My job during this roundup of "Fantasy All-Stars" was to identify the top starting pitcher in the American League for fantasy. How does one break this down and determine just one? The pool of candidates for starting pitcher is much larger than any other pool of candidates. On any given day, there are just 14 starting AL third baseman or catchers and then more often than not, the same 14 guys the next day.
There are 14 starting AL pitchers on a given day and then a different 14 the next day, and then again the next day, and so on until it loops back to the original 14. Makes it tough to break down who the best of the best has been for the first half of the season. There's a number of categories to look at, including: Wins, Losses, ERA, strikeouts, walks, WHIP, innings, just to name a few for a standard league.
If you're looking at real baseball, the AL leaders in WAR for starting pitchers are Justin Verlander, Chris Sale, Felix Hernandez, Jake Peavy, and CC Sabathia. Not quite as valuable in real life as he is in fantasy, David Price sits at 2.2 fWAR but in fantasy he's got an AL-leading 11 wins, 8.46 K/9, and a 2.82 ERA. Therefore, Price can't be ignored either. Neither can Jered Weaver, Yu Darvish, or Matt Harrison.
We'll have to use the process of elimination:
Harrison is not an All-Star starting pitcher and he strikes out only 5.56 batters per nine innings. Harrison has transformed into a very solid starter over the last couple of years, but he's not the best of the best.
Darvish is second in the AL in strikeouts per nine but third in the AL in walks per nine.
Weaver is 10-1 with a 1.96 ERA but strikeouts are way down and he's put in just 96.2 innings.
That was easy enough but then it really gets difficult...
David Price: 11-4, 2.82 ERA, 3.42 FIP, 8.46 K/9, 2.98 BB/9, 111.2 innings.
CC Sabathia: 9-3, 3.45 ERA, 3.21 FIP, 8.83 K/9, 2.44 BB/9, 107 innings.
Already this is looking really close. Despite having a significantly higher ERA and two fewer wins, Sabathia bests Price in strikeouts, walks, and FIP. However, given most traditional formats, I'm going to give Price the fantasy edge over Sabathia by a hair.
Jake Peavy: 7-5, 2.85 ERA, 3.34 FIP, 8.10 K/9, 1.95 BB/9, 120 innings.
Chris Sale: 10-2, 2.19 ERA, 2.58 FIP, 8.59 K/9, 2.19 BB/9, 102.2 innings.
Teammates. Breakout vs Comeback. Peavy has really limited walks this year and he's got two more starts and 17.1 more innings, but this is a solid win for Sale.
Felix Hernandez: 6-5, 3.13 ERA, 2.96 FIP, 9.32 K/9, 2.55 BB/9, 123.2 innings.
Justin Verlander: 9-5, 2.58 ERA, 2.94 FIP, 8.68 K/9, 2.04 BB/9, 132.2 innings.
This is a real heavyweight matchup if you ask me. Two of the most talented "workhorse" right-handed starters in baseball. You could easily spend days arguing the merits of King Felix vs Verlander in real life and their FIPs really represent how close these two are. Felix, still only 26, has really turned it on lately: 36 innings, 44 K/6 BB, 1.75 ERA over his last five starts. He's racking up strikeouts at a career-high pace and who knows how much brighter his future could be.
But Verlander has the fantasy edge right now with 3 more wins, fewer walks, better ERA, and more innings.
Price v Sale v Verlander.
When you match up these three, the numbers don't lie and Price has a slight disadvantage to the other two.
So, Sale versus Verlander. Chris Sale has one more win and three fewer losses. Verlander records strikeouts at a slightly higher rate and walks at a slightly lower rate. Sale has a 2.19 ERA and Verlander has a 2.58 ERA. The biggest advantage for Justin Verlander, for me, is that he has 30 more innings than Sale and that's significant. They've both been phenomenal, but Verlander has been phenomenal for more innings, which means more points for you fantasy team.
On a completely even scale, I'd give Verlander the edge and call him the fantasy All-Star starter. However, there's one other thing to consider: Coming into this season, Verlander was an MVP and Cy Young and probably the first pitcher drafted. Sale was a relief pitcher making a transition and nobody could have expected this.
Based on value coming into this season, for these two to actually be neck-and-neck in fantasy points is stunning.
FakeTeams Fantasy All-Star Starting AL Pitcher: Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox.