The other day I went over the top 20 starters for 2008, but, as with the top 20 outfielders for 2008 going to 21 – 40 outfielders for 2008, I’ll also be going through the top 21 – 40 starters for 2008. This is after going through the top 20 catchers, top 20 1st basemen, top 20 2nd basemen, top 20 shortstops and top 20 3rd basemen. All of these rankings are based on the ESPN Player Rater, which sometimes smells of Muenster cheese, but I want Swiss-like neutrality when comparing my preseason predictions with final numbers. For the best player rater, download our Razzball fantasy baseball player rater. (How’s that for neutrality!) Anyway, here’s the rest of the top 40 Starters for 2008 in fantasy baseball and how they compared to where we originally ranked them:

21. Jon Lester – Rather than speak on Lester, I’m going to discuss the obvious problem with pitching. It’s unpredictable. 15 out of these 20 top starters weren’t even ranked in the preseason. This is not to say they weren’t drafted; they were. Just lower than they ended up ranking. Yes, this was me ranking the starters, so perhaps I was the only one not ranking them correctly. No, this isn’t true. Missing on 75% of these starters was Shandler, ESPN, Rudy “Player Rater” Gamble, Sportsline, Baseball Prospectus, Rotowire, et al. Now Razzball has the smartest readers — no doubt — but chances are you missed a few too. Imagine if you drafted Rich Hill, Adam Wainwright, John Maine and Aaron Harang on a lot of teams like I did. Trouble, right? Well, I still finished with respectable pitching numbers. How? Cause I picked up Guthrie, Buehrle, Randy Johnson, Greinke, Volquez and Slowey on a lot of teams. Teams that I needed more help on I had Campillo, Jurrjens, Cook and Ubaldo at varying times. Not to mention, some middle relievers. The point is, as the point always is, pitching is unpredictable. Preseason Unranked, Final Numbers:  16-6/3.21/1.27/152

22. Jake Peavy – In all fairness, out of 89 starters who threw 160 innings, Peavy had the 85th worst Run Support. Preseason Rank #1, Preseason Predictions:  20-5/2.75/1.05/230, Final Numbers:  10-11/2.85/1.18/166

23. Justin Duchscherer – Duchscherer was lucky to place this high. That’s not to say, he sat around with his fingers crossed hoping I would rank him high. No, it’s to say Duchscherer gave up a crapload of hits and didn’t strikeout enough in 141+ innings. Preseason Unranked, Final Numbers:  10-8/2.54/1.00/95

24. A.J. Burnett – So that’s what he looks like healthy — an AL righthanded Oliver Perez. Preseason Rank #24, Preseason Predictions:  14-8/3.85/1.20/170, Final Numbers:  18-10/4.07/1.34/231

25. Ted Lilly – It’s no surprise that I came pretty close with my preaseason predictions for Lilly. He’s predictable. The anti-Oliver Perez. Preseason Rank #35, Preseason Predictions:  16-8/4.20/1.20/160, Final Numbers:  17-9/4.09/1.23/184

26. Zack Greinke – Back in May, Rudy got Greinke’d when I traded Melky for this nervous breakdown-prone starter. Then Greinke Greinke’d me, he posted a 5.22 July, so I dropped him and he ended up posting ERAs of 2.48 and a 2.18 in August and September respectively. Preseason Unranked, Final Numbers:  13-10/3.47/1.28/183

27. Joe Saunders – 103 Ks in 198 innings? Yuck. For fear of Saunders ruling over any team I own with a coup d’blah, he becomes the first starter that has appeared in the 40 forty starters list that I can say right now will not be in my top 40 for 2009. Preseason Unranked, Final Numbers:  17-7/3.41/1.21/103

28. John Danks – Guess what Danks will be next year? A third year starter! Oh, I do love those. But we are still looking back right now. Danks took the next step in 2008. Walks were down, K/9 rose, HRs fell… If you throw out a Snelly July ERA of 4.97, his season would look even better. Preseason Unranked, Final Numbers:  12-9/3.32/1.23/159

29. Gavin Floyd – Here’s someone that I’m not as excited about. If you look past his win total, you’ll see home run balls and not the best strikeout numbers. He showed luck in 2008; don’t bet on luck. Preseason Unranked, Final Numbers:  17-8/3.84/1.26/145

30. Scott Baker – His K/BB and K/9 ratios were solid as he took the right step forward on a team that knows how to handle its pitchers. Now if the Twins would chuck some duckets at a free agent bat, they might be real contenders and not poseurs. (That’s right; I used poseurs in a sentence. Deal with it!) Preseason Unranked, Final Numbers:  11-4/3.45/1.18/141

31. Josh Beckett – The moral of the story is never count on Wins and don’t trust a blonde in an abandoned bear house with free porridge. Preseason Rank #9, Preseason Predictions:  19-9/3.90/1.20/190, Final Numbers:  12-10/4.03/1.19/172

32. Armando Galarraga – Maybe it’s because his name sounds like he should be contending for the Intercontinental Championship rather than the ERA title, but I never got behind Armando Galarraga this year. (Might also have been his crazy lucky BABIP.) Preseason Unranked, Final Numbers:  13-7/3.73/1.19/126

33. Scott Kazmir – Kazmir stays relatively healthy, the Rays win the AL East and he only gets 12 Wins. Not to mention, Kazmir usually peacocks his walks with Ks, but they were down this year. Ah… The mystery of Kazmir continues.  Preseason Rank #22, Preseason Predictions:  14-8/3.75/1.30/210, Final Numbers:  12-8/3.49/1.27/166

34. Gil Meche – In 2008, I never threw the Meche net in my starters stream. I had enough with Greinke, who is slightly better if only a bit more risky. Preseason Unranked, Final Numbers:  14-11/3.98/1.32/183

35. Randy Johnson – You know how you have two crazy uncles. (You do; trust me.) One crazy uncle likes to shoot Budweiser cans out of your cousin’s hand and your other uncle married a Tahitian and runs a “hemp” shop. Randy’s the one shooting holes in Buds and Moyer’s toking the hemp pullover. Preseason Unranked, Final Numbers:  11-10/3.91/1.24/173

36. Todd Wellemeyer – A thirty-year-old breakout? Whatevermeyer. Preseason Unranked, Final Numbers:  13-9/3.71/1.25/134

37. Mark Buehrle – Buehrle sported a near-6.00 ERA during the day. He obviously needs some pointers from JDog on his day game. Maybe Buehrle could break out the Joe D. gambit, “Did you see that fight down the street?” Preseason Unranked, Final Numbers:  15-12/3.79/1.34/140

38. Shaun Marcum – Bummer his season was cut short by Dr. Freeze. We’ll see him on 2010 Sleeper lists. (Also, in 2010, your neighbor will have a flying car that you will be so sick of him parking in front of your 2nd floor bedroom window.) Preseason Unranked, Final Numbers:  9-7/3.39/1.16/123

39. Kevin SloweyHey, Mr. Radke, when you’re done looking at Scott Baker, check out this three pitch induced groundout. Preseason Unranked, Final Numbers:  12-11/3.99/1.15/123

40. Jamie Moyer – (Continued from Randy Johnson) …Then the government comes and confiscates Moyer’s “hemp” store and you’re left looking after his six kids as he does three large in the big house. You decide you’re going to ignore three of the misfits because they’re already gone. The three you do keep an eye on make a commendable turnaround and barely even smell anymore. Then one day you put your Uncle Randy in charge of watching them only to return to ABC Breaking News that Randy and your three cousins were arrested trying to rob a Wells Fargo bank. Preseason Unranked, Final Numbers:  16-7/3.71/1.33/123

  1. BSA says:

    Grey as I learned this year I moved a lot of my pitchers to pick up key position players that I didn’t get to draft. The pitchers I replaced with were still respectable in the numbers that the offense was key for finishing the season strong. Yet because of the difference between following MLB and fantasy baseball it is tough to stay away from top pitching in the early rounds.

    A case in point is Iowa in the RCL with his test of picking up pitchers and building from there. Because that league was full of razzers he couldn’t move those pieces to make big enough trades to help him get off the mat.

    Am I wrong Iowa?

  2. BaronVonVulturewins says:

    @BSA: My condolences.

    That said, Price made Drew look silly.

    re: Pitchers and volatility. The gentleman who won my league this year has an interesting strategy: He never picks pitchers before round 7 or later. This is based basically on the widely accepted tenets that a) pitching is too volatile to spend a high pick on; b) the pitching pool is deep enough to build a good staff in the later rounds (we’re 12 team, both-leagues roto, so it’s a deep pool); and c) good pitchers are readily available on the waiver wire throughout the year.

    He targets high-upside guys or small-team guys or injury-risks: basically, the kind of guys who are available in the mid-rounds or later. This year his staff was built around Kazmir (round 7); Sheets (10); Clay Buchholz (13); Gil Meche (18) and Jon Lester (19) — he also picked up Lilly (a personal fave of his) after he was dropped early in the year, and also picked up Danks and, for a time, Contreras.

    Now, you may look at his picks and think, “He got lucky with Sheets and Kazmir staying healthy and Lester blossoming” — just as you might look at someone who picked Peavy in the 2nd and Bedard or Verlander in the 3rd and think “He got unlucky with Peavy’s wins and Bedard’s health and Verlander’s crap-out.”

    Personally, I committed awhile ago to a strategy by which I select at least one top-flight pitcher in the first 5 rounds (this year, Hamels in the 4th), then try to have at least my top 3 starters by Round 12 (Smoltz — 6th; Cain — 11th). I do this mostly because in my first year of fantasy, my pitching blew up big time early, and I found it really hard to acquire a top-flight starter on the trade market.

    However, I think next year I’ll convert to the other strategy, outlined above. I’ve become convinced that volatility from year to year makes high-picks on pitching simply too risky. If I had skipped Hamels (who was good) and Smoltz (who blew up), imagine the extra hitters I could have acquired in rounds 4 and 6, and I could have targeted Lincecum, Billingsley, Dice K, AJ Burnett, Tim Hudson in later rounds.

    Sure, worst-case scenario, I could have targeted, and wound up with, Rich Hill, Myers, Maine and Bonderman. But even so, I’d have been no worse off than if I’d picked Verlander, Bedard, Harang, etc. And in the other scenario, at least I’d have used my picks in rounds 4 through 8 for offense, offense, offense.

    In fact, just anecdotally it seems to me that, year to year, pitchers are much, much more likely to outperform their draft position than are hitters. You could easily put together a list of 20 pitchers off the top of your head that, next year, will be drafted anywhere from three to ten rounds ahead of where they were picked this year. My gut says the same isn’t true for hitters. In other words, for every Josh Hamilton, there’s roughly four Lincecums.

    I don’t doubt that Rudy’s Win Shares theory is correct, in hindsight — that, at the end of the season, the best pitchers are worth more than the best hitters — but I’m not convinced you should draft according to this strategy. Because, simply put, it’s much harder to identify who the top pitchers will be next season than it is the top hitters.

  3. BSA says:

    @BaronVonVulturewins: Price made all of them look silly.
    Garza’s stuff I watch and say, “why can’t you hit that?”
    Price’s stuff I watch and say, “Dude how did you even make contact? Oh you didn’t, it hit your bat.”

    After reading Grey’s thoughts and driving to work I had a similar thought about the drafting process. How much of a hit is it in the beginning of a season to draft pitching lower?

  4. BaronVonVulturewins says:

    @BSA: I totally agree about Price. Here’s a rookie in, like, his 7th or 8th major league appearance, and I was actually surprised when he didn’t K someone. Lowrie hitting a grounder to end the game felt like some kind of moral victory.

    I’m sure this has been said before, but Price in ’08 = K-Rod in ’02 = Rivera in ’96: the untouchable middle reliever as X Factor.

    (That said, the Miracle Sox need to shore up the bottom end of that lineup. It was like, “Due up next: Jason Bay and three automatic outs.”)

    How sick is it to think of the Rays circa 2010, or even 2009? A rotation of Kazmir, Shields, Garza and Price*? Garza, ALCS MVP, as arguably your 4th best starter? I know Price hasn’t done much yet (except look phenomenal) but this has a chance to be the best foursome since the Braves in the 90s.

    *And Wade Davis waiting in the wings.

  5. BSA says:

    @BaronVonVulturewins: Put yourself in March of 2008 who was the rookie pitcher to get? I may be wrong but I believe it was either Cueto or Volquez.

    Any question about how many early round picks will be going to Price?

    I can imagine you and your rookie nookie are already drooling at Price in your lineup.

    It will be a moral dillemma for me to select Rays pitchers next year but, it has to be done. Based on that offense and season long analysis they’re just plain good. Forget all these fair weather fantasy ballers who will select Willie Aybar and a Ray’s pitcher just because.

  6. BaronVonVulturewins says:

    @BSA: I agree that Price will be overvalued in next year’s drafts, but I’d argue that the more apt comparison for Price is King Felix circa 2006. (Both Volq and Cueto went undrafted in my league this year — if memory serves, Volq was off the radar and Cueto wasn’t in the Yahoo! pool at the time, surprise surprise.)

    Felix had more face-time in the majors in ’05, but was otherwise a similarly touted phenom with huge expectations for his first full year, and people overpaid accordingly.

    That said, look at Linc this year — he definitely took a quantum leap forward. I could see Price landing somewhere between Linc in ’07 and Linc in ’08, adjusted to the AL — like, maybe, 12 wins and 3.75 – 4.25 ERA. Felix, for his part, was still hella young in ’06 (20, I think) whereas Price is 23 and pitched a full career in college, a la Linc.

    As for Rays pitchers on the whole, the only one I’ll be looking toward is Shields, who I think could still take another significant step forward and may be the best of all four (at least next year).

    Otherwise, the prospect of an AL pitcher in the East is too scary, given the natural mark-up all Rays will receive post World Series. (And, for the record, Rays in 6.)

    Garza will definitely be overpriced next year, and I’d much rather take a flyer later on an upside guy like Scott Baker, who didn’t throw bee-bees in front of a national audience and win ALCS MVP.

    P.S. Delmon for Garza — how smart does that look now?

  7. Grey

    Grey says:

    @BSA: @BaronVonVulturewins: I pushed Volquez and Cueto in March before the season started. I ended up with only Volquez because Cueto was overhyped. I don’t see myself getting Price for this same reason.

    As for pitching vs. hitting, Rudy drafts a Peavy or a Santana in our league a few years in a row (I think 3) and he’s yet to finish ahead of me. As stated above (and many times before), I had the worst luck with pitching this year, Rich Hill, Harang, Hudson, Maine and Wainwright. There was nothing I could do but grab waiver wire guys. I ended up having Volquez and grabbing Guthrie, Buehrle, Greinke, etc (the names are in the post under Lester). Pitching wasn’t a problem for me in any league. When I had to, I even relied on streaming good matchups. I don’t see ever grabbing a Peavy, Webb or Santana in a high round, unless they fall to me. (Which Peavy might do this year, which would be a mistake. He’s still money.)

  8. BaronVonVulturewins says:

    This debate deserves more than my off-the-top-of-my-headery, but a few thoughts, off the top of my head:

    a) There are basically four ways to acquire players: 1) draft him ; 2) pick up an undrafted player from the free-agent pool; 3) pick up a drafted player after he’s dropped; 4) acquire him in a trade.

    You might think 2 and 3 are the same thing, but there’s an important distinction, addressed below.

    Now, my gut tells me that useful pitchers are more easily acquired over the course of the season than are useful hitters. Why? Well, both can be drafted, so that’s a wash. Both can be traded for; again, let’s call it a wash.

    But it seems there are many more useful pitchers who emerge from the FA pool every year than there are hitters (this year, depending on league-depth/aptitude: Lee, Dempster, Danks, Saunders, Greinke, Floyd, Baker, Slowey, Gallaraga, Wellemeyer — basically, a large chunk of #s 21-40, above. What undrafted top 40 hitters emerged? Just glancing at Yahoo!’s top 40: Ludwick, Huff, Quentin, Nady, Cantu, McLouth… who else? Did I miss anyone?)

    And it seems much more likely you can get a useful pitcher that’s been dropped by someone else than it is that you’ll get a useful hitter that way. I certainly know I was much more patient this year with Frenchy than with, say, Derek Lowe. As mentioned above, Lilly was dropped in my league. Kinda dumb, but a reasonable reaction to a mid-tier starter having a slow start. (In some, dumber leagues, Sabathia was dropped early — but if that happened in your league, get a new league.)

    In fact, items 2 and 3 are connected — it stands to reason that, the more appealing alternatives are available as FAs, the more itchy people are with their droppin’ fingers. (See Lowe.)

    So: The acquisition of useful (not elite, but useful) pitchers would seem to be much easier over the season than that of useful hitters. From there, it would seem to make sense to focus on drafting hitters. (Again, I’m arguing this in theory, having not had the sack to do it in practice, yet).

    Take this argument to its extreme — in the case of closers, who are readily available, always — and everyone agrees. But I think you can apply the same logic to pitchers in general.

    The other consideration here is that sometimes you draft not according to value, strictly, but according to where you think you can get someone. If you were psychic and knew Josh Hamilton would return first-round value in ’08, you still wouldn’t have been smart to draft him in the first round, if you knew you could get him in the 10th. For the same reason, you don’t draft Webb 11th overall even if you think he’ll be the 11th-overall most valuable player. You wait, draft someone else, and end up with more cumulative talent (in theory).

    One last, obvious point: Again, anecdotally, hitters rarely miss an entire season due to injury. Sure, they might miss whole months, whole halves, or fart out for good (FURCAL!). But I think it seems fairy evident that a pitcher is more like to get a whole-season DNP than is a hitter. (Think Chris Carpenter in the example you linked to, Rudy.) Maybe this is not actually true, if you run the numbers. But it certainly seems like a bigger gamble. If you’ll pardon the expression.

  9. BSA says:

    @Rudy Gamble: @Grey:
    Great commentary today. Isn’t funny to look back at what was done in March and how it played out?

    My pre-Razz team was so bad I couldn’t handle posting it due to the onslaught of abuse and the need to reinvent as another login.

  10. Grey

    Grey says:

    @BaronVonVulturewins: Emerging talent from waivers for pitchers is a very valid point and the main reason, as mentioned in the post, why you can pickup quality arms during the season.

    I believe the trigger finger point goes for hitters and pitchers. Take Brett Myers. No one held onto him when he went to the minors. He returned with value. But lots of hitters go through awful cold spells too and then have value. I remember one commenter in the beginning of the year asked if they should pickup Victorino when he was dropped. At the time, Werth was starting in front of him. See wasn’t clear cut then.

    @BSA: re: new login — ha!

  11. @BaronVonVulturewins: I’ve already put together a ‘best value’ spreadsheet measuring a player’s Point Share performance vs. draft expectations. We’ll bring that live later in the week and can review that to see if there are more bargains in hitting vs. pitching. Valuable hitters that weren’t drafted or available at the very end of drafts include DeRosa, Doumit, Ethier, M. Bradley, Mora, etc.

  12. I’ve been following Wellemeyer since he was in KC. His problem has always been walks and not his stuff. He is just learning how to trust himself more. I bet he has a repeat of this years numbers, next season.

  13. Grey

    Grey says:

    @impNERD: Could be, but his lack of Ks and the fact he had 17 QS and 13 Wins tells me he was pretty lucky, as well.

  14. BigFatHippo says:

    @BSA: @Grey: @Rudy Gamble: @BaronVonVulturewins: Guys, I think we’re all missing the point here?

    Who cares about the 40th ranked pitcher?

    The big question is: How did that Steve Harvey Show episode end the other night?

  15. Grey

    Grey says:

    @BigFatHippo: Don’t know. Was watching Home Improvement.

  16. BigFatHippo says:

    @Grey: You didn’t cut a finger off with a power tool did you?

    Buddy of mine lost a tatoo that way, it still says LOVE on his right hand but the other hand just says HAT.

  17. Grey

    Grey says:

    @BigFatHippo: True story, my grandfather got an anchor tattoo when he was set to go into the Navy. He went for the checkup and they told him he had swimmer’s ear and wasn’t accepted into the Navy. So he ended up in the Army with a Navy tattoo.

    EDIT: Missing word… Word!

  18. BigFatHippo says:

    @Grey: Would that make him an amphibian? Seriously though, that would suck. Bet he took a lot of crap from his buddies.

    Did you watch Sportscenter? Typical ESPN, talked about the prima-donna Cowboys for 15 minutes before even mentioning the Rays. If Boston would have won last night it would be all Sawx talk, all the time.

    Who the Rays gotta blow to get some respect around Bristol?

  19. Grey

    Grey says:

    @BigFatHippo: I don’t watch much of ESPN, which scrambled is NESN and the Yes! Network.

    “Who the Rays gotta blow to get some respect around Bristol?” — Not sure now. But Harold Reynolds will always gladly accept a BJ.

    What happened with the Cowboys that has them in the news?

  20. BigFatHippo says:

    @Grey: Harold Reynolds, ha!

    Cowboys don’t have to do anything to get all the headlines on ESPN. In fact, all they did was lose again, to a woefully pathetic Rams team.

  21. Grey

    Grey says:

    @BigFatHippo: Aren’t the woefully pathetic Rams your default team?

  22. BigFatHippo says:

    @Grey: Don’t blame that shit on me, I just own PSL’s.

    It’s not de-fault of de-hippo.

    Rams are playing good right now because of the coaching change. Trust me, it won’t last. As soon as sombody hits them in the mouth they’ll start losing again.

  23. BSA says:

    How ya like them Broncos?

  24. BigFatHippo says:

    @BSA: Been waiting for that. Probably deserve it.

    In their defense, Cutler broke his finger on the first play, Hall carried twice and both resulted in a fumble, Champ put the clamp on Moss till he left with a pulled groin, then lo and behold, Moss catches a TD.

    We can’t win without Cutler and Champ, oh, and our defense sucks, did I mention that?

  25. BSA says:

    @BigFatHippo: Heard about that defense. New England was calling for the Patriots to run all night long, and then keep running since ya got nothin’ to stop it.

    Did you get my email via RCL?

  26. BigFatHippo says:

    @BSA: Got your e-mail and replied. Get back to me.

  27. Grey

    Grey says:

    @BigFatHippo: @BSA: Are you guys going to throw me a surprise party?

  28. BSA says:

    @Grey: Oh you’ll get one alright.

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