Pitching by the Numbers: Advice audit

Danny Salazar's '13 season didn't burn as bright as many thought it would.. (Getty)
Danny Salazar's '13 season didn't burn as bright as many thought it would.. (Getty)

As we close up shop on Pitching by the Numbers for 2014, moving our undivided attention post-Labor Day to fantasy football, let’s audit our spring-training and early season advice to see which ideas/approaches worked and which didn’t.

I’m not going to give myself blame or credit for a pitcher getting hurt. No one can be expected to forecast injury. I’m grading based on how pitchers performed when active, as long as the sample size was reasonable.

The Good (preseason)

“My major quarrel (with Tanaka projections) is mainly with the strikeouts (per nine innings). I think they’ll be considerably higher (than in Japan because Japanese hitters are harder to strike out).”

“(Verlander’s) lost some velocity and is getting right at the age (31) where most of the big-time power pitchers have to start transitioning a little into being more finesse-y. That walk total may be the first sign of the transition. He also had an injury-plagued offseason. I want to rank Verlander just low enough not to get him.”

“Tyson Ross didn’t qualify because of the percentage of games needed as a starter. He pitched much better as a starter though, especially when it comes to K/9. Let’s put him in this Tier 3, though I’m very tempted to put him in Tier 2. You have my permission to reach for Ross.”

“So, Kluber, Kazmir, Lynn, Corbin, Ryu and Cashner are the gets here. Look at their ADPs. Try to get them a round earlier just to be safe.”

“Cain? The isolated slugging was terrible last year and below average in 2012, too. Yeah I can be really wrong about him and his ERA can go back down into the low 3.00s but he’s not likely to be much better than average in K/9. And I can’t stand Cain’s 28.6% slider rate last year (13 points over his career rate), especially at age 29 with all those innings/miles. I’ll pass on him without concern.”

The Good (regular season)

“I’d be more worried about a guy like (Mike) Minor, who may be above average in limiting damage on fly balls almost entirely due to random factors/luck.”

“Let’s recalculate (Homer) Bailey, who has the worst HR/9 in baseball. His career HR/9 is 1.1. He should have allowed three homers by now given the career rates. Let’s call it four, meaning we subtract 4.7 runs that we’ll round to five. That would make his ERA now 4.50, which still doesn’t make any sense. The .400-plus BABIP explains the rest. Yeah, buy Bailey, even 80 cents on the preseason dollar will end up returning a tidy profit.”

“I hate that Sonny Gray is so low. He was much higher last year. He’s still holding up with that A’s magic. I’d love to just tout my Gray preseason ranking, which was higher than almost anyone (everyone?), but he’s been lucky and should be traded – not because he’s worthless or worse than any pitcher above him here but simply because his ERA is likely to be much worse going forward than it has been to date (unless he changes his K/BB profile).”

The Bad (preseason)

“(Tim) Lincecum can be played only at home, where I think he has value given his K/9. He requires discipline in sticking to the only-at-home plan and not varying depending on how he happens to pitch otherwise.”

“(A.J.) Burnett could be first tier given how well he pitched in 2012, too. But there is a lot of disappointment in his history, no doubt. Is he a fundamentally different pitcher now (extreme ground ball)? I believe he is. But you can keep the Burnett pick in your pocket for a long, long time.”

“(Justin) Masterson is another guy who slides almost everywhere. The expert community is being dragged kicking and screaming to the Masterson table. But not me.”

“What can I say about (Danny) Salazar? I love the guy this year based on where he’s being drafted. (I got him in the 13th round in this Yahoo! Experts Mock Draft and I know at least Andy Behrens was very upset about it.) Past results do not predict future performance. But two years ago in this column, my poster boy was Chris Sale as the explosive talent that was way too underrated. Last year it was Matt Harvey. This year, Salazar. (I should quit while I’m ahead.)”

The Bad (regular season)

“(Julio) Teheran’s K rate is alarming. His velocity is down below average now at 90 mph. It was 91.5 last year. I would definitely sell Teheran right now especially since that ERA means you won’t even have to take a haircut on preseason price.”

“Jesse Chavez, Dallas Keuchel… These guys are not sell highs. They should not be on short leashes. They are holds. I get that Chavez has no history of throwing a lot of innings; this is a big worry but not yet.”

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