Benchmarking the Projections – Pitchers Edition

  • Verlander’s 24 wins in 2011
  • Greinke’s 1.66 ERA in 2015
  • Sale’s 308 strikeouts in 2017
  • K-Rod’s 62 saves in 2008
  • Kershaw’s 0.86 WHIP in 2014

Perfect 10s. Numbers so incredible, they were used to support Cy Young campaigns. Marks so high they undoubtedly served as a foundation for countless fantasy baseball championships. While these numbers constitute outliers, they still happened. It is recognized that these stats are atypical for a pitcher to achieve at the culmination of a season, but they represent the best possible values for an individual player in a standard rotisserie league.

Continuing with the mission to give you relatable projections to help build your fantasy team (first outlined for hitters here in Benchmarking the Projections), presented below are benchmarked projections for pitchers, both starters and relievers. To refresh your memory, the projections were compared to the average league category leader occurring since the introduction of PED testing. Seasons like those listed above form the measuring stick by which the projections are compared to. The list is color coded so you can easily separate the good from the bad numbers.

First, here are some takeaways:

  • The King has been toppled. Despite his lofty ADP number, Clayton Kershaw is no longer expected to be the best pitcher in baseball. In fact, the projections like three other starters better. This downgrade is entirely rooted in concerns over the health of his back. Kershaw’s projected number of innings pitched is reduced which would negatively affect his wins and strikeout counting stats. His ratios still remain the best in the business. A Kershaw selection is completely justifiable, but it depends on your willingness to accept and deal (both mentally and logistically) with the associated injury risk.
  • That means that Max Scherzer is the best pitcher out there (though any of the top four are tremendous). His strikeout projection is the only one on this list that ranks as truly elite, a 10. There is no benchmark available for mound intimidation, but Mad Max would definitely be a 10 there too.
  • The only winning that Chris Archer will do this year is on your fantasy team. It’s not his fault his team stinks. Don’t let his draft value be affected because of that fact. This is particularly true if your league opts for quality starts over wins.
  • The projections want you to temper your expectations for some of the hot names this draft season. Zach Godley, Luis Castillo, and Luiz Gohara are all anticipated to be middle of the road. But, you probably will not be tempering your expectations.
  • Looking for strikeouts late in the draft? A couple of targets to consider are Dan Straily and Sean Newcomb. They will crush your ratios, so make sure you have considered hedges in place at the top of your rotation and with your relievers.
  • Another injury prone guy that the projections like is Kenta Maeda. His ratios are solid. However, his counting numbers are held back by the expected innings pitched. That could be due to either his history of leg injuries, or due to the crowded rotation in Los Angeles.
  • The projections are not a doctor, but they do not expect Jimmy Nelson’s shoulder to be better this year.
  • Andrew Miller is the Billy Hamilton of pitchers. Specialist that will only help in two categories. Draft accordingly.

Below is the top 90 benchmarked pitchers sorted by a five category average that is weighted by the projected innings pitched. If you prefer to sort and filter the data, please have fun with the spreadsheet (link below). This sheet includes another 260 players and will be updated throughout draft season.

Initial Values Below (as of March 10)

Find Justin’s WEEKLY UPDATES here through Opening Day

Note: The underlying data is from RotoChamp‘s composite blend which includes the RotoChamp, Davenport, ZiPS, and Steamer Projections.

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