Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Your 2015 Lucky Numbers: The Pitchers

Some of you stopped by on Sunday to see my fantasy baseball lineup, only to ask where the pitchers were. Fear not, as the Lucky Numbers pitching staff is detailed below. I didn't win last week, and now have a record of 2-1, although I didn't lose by as much as I expected. 

Unlike category-based leagues, I don't care at all about ERA or WHIP. The scoring is just on wins, losses, saves, strikeouts, and walks, with the occasional hit batsman, complete game, shutout, etc... coming into the mix.

We added the quality starts category in recent years, and that has led me to focus a bit more on higher-end pitching, especially in this post-steroid era. We start four starting pitchers and two relievers in a one-week period, and after I picked McCutchen 4th overall as my top hitter, I got right into the pitchers.

2014 Topps #279 Corey Kluber
Starting Pitcher: Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians (2nd round)

Last year's AL Cy Young Award winner has gone 0-3 already this year. Not what you want to see out of a second-rounder, but at least he didn't tear his Achilles tendon in a freak batting incident like Adam Wainwright. That season-ending injury has triggered quite a bit of buzz about the idea of bringing the Designated Hitter to the National League.

I'm in favor of the idea. For one thing, it might cut down on retaliatory beanings like we saw with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks two years ago. All the bunting, double switches, pinch hitters, and lineup strategy that can be seen late in National League games is interesting, although it's a pain in the neck to keep score of. My mom found that out this weekend when she scored both sides of an 11-inning Rockies/Giants game.

It wouldn't be without controversy, and many old-time nuances of the game would be lost, but at least it would end the annoyance of watching guys get on base only to have the pitcher strike out on three or four pitches to end the inning.

Bartolo Colon sure has been entertaining this year, though.

2013 Topps 1972 Topps Minis #TM-14 Chris Sale
Starting Pitcher: Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox (3rd round)

Of course, pitchers are highly prone to injury regardless of whether they're at the plate. Chris Sale fell all the way to the third round, a consequence of missing all of spring training with an injured foot. He was handed a 5-game suspension for his role in the Adam Eaton/Yordano Ventura brawl last week, which he is appealing. Unless his suspension is overturned, I'll probably have to bench him for a week while he misses a start.
2015 Topps #142 Masahiro Tanaka
Starting Pitcher: Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees (6th round) 

And then I followed up one injury risk with another, even larger one. It's known that Tanaka has a partial tear in his UCL, but he hopes to be able to continue to pitch without needing surgery. He hasn't been as dominant to start 2015 as he was last year, when he won his first six major league starts after a stellar career in Japan. 
All looked promising as I wrote this post earlier today, but it appears that Tanaka is headed to the DL due to problems with his forearm and wrist, likely for a month or so. At least his card has that classic Topps Rookie Cup.

2014 Topps #163 Matt Shoemaker (RC)
Starting Pitcher: Matt Shoemaker, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (15th round)

After picking three pitchers in the first six rounds, I had to start focusing on some hitters. I picked Matt Shoemaker as my fourth SP to fill my last open starting slot. I was banking on my top three pitchers to rack up some serious points. With Tanaka headed to the DL, Shoemaker and some of the bench guys will have to step it up.

2014 Topps #188 Mark Melancon
Relief Pitcher: Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates (7th round)

Just a few spots after I picked Tanaka, I selected my first of two closers, Mark Melancon of the Pirates. He has blown a save already this season, but that happens to the best of them. After some early jitters, he seems to have settled down a bit. And the Pirates are likely to give him plenty more opportunities.

2014 Topps #310 Neftali Feliz
Relief Pitcher: Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers (14th round)

Neftali Feliz has held the closer's job a couple times for the Rangers, including when they went to the World Series in 2011. He was the one who gave up the first of David Freese's key hits in Game 6, when the Rangers were just one strike away from winning it all. The Rangers are already in the cellar of the AL West, so it's unlikely they'll be in the World Series this year. At least he's no stranger to the role.

2013 Bowman Platinum Prospects #BPP35 Noah Syndergaard
Bench Guys:
SP Jake Odorizzi, Tampa Bay Rays (18th round)
SP James Paxton, Seattle Mariners (20th round)
SP R.A. Dickey, Toronto Blue Jays (21st round)
SP Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets (22nd round)
RP Luke Gregerson, Houston Astros (23rd round)

I went almost exclusively with pitchers in the later rounds. I'll surely be starting Odorizzi more often now that Tanaka is headed to the DL. Although Taijuan Walker didn't pan out last year, I took a chance on another Mariners prospect in Paxton, who clearly still needs work after some rough outings. The bright spot here has been Gregerson, who has been doing well for the first-place Astros, and I'll be benching Feliz to make room for him in week 5.

I saw Noah Syndergaard's name on lots of prospect lists prior to the draft, and though he's still in the minors, he might make a serious Matt Harvey-like impact for the Mets this summer, especially with Zack Wheeler out recovering from Tommy John surgery.

The injuries are already piling up for numerous teams. It's certainly a frustrating aspect of the game, especially since it's not really a contact sport. 

Unless you're Yasiel Puig, of course.

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