In the world of fantasy baseball, and “real” baseball for that matter, SPs serve as the tip of the spear, bearing the weight of our team’s aspirations on their shoulders every time they take the mound. We count on them to set the tone for our pitching staffs, starting with W or QS, then loading up on Ks, and establishing our ratios (ERA/WHIP). Short of the very few 5-tool bats in our game, SPs are probably the most important position on the roster. They are the linchpin upon which our championship aspirations are built…or dashed.
As the dust settles on the 2023 baseball season, the ride has been nothing short of exhilarating, with new SPs across the game rising to the top of their craft. In some cases, stalwarts of the mound are falling from grace, either because of injury or “other” factors.
With just over a week left in the regular season, and our fantasy leagues winding down, it’s becoming the perfect moment to pause and dissect the performance of our SPs. From draft-day bargains to ace-level surprises, from consistent workhorses to mid-season revelations, this review will cut through the numbers and identify the cream of the crop. This is not just your typical “year in review” because we’re doing it with an eye on next season.
Long-time readers of mine here @Razzball have seen this figure a couple times this season. The original piece was from way back in February when I did an article connecting baseball analytics to Russell Wilson’s wife. If you didn’t read that one, or better yet, want a visual refresher on Russell Wilson’s wife, you can do so HERE.
In that article, I built on an existing article done here @Razzball by @everywhereblair that provided “a critique of ADP, the aggregate ranking systems that replicate and reinforce ADP, and the industry that has developed around the commodification of rankings.” Blair said, “ADP should be a guide only for when you can draft a player, not how valuable that player is.” Blair did a ton of research going back to 2004 and found that it’s extremely rare for a consensus SP1 to be drafted in the first round and return first round value.
More importantly to us in-season, he also found that “The top fantasy pitchers almost always have top 10 finishes in IP, K-BB% and SIERA rates.” By combining this information with incoming news about player injuries, he concluded our rates of success on pitchers jumps dramatically. I won’t belabor the point here but I do highly recommend you reading Blair’s article (HERE). I also did a mid-season review of these analytics as well. That article is HERE.
Because I’ve written about this a few times already, I’m not going to step through the 3 factors like I did in the past. With titles to win in baseball, and many of us partaking in that “other” sport going on right now, let’s just jump right to the good stuff and reveal what analytics say are the top SPs of 2023.
Drum roll please….
Much to absolutely nobody’s surprise, Spencer Strider leads the field of SPs. If you own him in fantasy, he is undoubtedly your fantasy MVP and will most likely hoist the NL CY Young in a few weeks as well. That award on the AL side will probably go to Gerrit Cole, but you can see based on our analytics that other AL SPs can make a compelling case.
What’s more important to us is reviewing how these pitchers were drafted. If you remember way back in the spring, Burnes and Cole were the top 2 SPs on virtually every draft board. Although one could argue that none of these SPs returned 1st round value, at least Cole was close. Do you remember where we drafted Pablo Lopez and Zach Eflin? How about Logan Webb? Nick Pivetta or Kyle Bradish, anyone?
Just imagine if your draft strategy was to load up on SPs named Zach/Zack/Zac and Logan…
A few of these SPs were not even drafted but we all know titles are won not on draft day alone, but through persistent in-season management. What better way to do so than to pay attention to the analytics and use that edge against your competitors?
So, there you have it folks. It’s been a pleasure to have you tag along with me on this trip through the world of pitching analytics this season. I hope you’ve enjoyed my work and gained an appreciation for what a little extra analysis can provide. Before I put a lid on the season though, I have one more journey to cover, the bats. Next week, I’ll be taking a final deep dive into the offensive analytics and preview the names that’ll likely be pushing up draft boards before Opening Day.
As I always say, keep sifting through the number. That’s where you find the gems!
Follow me on Twitter/X: @Derek_Favret.
Until next time, my friends!