This post is the ninth in a series of rankings catered specifically to fantasy baseball head-to-head points leagues and the first of three focused on starting pitchers.
All pitchers in this post and future points league rankings are based on these scoring values:
(W x 7) + (SV x 7) + (IP x 3) + (K x 0.5) - (ER x 2) - (H x 1) - (BB x 1) = Total
Notes on Starting Pitchers:
Pitching = Points - 7 IP, 3 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 8 K, 1 W is a fairly standard start from an ace pitcher and would be worth 21 points in this format. If that pitcher were to have two starts in a week, he would score upwards of 40-50 points. Compare that to Miguel Cabrera, the #1 hitter in my rankings, who averaged 24 points per week in 2011 and you see that premiere pitchers offer premiere points.
Ace up your sleeve - Streaming two-start pitchers is a viable strategy in H2H points leagues, but it isn't without risk considering the potential for negative points via H, BB and L. You'll want at least one if not two ace pitchers on your staff that you can count on 20-30 points from each start. Unlike in standard scoring where some often wait for pitching, you'd be wise to draft at least one if not two premiere pitchers in the first five rounds.
Just win, baby! - Due to a 7 point multiplier for earning a W in a start, some pitchers like Felix Hernandez, Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum fall in the rankings thanks to their team's inability to offer run support, so much so that they often lose games (-5 multiplier) that other ace pitchers would not.
Innings limits - Make sure to research which pitchers could be on an innings limit this season. If a pitcher is unlikely to throw more than 160-170 innings, it's unlikely that he'll be helpful to your team come playoffs. Pitchers like Stephen Strasburg, Adam Wainwright and Matt Moore come to mind.
Rankings after the jump:
2012 Fantasy Baseball H2H Points League Starting Pitcher Rankings: 1-25
1) Clayton Kershaw, LAD
2011 Points Scored: 600
Entering 2011, there were concerns surrounding Clayton Kershaw’s control and his high BB totals in both 2009 and 2010. Now, entering 2012, there are not. Kershaw cut his BB% down to 5.9 while increasing his SO% to 27.2 and his 248 strikeouts were good for second best in ’11. As impressive were his 21 wins (second best) since the Dodgers were outside the Top 20 in runs scored. He continues to show his durability as he has increased his innings pitched in four straight seasons and should be in line for another 230+ in ’12. Considering he pitches in a premiere pitcher’s park and division and is only 24 years old, there’s plenty of reason to believe Kershaw could only continue to get better.
2) Justin Verlander, DET
2011 Points Scored: 656
AL Cy Young Award. AL MVP Award. Justin Verlander’s postseason hardware pretty much tells the story of his phenomenal 2011 season. His 2.40 ERA was over a run better than his career average (3.54) while his 0.92 WHIP was 0.27 points better on route to 24 wins for the Detroit Tigers. There are some questions entering 2012 in regards to Verlander’s ability to repeat his performance. For one, his 251.1 IP (+20 IP in the postseason) were the most of his career and could wear on him in ‘12. Also, his .237 BABIP was 50 points below his career average and almost 65 below the MLB average. Add to that that Jose Valverde and the Detroit bullpen did not blow a single lead for him the entire season whereas the offense came back to tie or take the lead for him on four occasions in games he’d have lost and what you have is a lot of luck contributing to his final line. But, even if Lady Luck leaves him in ’12, Verlander has now established himself as one of the premiere pitchers in baseball and a top target on draft day.
3) Roy Halladay, PHI
2011 Points Scored: 549
Consistency. Consistency. Consistency. While Roy Halladay was outscored by both Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw in 2011, it was more due to their career-best performances than any falloff from Doc. In fact, he had nearly the exact same season as 2010, his first year in the NL, with an even better ERA and WHIP. Since 2009, Halladay has averaged 528 points as compared to 522 from Verlander and 431 from Kershaw. Until Verlander and Kershaw prove they can repeat their ’11 performances, Halladay remains the safest choice amongst starting pitchers and as sure of a bet as any to reach 230 IP and close to 20 W next season.
4) Cliff Lee, PHI
2011 Points Scored: 533
Cliff Lee returned to the Phillies in 2011 and went on to have one of the best all-around seasons of his career. His 232 strikeouts were his most ever while his 2.40 ERA was his best ever. Lee continues to maintain an extremely impressive K/BB and has walked a mere 52 batters over the course of his 44 starts with Philadelphia in ’09 and ’11. Also impressive was his career-best 0.91 GB/FB ratio. If Lee can continue to keep runners off the base paths via BB while maintaining his SO% and keeping the ball on the ground, his NL success should continue into 2012 and far beyond.
5) CC Sabathia, NYY
2011 Points Scored: 471
The big lefty has pitched in over 230 innings in each of his first three seasons for the pinstripes while averaging 20 W and 208 strikeouts in that time. Meanwhile, Sabathia continues to cut his BB% and increase his SO% as his 23.4 was his best with the Yankees. It doesn’t help that he pitches in the worst pitcher’s park in baseball, but he countered it in 2011 with an impressive 5.5 HR/FB ratio and solid 0.94 GB/FB. Run support should never be an issue for Sabathia and 20 W should once again be in his sites for 2012.
6) Cole Hamels, PHI
2011 Points Scored: 451
Cole Hamels is in the middle of his prime and set career-bests in multiple stats and ratios in 2011 including ERA, WHIP, IP, BB%, K/BB, GB/FB, HR/FB and LMNOP. It should be noted however that his .259 BABIP was 25 points lower than his career average and could be due to increase in 2012. Even still, his control is elite and he can be counted on for close to 15 W, 200 IP and 200 strikeouts in ’12, which truly makes him the ace of a fantasy baseball team, even if he isn’t the ace on his own team.
7) Dan Haren, ANA
2011 Points Scored: 461
In his first full season with the Halos, Dan Haren posted his seventh consecutive year with at least 200 IP and his fifth season with 190 or more strikeouts and an excellent 1.02 WHIP. Most impressive was his phenomenal 3.5 BB% and 5.82 K/BB (second best in MLB). Considering the addition of Albert Pujols in the offseason, Haren has a very good chance at reaching 20 W in 2012, especially when you factor in that his team lost six games last season in which he left with the lead.
8) CJ Wilson, ANA
2011 Points Scored: 442
CJ Wilson had a 3.69 ERA at home and a 2.31 ERA on the road in 2011. Now, in 2012, instead of pitching his home games at Rangers Ballpark (3rd best hitter’s park), he’ll be pitching them at Angel Stadium (24th best). Add that to the fact that both his SO% and BB% headed in the right direction last season and there’s a chance Wilson finds himself in the AL Cy Young discussion by the end of September.
9) Zack Greinke, MIL
2011 Points Scored: 346
Zack Greinke suffered a rib injury playing basketball (yes, basketball) prior to the season which caused him to miss almost the entire month of April in 2011 and pitch in less than 200 innings for the first time since 2007. It appeared as though the injury continued to bother him upon his return as he posted a 5.45 ERA in 13 starts in the first half. Greinke’s season turned around in the second half when he had a 9-3 record and 2.59 ERA in 15 starts. His K/9 was the best in the MLB amongst starters while his K/BB was the sixth best. Despite all the ups and downs and an unlucky 2.98 FIP, he still finished with a 16-6 record for the Brew Crew. He’ll need to improve his home/road splits, but there’s a chance Greinke could be a steal on draft day as he’s due for at least 30 more innings pitched and a little luck in FIP in 2012, a contract year.
10) Jered Weaver, ANA
2011 Points Scored: 528
Simply put, Jered Weaver was extremely lucky in 2011. His GB/FB ratio was the worst in the AL and yet he only allowed 20 HR. His BABIP was 20 points lower than his career average and his ERA was 80 points better than his FIP. Therefore, expect regression in his WHIP and ERA in 2012. That being said, he is a solid source for 200 IP and 200 strikeouts and could approach 20 W again with the increased run support he’s likely to get from the Halos new-and-improved lineup.
11) David Price, TB
2011 Points Scored: 372 Simply put, David Price was extremely unlucky in 2011. Despite improving his WHIP, FIP, SO% and BB%, Price won seven less games and lost seven more than he did in 2010. Price still has not entered his prime and should be good for 200 IP and 200 strikeouts next season. With a little luck in his record, he could return to the Cy Young conversation as soon as 2012.
12) Tim Lincecum, SF
2011 Points Scored: 388
Tim Lincecum suffered a similar fate to Matt Cain as he finished with a 2.74 ERA and 1.20 WHIP and a meager 13-14 record. The problem with Lincecum lies in his increased BB% and decreased SO% over the course of the last three seasons. He’ll need to cut down on the 109 pitches per start, and therefore the BB, if he wants to remain in games longer and give himself a chance at a W. Even if the wins don’t arrive in 2012, Lincecum is still a reliable source for 200 IP and 220 K.
13) Ian Kennedy, ARZ
2011 Points Scored: 509
Ian Kennedy made the leap to Cy Young candidacy in 2011 with an excellent 2.87 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 21 W and only 4 L. Kennedy’s season is even more impressive considering his home stadium, Chase Field, is the seventh friendliest to hitters and yet he still managed a 2.64 ERA and 0.98 WHIP there over the course of 18 starts. There’s a lot to be excited about with the Diamondbacks newfound ace, but expect some regression in 2012 as it’s hard to repeat a sub 1.00 WHIP and 21 W, especially considering he had 3 W in non-quality starts as well as another 5 games in which he was in line for the loss after he left the game and Arizona came back to tie or win.
14) Matt Cain, SF
2011 Points Scored: 402
If only Matt Cain could receive some run support. Despite a 2.88 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and career-best 7.0 BB%, Cain finished the season with a 12-11 record. He is as consistent as nearly any pitcher in the MLB and were he to just get another run or two per start, there’s a chance he could add another 6-8 wins, subtract 5-6 losses and add 50-60 points to his total in 2012.
15) Felix Hernandez, SEA
2011 Points Scored: 376
Felix Hernandez had an almost identical BB% and SO% to his 2010 Cy Young season in 2011, however his ERA and WHIP both increased thanks to a 40 point rise in BABIP. Were he to pitch for almost any other team in baseball (accept for maybe the Giants, as Lincecum and Cain can attest to), Hernandez would be a staple of the Top 5 in points league rankings thanks to his consistent 200 IP and 200 strikeouts, but, because Seattle is currently incapable of scoring runs, his 14-14 record becomes a liability and he has now finished three of the last four seasons with 11 or more losses.
16) Yovani Gallardo, MIL
2011 Points Scored: 380
Prior to 2011, the issue with Yovani Gallardo was always his control with a BB% at or above the MLB average the previous three seasons. Well, in ’11 walks became a non-issue for Gallardo as he cut down his BB% to a very impressive 6.8 while still maintaining a 23.9 SO%. At just 25 years old, Gallardo is still a year or two from his prime and yet, he could be on the verge of becoming one of the elite aces in the NL with another impressive season in 2012.
17) Jon Lester, BOS
2011 Points Scored: 337
After a career year in 2010, Jon Lester took a step back in 2011 thanks to a dismal 9.4 BB% and a decreasing SO%. Some of his decline can be attributed to a strained muscle that cost him to miss time in July and could have led to his dropoff in performance in September (5.40 ERA). If Lester is healthy to start 2012 and able to cut down on his walks, he could join the Top 10 as soon as next season as his lineup offers as much potential for run support as any in the MLB.
18) James Shields, TB
2011 Points Scored: 496
After a miserable 2010 season, James Shields came out of nowhere in 2011 to post an ERA 0.70 better than his previous best and 2.30 runs better than ’10. His 1.04 WHIP was almost 20 points better than his average despite an increase in his BB% and 30 more IP than he had ever had before. A lot of his success can be attributed to a BABIP 80 points better than ’10 and 40 points less than most MLB pitchers. Considering the shocking difference in his ’10 and ’11 seasons and the fact that Shields is 30 years old, it seems unlikely that he all the sudden developed into an elite pitcher in his sixth season and therefore it would be wise to assume he will regress in 2012, possibly significantly.
19) Ricky Romero, TOR
2011 Points Scored: 412
Ricky Romero continues to improve on his ERA and WHIP each season while maintaining an impressive 1.22 GB/FB ratio. But, there is evidence to suggest that Romero’s career year in 2011 was in large part thanks to luck. He averaged 1 HR/9 and 8.7 BB% and yet was able to keep his ERA below 3.00 due to an unfathomable .245 BABIP and FIP 1.28 points below his ERA. If he allows more hits and therefore more base runners in 2012 without limiting the HR, there’s a chance the solo shots turn to three-run bombs and Romero’s 15-11 record takes a turn for the worse in the high-powered AL East.
20) Daniel Hudson, ARZ
2011 Points Scored: 364
After a dominant debut season in 2010, Daniel Hudson established himself as a solid #2 starter in his first full season with the Diamondbacks. Hudson’s ability to limit walks (5.5 BB%) and home runs (0.7 HR/9) contributed significantly to his success while his 169 strikeouts only added to his point total. Assuming Hudson is able to maintain an ERA between 3.00-3.50 going forward, he should continue to approach 15 or more wins thanks to the high-powered offense out in the desert.
21) Madison Bumgarner, SF
2011 Points Scored: 342
Madison Bumgarner got off to a horrible start in 2011 thanks to a 6.17 ERA, 1.75 WHIP and .828 OPS, and yet, he managed to finish the season with a very solid 3.21 ERA. He benefited from the spacious NL West stadiums with a HR/9 of 0.53 and his K/BB was among the best in the NL. Like Lincecum and Cain, Bumgarner’s value is limited thanks to the minimal run support he receives and his 13 losses certainly don’t help his point total. But, make no mistake, at only 22 years old, he is certainly a pitcher on the rise and one to look out for on draft day.
22) Michael Pineda, SEA
2011 Points Scored: 282
It didn’t take long for Michael Pineda to establish himself as one of the most powerful arms in the AL as his 9.1 K/9 was good for second best in the league. It didn’t end there though, as his WHIP and OPS were both amongst the league best despite a mediocre 7.9 BB%. His 0.9 HR/9 isn’t excellent and might get worse in his move to the AL East but his increased run support and additional 30 IP (or more) should more than make up for it.
23) Yu Darvish, TEX
2011 Points Scored: International player
Yu Darvish is unlikely to repeat his sub 2.00 ERA in the MLB or his impressive WHIP. But, his upper 90 MPH arm speed should translate just fine and even if the ERA jumps to 3.50, that should be low enough to rack up wins with the Rangers dominant offense on his side.
24) Josh Beckett, BOS
2011 Points Scored: 401
At first glance, it would seem as though Josh Beckett won’t repeat his 2011 season. First of all, injury is always a concern as he has only pitched in 200 innings three times in his career. Secondly, his .249 BABIP is unlikely to happen again and his FIP was 0.68 points less than his ERA. At 31 years old, it’s likely his ratio and output return to his career average, but even still, that should be enough for a good source of wins with him pitching for the Red Sox.
25) Stephen Strasburg, WAS
2011 Points Scored: 49
Currently, a full season from Stephen Strasburg should equate to close to 450 points. The problem is that in 2012 you won’t get a full season from him. For one, injury could be a concern again as he is not far away from Tommy John surgery and it’s almost a guarantee he pitches no more than 160 to 170 innings as the Nationals intend to monitor his pitches closely. Therefore, Strasburg could be a key component to you reaching the playoffs in your H2H points league, just don’t expect him to help you once you get there.
Tim Hudson, ATL
2011 Points Scored: 387
Were his health issues a bit clearer it’s likely Tim Hudson could make the cut into the Top 25 as he is extremely solid in terms of WHIP, ERA and BB%. But, he underwent back surgery immediately following the season and it’s still unknown as to whether he will miss any time in 2012 and how if at all the surgery could impact his performance. Considering the health concerns and his limited strikeout potential, there’s a chance he could be had for a steal on draft day, just monitor the news out of Braves spring training closely when it comes to Hudson’s back.
Is there a starting pitcher you think is worthy of the Top 25 that didn't make the cut? Feel free to comment on these rankings below or ask any questions related to the upcoming 2012 season and be sure to check out tomorrow's rankings featuring the 26-50 starting pitchers.