Some analyses strike gold.  Some analyses are an immediate bust.  It’s the third type – the ‘fool’s gold’ type – that are the most frustrating.  After three years of middling predictions, I think my ‘risky pitcher’ analysis from a couple years ago is falling into that 3rd category.

Over the past 7 years, about 24% of pitchers coming off seasons with 2,700+ pitches fit one of the two dropoff criteria (< 2,000 pitchers or, roughly, missing 1/3 of the season or more) or have a significant drop in their skills (measured as xFIP increased by .75+).

I figured that if I could identify some commonalities among the injured pitchers in past years that it would help me predict which pitchers were more risky in upcoming years.  After 3 years of hitting the yearly average in my predictions, I’m resigned to the fact that the findings in my initial analysis were either fluky or I’m really bad at applying the findings.  (Or I need Tom Verducci’s assistance at being less self-critical.)

Below are my results from last year.  About 20% of pitchers had a dropoff season – my most notable misses are Josh Johnson (had predicted him the previous year), Jonathan Sanchez, Dallas Braden, Clayton Richard, Brian Matusz, and Brett Cecil.  (Wow, that list falls off fast, doesn’t it?).  My most impressive accomplishment was predicting Gio Gonzalez gets traded to the Nationals and being the first on record to nickname him Nat Gio.  Hopefully he keeps getting as much drop on his curveball as the breasts typically found in Nat Geo.

Verdict Number Players
Dropoff 3 (15%) #3 Francisco Liriano (+1.46 xFIP)
#9 Philip Hughes (1,292 pitches, +0.57 xFIP)
#20 Clay Buchholz (1,355 pitches, +0.08 xFIP
Dropoff but didn’t technically qualify 1 (5%) #19 Brian Anderson (1,351 pitches, +0.04 xFIP)
Incorrect But Saw Some Legit Dropoff 2 (10%) #8 Chris Carpenter (+0.40 xFIP increase)
#18 Jonathan Niese (2,493 pitches..but -0.66 xFIP)
Close to 2010 Performance 9 (45%) #1 Brett Myers (-0.07 xFIP, 3,348 pitches)
#2 Bud Norris (-0.39 xFIP, 3,149 pitches)
#10 Brian Duensing (+.10 xFIP, 2,669 pitches)
#11 Brandon Morrow (+0.05 xFIP, 3,112 pitches)
#12 Mat Latos (+0.16, 3,149 pitches)
#13 Jhoulys Chacin (+0.33 xFIP, 3,139 pitches)
#14 Jason Vargas (-0.37 xFIP, 3,250 pitches)
#16 Jered Weaver (+0.29 xFIP, 3,746 pitches)
#17 Ricky Nolasco (+0.18 xFIP, 3,196 pitches)
Made Me Look Bad 5 (25%) #4 Anibal Sanchez (-0.54 xFIP, 3,225 pitches)
#5 Ervin Santana (-0.57 xFIP, 3,453 pitches)
#6 C.J. Wilson (-0.78 xFIP, 3,592 pitches)
#7 Ian Kennedy (-0.78 xFIP, 3,424 pitches)
#15 Gio Gonzalez (-0.45 xFIP, 3,407 pitches)

Despite my lack of success, I still shy away from drafting more than one pitcher with two of the following three criteria:   1) Throws a lot of sliders, 2) 700+ MLB pitch differential from previous year, and 3) Coming off first season with a full workload (2,500+ pitches).  See below for the dropoff statistics of pitchers that fall under these categories.

Previous Year (2005-2011) Chance of Dropoff
None of Three 17% (27/155)
Sliders > 15% 26% (60/234)
Sliders > 20% 25% (28/111)
Sliders > 25% 27% (13/48)
Pitch Diff > 700 31% (50/163)
Previous Year First 2500+ Pitches 31% (28/91)
Slider 15+% and Previous Year First 2500+ Pitches 34% (15/44)
All Three 35% (14/40)

Here are ten otherwise solid pitchers that I’d prefer to have no more than 1 on my team if I could avoid it.  Consider my tepid performance to date before taking it too much to heart

(notes: pitch increase totals only include MLB, only includes pitchers who had close to a full season last year – obviously players who were injured most/all of last year like Santana and Peavy are risky.  Also shied away from known injury concerns like Marcum and Carpenter)

Michael Pineda (31.5% sliders, 2,688 pitches) – I’ve liked this guy the moment I first heard his name – probably because it made me think of empanadas which are delicious.  It seems like his poor 2nd half + velocity drop is scaring off a lot of drafters.  He went 136th in my 12-team ‘expert’ Razzball Commenter League.  Can’t argue with selecting him there but I had the 135th pick, planned to take Cory Luebke, and when he was gone, took a closer instead.

Madison Bumgarner (32.4% sliders, 1,500 pitch increase) – I love the Mad-Bum.   We drafted him in the 6th round of our 15 Team LABR mixed league.  Might’ve had him in a couple more leagues but the bidding got too high.  But last year was his first full year in the bigs and he throws a whopping 32% sliders – 4th highest among SPs – and it’s his most effective pitch (3rd best slider among starting pitchers with a wSL of 17.7 – i.e., his slider saved 17 runs above the average pitch).  His fastball came in about league average for effectiveness.  There are pitchers who can manage this type of pitch mix (Clayton Kershaw, CC Sabathia) but it’s a little more risky until they’ve proven they can do it in back-to-back seasons.  (NOTE: Commenters have noted that there is disagreement about Pitch F/X’s classification of Bumgarner’s cutter as a slider and that his true slider rate might be closer to 20%.  That doesn’t remove his risk but definitely a more sustainable usage rate.  I can’t think of another recent lefty who managed a 30+% slider rate and had a productive career except for Randy Johnson – I imagine Carlton had similar usage rates too.).

Jhoulys Chacin (18.9% sliders, +834 pitch increase) – Chacin was on my 2011 list but lived up to his draft value – delivering 11 wins and a 3.64 ERA.  But his K/rate dropped from 9.1 K/9 in 2010 to 6.96 in 2011.  The part that scares me most (and I mentioned this in 2010) is that he is highly dependent on breaking pitches for success and he’s in the worst home stadium for breaking pitches.  His fastball was the 7th worst in baseball amongst starters last year on a per-pitch basis (wFB/C) while his slider, curveball, and changeup were all above average.  His changeup might be his saving grace in 2012 as it was the only pitch of the four that improved in effectiveness between 2010 and 2011.  (Note:  We have him on our LABR team too….getting a little concerned.)

Brandon McCarthy (2% sliders, 2,499 pitch increase) – The formula for getting onto the cover of ESPN Magazine seems to be this:  one marginally successful season + good sense of humor + hot wife.  McCarthy was a prized prospect that White Sox GM Kenny Williams was able to swap for the RangersJohn Danks (one of the few marks against otherwise awesome GM Jon Daniels).  He couldn’t manage more than 120 IP in a year (majors + minors) between 2005-2010.  When he did pitch, he had bad K and BB rates.  Then, after maybe spending a week at Dave Duncan sleepaway camp, he emerges in 2011 as a ground ball pitcher with great control (1.32 BB/9) to balance against a mediocre 6.5 K/9.  He’s a fine late round pick but I see little upside with a higher than average chance of missing significant time.  (Note:  For AL-only drafters, stock up on A’s SPs.  McCarthy and Colon will both likely miss time.  I like Tom Milone and Tyson Ross at the right price).

Tim Stauffer (0% sliders, 1,774 pitch increase) – Similar to McCarthy.  Prized prospect derailed by injuries.  Throws a lot of pitches that turn into ground balls once hit (I wanted to write ‘throws a lot of ground balls’ but that could be confusing and our blog is incomprehensible enough.).  His wife’s not bad to look at.  Maybe it’s his previous ‘prospect’ status that hides the fact he’s not particularly good.  He’s had a lot of success with his fastball the past two years but it’s hard to put much faith in a 90 MPH fastball that clearly doesn’t lead to a lot of swing-and-misses (6.2 K/9) or comes with pinpoint control (2.6 BB/9).  He’s a Hodgepadre so he’s got some value for home starts but I wouldn’t consider him any better than, say, Clayton Richard.

Jordan Zimmermann (24% sliders, 2,464 pitch increase) – The other Jay-Z came back from Tommy John surgery to post solid if not spectacular numbers in 2011.  His ERA and WHIP (1.15) were helped by low HR and BABIP rates.  His control was very good (1.73 BB/9) so he still projects to be solid at WHIP.  I’m wary of the fact he threw 24% sliders (his most effective pitch) and still had a mediocre K-rate (6.9 K/9).  He’s probably going to go higher in drafts than I like.

Luke Hochevar (11% sliders, 1,476 pitch increase) – Hochevar showed a few signs of competence in his 4th year with the Royals.  He had his lowest ERA (4.68), pitched almost 200 IP, had 11 wins (FWIW), and managed a huge K/rate spike in August-October (8+ K/9) after a career in the 6-7 range.  I haven’t found an explanation for the sudden spike – I know a lot of fantasy baseball writers LOVE to add importance to end of year statistics but I don’t.  His slider was very effective last year (3rd most effective in the majors per pitch) so increasing his usage of it would seem to help.  It’s possible he can have a Justin Masterson 2011 season if he stays healthy – it’s only worth taking the plunge, though, in deeper league formats (14+).
Bud Norris (36.2% sliders, 423 pitch increase) – Bud joins Jhoulys as one of my ‘double down’ risky pitcher bets.  His slider rate is insane and it is much more effective than his fastball.  Coupled with the likelihood that no one on the Astro staff will clear 10 wins, I’d consider him on the waiver wire if you need K’s.  That’s about it.

Ervin Santana (38.4% sliders, 108 pitch decrease) – I think I put Ervin Santana on the list every other year.  From 2006-2010, Ervin Santana was the bizarro-Saberhagen – good in the even years, bad in the odd years.  He broke the streak in 2011.  I just can’t sign up for a pitcher that is so dependent on the slider.

Dan Haren (0% sliders, 25 pitch increase) – Might as well go out on a limb for my 10th choice.  There aren’t many pitchers as consistently great as Dan Haren – 7 years straight of 215+ IP, 4 straight years of a sub-3.50 xFIP, a sub 2 BB/9 rate in 4 of the past 6 years.  So why the concern?  Much like Roy Halladay, Dan Haren has morphed from throwing a standard pitch mix (Fastball/Slider/Curve/Split-Finger) to relying heavily on a cut fastball.  After ditching the slider for a cutter in 2009, his cutter rate has gone from 23% to 27% to 48%.  In 2011, his cutter was the 3rd most effective on a per-pitch basis and by far the most valuable in aggregate (wCT of 30.5 runs above average was double everyone except for Halladay’s 19.5 and Gavin Floyd’s 15.5).  In fact, Haren’s cutter was the most valuable pitch in aggregate of ANY pitch in 2011.  Unlike Roy Halladay, though, Haren doesn’t have velocity to spare.  His fastball velocity has slowly decreased from 91.9 MPH in 2005 to 90.0 MPH in 2011.  His cutter was at 85 MPH (Halladay’s at 90 MPH), making it one of the slowest amongst starting pitchers.  He had great success with it in 2011 at this velocity – but the pitch really has nowhere to go but down in 2012 and the rest of his stuff isn’t good enough to warrant his ADP if the cutter fails him.

  1. Pirahnaman says:

    Bumgarner, Zimmermann, McCarthy, Haren.. they are in my team.



    • @Pirahnaman, Well, a guy with a handle of Pirahnaman shouldn’t mind a little extra risk, right? Given my past performance, I wouldn’t sweat it too much :)

      • Piranhaman says:

        @Rudy Gamble, well, i hope your analysis would digress a little. anyway, i love your articles. haha.

  2. Ace says:

    Hmmm…got three myself: Haren, Bud, MadBum (sounds like the menu at a cafe in Amsterdam). Can someone send them some of the stuff Bonds rubbed on his arms?

    • @Ace, I read that quickly and now realize that 1) arms and anus can be mistaken for one another and 2) i have a sick subconscious.

  3. Trevor

    Tggq21 says:

    @Pirahnaman, I agree I have a lot of these pitchers on the same teams. Anyone have a gun?

    • @Tggq21, As long as that gun isn’t pointed at me. It’s not my fault! You could trade to reduce what I think is extra risk but it’s not essential – if you have 6 starting pitchers, odds are that 1 is going to break down (or have an awful season based on xFIP). Worst case, maybe now you have 2 (that would be 33% vs. 17% which is at the extremes of my analysis with hindsight).

  4. papasmurf says:

    Does anyone have general statistics on pitchers? I wonder if the percentage of the pitchers that fit the bill on the list is any different than the pitching population at large.

    • @papasmurf, Fangraphs has tons of general stats. The two differences I’d expect are: 1) throw more sliders and 2) younger. The reason for the latter is that my analysis shows that pitching a full workload is a skill. Until someone has exhibited that skill in back-to-back seasons they are riskier propositions to do so.

  5. Tony says:

    20-24% success rate at predicting? is that what I’m reading? I dont look at this and put too much stock into it…. I enjoy the read, but if we’re talking only being right 1 in 4 to 1 in 5 players named? That’s not significant enough for me to worry.

    I’ve not got bum on one team, sad to say, he always went to early, the hype train has made him almost untouchable the way I draft. Jhoulys and Stauffer have found their ways on 2 teams of mine, but risky or not I’ve gotten them so late I dont really care. Pineda I like, I dont own him anywhere.

    What do you think of Liriano this year rudy? You predicted a fall off…. now what? Bounce back to scorn the 2011 drafters?

    • @Tony, Yup, good way of thinking about it. I’m not a big fan of Liriano. His velocity never came all the way back after surgery. He was 95 before, got to 94 in 2010 and sunk to 92 in 2011. That affects his fastball and changeup which are just league average pitches at best and forces him to dial up sliders at a near 30% rate. I wouldn’t draft him in 12-team leagues.

      • Tom Thumb says:

        @Rudy Gamble, The velocity is reportedly back to 2010 levels at least in ST. His velocity on the FB was so down last year that hitters could sit on it and not swing at his slider. His slider would often leave the zone and resulted in a huge BB increase. If the FB velocity is back, it makes the slider a much better pitch. FWIW his K/BB in ST in 13 IP was 18/2 which is also encouraging. I think he is worth a flier. Currently 81 SP at MDC. Thoughts on that?

  6. chata says:

    @ Rudy :

    “(Or I need Tom Verducci’s assistance at being less self-critical.)”
    anything but his hair !

    “… my most notable misses are Josh Johnson (had predicted him the previous year)…”
    maybe you’re just rushing things a bit .
    meaning , perhaps you should be looking at the effects of these “trends”
    manifesting themselves 2 years down the road .

    on a related (?) note :
    you’re a saber guy , and i’m an “old scout” type , as evidenced by the
    fact that i spend more time watching games than i do studying numbers .
    but , re: gio gonzalez :
    speak all you want about his high K’s and how moving to the national league is going to result in him having a good 2012 , but i think that a lot of Razzball readers are going to regret drinking that kool-aid .

    this kid is a whiner .
    he cries about umpires’ calls at even the most seemingly unimportant times …. he just does it all the time .
    having to adjust to what was once called “the national league strike zone” ,
    his “attitude” might piss off more than a few umpires , and may develop into a reputation that i feel he , currently , justly deserves .
    that , plus leaving the pitcher-friendly foul territory of his former ballpark ,
    could result in a dramatic increase in his BB rate … maybe even approaching 175 K’s/125 BB’s .
    that , or he could feign injury , before things get too out of hand .

    nice article .
    some good stuff here .

    • Wilsonian says:

      @chata, for my sake because I never drafted him this year (he was going ridiculously high), I hope you’re right. I wasn’t nearly as sold on him as most have been, simply because he’s shown nothing as to why his BB rate will decline. He’s the guy that could give you 8+ innings with 1-2 ER and 10 Ks, but it’s also as likely that he’ll go 3 innings with 7 ER and 10 BBs. If he gets his walks under control, he’s got the makings of an ace, stuff-wise, but that’s a BIG ‘if.”

      Haven’t watched much spring training games, and didn’t know he was a whiner. Don’t know how that will play into his success, but it’s certainly not a bonus.

      Good post, brother.

    • @chata, I’ve done analysis in the past on whether this has impacts 2 years down the road. I didn’t see anything. But, in general, pitchers with high % of sliders are more likely to break down. Once a pitcher has done it a couple times without injury/falloff, I take them out of the risky bucket. Sabathia and Dempster are two examples. Guys like Josh Johnson and Ervin Santana have never managed to stay healthy for much more than a year so I never take them off my list.

  7. DP says:

    @rudy & @grey, where might be the best place to look to find keeper potential this year. As in guys you can get cheap this year and may breakout in 2013?

    • @DP, I know we’ve done a bunch of prospect posts but not sure if anything covers it with 2013 keepers in mind. Grey might know.

  8. Dude says:

    Thanks — thought provoking, Rudy. I’ll probably take 20 percent off my bids on draft day.

  9. taz says:

    Alfredo Aceves?whats your thoughts of him being a starter in boston this year after real good long relieve numbers in the past

    • @taz, He could be okay in deep leagues – in like a Freddy Garcia kind of way.

  10. Eddy says:

    Rudy, just wanted to let you know that you have a very nice staff….

    in the Yahoo Friends and Family league.

    I can’t say your offense is mind blowing, but it should keep you afloat.

    I’m guessing you had quite a hand in this draft?

  11. Patrick says:

    Hey Rudy,

    Just FYI, Fangraphs does list MadBum as throwing 32% of his pitches as sliders last year. However, the tricky thing about that is he throws a cutter that behaves like a slider as well, and these pitches were lumped into that 32%. According to Brooks Baseball he threw his slider 20% of the time last year, his cutter 8%, his sinker 7%, curveball 11%, fastball 47%, and changeup 7%. Just thought I’d make the distinction.

    Love the stuff you guys do on here. Keep up the good work.

    • Patrick –
      Awesome note and something I should’ve caveated in the analysis. I didn’t know that about Bumgarner and that decreases some of his risk in my eyes. I’d be interested to see how successful the slider is vs. the cutter. But a 20% slider rate is a lot more sustainable than 32%.

  12. Velveeta Fog says:

    pick a side any side

    1. m. cabrera/h. kendrick/j.heyward or 2. b. lawrie/j. kipnis/m. kemp

    • I’m taking #2. While I think Miggy is the best of the bunch and that Kendrick > Kipnis, I think Lawrie has a chance of being top 50 and I don’t think Kendrick or Heyward does. So I’d prefer the side with two potential top 50 players vs. 1.

  13. Griff says:

    Someone mentioned in the comments section at Fangraphs that a lot of MadBum’s sliders are actually cutters that are categorized as sliders in the statistics. Might be something worth looking into.

    • Griff says:

      @Griff, Nevermind. Patrick beat me to it with much greater detail.

  14. MikeY says:

    Why didn’t you include minor league pitch totals? Aside from probably being hard to find the data, those innings/pitches still count as wear and tear on their arms.

    Bumgarner for example, threw in the minors for almost half of the 2010 season, and actually threw LESS innings in 2011, so I doubt he had a 1,500 pitch increase from the previous year.

    I couldn’t find pitch count numbers, but in 2010, Mad-Bum, as you call him, pitched 82.2 innings in the minors and 131.2 in the majors (reg. season/playoff combined) for a total of 214.1 innings. And then in 2011 he totaled 204.2 innings.

    I fail to see logic here if you don’t count minor league numbers.

    • @MikeY, You make a good point. Part of the reason I don’t do it is convenience – would require a lot more work to find minor league pitch/IP totals and factor it into this analysis. I do consider it subjectively. The other reason for it is that most of these young pitchers sail through AAA and there’s a lot more wear and tear when they get to the majors. Maybe a pitcher can get by with fastballs in AAA but needs to rely more on breaking pitches in the bigs.

      But, yes, the fact that Mad-Bum pitched so much in 2010 is a good sign and I should’ve noted that in the post.

  15. mets fan says:

    Rudy what’s your take on Matusz I know it’s spring but his velocity is back to where is was before he got hurt last year is he worth a flier?

    • @mets fan, Matusz showed some promise in 2010. He’s a good bounceback candidate for 2012 in deeper leagues. Given his division, I’m not a big fan of his for 12-team leagues.

      • mets fan says:

        @Rudy Gamble, Thanks, also is there a pitcher that you are winding up with on mulptiple teams that you can see breaking out?

  16. Pops says:

    Fangraphs featured an article on Hochevar that attributed his rising strikeout rate to an increase in velocity and a tendancy to throw his slider more frequently. Based on his FIP, his overall numbers should continue to improve. I wad tempted to look at Hochevar late in a recent draft, but I just couldn’t pull the trigger.

  17. J!m Future says:

    Rudy – for what it’s worth, I have the same reservations about Bumgarner, but there seems to be some disagreement over at Fangraphs about his slider usage; some of the writers over there think pitchF/X is misidentifying a cutter as a slider, leading to a +30% usage rate. I don’t know that I agree, but apparently Bumgarner calls it a cutter, too.

    On the bright side, this is the first year I haven’t been targeting any of the pitchers on your risky list, so I’m glad for that.

    • J!m Future says:

      …whoops, someone beat me to it, I see.

    • @J!m Future, Patrick (comment #12) made a similar note about Bumgarner’s potentially misclassified cutters inflating his slider rate %. It’s a great note. Cutters strain the ar less than a slider (all pitches strain the arm). What I still would like to know is the success rate of the slider vs. cutter. If the cutter is just as effective, I could see him using it more. My guess would be he uses the cutter against RH to induce weak contact and the slider to put away both LH and RH. Just a guess though.

  18. Rags says:

    Epic who-do-I-keep post, all opinions are welcome.

    My team has a lot of borderline value guys, but maybe too many to keep. I was thinking I could lock up my MI-type spots for cheap and spend my money on some stars (there are a lot of big names coming up in this years draft). I wanted to trade the rest, but nobody’s biting.

    It’s NL only, weekly moves with a transaction fee (which limits streaming pitchers), and no bench except for DL or demoted to the minors. 2 Catchers per team and we use OBP for AVG.

    You can have a max of 15 keepers and waiver wire guys can be kept at 8, so inflation tends to run pretty high (25+%).

    Guys I’m definitely keeping:
    CarGo @18
    Walker @8
    Heyward @15
    Guerra @ 8 (closers go for a premium, often in high teens, low 20’s)
    Motte @ 8
    Wainwright @ 5
    Stauffer @3

    Guys I’m considering
    Buck @ 6 (worried about the new park)
    Daniel Murphy @ 8 (Like his flexibility, and I’m terrified of 1B in NL-only, and Morse, Freeman, Goldschmidt, Davis, and Duda are likely to be kept.)
    Altuve @ 8
    Craig @ 8
    Lohse @ 3 (you may scoff but he was totally worth it last year)

    If I kept them all, I’d have $162 to spend on 11 players (a catcher, two corners, a SS, 2 OF, a utility, 3 starting pitchers, and a reliever/setup man).

    With someone like Lohse, I think he’ll earn back his three plus some more, but I’m a little worried about locking up so many roster spaces with guys with too little upside.


  19. Rags says:

    @Rudy, sorry. We’re 10 team. We were 11 team last year and had been for a while, so I don’t know how prices are going change this year.

  20. MattTruss

    MattTruss223 says:

    Reddick vs. Reimold, schmotato vs. schmotato? I have 46 moves for the year, think it’s worth the upgrade for a bench bat or just sit tight? Bench bat is basically insurance @ LF in case V. Wells poos his pants this year. Muchas Gracias Senors!

    • @MattTruss223, I’ve got Reddick ahead of Reimold b/c of more assured playing time.

  21. The Vaporizers says:

    Good morning Rudy,

    Who do you like better to have a breakout season this year and be ownable for the season as opposed to a 12 team league streamer.

    Homer Bailey or Juan Nicasio

    I’m beginning to lean Nicasio myself…

    • @The Vaporizers, Nicasio. Sick of waiting for Bailey to figure it out. Nicasio has the better fastball.

  22. nightpandas says:

    Who do you like in an league as my last pick (round 20) (15 team roto, 6×6 (OPS & K/9), 7 keepers).

    Gamel/Fowler/D Young – my bench batters right now are JD Martinez and Mike Trout. At 3B I have ARam and my OF is Kemp/Bruce/Choo/Bonifacio.

    or do I go pitching:

    available – Bedard/Pomeranz/Guthrie/Nicasio/Niese – my current staff is Latos/D Hudson/Morrow/Danks/J Sanchez/Cahill/B Anderson (start 3 or 4)

    • @nightpandas, I’d consider Bonifacio a bench player – I don’t think he warrants a starting OF gig in your league. I’d take Fowler as the 4th OF and consider Boneface for an MI position and/or bench speed.

      I like Niese and Nicasio more than Dirty Sanchez, Cahill and Brett Anderson (unless you can DL Anderson).

      • nightpandas says:

        @Rudy Gamble, I do have Anderson on the DL. The problem with Fowler is that he is a CF and my league is LF/CF/RF and one Util spot. I already have Kemp and Choo and then Bruce in my util spot. LF is slim pickings (Cody Ross and Alex Presley). Should I go for one of these guys instead? Also missed out on Young already.

  23. AnotherFalstaff says:

    @Rudy – How do you rate Trevor Bauer in a redraft (assuming he makes the rotation)?

    • @AnotherFalstaff, All I’ve heard is good stuff but there aren’t reliable projections for college pitchers so hard to say for sure. I’d consider him a late round SP flier.

  24. Wake Up says:

    Let me start off with some Bud-kissing. Your top 3 from last year:
    Myers- the Astros moved him to closer because they knew that he wasn’t going to be effective for 200 innings.
    Bud Norris- I think you picked a good one to double-down on!
    Liriano- Anybody enjoy owning Liriano last year?

    That said. Not counting minor league innings is an obvious hole in your experiment. How about adding some kind of “fastball efficacy” juxtaposition to slider %?
    What is it about guys like CC that should get injured, but don’t?
    What will it take to convert you to the arepa?
    Anyway, nice read. Looks to me like you are bumping up your rate of correctness to around 50% this year.

    • @Wake Up, I’m not sure Myers couldn’t hold up 200 IP – all I know is if you’re paying him 10MM, the only way he makes that money back is as an SP. Agreed on Norris and Liriano.

      Fair enough on minor league pitches. But, per my earlier note, I think MLB pitches are more stressful.

      Could be a lot of reasons why some pitchers can throw a lot of sliders and others can’t. I’d assume it comes down to form and genetic luck.

      I love arepas – particularly the sweet corn type (cachepa?) and ones with chicken and guacamole. I can’t believe Miggy gave ’em up.

      I doubt 50%. 3 out of 10 would be a mild accomplishment (still means 7 of these pitchers would likely be ownable).

      • Wake Up says:

        @Rudy Gamble, I think the Astros were pretty sure the weren’t getting 200 quality innings and they no longer have to defend “The toupee.”

        I didn’t see an earlier note. MLB pitches are more stressful…doesn’t mean MiLB pitches are stress-less.

        One reason is, the presence/lack of, a nice change-up.
        # 36 Wake Up Says:
        March 7th, 2011 at 9:22 am

        Thanks Rudy this is one of my favorites every year. I’m curious about leaving Hanson off of this list this year. Last year you were concerned about the huge amount of off-speed pitches that he throws. In 2010 it actually went up. His sliders went up to a crazy 28%, 40% including curves. You mentioned that you hoped that he would throw the change-up a little more, he actually cut it in half and barely threw it at all. He is one of my biggest injury risks this year. Wondering why he is not listed?

        Don’t leave out the pupusa!

        50% is my prediction…Pineda, Stauffer, Norris being the most obvious

        • @Wake Up, Agreed that MiLB pitches still have relevance. i didn’t factor them into my analysis b/c of the amount of work involved. I think the 2nd year pitching in the majors – regardless of minor league volume – is a difficult one. Directionally, I’d think that those with light MiLB loads are a little more risky….

          Hanson only had 2,100 pitches last year and I only considered pitchers with 2,700+. Consider his injury a ‘pre-existing condition’ which clearly makes him riskier. Yeah, I don’t like that slider/curveball dependency he has….that said, we took him in one draft b/c he came at a massive discount. The guy still has massive talent – 9+ K/9 last year. He’s kind of turning into a poor-man’s Josh Johnson.

          I like pupusas a little bit less (no offense, El Salvador).

          50%…yikes. Maybe using Verducci’s formula (any injury or any ERA increase….which amounts to over 50% of pitchers in a given year)

          • Wake Up says:

            @Rudy Gamble, That was a quote on Hanson from March 7, 2011, sorry for the confusion.

            I guess I have more confidence in your predictions that you do this year.

            • Wake Up says:

              @Wake Up, *than

              • Wake Up says:

                @Wake Up, Ha, I just listened to the podcast…can’t believe arepas were brought up…

  25. sean says:

    I appreciate the annual risky pitcher post, but the results suggest this approach is only marginally better than throwing darts.

    Something like 33% of MLB SP hit the DL during the season. The overhand throwing motion produces injuries. Each pitcher is a time bomb. Genetics and luck play as much as part in being a “risky” pitcher as usage and breaking pitches do.

    Bottom line is that I think we’re chasing a ghost. Trailer parks don’t cause tornadoes.

    • @sean, I agree about the dart-throwing analogy. Hitting the DL is a big difference, though, from missing 1/3 or more of the season. That’s why I specify 2,000 or less pitches. Even a season like Hanson last year (130 IP / 2,169 pitches / more than a K per inning, 3.60/1.17) has solid value.

      If you look at the stats I showed, pitchers who don’t throw a lot of sliders + having had big pitch increases + have thrown a full season in the majors at least once before the previous season are less risky (17%) than those that qualify for one or more of those conditions.

      Still doesn’t change the facts that:
      1) Using objective criteria, my picks don’t exceed the average. That is the epitome of dart-throwing.
      2) Even if I get a rate 2x the average, it still might not warrant major changes to one’s drafting strategy.

  26. Awesomus Maximus

    Awesomus Maximus says:

    So your formula was at the Mendoza Line last season, but its career AVG (if its career started in ’05) is .350? It’s been a long offseason, but I’m pretty sure that’s somewhere between “good” and “spectacular.” It’s certainly not worth scoffing at, or dismissing entirely. I look forward to this article, and I think it would be daffy to expect pinpoint accuracy.

    • @Awesomus Maximus, My average isn’t .350. That’s the criteria I use which definitely has historical success. But my picks every year haven’t really exceeded the norm. Probably would’ve been better off just noting the pitchers who fall in each bucket and leave it at that. But that’s less fun :)

      • Awesomus Maximus

        Awesomus Maximus says:

        @Rudy Gamble, Ah… I see what you’re saying. Yeah, that would be much less fun. I always see this breakdown as a good read and food for thought… actually, that’s how I view every article. Taking what anyone writes as gospel is silly, and pretty much defeats the purpose of playing FBB. Might as well just pretend that your LABR team is mine and follow it if I’m just going to do everything you and Grey say to do anyway.

  27. Tom Thumb says:

    Hector Noesi makes the Seattle rotation. Minor league career: Ivan Nova- 3.79 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 6.4 K/9, 2.9 BB/9. Hector Noesi- 3.17 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 8.7 K/9, 1.7 BB/9. How ya like him in that park?

    • @Tom Thumb, We should have a Hodgepadre version for Mariners. Just about every Mariner pitcher is ownable if only for home starts and @OAK. I’d put Noesi as a borderline streaming candidate in 12-team.

  28. Tom Thumb says:

    Extraordinairiner? Ha.

    • @Tom Thumb, Marginer?

      • Al Swedgin says:

        @Rudy Gamble, SafeCorps?

        • @Al Swedgin, Not bad but we went with Marginer.

  29. AL KOHOLIC says:

    ok rudy,we all know most of the regular sleepers,they are gone in most formats,can we dig a bit deeper into rudys mind and get a few under everyones radar sp,s you really like this year,tough question i know and we wont hold you accountable,great post and thanks

    • @AL KOHOLIC, Colby Lewis seems to be on every team of mine. He’s not sexy but has decent K’s, manages a solid WHIP, and should be fine for Wins. Other guys I like vs. ESPN ADP are Derek Holland and Juan Nicasio. Less of a sleeper and more as a great value: Mat Latos and Brandon Beachy.

  30. Dylan says:

    I’ve got Pineda and Zimmermann in my dynasty league. Considering the info, who is the better keeper and is either good trade bait for Hubter Pence? Help needed! Thanks!

    • @Dylan, I think I answered this in a different post but I think Zimmermann has more sex appeal so is the better trade bait. Neither seem great from a keeper perspective.

  31. Eric says:

    Great work Rudi! I am in a salary cap league and am going to go cheap on starting pitchers. I narrowed it down to 9 and need 7. There is no innings cap. Here are the pitchers and the scoring system below: Which 2 would you leave of your team?

    Matt Moore

    Win 15 pts.
    1 Inning Pitched 2 pts.
    Strike Out 1 pts.
    Loss -3 pts.
    Walk, hit batter, or. -.5 pts
    hit given up
    Complete Game 5 pts.
    Earned run -1 pts


    • @Eric, It’s Rudy not Rudi. I’m not in the Huxtable clan! Worley is the easiest choice to drop. Minor would be next, edging out Moore.

  32. TheTastemaker says:

    Bumgarner is young, hopefully he can come into this year with another spring under his belt and blossom into the frontline lefty that he can be, the only thing that troubles me is the offense he has behind him, the giants didnt make any major moves this offseason and I dont think they have the sticks to bail bumgarner out of some tough losses, will be excited to see tho

    • @TheTastemaker, C’mon, they got Melky!

  33. stumanji says:

    I have the 3rd pick in my keeper league draft. Based on my rankings, the top guys available will be at least two of Konerko, A-Rod, and MadBum. Each of the 3 comes with obvious risks (age, health). Out of my 6 keepers, I only kept 1 SP (Felix). I could use a 3B so A-Rod is tempting, but I also like the idea of adding a second “ace” to my staff for the next x years. After owning Josh Johnson last year, this article has made me stop and consider spending a high pick on an injury risk.

    My other keepers are McCann, Adrian Gonzo, Phillips, Trout, and Crawford. Other guys I could consider are Latos, Aramis, Rollins Asdrubal, Berkman, Michael Young, Morse…

    • @stumanji, I like Latos more than Bumgarner or A-Rod.

  34. Craig Dancer says:

    Just wanting to say nice post.

  35. BigA says:


    Are you going to be putting up the AL league pointshares soon?

    I have a draft this Friday – would love to see them. Your NL only ones are fantastic.

    Many thanks –


    p.s. there is a rumor you do not want to give away your AL pointshares to your competition in one league. I’m not in your AL league. If I might be so bold, if you could email them, that would be above and beyond the call of duty and in line for a tip in your tip jar. And they would be kept confidential.

    • @BigA, AL Point Shares going up this week – def before Friday. Glad they’re coming in handy – maybe next year I’ll figure out a way to post them earlier on Google Docs.

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