Is Zack Greinke a Top 12 starting pitcher in 2012?
Here is part 2 of my Review of my preseason Starting Pitcher Rankings:
13. Cole Hamels, PHI-Hamels was a Top 12 starter in 2011 and will probably be in my top 12 for 2012. He went 14-9 with a 2.70 ERA, 3.05 FIP and 3.02 xFIP, and a 0.99 WHIP. His K/9 dropped from 9.10 to 8.08 this season, but his BB/9 dropped as well, and his ground ball rate jumped from 45.4% to 52.3%, so he sacrificed strikeouts for more ground balls, which isn't such a bad thing. Actually, his ground ball rate has been in a 3 year uptrend:
From 2007 through 2011, his HR/FB rate dropped, as a result, from 12.8% to 9.9%.
14. Chad Billingsley, LAD-Billingsley has been one of my favorite pitchers in the NL, but he has been a big disappointment the past few seasons. He went 11-11 with a 4.21 ERA, a 3.83 FIP and a 4.14 xFIP in 2011, but with a terrible 1.45 WHIP, the highest of his career. If you're searching for a reason why he regressed in 2011, you can look to the increase in walk rate and the increase in contact made outside the zone. His walk rate increased from 3.24 to 4.02 in 2011 and his contact rate outside the zone has jumped in each of the last 4 seasons from 51.8% in 2008 to 67.8% in 2011. The news gets worse as his swinging strike rate has dropped from 10.4% in 2008 to just 7.6% in 2011. It all adds up to Billz becoming more of a #5 starter than a #2 or #3.
The rest of my review of my preseason starting pitcher rankings after the jump:
15. Tommy Hanson, ATL-Hanson battled shoulder injuries twice this season, and one came at the worst possible time for the Braves, at the end of the season when they were fighting for a wild card spot. Hanson's season ended early, as he went 11-7 in his 22 starts, with a 3.60 ERA, 3.67 FIP and 3.29 xFIP and a 1.17 WHIP, which was unchanged from his 2010 WHIP. His K/9 rate jumped from 7.68 to 9.83, but his walk rate increased from 2.49 to 3.18, and his HR/FB rate more than doubled from 5.8% to 12.5%. Like Josh Johnson, there is risk in drafting Hanson too high in 2012 as shoudler injuries tend to come back.
16. Yovani Gallardo, MIL-Gallardo had an excellent season in 2011, going 17-10 with a 3.52 ERA, 3.59 FIP and 3.19 xFIP and a WHIP of 1.22, an improvement from the 1.37 mark in 2010. Gallardo's K/9 dropped from 9.73 to 8.99, but his walk rate has been almost cut in half over the last two years, from 4.56 per 9 in 2009 to 2.56 per 9 in 2011. In addition, Gallardo induced more ground balls in 2011, but his HR/FB rate jumped from 7.1% to 12.7%. If he can put everything together in 2012, he could win 20 games, as he has improved his control, is still striking out 9 batters per 9 innings, and is inducing more ground balls. He may make my Top 12-15 starters for 2012.
17. Matt Cain, SFG-Cain went 12-11 with a 2.88 ERA, 2.91 FIP and 3.78 xFIP and a 1.08 WHIP, which was unchanged from 2010. I was amazed that Cain has pitched so well with a K rate in the low 7's over the past few years. As reader dudedudedude has mentioned in the comments section of a recent article, Cain's benefits from the spacious home park in San Francisco.
18. Francisco, Liriano, MIN-Liriano had a year to forget after pitching so well in 2010. I was bashed for opining that he was droppable earlier in the season, before his no-hitter, yet he still finished the year with forgettable numbers. He went 9-10 with a 5.09 ERA, 4.54 FIP and 4.52 xFIP and a WHIP of 1.49. Liriano battled a shoulder injury this season, and is a risky pick in 2012, as his K/9 dropped from 9.44 to 7.50, his walk rate jumped from 2.72 to 5.02, and his HR/FB rate increased from 6.3% to 9.9%.
19. Max Scherzer, DET-Scherzer somehow won 15 games this season, as his ERA was 4.43, with an FIP of 4.14 and xFIP of 3.70. His WHIP increased from 1.25 to 1.35 in 2011, his K rate dropped slightly from 8.46 to 8.03, and his walk rate dropped as well, from 3.22 to 2.58. If Scherzer can induce more swinging strikes and reduce his HR/FB rate in 2012, he could be a top 20 starter, but right now, he will be on the outside of my top 20-25 starters.
20. Mat Latos, SD-I owned Latos in the NL-only UBA league and was close to dropping him, and then he went on a very good run of starts, so I kept him, and I am glad I did. Latos followed his breakout 2010 season by going 9-14 with a 3.47 ERA, 3.16 FIP and 3.52 xFIP and a WHIP of 1.18. He started the season with a 4.98 ERA in April, but ended the season with a sub-2.00 ERA in September. He will make a return appearance in my Top 24 starters for 2012.
21. David Price, TB-I bet a friend of mine at the beginning of the year that Clayton Kershaw would have a better year than Price (also bet him Kemp would go 30-30), but Price held his own for awhile. He went 12-13 with a 3.49 ERA, 3.32 FIP and 3.32 xFIP and a WHIP of 1.14. Some positive signs for Price was the jump in K rate to 8.75 from 8.11 and the drop in walk rate from 3.41 to 2.53. Price could easily be a 15-16 game winner in 2012 if he can reduce the HR/FB rate, which jumped to almost 10% from 6.5% in 2010.
22. Zack Greinke, MIL-Greinke lead all major league starters with a K/9 of 10.54, a jump from 7.40 in 2010. He went 16-6 with a 3.83 ERA, 2.98 FIP and 2.56 xFIP this season, despite missing all of April. Of concern is the fact that Greinke's HR/FB rate almost doubled from 7.5% to 13.6% this season, but that is bound to regress in 2012. Combine that with an elite K rate, an excellent ground ball rate, a 10.6% swinging strike rate, and Greinke will find himself in my Top 12 starters in 2012.
23. Roy Oswalt, PHI-Oswalt battled back injuries for most of the season, and could be at the end of the line, but he still pitched effectively when on the mound this season. He went 9-10 with a 3.69 ERA, 3.44 FIP, 3.95 xFIP and a 1.34 WHIP in 2011. Some negative signs for Oswalt was the huge drop in K rate from 8.21 to 6.02 and the steady drop in ground ball rate from 53% in 2007 to 45.1% this season. Oswalt will fall out of my Top 24 for 2012 for sure.