2012 Fantasy Baseball Preview: 5 Starting Pitchers to Avoid

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As I sit here, preparing for TheFantasyFix.com experts league there is no better time to break down the starting pitchers that I am going to be staying away from. Most of these guys will probably stick out like a sore thumb as they are being drafted within the top 20 of available starting pitchers.

As previously stated the amount of pitchers on the board is vast but choosing the right ones can be difficult to do as you begin to extend through the later rounds of the draft. Thus, it is imperative that you choose the right starters wisely in the earlier rounds so you can stay away from the possible team killing decisions you may make later.

Starting Pitchers I will NOT be Drafting in 2012:

James Shields (SP, TB) had what most people would call a career year in 2011. Shields had career bests in ERA of 2.82, strike outs of 225, wins of 16 and WHIP of 1.043. But it wasn’t just that these numbers were career highs but that they were so far and beyond his previous highs that it throws up red flags. Shields current career average ERA is 3.96 and was 4.31 prior to 2011, with nearly 40 more strikeouts than his previous high. The most telling of his struggles was his ERA in wins and losses. When Shields recorded a win, his ERA was an extremely impressive 0.80; however, his ERA in losses was a dismal 5.49. Because of these numbers, I tend to believe that his wins had more luck involved than anything else and we could see some regression.

Ian Kennedy (SP, ARI) is another pitcher I will be staying away from. In 2011 Kennedy had the best year of his career with 22 wins and only 4 losses. Kennedy saw a one run decrease in his ERA from 2010 – 2011 while facing nearly 100 more batters over the course of the season and his 198 strikeouts was 30 more than his previous career high. Granted, Kennedy had only one other full season as a starter, as injury problems and a loaded Yankee rotation cost him his time to truly shine. That said, never in his time as a Yankee did he show that he was a caliber pitcher that he showed last year. Kennedy could continue to have a great year posting a 3.50 ERA 170 Ks and 14 – 16 wins, but those numbers are more in line with a pitcher in the later rounds rather than in the top 15 of pitchers he is currently being drafted in.

There are some starting pitchers that can be found in the later rounds who can seem enticing to say the least. But when you look deeper at their statistics they are more smoke and mirrors than anything else. Brandon Morrow (SP, TOR) is that kind of pitcher. A fire baller in his own right, his potential to strike batters out at will is very attractive. However his nearly 5 ERA, his middle of the road win totals, and an elevated WHIP can hurt you more than help you. Morrow will get you upwards to 10 wins, which from your 4th or 5th starter can be nice to see, but his ERA is going to hurt and if you’re in a league that records quality starts he isn’t going to provide you with much. 

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Ball park factors are an important part of evaluating talent, specifically when it comes to pitchers in very big & spacious stadiums. Mat Latos (SP, CIN) was one of those pitchers in 2011. Latos has come off of two back to back stellar years posting ERAs of 2.92 and 3.47 respectively while striking out 187 on average over the course of the two years. Despite the lofty outfield behind him, Latos found himself susceptible to the long ball giving up 16 homers in each of those seasons. In 2012 Latos is making the move over to the Great American Ball Park (ranked 3rd for park factors in terms of HRs.) This is going to give him quite the increase in HR numbers as well as rise in ERA. His win and strike out totals should stay the same at the very least if not see increases, but with his ERA, and WHIP on the rise you could also see a decrease in quality starts. Latos is being drafted among the top 20 pitchers in 2012 but the change in venue should scare you a bit to hold off on the youngster. *Latos is DTD with a strained calf.

Like I mentioned when highlighting Brandon Beachy (SP, ATL) the Braves have been known for harboring pitching, and this next pitcher has been no different. Jair Jurrjens (SP, ATL) has seen one crazy up and down season after another causing him to drop off most draft boards last season. However after an amazing first half to 2011 most fantasy players and analysts had him penciled in as the next big thing, but that’s why we play a second half. With a 12 – 3 record and a sub 2 ERA prior to the All-Star break, Jurrjens was named to the first All-Star team of his career. Post break, his 1 – 3 record and nearly 6 ERA told a much different story. Prognosticators currently have him ranked as the 60th pitcher taken off the board, ahead of pitchers like Ryan Dempster (SP, CHC), Francisco Liriano (SP, MIN) and Ivan Nova (SP, NYY) which in my opinion is just wrong to do. Jurrjens is a 10 – 13 win pitcher with a high to mid-range 4 ERA and can barely strike out anyone with only 88 on average over the past two seasons. Stay away from Jurrjens.

Yesterday the Mariners won the first game of 2012 beating the Oakland Athletics 3 – 1. Both starting pitchers Brandon McCarthy (SP, OAK) and Felix Hernandez (SP, SEA) pitched very well. 2011 was the year of the pitcher and it looks like it won’t be any different in 2012. You should be able to use this to your advantage and as long as you dismiss these players you should do just fine.

Written by Justin Mandaro exclusively for www.thefantasyfix.com
Follow me on twitter @PeckinTheFix

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