bogfella

Pitcher Value Touts

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Hey bog, maybe this is too basic a question, but what do you look for in a breakout pitcher (meaning a younger unknown quantity that is on the cusp of putting it together to have a great career)?

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Hey bog, maybe this is too basic a question, but what do you look for in a breakout pitcher (meaning a younger unknown quantity that is on the cusp of putting it together to have a great career)?

I'm not Bog and you may not care for my opinion, but i'd like to take a stab at this. There are many things to look for in a break out pitcher. Hamels and Price, for instance, both had much better years than the year before. Hamels added a cutter and Price used his curveball A LOT more. They both added miles to their fastball, but that can't be predicted. When I hear talk of guys adding a new pitch, a la Grienke fine tuning his change up in his monster season, I certainly go for these guys. Now i'm not talking about drafting some random guy, but when a pitcher with talent , youth, a pedigree, and upside starts getting confident to use a new pitch, adding to his arsenal, that makes him more of a riddle to the batter, and especially in the first year of using the new pitch (if it's good enough, you can't just throw up a crappy curveball and expect results) it makes it tougher for the batter to figure them out, leading to break thru seasons.

A lot of times, pitchers that are successful relievers, become good starters . We can look at CJ wilson and Ryan Dempster as recent examples. Liriano was an older one.

Consistency can be a key, and pitching under pressure. A guy like Jhoulys chacin had strong peripherals, and in the 4 months he was a starter his era was never above 3.72, and he was great in september when the team was trying to make a run.

Luck. Look at how amazing all of Liriano's peripherals are, but his era was much higher than his xfip and fip. You can expect a guy like that to take the next step. And let's throw Gallardo in that category too, these two look like price hamels types, good young players than will have much bigger seasons than the one before. Not a true "breakout" but you should get a good return on value.

Injuries. Brett Anderson had a solid season, but was injured. If he could put together a full season, he could finally break out. There are other examples of this, but he's the best one imo.

Guys with great k-rate's, at least good enough walk rates, and good ground ball % will always be candidates to break out. These type of guys can get favorable lob % because for example: runners on corners, no outs. strike out one guy, induce that ground ball double play, and you're out of it.

I'm sure Bog will do a better job than me, but off the top of my head these are most of the things I look for, and I always have very solid staffs.

Edited by Red Sox Nation

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Hey bog, maybe this is too basic a question, but what do you look for in a breakout pitcher (meaning a younger unknown quantity that is on the cusp of putting it together to have a great career)?

Oh wow. It sounds like a basic question but in reality its pretty complex. I could write a book more easily than getting it all in a post here on the forums but I will throw out a couple of thoughts for what they are worth.

First of all, I generally start looking at guys long before they hit the fantasy mags. In the old days, if a guy wasn't in MLB, most people knew very little about him and you could steal some serious talent without much effort. Today, there is a lot more info and hype is a killer for value shopping. That said, quite a few of my 2008 or 2009 guys are just now making a major impact at the MLB level and thats what it takes to get really good ones on the cheap.

One other note before I get into what to watch for. Its just as important to watch for pretenders. Every year some guys get unwarranted hype or start off like the next Cy Young but most of these are guys you want to avoid. I have actually grinned from ear to ear when someone one of my leagues jumped all over a flavor of the week arm.

Ok ... so here are a few things I watch for:

* Fastball - most pitches are set up by a fastball. Its not everything but having a good one makes life much easier. Velocity is good. Movement is good. Velocity AND movement are great! Also watch to see if the v&m last deeper into games. Does the pitcher look overextended when he "reaches back" for more? When he does, does he lose movement? Is the motion, arm slot and stride consistent on each fastball? How are the hitters reacting on the fastball? Are they able to time it 1st time through? 2nd? 3rd? Are they swinging and missing, fouling pitches off, or taking strikes? When the hitter makes contact, are the hits rockets or dribblers? A note here ... a fairly new metric which actually does tell a lot is line drive percentage. And thats just a few of the things to watch when grading a fastball.

* Pitch Repertoire - Very few MLB starting pitchers can be consistently successful with fewer than 3 solid pitches. You must learn to recognize various pitches and then know how to grade them. Keep in mind younger players often have to refine a couple of the pitches they will need to be successful at the MLB level. That said, the secondary pitches for young guys are often there but very inconsistent. He may ace every third slider while the other 2 are beach balls on a tee for the hitter. If that 3rd one is really crisp, I will generally want to see the pitcher again in a few weeks or months to see how the consistency is coming along. Improvement gets the guy moved up on the watch list. Can he change speeds without everyone in the park knowing it before he releases the ball? What kind of angle does he have on his breaking pitches - sharp on a down plane and late is best. A feel for a change is really important. Without an effective change up the guy is likely destined for the bullpen no matter how good the other stuff is (obviously there are exceptions and some bullpen guys have awesome other pitches so they are very successful there).

* Control vs Command - Big difference. Most professional pitchers can throw strikes (control). Some don't have the quality of pitches to make them work and others never really get beyond throwing "strikes" with at least some regularity. They top shelf guys go beyond strikes and have "command" ... they can consistently hit specific spots within the strikezone and they can do it with quality pitches, not just get me over pitches. Watch the catcher. If he puts down a target and never moves, thats command. If he looks like a soccer goalie behind the plate even though most of the pitches are strikes, thats a concern. Again, very young guys typically have problems with consistent command. Note that a "finesse" pitcher without overpowering stuff MUST master command to be effective.

* Hitter Reactions - A very telling observation. If the hitters are consistently off balance, taking weak swings, watching clean strikes go by, way out on their front foot, swinging late, failing to make solid (that line drive %) contact, or actually have a "confused" look about them, the pitcher has it together. Therefore watching hitters is a part of evaluating pitchers. These things can be something deceptive in the pitcher's delivery (ok) or the pitches can be of such high quality that the hitter struggles to adjust to various offerings. This is a pretty big thing for the younger guys because if they aren't fooling A or AA hitters, they sure won't fool MLB hitters who are MUCH better at adjusting and they can do it within an AB let alone a game. Also be sure to watch and judge whether the solid hits were mistakes (remember the young pitcher could still be developing that pitch and he may hang more of them than he will when he gets it together - how did they react on that one really crisp slider?).

* Poise or Mound Presence - This is really hard to define and my evaluations are based on years of doing it rather than a textbook description. Lets just say you should watch to see how the pitcher reacts in a jam, pitching out of the stretch, having to throw a high percentage of critical pitches (takes much more out of a pitcher physically and mentally than just cruising), reaction when he loses his command or even control, confidence in his repertoire when he gives up a couple of moonshots or rockets, appropriate pitch selection (I'm not crazy about guys who fall in love with 1 pitch for example), and changes in mechanics when things are not going as well as he might like.

Well, I think thats enough for a post here lol. Even though its a relatively small percentage of the things I note when watching a young arm, it probably gives you some feel for things that can set guys apart from the crowd.

EDIT: Please note - these are broad stroke comments! There are exceptions and viable reasons why a pitcher might not perform up to standards so you have to use your own judgment sometimes. Here's an example. Were you aware that teams sometimes make a young pitcher throw a high percentage of a certain pitch they want him to develop or even don't allow him to throw his best pitch so he gains confidence and learns to live with his secondary offerings. Those times can be scary lol

Edited by bogfella

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Great post. I thought this was a great observation.

* Hitter Reactions - A very telling observation. If the hitters are consistently off balance, taking weak swings, watching clean strikes go by, way out on their front foot, swinging late, failing to make solid (that line drive %) contact, or actually have a "confused" look about them, the pitcher has it together. Therefore watching hitters is a part of evaluating pitchers. These things can be something deceptive in the pitcher's delivery (ok) or the pitches can be of such high quality that the hitter struggles to adjust to various offerings. This is a pretty big thing for the younger guys because if they aren't fooling A or AA hitters, they sure won't fool MLB hitters who are MUCH better at adjusting and they can do it within an AB let alone a game. Also be sure to watch and judge whether the solid hits were mistakes (remember the young pitcher could still be developing that pitch and he may hang more of them than he will when he gets it together - how did they react on that one really crisp slider?).

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Were you aware that teams sometimes make a young pitcher throw a high percentage of a certain pitch they want him to develop or even don't allow him to throw his best pitch so he gains confidence and learns to live with his secondary offerings. Those times can be scary lol

I was aware of that - thanks for the primer, this is exactly what I was looking for!

Thanks also to RSN for that other perspective - in the past I've tried drafting guys based on good K/BB and high K/9s ignoring ERA/WHIP, which worked in some cases and not in others, but in this day and age there are more sabermetrics coming out than I can count and more guys seeing the intangibles (read: bog) that this has become more difficult.

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I was aware of that - thanks for the primer, this is exactly what I was looking for!

Thanks also to RSN for that other perspective - in the past I've tried drafting guys based on good K/BB and high K/9s ignoring ERA/WHIP, which worked in some cases and not in others, but in this day and age there are more sabermetrics coming out than I can count and more guys seeing the intangibles (read: bog) that this has become more difficult.

Glad it was a help B) Sorry time and space just doesn't allow for a really in depth definition.

As for your comment about K/BB and/or K9 ... that's the challenge. Both of those things (and many others) can get you interested enough in a guy to watch him, but watching and knowing what you are watching is so important. I have seen some guys with great "numbers" that didn't impress me at all and I have seen guys with very ordinary numbers that I thought had a world of potential. Its just a very high mountain to climb unless you can see them in person or at least see good video.

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Gavin Floyd... I know this is RRF's guy, but yeah, it seems at this point he is who he will always be. Avoid drafting, because he wll suck in April & early May, pick up off of waivers when his owner gets frustrated & drops him, & watch as he gets hot for your team. His bread & butter is the deuce, and it just doesn't work in early season. Don Cooper, as good as a pitching coach as he is, just can't work miracles.

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Here's a keeper special ...

+ Stephen Strasburg - he's no secret anymore to be sure, but he is unlikely to pitch at all in 2011 so there *might* be a chance to get him at a discount for 2012 and beyond. There aren't a lot of guys I would say this about, but in a keeper he is worth burning a roster spot for this season in order to have him when he comes back.

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Here's a keeper special ...

+ Stephen Strasburg - he's no secret anymore to be sure, but he is unlikely to pitch at all in 2011 so there *might* be a chance to get him at a discount for 2012 and beyond. There aren't a lot of guys I would say this about, but in a keeper he is worth burning a roster spot for this season in order to have him when he comes back.

what round (or better yet, overall #) would you recommend picking him up in a keeper?

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what round (or better yet, overall #) would you recommend picking him up in a keeper?

That is a very tough call since every league is different. For example, the more keepers you can have, the earlier he will go (its easier to hang onto him). Also, how long you can keep him will have an impact - if the max length of ownership is 2 or 3 years he will likely drop a bit further than if you can keep him for 5 or more years. And, of course, some leagues are very sensitive to young guys with high ceilings and in those leagues someone might jump very early - especially if they are rebuilding or aren't sure they will be all that competitive this year.

That said, if you have a fairly deep bench, I wouldn't feel bad grabbing him somewhere in the middle rounds. He is a once every several years kind of talent assuming he comes back at full strength or close. I tend to gamble on that kind of talent so personally I would probably pick him sooner than necessary, but thats me. I wish I could be of more help but without knowing your league its almost impossible to make any kind of confident call on when would be appropriate.

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Bog, what do you make of Lincecum this year ? The fastball velocity has been steadily going down, but the "new" slurve he discovered towards the end of the season has me somewhat optimistic. Still, his FB going from 94ish to 91 is a cause for concern imo, as less hitters count on FB as a + out pitch.

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Bog, what do you make of Lincecum this year ? The fastball velocity has been steadily going down, but the "new" slurve he discovered towards the end of the season has me somewhat optimistic. Still, his FB going from 94ish to 91 is a cause for concern imo, as less hitters count on FB as a + out pitch.

In short, I expect him to be the #1 pitcher in the game again this year. He is exceptionally smart, he is still learning to "pitch" and his velocity is an extension of his mechanics which were out of synch for a few weeks last season - nothing unusual in that at all. As he matures he will find (and is already finding) that its better to save a little of that fb juice for when he really needs it. I have seen nothing to indicate that he has any injury sapping his velocity and barring an injury he figures to be an elite tier starter for a very long time.

Please note the earlier posts regarding Strasburg, Lincecum was one of those 4-5 arms (the most recent prior to Strasburg) to come along in the past 10 years that I was determined to have. Like Strasburg, I drafted him in all of my leagues before he ever threw a MLB pitch. I cannot stress the importance of going all in when that *special* guy comes along. You just have to be sure you are incredibly selective when hanging that label on a guy.

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Please note the earlier posts regarding Strasburg, Lincecum was one of those 4-5 arms (the most recent prior to Strasburg) to come along in the past 10 years that I was determined to have. Like Strasburg, I drafted him in all of my leagues before he ever threw a MLB pitch. I cannot stress the importance of going all in when that *special* guy comes along. You just have to be sure you are incredibly selective when hanging that label on a guy.

Strasburg needed TJ surgery after 68 IP in the majors last year. Over the next two years he will probably only pitch 100 IP without a lot of wins because of the team that he is on and the innings cap.

I drafted Strasburg last year in my keeper league but found it frustrating to wait on him for 6 months. I had dreams of 300+ K's for this year or 2012. I think to be a *special* guy you can't have durability issues like Stras has had at such a young age.

I think people tend to get caught up in building a team with potential only to never realize it. If you are going to gamble and invest in talent over the long term (2 years in fantasy baseball is long-term) it is always better to do it on the offensive side since there is significantly less injury risk associated with it. Also, with pitching it doesn't take nearly as long for the talent to develop. It makes no sense to waste a roster spot on a pitching investment over 2+ years, especially given Strasburg's durability issues. Way better to invest in a Bryce Harper if you are in a hole and need to rebuild. However the best strategy is to invest in the present and try to catch the Cargo's on the way up. Burn roster spots on guys like Drew Stubbs who have an outside shot at 25/40 instead.

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An interesting player is Max Scherzer.

From June to Sept (22 starts):

142 IP 144 K 2.55 ERA 1.14 WHIP

Does he put it all together this year?

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An interesting player is Max Scherzer.

From June to Sept (22 starts):

142 IP 144 K 2.55 ERA 1.14 WHIP

Does he put it all together this year?

I think a lot of people know this, or at least people that good fantasy owners know this. I do think it's hard to put those kinda stats over a full year. I have no real explanation. I just feel that. His whip doesn't support an era like that. I just don't think Max Scherzer is a sub 3.00 era type of pitcher. I do think he is a solid middle to low end sp2, tho. I think he can get his era in the 3.30 range, and if healthy the k's should hover around 190. He can definately be a very good pitcher, but I personally wouldn't prorate those stats and expect them over a full year.

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Alright bog I'm going super low end here, but what are your thoughts on Luke Hochevar. Granted he's been a bust for the most part, but he's also showed flashes of brilliance at times. I saw him just baffle the Tigers w/ 10 Ks in a mid season start last summer, and he's posted several solid outings among the shellings over the past two years. With Greinke gone, is there any chance this guy steps his game up to become a potential backend fantasy option?

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I see a nice bounce back year for John Lackey. He was nagged by an injury in the first half of last season, but pitched much better in the 2nd half. I think you'll see him with 17-18 wins and an era around 3.70 this season as long as he stays healthy.

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Alright bog I'm going super low end here, but what are your thoughts on Luke Hochevar. Granted he's been a bust for the most part, but he's also showed flashes of brilliance at times. I saw him just baffle the Tigers w/ 10 Ks in a mid season start last summer, and he's posted several solid outings among the shellings over the past two years. With Greinke gone, is there any chance this guy steps his game up to become a potential backend fantasy option?

I have been intrigued by Hochevar for a long time - looks like he is finding it, then looks completely lost. He certainly has the stuff to be a decent starter but at some point you have to wonder if he has the focus and drive to take that next step. He should be exceptionally cheap on draft day and I think he might be worth another chance but he's no sure thing at this point. Label him a flyer and be happy if you score but don't be too surprised if he continues his inconsistent ways.

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Bog, Vasquez and Beckett: couple of bounce-back candidates at their ADP or total busts and retirements looming ? B)

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I see a nice bounce back year for John Lackey. He was nagged by an injury in the first half of last season, but pitched much better in the 2nd half. I think you'll see him with 17-18 wins and an era around 3.70 this season as long as he stays healthy.

Excluding Toronto, Tampa, and the Yankees, his era was 3.62 last year, with 10 wins in 22 starts (149.1 ip). We have the benefit of hindsight, as the Jays were better than expected last year, but those numbers also include starts against Colorado, Texas, and Philly, among other tough teams.

What are people's thoughts on benching their pitchers vs tough matchups? Is it worth drafting a player they might only use for 2/3 of the season?

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An interesting player is Max Scherzer.

From June to Sept (22 starts):

142 IP 144 K 2.55 ERA 1.14 WHIP

Does he put it all together this year?

I think so. He better/stronger as the season progressed. Here is his IP/G from April to Oct.

Apr - 5.44

May - 5.00

Jun - 6.20

Jul - 6.50

Aug - 7.00

Sep/Oct - 7.17

There is is one thing that I worry about with a young starter it his ability to go deep into games. If he can go 6.50 innings deep in most games I like his chances of putting up a very very strong season.

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Bog, Vasquez and Beckett: couple of bounce-back candidates at their ADP or total busts and retirements looming ? B)

I have always liked Vasquez and he is better in the NL (or anywhere but NY) but he is likely on the downside of his career. He still has some life on his pitches and should be an adequate starter but his best years are behind him. A back of the rotation guy if you can get him on the cheap but he's probably not a huge boost.

Beckett is more of an enigma. He's another one I always thought might step into the elite ranks but he never quite gets there and he's now in his 30's. He did have back problems last year which can be a huge problem for a pitcher as it can really impact their mechanics. In general, I think Beckett tends to be overvalued in many leagues so I would approach with caution. Many may be thinking he will come back strong (probably stronger than one should expect) so it may be hard to get value. If I could get him really cheap - unlikely is my guess - I might take a flyer but I would be hesitant to go all in with him.

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I have always liked Vasquez and he is better in the NL (or anywhere but NY) but he is likely on the downside of his career. He still has some life on his pitches and should be an adequate starter but his best years are behind him. A back of the rotation guy if you can get him on the cheap but he's probably not a huge boost.

Beckett is more of an enigma. He's another one I always thought might step into the elite ranks but he never quite gets there and he's now in his 30's. He did have back problems last year which can be a huge problem for a pitcher as it can really impact their mechanics. In general, I think Beckett tends to be overvalued in many leagues so I would approach with caution. Many may be thinking he will come back strong (probably stronger than one should expect) so it may be hard to get value. If I could get him really cheap - unlikely is my guess - I might take a flyer but I would be hesitant to go all in with him.

Beckett is going really cheap this year. I (somehow) got him in the 16th in a 14-team mock the other day as my SP4. His MDC ADP sits at 165 right now....which is 14th round in a 12-teamer. I can see value there.

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What are you thoughts on James McDonald Pit, Chris Young NYM and a Chad Qualls bounce back ? Also can Latos handle the innings jump?

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What are you thoughts on James McDonald Pit, Chris Young NYM and a Chad Qualls bounce back ? Also can Latos handle the innings jump?

McDonald - A decent arm in an organization that isn't always great with young pitchers but he could fit as a back of the rotation fantasy guy. He still has a bit of a hype aura so be careful not to overpay. He's young and has some upside but not an ace - maybe a #3 ceiling. My guess is he will go too early for me.

Chris Young - An injury risk and like many extremely tall guys getting and staying in synch long term is a problem - especially when you aren't getting mound time because of injuries. He can be moderately productive for stretches but he has been pretty unreliable so I would prefer to look somewhere else. High risk so late late only.

Chad Qualls - Probably will bounce back at least some, it would be hard to go down. Best in a set up role so he could be of use in a holds league but beyond that he's really not closer material except in an emergency.

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