Pictured: Clayton Kershaw and someone who represents the rest of MLB pitchers.
Photo Credit: Vinscullyismyhomeboy.com
It's that time. Starbonell urged me to name this Aching for Clayton, but his (obsessive) feelings for all things American Idol will not affect my writing. We're ranking the top 20 Starting Pitchers for the 2012 fantasy baseball season. You can find SP 21-40 here [link], SP 41-60 here [link] and SP 61-80+ here [link]. And go.
Note: the following rankings are for standard, roto, Y! leagues (cap on Innings Pitched). The rankings were based on my projections, concern for injury or innings cap and potential ceiling/floor.
Rankings 1 through 20 If you look closely you'll see there is no runner up. The incline from the pack to Clayton Kershaw is too steep for any one person to gain a foot hold. No Pitcher was allowed the No. 2 ranking. The only argument against Kershaw is that his improvement in control was too good to be true (BB/9 dropped from 3.57 in '10 to 2.08 in '11). One would continue to argue that Kerhsaw will regress in '12. I, on the other hand, see the similar improvement from the year before (BB/9 dropped from 4.79 in '09 to 3.57 in '10) and the consistency last season (BB/9: 1.99 in May, 1.91 in June, 2.02 in July, 1.94 in August and 1.04 in September). Not to mention the uptick in first pitch strikes (F-Strike%: 55% in '09, 60% in '10, 64% in '11). Rather than worry about regression, I'm more curious to know if that 1.04 BB/9 from September is a sign of things to come. Clayton will be 24 years old in less than two months, and he's already the best Pitcher in fantasy baseball. Justin Verlander, however, is an obvious candidate for regression. He's still pretty good though. We discussed that here. The usual list of names fills out the top ten SP. The C.J. Wilson projection may surprise some, but he was the 14th best SP last season (Y! ranking) and he's leaving a hitters haven for a pitchers park. Wilson made huge strides in the control department as he consistently suppressed free passes and threw more first pitch strikes. He's one of few pitchers who induces a lot of ground balls and doesn't have troubles with his HR/FB%, meaning he gives up very few Home Runs. He doesn't have the track record of many of the pitchers ranked behind him and his ADP is outside the top 20 SP so you can bump him down a handful of spots if it eases your worries. Madison Bumgarner had a 8.42 K/9 against a 2.02 BB/9 last season. That's pretty freakin' good. The scary part is his numbers were even better after he started throwing his Slider more often at the expense of his Fastball. After April/May: 9.28 K/9 vs 1.54 BB/9. The one thing to remember with MadBum is that he does surrender more than his fair share of base hits (high BABIP numbers). Feel free to rank him ahead of C.J. Wilson, I want to... and would eventually. I still like Mat Latos even though he moved from one extreme to another. At least he'll finally get some run support and the matchups against all five divisional teams should be cake. Matt Moore should be on your radar. The potential for 200+ strikeouts is obvious and he's going in the 10th round at MockDraftCentral.com. This projection could propel him up the list a few spots, but it'd be almost too aggressive to rank him ahead of Jered Weaver and Jon Lester. Stephen Strasburg would be a top five pitcher if it weren't for the IP cap (150-160 IP).
Do you think I need to keep it in my pants when it comes to C.J. Wilson? Did I confirm your suspicions? Do you want more? Along with these numbers I have projections for Total Batters Faced (yep), K/9, BB/9, IBB, HBP, Fly Balls, HR/FB% and BABIP. We can get hot and heavy, the comment section is all yours.