OK, campers. We have now played FORTY GAMES. Twenty five percent of 2018 is in the books. How are those preseasons rankings stacking up and who has broken into (and maybe remained) in the top 20? These rankings are drawn from Yahoo! Preseason and current rankings overall. They comprise the top 20 SP as of 12 May. In this analysis I show the actual overall rankings (that include batters) to give you a sense of these players’ overall as well as relative values. The actual pitching data come from Fangraphs.
In Yahoo!’s preseason rankings, the following were the top 20 Starters:
With regard to draft day (remember that?), there were no real surprises here. I include the difference in rankings and the current WAR just to give a compass to the discussion. The current top 20 SP are:
Clearly there are a few surprises here. In some cases, they are not earthshaking. Manaea, Clevinger and Corbin were preseason breakout candidates and are living up to their billing. Snell has solid stuff. Mikolas was a bit of an unknown. But, savvy folks said he had displayed the skills while in Japan. To clear the air (and shorten the article), let’s get rid of the guys who were and still are the top SP. They are:
To get a sense of where these guys are, here are the corresponding league stats:
All these guys are outperforming league averages by significant margins. Italicized stats indicate this (with the exception of FB and GB percentages because, frankly, the jury is out on how to measure them). So, these guys are paying the dividends you expected.
Risers and Suprisers
I’ve discussed Manaea and Corbin extensively. Keep an eye on them and maybe sell high. Those BABIPs are otherworldly. Voros McCracken created the stat and will tell you that gravity and probability are tough taskmasters. One thing to note is that both of these studs have higher than average hard hit percentages, along with higher than average LD%. Corbin’s GB% is now regressing towards the mean. But, he is still worth watching and maybe moving (ditto Manaea) before reality sets in.
Mikolas and Porcello continue to walk no one and are efficient in terms of PIP and PBF. They aren’t wasting pitches or giving up free passes. What’s impressive is that Clevinger, Cueto, Morton and Roark have very low HH%. They are clearly keeping batters off balance. If any of these guys is still available, snap them up.
OK—When the likes of Clayton Kershaw are underperforming, we do need to take a closer look. When you are #1, there is no place to go but down. Still… The SP who have fallen farthest out of the preseason top 20 are:
Are these guys the victims of bad luck? In funk? Something worse? (As a side note, don’t you want to be in Houston’s situation? Three SP are over producing and two have fallen from grace but are still OK… #seriously…) To put these guys in perspective, let’s look at their last three years:
Archer’s K rate is down, BABIP is up and his HH% is up. If he is not whiffing you, it’s BP time. On the other hand, his BB/9 is down, he is not wasting pitches (PIP and PBF) and his LD% is down. He’s fallen far. But, his skill set is stable or better in many respects. He’s worth picking up from nervous owners.
Darvish is throwing a lot of pitches and giving out too many free passes. But, he is also striking guys out and his LB/FB/GB splits are not far from his past three years. Same for his HH%. This strikes me as leftover fatigues from the 2017 postseason. I would not hurry to pick him up unless you can get him at a serious discount. The skills are still there. Still…
McCullers has essentially the same line this year as in the last three years.
Quintana’s game is off. Too many pitches, too many walks and he is getting hit hard.
Ray is a mystery. K are down, but so are walks. HH is down, BABIP is ridiculously low. Go figure…
Keuchel, Greinke, Syndergaard and Carrasco are showing the same lines as usual. The only real difference is that Greinke’s getting hit significantly harder this year than over the prior three. Have no fear with these guys.
So, overall, we see some strong risers, some duds like Archer and Darvish who are not surprising, and several studs who, so far, are victims of bad luck. The more important stuff here lies in maybe cutting deals with skittish owners. With luck you can sell some overachievers or pick up some underachievers that will turn your team around by the All-Star Break.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday May 13th, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #120 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will discuss the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.
Our guest this week is Kevin Bzdek. Kevin is a writer and editor with majorleaguefantasysports.com. His articles publish every Friday morning and his focus is on bullpens.