Here is the ninth article in the series of our 2012 fantasy baseball rankings looking at the top 20 starting pitchers. Fantasy baseball rankings for pitchers will vary from year-to-year and site to site because two of the four categories that determine a starting pitchers ranking are ratio categories which many people have a tough time converting into a number. So while position players have more variance between each ranking, pitchers tend to be grouped much closer together. Missing out on the number one ranked pitcher is not quite the same as missing out on the number one ranked shortstop or catcher.
Here is a look at the fantasy baseball starting pitchers I have ranked for 2012 with my comments. A longer list with 2012 fantasy baseball projections is available in the 2012 FBT Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide which is on sale now.
1. Roy Halladay – batting average against fell for the second straight season as he put up similar stats to 2010 plus he cut his home runs allowed from 24 to 10. One of the top three starters in fantasy baseball but I still like him number one.
2. Cliff Lee - what a difference the National League makes. His six shutouts were more than he had for his 11-year career. His 230 strikeouts were 53 more than his previous career high. I have him slightly ahead of Verlander.
3. Justin Verlander – three straight seasons of a declining ERA, WHIP and batting average against so expect a little regression in 2012.
4. Clayton Kershaw – had always been hard to hit in his career and then solved his control issues in 2011, while pitching even better the second half of the season with a 1.31 ERA and a .89 WHIP with 19 walks in 102 2/3 innings.
5. Felix Hernandez – strikeout rate per nine rose for the third straight season. Seemed to tire down the stretch as he allowed a .228 batting average the first half of the season and then .277 after the All-Star break when he posted a 3.91 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP.
6. CC Sabathia – strikeout rate was up after a two year decline, given him his second highest strikeout total of his career. Batting average against rose for the second year in a row. Better in the first half with a 2.72 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP compared to a 3.44 ERA and 1.33 WHIP after the break.
7. Tim Lincecum – walk rate was up for a second straight season while strikeout rate fell for the third year in a row. Still a top five-seven pitcher, just no longer a top-3 best fantasy pitcher.
8. Cole Hamels – ground ball rate increased for a second straight season to 52%. Pitching for a new contract at the end of the season plus the improvement in walk rate should give the highest win total of his career in 2012.
9. Jered Weaver – strikeout from 2010 looks like an outlier now after his numbers returned to 2008-09 levels. ERA and WHIP both will regress in 2012 after a lower than normal hit rate last season but there is still a lot to like here.
10. David Price – walk rate fell for the second straight season while his strikeout rate is steadily rising. If not for pitching in the AL East, we would be looking at a sub 3.00 ERA every season.
11. Dan Haren – strikeout rate was the lowest that it had been in five years though it was somewhat masked by his career high in innings pitched. Ultra low walk rate gives him a somewhat stable WHIP regardless of any variations in his hit rate from year-to-year.
12. Zack Greinke – strikeout rate jumped with the move to the National League. Wins may be harder to come by with a lineup missing Fielder and possibly Braun.
13. Jon Lester – strikeout rate fell for the second year in a row. Walk rate plus the fact he throws only around 200 innings per seasons keeps him out of the top tier of pitchers.
14. Yovani Gallardo – has made big strides the last two seasons with his walk rate, going from 4.6 to 3.6 to 2.6 last season. If he can keep his gains in his ground ball rate from last season and his home run per fly ball rate normalizes, he should post the best ERA of his career in 2012.
15. Matt Cain – third straight season of improvement against left-handed hitters. ERA should rise a little bit after a suppressed home run rate in 2011. Will be one of the top free agent pitchers on the market next season if the Giants don’t get him signed to a contract.
16. Ian Kennedy – cut his walk rate by one batter per game while slighting raising his strikeout rate. His 21 wins from 2011 is going to drive his price a little higher than it should be this season.
17. Madison Bumgarner – slight uptick in velocity on his fastball and a higher usage of his slider helped to boost his strikeout rate. Was stellar the second half of the season with a 2.52 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP with 99 strikeouts in 100 innings.
18. C.J. Wilson – second season as a starter was even better with a decreased walk rate and an increase in his strikeout per nine number. Maintained his ground ball rate at 49% which helps to limit his home runs allowed total.
19. Dan Hudson – love to see that type of walk rate from a young pitcher and he showed improvement the second half of the season with a 3.15 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. Strikeout rate should be slightly up in 2012 with a full major league season now under his belt.
20. James Shields – good news is that he kept his strikeout rate gains from the previous season. Bad news is his ERA and WHIP are both going up after an extreme correction to his hit rate percentage in 2011. He is going to be overvalued based on 2011 so while he is a solid pitcher, don’t pay a stud pitcher price for him.
Instead of spending money on outdated magazines written by fantasy owners with no experience of winning fantasy baseball leagues, order the 2012 FBT Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide today so you can start dominating the competition in your fantasy baseball league.