Don’t let the title fool you, I am by no means a Styx fan. I actually had to look up who sang this song when I decided to use it. Does anyone even say “look up” any more or has the term been officially replaced with “google”. Speaking of Google, whatever happened to the “I’m feeling lucky” button. I wonder how many times Clint Eastwood clicked that thing? I wonder if he sued Google to have the button removed. I have questions that need answers. In the meantime, let’s talk points leagues. For weeks I’ve been promising to focus on pitchers in one of these posts and today’s the lucky day. Do you feel lucky?
While I’d love to say that Chris Sale has passed Clayton Kershaw in my rankings, I cannot. Well I could, but I’d be lying. While I have no problem doing so, what would be the point. Unless I was trying to trade Sale for Kershaw. For the record, I’d want Kershaw. I’d take Clayton over anyone in the league, and that includes both Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. Chris Sale however has been everything fantasy owners could want him to be, and more. Ranking starters by points per start (PPS), Sale is the second best pitcher in the league, scoring 27.56 points per start. Over nine starts Sale has posted 258 points, including three complete games and a sub-2.00 ERA. In AL-only leagues Sale is number one.
In the rest of fantasy baseball Captain Kershaw is the top ranked pitcher, sporting a 28.44 PPS. Kershaw has been nothing short of Kershaw. The man is a machine. You know the machine that Rocky’s team thought Ivan Drago was before he was cut. Only difference is Kershaw is not a man, he’s a machine! Clayton Kershaw is THE most valuable player in fantasy baseball points leagues. He is the only player that is consistently projected to lead the league in points and does. Sure Harper and Trout are in the top ten, but so are a eight others. And neither of them are top hitter and they most likely won’t be at the end of the season. Sale’s going to give Kershaw a run for his money, but I think that fact that Clayton pitches in the NL will be enough to give him the edge. If he needed an edge.
Based solely on year-to-date performance and PPS, here are the current top fifteen starting pitchers.
Clayton Kershaw (28.44)
Chris Sale (27.56)
Jake Arrieta (24.75)
Stephen Strasburg (22.89)
Johnny Cueto (21.22)
Noah Syndergaard (20.62)
Jeff Samardzija (20.33)
Vincent Velasquez (20.00)
Danny Salazar (19.63)
Aaron Nola (19.88)
Madison Bumgarner (19.44)
Jose Quintana (19.25)
Jon Lester (19.25)
John Lackey (18.62)
Jose Fernandez (18.25)
The top three are as most would have expected had they made preseason predictions. After that the only names most would have expected to see are Bumgarner, Strasburg and Fernandez. Maybe some of you envisioned Syndergaard in the top fifteen, but not at number six. My preseason projections had him at number 17, behind two other Mets pitchers, Jacob deGrom (14.50) and Matt Harvey (6.78).
Before we discuss some notable names that are missing from the list, let’s talk about some surprises. Vincent Velasquez is currently ranked 8th. I could argue that his ranking is more valuable than Samardzija and maybe even Syndergaard because he has RP eligibility. In leagues that allow SP in the RP spot, Velasquez’s value gets a noteworthy bump. Aaron Nola, who rounds out the top ten, is not someone anyone thought they find in the top ten. Striking out 9.84 batters per nine innings, Nola, who’s ADP was about 183, has been one heck of a return on the investment. I think I was going for a personal record with regards to using commas in a sentence in that last sentence.
Now let’s mention a few names we do not see in the top fifteen. David Price (16.78), Max Scherzer (17.78), Corey Kluber (13.37) and Zach Greinke (12.78). While Price and Scherzer are not quite who most had hoped for, they are also not far off from the list. Kluber and Greinke, however, are decent buy low candidates. Here are some more potential buy lows. Matt Harvey, Chris Archer, and Sonny Gray.
As good as Kershaw, Sale and Arrieta are pitching, they won’t keep it up. However, this does not mean you should trade them. These are not players you trade. Not unless you are getting one of them back in return, and even then. Their production will come down, but they will remain the best in the game. Jeff Samardzija, on the other hand, is a guy I’d sell high on if I could make a deal. The same goes for Jose Quintana, John Lackey, Rick Porcello and even Aaron Nola and Velasquez. If the price is right, I’d move any of these guys without a second thought. Speaking of Price, I’d give up any two of those pitchers in order to get David Price (or Kluber).
I’ve attached the spreadsheet containing pitching stats. This spreadsheet can be customized to your leagues scoring system. After adjusting the “Scoring System” worksheet be sure to re-sort the PPS column.