Starting pitcher ranks: Robbie Ray puts it all together in latest Shuffle Up

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/players/9691/" data-ylk="slk:Robbie Ray">Robbie Ray</a> has been a right answer thus far (AP)
Robbie Ray has been a right answer thus far (AP)

Here’s the big one, the starting pitcher shuffle up. It’s going to look absurd in a day or a week because that’s how pitching is. This position is erratic, fickle, humbling.

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What’s happened to this point is merely an audition. We’re trying to calibrate 5×5 value from here on out.

Players at the same price are considered even. The prices are used as a tool to compare the players, but they are not scientifically derived. I study the numbers as much as I can, but I am not a formula guy. I never will be.

I will not debate the injured pitchers. They’re ranked as a courtesy. If you know exactly when Syndergaard and Bumgarner are coming back and exactly how they’ll do, wonderful. Please share it with the rest of the class.

I retain the right to tweak this list in the 24 hours. Game on.

$36 Clayton Kershaw
$33 Max Scherzer
$32 Chris Sale
$28 Zack Greinke
$25 Stephen Strasburg
$24 Corey Kluber
$24 Carlos Martinez
$23 Dallas Keuchel
$22 Yu Darvish
$22 Carlos Carrasco
$21 Michael Fulmer
$20 Chris Archer
$20 Lance McCullers
$19 Marco Estrada
$19 Johnny Cueto

With Archer’s stuff, you wonder how he loses as much as he does. A 3.94 ERA since the beginning of 2016 is criminal, given how talented he is (he’s also fallen short of his FIP for three straight years, which makes you wonder what we’re not measuring). That said, Archer’s struck out double-digits in four of his last six starts, maybe he’s starting to get in a groove. His career shows a 3.19 ERA and 1.15 WHIP at home, 3.88 and 1.25 on the road . . . Estrada used to be a smoke-and-mirrors guy, a lesson about sneaky-soft contact and how fly-ball pitchers are misunderstood. But this year, he’s actually starting to dominate in other areas. He’s pushed the strikeout clip over 10, dropped the walks by a third. This is a high-end SP2 now.

$18 Jon Lester
$18 Justin Verlander
$18 Jacob deGrom
$18 James Paxton
$17 Robbie Ray
$17 Gerrit Cole
$17 Jake Arrieta
$17 David Price

I don’t think we had enough fun with Ray’s 2016 season, let’s start with that. A 218-strikeout campaign tied to a 4.90 ERA? A bloated 1.47 WHIP? An 8-15 record? You couldn’t really trust him, though you knew he could strike out 10-plus in any turn.

Ray’s ERA has dropped to 3.00 this year, despite a K/BB that’s actually an eyelash worse. He’s added a dazzling curve to the arsenal, pushed the swinging-strike rate forward, improved with first-pitch strikes. A lot of the so-called luck stats (hit rate, homer rate, strand rate) were against him last year; this year, they’re for him. But with peripheral-suggested ERAs in the mid-to-low 3s, this is a breakout we can feel good about.

Mind you, some home success would be nice. Arizona is a tricky place to pitch, and Ray knows all about it: note the 6.75 ERA at home, 0.64 ERA in the road. Obviously we expect a significant merging of those two stats, and I’d never pitch Ray at Colorado, unless it was a very format-friendly concept. But when you mix shake and pour Ray’s component profile, I like what’s in the glass.

$16 Luis Severino
$15 Sean Manaea
$15 Jose Quintana
$15 Jake Arrieta
$14 Michael Pineda
$14 *Alex Wood
$14 Eduardo Rodriguez
$14 Jose Berrios
$13 Kyle Hendricks
$13 Lance Lynn
$13 Jeff Samardzija

Is it possible to throw too many strikes? With Shark Sandwich, you have to wonder. Look at that strikeout rate, 10.5/9. Walks have never been a problem, and this year his BB/9 is down to 1.38. These are Cy Young-contending numbers on their own; we know BB/K tells so much of the story.

Alas, it’s not the entire story. Samardzija has a bloated 16.1 HR/FB, his strand rate blows, his hit rate stinks too. So you have to decide what you want to pay for going forward — the front door ERA or the hocus-pocus one (3.14 FIP, 2.81 xFIP). He’s allowing line drives on 27.7 percent of his batted balls, which explains away a lot of the problems. I’ll expect a high-3s ERA the rest of the way, maybe low 4s, with good strikeout numbers. Alas, that’s a very startable pitcher in the Mound Wreckage of 2017.

I don’t have any strong answers on The Q. I just won’t go any lower on him based on back class. I also think he’s on a better team in a month or two.

$12 Ivan Nova
$12 *Aaron Sanchez
$12 Mike Leake
$12 Sonny Gray
$12 Trevor Bauer
$11 *Madison Bumgarner
$11 Rick Porcello
$11 Marcus Stroman
$11 Kenta Maeda
$11 Alex Cobb
$11 Brandon McCarthy
$10 Julio Teheran
$10 Jason Vargas
$10 Dylan Bundy
$10 Jake Odorizzi
$10 J.C. Ramirez
$10 Ervin Santana

If you want a smoke-and-mirror show, Santana checks most of the boxes. Despite his walk and strikeout rates both going in the wrong direction, he somehow has a 1.75 ERA — spitting in the face of a 4.10 FIP and 4.69 xFIP. His home-run rate is in line with his recent levels, but somehow he’s managed a .143 BABIP and a strand rate over 90 percent. Byron Buxton is great, but he’s not that great.

We can’t yell “regression!” and walk out of the room, you know that. But Santana’s ultimate give-back might be jagged to the point that he’s not even worth rostering. I don’t know how sophisticated the owners are in your league, but I’d be trying to sell. Maybe you can’t get something that makes sense. But you need to make an attempt.

Gray looked terrific before one awful inning at Cleveland, so I’m trying to keep my balance here . . .  Bauer still has lapses in command and concentration, but there’s probably signature-significance to a 14-strikeout start and his secondary ERAs are all much better than the front-door number  . . . McCarthy remains the most interesting athlete on Twitter, and he’s a pretty damn good pitcher when the health cooperates. He’s also well-versed in metrics and secondary thinking, a step ahead of many of his contemporaries . . . Nova is another winner of the Ray Searage lottery; you can live with those strikeout numbers when walks are eliminated . . . Lots of good fortune flashing for Bundy; a silly-high strand rate, a suspiciously-low BABIP. His strikeout rate is down to 6.2/9, which makes him very risky to me, especially in the AL East. Remember, that division has the best cumulative record and the best cumulative run differential. It’s still full of landmines and alligators . . . I really don’t know where Teheran went wrong, but we should at least note that he’s been a lot worse at home.

$9 *Noah Syndergaard
$9 *Jameson Taillon
$9 John Lackey
$9 Dan Straily
$9 Masahiro Tanaka
$8 Derek Holland
$8 Tanner Roark
$8 Rich Hill
$8 *Taijuan Walker
$7 Michael Wacha
$6 *Steven Matz
$6 Matt Shoemaker
$6 J.A. Happ
$6 Jimmy Nelson
$6 Adam Wainwright
$6 Zack Wheeler
$5 *Trevor Cahill
$5 *Cole Hamels
$5 Andrew Triggs
$5 Matt Harvey
$5 *Charlie Morton
$5 *Matt Andriese
$5 Joe Ross
$5 Dinelson Lamet
$4 *Felix Hernandez
$4 Aaron Nola

My goal for this year is for everyone to see the truth with Aaron Nola.

$4 Gio Gonzalez
$4 Zack Godley
$4 Brad Peacock
$4 Drew Pomeranz
$4 Mike Clevinger
$4 *Nathan Karns
$3 *Danny Duffy
$3 Danny Salazar
$3 Jaime Garcia
$3 Antonio Senzatela
$3 Kevin Gausman
$3 Ian Kennedy
$3 Ty Blach
$3 *Jon Gray
$3 Luis Perdomo
$3 Patrick Corbin
$3 Junior Guerra
$3 Jharel Cotton
$3 *Francisco Liriano
$3 Jordan Montgomery
$3 Josh Tomlin
$3 Hyun-Jin Ryu
$3 Ariel Miranda
$3 Ricky Nolasco
$2 *Julio Urias
$2 German Marquez
$2 Jerad Eickhoff
$2 *Carlos Rodon
$2 Kyle Freeland
$2 Zach Davies
$2 Jeff Hoffman
$2 Eric Skoglund
$1 *Vincent Velasquez
$1 *Wei-Yin Chen
$1 *Kendall Graveman
$1 Matt Moore
$1 Tyler Glasnow
$1 *Hisashi Iwakuma
$1 Jesse Hahn
$1 Mike Foltynewicz
$1 Daniel Norris
$1 Jose Urena
$0 Jason Hammel
$0 Clayton Richard
$0 Robert Gsellman
$0 Andrew Cashner
$0 Jeremy Hellickson
$0 Phil Hughes
$0 Matt Boyd
$0 AJ Griffin
$0 Jesse Chavez
$0 R.A. Dickey
$0 Chris Tillman
$0 Wade Miley
$0 Jhoulys Chacin
$0 Mike Fiers
$0 Hector Santiago
$0 *Joe Musgrove
$0 Amir Garrett
$0 Jordan Zimmermann
$0 Alex Meyer
$0 Chad Kuhl
$0 Matt Garza
$0 Eddie Butler
$0 Tyler Anderson
$0 C.C. Sabathia
$0 Matt Cain
$0 Scott Feldman
$0 Tyler Chatwood
$0 Bartolo Colon
$0 Ubaldo Jimenez
$0 Jered Weaver
$0 Mike Pelfrey

I could have differentiate the zero-dollar guys, but basically they’re all “unownable” and let’s leave it at that. Cashner is the funky name here, because he has a solid ERA that’s complete mirage. You can’t make it in today’s game when you walk more batters than you strike out. That is completely unsustainable.


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