Chris Archer

76.1

.321

75.6

8.14

3.42

3.42

3.72

Jake Odorizzi

65.0

.341

68.9

10.52

3.60

4.85

3.37

Drew Hutchinson

75.0

.278

76.0

8.04

2.76

3.96

3.81

Keep in mind, there are always 25 starting pitchers in each division at any one time. We now have gotten through nine of the 25 starting pitchers in the American League East. So, you can almost always tell the fortunes of a team depending on how many guys you have in these first two tiers. The division seems to be evenly stacked as we see three Rays, two Yankees, two Red Sox, one Blue Jay, and one Oriole.

Before we get to obvious adds, we should take some time to consider what these tiers mean. If each division had nine pitchers in the first two tiers (some will have more) than you are looking at 54 pitchers total. If you are in a 12 player league, that is roughly five pitchers per team. So, you really don’t have to break into the third tier. Now is the time to think about dumping some of those tier three guys.

Jake Odorizzi is the obvious add at this point. He is owned by six percent of players in Yahoo leagues at this point. He won’t be dealt unlike his compadre David Price, but the Rays are close enough to the middle of the pack in fielding that they might turn things around. Even still, he has the highest strikeout rate in the division. Even if the Rays don’t turn things around defensively then he will still end up being beneficial because of that ridiculous strikeout rate. Otherwise, most of these guys are owned and are performing near where they are expected to.

INN

BABIP

LOB%

SO/9

BB/9

ERA

SIERA

Chris Tillman

77.0

.299

71.7

6.78

4.09

4.91

4.67

Ubaldo Jimenez

70.0

.306

71.9

8.49

5.14

5.01

4.38

Bud Norris

75.1

.250

75.5

6.09

2.99

3.94

4.40

Jake Peavy

81.1

.298

74.9

6.86

3.43

4.76

4.37

R.A. Dickey

83.2

.279

71.6

7.31

4.09

4.20

4.41

Mark Buehrle

88.1

.285

82.1

5.30

2.55

2.04

4.42

Mark Buehrle sticks out like a sore thumb. On the one hand, he is doing it with a little more than smoke and mirrors. He keeps the walks down and keeps the ball in the park. However, someone that allows that amount of contact can’t possibly keep up this pace. However, someone in your league will see those ten wins and that sparkling ERA and give you something of value for him. Don’t expect 100 pennies on the dollar, but if you can get three quarters for him I’d take it.

As for the rest, they seem to follow the ol’ adage that you have to be a pretty good pitcher to lose 20 games. In this case, you have to be pretty good to be allowed to log this many innings. Just about all of them were drafted or have been added at one time or another. The whole trick is figuring out how long to hang on to them. You have three Cy Young type performers in there from past seasons. The trouble is that was in the past.

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