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“ReMarkable Musings by the Mad Professor” The Super Bowl 2016 Top 20 (+/-) SP

Hi Sports Fans.

It’s Super Bowl Sunday.  Unless you are a fan of the Carolina Panthers or Denver Broncos or you have a sweet spot for Peyton Manning, you are probably more concerned with your projections for your 66 team March Madness bracket or eagerly awaiting Truck Day.  On that note, I offer my first column on MLB 2016 for Major League Fantasy Sports.

But first, a bit of background.  I wrote for Ron Shandler for a couple of seasons and joined the MLFS radio gang in 2015.  So far, I’ve offended no one (as far as I can tell) and, near as I can figure, I, along with Joe Iannone, are the only reasons the average age of your writing staff is higher than the number of wins any SP in MLB  is likely to get this season.  So, Iannone and I offer the steady hand of age, wisdom, and charm to this rowdy, youthful bunch.  That also means that Iannone and I probably don’t have an issue with using two  spaces after periods at the end  of sentences.

OK, enough wit for now. On to wisdom.

I’ll be writing on the top 100 SP over the next month or so.  My goal is not to tell you all whether someone should be #31 or #32, or # 47 or # 64.  There’s not much really to be gained from that and it simply causes arguments that generate more heat than light.  Instead, in the spirit of building fantasy rosters, I’ll look to organize the SP into tiers.  I find this  more useful because, after a certain point, the relative difference among Kershaw, Arrieta, and Scherzer will be rendered meaningless once we take into account the size and balance of your roster, and the statistics your league uses.

So, in this, my virgin voyage on MLFS, I take a look at what seem to be the top 20 SP a week before  anyone reports to  Florida or Arizona.  I went to several sites to see what their experts thought regarding the top starters.  As you can see from the table below, there is not much to argue about in the top 20.  This table shows  the top 20 SP listed in the rankings  of all  5 sources noted.  There  are a couple of additional  folks who appeared in particular rankings.  Melchior listed Justin Verlander at 19.  Everyone but Melchior places Oakland’s Sonny Gray between 19 and 21. (Melchior had him outside of  the top 25.)

name yahoo bbhq Scott White
(CBS Sportsline)
Al Melchior
(CBS Sportsline)
Heath Cummings
(CBS Sportsline)
average sd
Kershaw 1 1 1 1 1 1 0.00
Scherzer 2 7 2 2 2 3 2.24
Arrieta 4 2 3 4 4 3.4 0.89
Bumgarner 5 3 4 3 6 4.2 1.30
Sale 3 5 7 7 3 5 2.00
Kluber 9 6 6 8 5 6.8 1.64
Price 10 8 5 6 7 7.2 1.92
Fernández 6 4 12 9 9 8 3.08
deGrom 7 17 8 11 8 10.2 4.09
Strasburg 14 13 11 5 10 10.6 3.51
Harvey 12 9 9 13 11 10.8 1.79
Greinke 8 12 10 10 15 11 2.65
Keuchel 16 10 13 12 13 12.8 2.17
Cole 13 15 15 14 12 13.8 1.30
Hernández 11 14 16 16 14 14.2 2.05
Archer 15 21 14 18 16 16.8 2.77
Carrasco 18 11 17 22 17 17 3.94
Syndergaard 17 19 20 15 19 18 2.00
Lester 22 18 18 17 18 18.6 1.95
Cueto 20 15 23 24 20 20.4 3.51

The far right columns tell us what we need to know.  One lists the average ranking, the other is the standard deviation of those averages.   The smaller the standard deviation, the more  consistent the ranking across  the 5 sources.

To no one’s surprise, Kershaw is the consensus #1.  Folks are pretty consistent  in their assessment that Arrieta comes in at #3 (standard deviation of only 0.89—that is in the far right column).  Beyond that, the most disagreement  exists around deGrom (standard deviation  4.09), Carlos Carrasco (3.94), and Johnny Cueto (3.51).  In this regard, Cueto received the lowest  of any ranking, garnering a 24 from Melchior.

The biggest jumps occur  between Jose  Fernandez at #8 and deGrom, Strasburg, and Harvey (essentially tied for #10).  Were BaseballHQ not down on Max Scherzer (they rank him #7), he’d be much closer to  a solid consistent #2.

So what does this tell us about the rankings?  At the top tier, you are spending a lot of your fantasy budget on real world quality that does not necessarily translate into a big  difference between drafting Kershaw and any of the other top 5 SP.  Yahoo! Projects Kershaw at 20W, 251K, 1.95 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, and 27 QS.  Scherzer’s Yahoo! Line is 18, 268, 2.66, 0.90, and 25.  Pretty comparable.  But in a standard 5×5 league,  BBHQ suggests that  Kershaw is  worth $48, while  Scherzer is a relative bargain at $24.  CBS Sportline’s experts give Kershaw a price tag that runs between $12 and  $14 more than Scherzer.


Granted  there are intangibles  out there such as the quality of the defense behind you.  Fleet footed outfielders and infield shifts will take hits and runs off the board that slower fielders or traditional alignments will not.  Your win is much more secure if you pitch long into games and have a quality bullpen. Nonetheless, given the relative projections in terms of performance, ranking, and  dollar value, one wonders  whether  Kershaw  could really deliver at least twice as much bang for the buck as a Scherzer, Arrieta, or Bumgarner.  I  doubt it.

The following table draws upon the same  sources as above for projected dollar values. (It does not include Yahoo! because Yahoo! does not provide them).  On the left we have  average dollar value projections and, again, their  standard deviation.  On the right are average statistical projections  from Yahoo! and  BBHQ.


Average sd IP W K ERA WHIP QS
Kershaw $     38.75 $       7.04 225.5 19 260.5 1.94 0.88 25.5
Scherzer $     29.00 $       4.55 216.5 16.5 253 2.93 0.97 24
Arrieta $     28.75 $       3.50 216.5 17.5 218 2.66 1.02 25.5
Bumgarner $     27.00 $       2.71 211 16.5 226 2.86 1.02 22.5
Sale $     26.50 $       4.43 209 14.5 254 3.06 1.06 25
Kluber $     25.75 $       3.86 216 14 230.5 3.11 1.08 22.5
Price $     25.50 $       2.65 222.5 16 220.5 2.95 1.11 24
Fernandez $     24.00 $       1.83 181 14 217.5 2.49 1.04 20.5
Strasburg $     23.00 $       1.63 198.5 15.5 227.5 3.04 1.08 20.5
deGrom $     22.75 $       2.22 193.5 14.5 197.5 2.73 1.04 22.5
Greinke $     22.25 $       1.26 205.5 16 191.5 2.83 1.08 24.5
Harvey $     22.25 $       2.06 196 14.5 201.5 2.80 1.03 21.5
Keuchel $     21.25 $       1.26 213.5 15.5 191.5 3.06 1.14 24
Cole $     21.00 $       1.41 212 17.5 208 2.65 1.11 24
Hernandez $     20.75 $       0.96 210.5 15.5 210 3.14 1.12 21.5
Archer $     19.75 $       1.50 208 15.5 223.5 3.06 1.18 21
Carrasco $     19.75 $       1.26 196 14.5 213.5 3.24 1.08 20.5
Lester $     19.00 $           – 212.5 14.5 207.5 3.20 1.15 22
Syndergaard $     18.75 $       0.96 181.5 13.5 196 3.03 1.10 19
Hamels $     17.00 $       2.16 210.5 13.5 202.5 3.36 1.17 20.5

There is no question that dollar values are a blunt tool for analysis. They are a classic artifice that tells us little in isolation. But, they serve well for comparison.

A couple of points to note. First, I again include the standard deviation of the dollar value predictions in the second column. The bigger the standard deviation, the more the disagreement about a player’s dollar value. So, the world pretty much agrees that Jon Lester is worth $19. Everyone in this survey gave him the exact same value. Kershaw, however, has a $7.04 standard deviation. In crude terms, that means that pundits could see him delivering as much as $44 value or as little as $30. If you are looking solely at the counting stats over which SP have control (Strikeouts and QS), Chris Sale is a much better bargain at $26.50 +/-$4.40. He’s projected to deliver six fewer strikeouts and the same number of QS as Kershaw for $11 less.

This leaves us to ponder how much a particular statistical category is worth when deciding between two particular players and your overall team budget. Comparing, for example, Keuchel or Greinke to Kershaw, is the additional $15 or $16 investment worth the additional 70K over the course of the season? On the other hand, if you were to play your cards right on draft day, you might ask instead whether it would be a better investment to drop $38.75 (same price as Kershaw) on Cole and Syndergaard to pick up nearly 400 K and 43 QS.

Of course,  in the real world, you’d be happy to hand the ball to any of these guys…

OK–closing thoughts.  At the elite level of SP, one really can’t go wrong.  Injury always looms, of course.  So one wonders how Fernandez will bounce back from Tommy John surgery and which version of Johnny Cueto will arrive in San Francisco.  Whether or not Carlos Martinez or Sonny Gray should be in the top 25 instead of the top 30 is a great alternative to a halftime discussion about whether Coldplay and Beyoncé really have committed an artistic faux pas with Hymn for the Weekend.

The hot stove is starting to cool.  Super Bowl 50 (formerly Super Bowl L) is history and pitchers and catchers are about to report.  The crisp spring air, the crack of the bat…  Best wishes to all.


(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts live on Sunday February 14th from 7-9pm EST for the 2016 debut of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We will air live every Sunday throughout the season from 7-9pm EST. We take live callers at 323-870-4395. Feel free to join the discussion. Our first show of the year will be all about the hot stove. Any trades or free agent signings of significance will be discussed from an MLB and fantasy perspective.

Our guests this week are Joe Iannone and Kyle Amore. Joe has been a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com for 3 years, and is a tenured fantasy baseball owner. Kyle is a former college ball player, played in Italy, and is the co-host of Thursday night show with Lou Landers.


Major League Fantasy Baseball Weekly Radio Show: Join Lou Landers and Kyle Amore live on Thursday February 18th from 8-10pm EST for the 2016 debut of our Thursday night shows. This show airs live every Thursday night throughout the season from 8-10pm EST. We will take live callers at 323-870-4395. Our first show of the year will be breaking down starting pitchers from an MLB and fantasy perspective.

Our guests this week are Hernan Batista and Joe Ciccone. Joe is a writer with MLFS as well as our Chief Editor. His articles release every Wednesday morning. Hernan is a fantasy baseball owner in MLFB1, and MLFB2. Come join a lively discussion!

Unrepentant Red Sox fan and all things Boston. Deflategate was a joke. Boston Latin School is awesome. Harvard and Johns Hopkins alma maters... Besides that... Stanley D. and Nikki Waxberg Professor of Politics and Law at Washington and Lee University. Wrote for Ron Shandler's Shandler Park for two summers and have been on board with MLFS since 2011. Been at Washington and Lee since 1990 with a brief hiatus (2010-2013) in the Middle East. Currently developing that last word in Fantasy Baseball analysis. Married to Flor, Dad to William and Alex, and adopted daughter Reem. Soon to be father and law to Meaghann. Alpha male to the world's super-pup, Humphrey. Life is not bad.

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