2011 MLB Fantasy Fever From WhatIfSports.com image

Fantasy Fever: Judging Pitching Performance

Fantasy Fever Week 5

By Joel Beall - WhatIfSports.com
May 3, 2011

Jered Weaver is currently the top-rated arm in most fantasy formats, and with good reason: through 51.2 innings, the Angel ace is 6-1 with 55 strikeouts, 1.39 ERA and 0.83 WHIP.

Josh Johnson has been just as solid as Weaver, if not better, posting a 0.88 ERA, 0.71 WHIP and 39 strikeouts in six games. But a lack of run support has correlated to just three wins for Johnson, despite holding the opposition to one run or less in five appearances.

Dustin Moseley isn't the first name one would group into the upper echelon of arms in baseball. Yet through his first six games, the Padre pitcher has the fourth-lowest ERA in baseball (1.63) with a respectable 1.03 WHIP.

Alas, a quick glance at current pitching standings would not reflect this concept. He hasn't accumulated an enormous amount of strikeouts, but Moseley mainly falls out of the top-40 in fantasy pitcher ratings due to notching just one win on the season, though no fault of his own.

Which stirs up the following debate: should pitching victories be such an integral factor into the fantasy equation?

Wins are one of the most arbitrary figures in baseball, as the number isn't as much of an indicator of a pitcher's performances but rather the success (or lack thereof) of a team's lineup and bullpen. Runs for batters are dictated by the hitters who fall later in the lineup; likewise, for a player to have RBI opportunities, the batters ahead of him need to get on base. However, there's a stronger parallel between OBP/batting average with runs/RBI than the relationship between ERA/WHIP and wins.

The mainstream baseball media has already embraced this sentiment, as Felix Hernandez won the 2010 AL Cy Young award in spite of attaining just 13 wins compared to David Price's 19 and CC Sabathia's 21. Writers recognized that Hernandez's 2.27 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 232 strikeouts were a true gauge of King Felix's dominance.

So why is fantasy lagging behind the times? Some formats have adopted the notion, favoring WHIP, ERA and quality starts while discounting victories. Yet the consensus across the rotisserie landscape still sums wins as a component into league scoring.

You can use this information to your advantage by recognizing the rankings for pitchers are mandated by league scoring, hence the reason why Moseley falls so far in the current pitching standings. Finding pitchers who have yet to compile Ws with relatively low ERA and WHIP figures can still be found on the waiver wire. As laid out above, the victory totals might not increase. But a picked-up pitcher who keeps runs off the board is far more valuable than a hurler like A.J. Burnett who piggybacks off his lineup to augment his win-loss record.

Yorvit Torrealba Torrealba has been a fantasy surprise.

Start 'em:

C: Yorvit Torrealba, Rangers. The Texas backstop has nine hits in the past 21 at-bats, raising his season-average to .291. Prior to the season, it appeared that Torrealba would be splitting time with offseason acquisition Mike Napoli. However, Napoli has started just six games behind the plate, allowing Torrealba to become a viable asset for fantasy owners.

1B: Adam Lind, Blue Jays. A hitless endeavor against Tampa on April 24 brought Lind's average on the year down to .232. Since that juncture, the Toronto Blue Jay is hitting .429 with four jacks and 10 RBI. His .314 on-base percentage leaves much to be desired, but batting behind basher Jose Bautista and protected by a revitalized Juan Rivera will correlate to fantasy success for the first baseman.

2B: Neil Walker, Pirates. The Pittsburgh second baseman is hitting .394 in the last eight games. Although he has just two ribbies in that duration, Walker should produce his share of RBI batting fourth in the Pirate lineup.

SS: Orlando Cabrera, Indians. Featured at second in Cleveland, "OC" retains shortstop-status in most leagues. Cabrera's hot start was initially dismissed as the 36-year-old hit just .263 in nearly 500 at-bats in 2010 with Cincinnati. Yet through 102 at-bats in 2011, the former Gold Glover is hitting .294 for the upstart Indians.

3B: Chone Figgins, Mariners. Figgins used to be a secret weapon in fantasy thanks to his plethora of position eligibility. However, Figgins experienced significant drops in OBP, batting average, runs and RBI in 2010 and only manned the second base spot. Figgins began 2011 with another dreadful start, hitting just .160 after 21 games. But Figgins as shown signs of life, compiling nine hits in the past six games to raise his average above the Mendoza Line for the season. He may no longer be a formidable threat to swipe bases, but Figgins can still be an ample resource of runs.

OF: Matt Joyce, Rays. The Rays right fielder embarked the season with a putrid performance at the plate, collecting one hit in his first 18 at-bats. Joyce has bounced back since that slumping start, batting .429 with two homers and 10 RBI in his last 63 at-bats. Joyce has helped fill the void of the departed Manny Ramirez and currently bats fourth in the Tampa lineup, making Joyce a supplier of RBI and runs.

SP: Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks. Aside from a nine-run shellacking in St. Louis, Kennedy has been strong in 2011, surrendering eight runs in 36 innings of work. On the season, Kennedy's ERA stands at 3.92 with a whip of 1.05.

RP: Sergio Santos, White Sox. Santos has yet to allow a run in 13 innings this season. With Santos notching three saves in the past week, it appears the closer-by-committee situation is kaput for the White Sox bullpen.

Sit 'em:

C: Jorge Posada, Yankees. Posada does have six long balls on the season, but is hitting an abysmal .150. New York doesn't have a suitable replacement for Posada at the DH spot at the moment, but that can quickly change with a trade or call-up. If Posada doesn't emerge from his slump soon, look for other options behind the plate.

1B: Aubrey Huff, Giants. The first baseman has just three hits in his last 11 games. Huff looks like a far cry from the man who bashed 26 homers and 86 RBI in 2010, slamming just 2 bombs in 100 at-bats in 2011.

2B: Michael Cuddyer, Twins. Cuddyer is hitting .148 in his past seven games, lowering his season average to .226. If he can begin to mirror his production from 2010 (14 home runs, 81 RBI, 93 runs) Cuddyer will be a steal at second. However, keep him on your bench until he begins to illustrate his former power.

SS: Omar Infante, Marlins. The uber-utility man hasn't replicated his breakout All-Star season of 2010, scoring just eight runs off of a .227 batting average, two categories that Infante was expected to produce.

3B: Casey McGehee, Brewers. McGehee is still battling a thumb injury, which may explain why the Brewer third baseman has just two jacks in 105 at-bats. McGehee should eventually regain the same muscle that powered him to 23 home runs and 104 RBI last season, but put him on the bench until he's fully recovered.

Ben Zobrist Zobrist has 25 RBI on the season.

OF: Austin Jackson, Tigers. April has been contrary to Jackson's 2010 spring, where the Tiger made waves with his bat out of the gate, hitting .330 through May. But with 112 at-bats under his belt, Jackson is sitting at .188 with just 10 runs and three stolen bases. Despite this appalling start, Jackson remains in the leadoff spot for Detroit; for how long remains to be seen.

SP: Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies. Jimenez has been nagged by injuries in the early-going, but the former All-Star has yielded 12 earned runs in 16 innings this season. His fastball is still reaching high velocity, but Jimenez has undoubtedly caused harm to your team's ERA in his appearances. Keep him on your bench until he turns it around.

RP: Mitchell Boggs, Cardinals. Boggs earned three straight saves in mid-April, but Tony LaRussa has since allocated closing opportunities to others in the Cardinal bullpen. With St. Louis appearing to embrace the closer-by-committee sentiment, Boggs' value has diminished.

Waiver Wire Watch: Bud Norris, Astros. Owned in just 36% of leagues, Norris has conceded three runs in the last four starts (1.07 ERA) and has struck out 30. The Houston lineup might be a detriment to his win category, but Norris will be a consistent force for K's.

Rookie Review: Tyler Chatwood, Angels. Chatwood has been a pleasant surprise for the Angels, going 2-1 with a 4.94 ERA. Chatwood was drafted in the second round of the 2008 Draft out of high school, and posted a 2.84 ERA in 155.1 innings across three levels in the minors last season.

Big League Chew Player of the Week: Ben Zobrist, Rays. Grabbing seven hits, two homers and 10 RBI in a double-header is one way to boost the stat sheet.

Spit Your Tobacco At: Alex Rodriguez, Yankees. The ever-maligned third baseman has recorded six hits in his last 41 at-bats with just one homer.

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Joel Beall is the Assistant Content Manager for Whatifsports.com. He can be reached at jbeall@whatifsports.com.

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