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“What a Rush!” The Mad Professor’s Starting Pitcher Rankings, Continued.

Road_Warrior_Hawk

I got permission to try different taglines and whatnot since this is my first opportunity to test the patience of the staff and the audience.  So,  trying to come up with something to compare to the others’ remains a bit of a challenge. I figured I’d give ol’ Road Warrior Hawk a try.  Apparently, he is a doppelganger.  We’ve never  been photographed together. Just saying…

Last week, I covered the top 20 (+/-) starting pitchers as they were ranked by BaseballHQ, Yahoo!, and three of our friends from CBS. For the most part, the rankings surprised no one. The only real controversy in such a ranking is at the margin.   Who are the last five and first 5 that don’t make the cut will always be a source of discussion, if not difference of opinion. But, hey—no need to do a Cam Newton and pout about this. We are in it for the love of the game

This weekend and next, we’ll look at the top 90 +/- pitchers in the ranks. While this will include the top 20, it will also get more difficult because this is where we see many of the pitchers on the cusp of being #1s, a lot of fading workhorses, and as you drop down past 60 (+/-) more variation due to:

  1. the rapid drop-off in dollar values
  2. speculative picks on sleepers and bounceback candidates

So, whereas last week left little to debate about (everyone we discussed was a money ballplayer), this week there is a lot to ponder.

What’s important to keep in mind is that we are much more likely to generate a positive (and significant) return on investment from the SP we look at this week. Kershaw’s a great pitcher. But if you fork out $35 or $40 for him, you can’t expect him to deliver $50 (unless he strikes out 400). So, you are much more likely to find players who are undervalued or, at least, you can acquire at a relative bargain price on draft day. This is because these players are going to be on the board much longer than the likes of Kershaw, Sale, Bumgarner, etc.

buzz

This week, I’ll focus on macro-level analysis. There are some impressive and important trends and patterns to note when looking at the top 90-100 SP (and to infinity and beyond). In contrast to last week, I will not seek to identify the un- or semi-disputed top 20 or 25 SP according to a particular ranking system. Instead, I draw upon CBS, BaseballHQ, and Yahoo essentially to crowdsource the top 90 or so SP.  Next week, I’ll discuss particular SP who are likely to be over or undervalued based  on this week’s and last week’s analysis.

 

TheRankings

Let’s start by seeing who actually makes the cut in the top 90 SP. (The composite data appears in a long table at the end of the article. I draw upon bits and pieces as I work through the discussion.) There are 133 different pitchers named in the top 90 by our sources. Seventy SP are ranked in the top 90 by all five sources.

 

Table 1. Allocation of Top players among the Five Expert Sources

# of lists on which the player appears # players appearing
5 70
4 12
3 11
2 12
1 28

 

Among those 70 players on all 5 lists we see some intriguing patterns:

  • ten pitchers average a ranking of 10 or better (Kershaw through Strasburg);
  • nineteen average a ranking of 20 or better (Kershaw through Lester)
  • twenty-six average 30 or better (Kershaw through Wacha)

Table 1: SP with an average ranking of 30 or higher

LastName N Mean StDev
Kershaw 5 1 0.0
Scherzer 5 3 2.2
Arrieta 5 3.4 0.9
Bumgarner 5 4.4 1.5
Sale 5 6.4 2.6
Price 5 7.6 2.7
Kluber 5 8 4.1
Fernandez 5 8.4 2.9
deGrom 5 9.6 4.2
Strasburg 5 9.6 2.6
Harvey 5 10.6 2.6
Greinke 5 11.2 2.4
Cole 5 11.8 5.1
Keuchel 5 14.2 5.1
Hernandez 5 15.2 1.1
Archer 5 16.4 3.2
Carrasco 5 16.6 4.7
Syndergaard 5 17.4 2.7
Lester 5 18.6 1.9
Cueto 5 20.2 3.3
Gray 5 21.8 2.4
Wainwright 5 21.8 1.9
Hamels 5 22.2 2.9
Salazar 5 25.6 2.3
Tanaka 5 26.2 2.9
Wacha 5 28.2 5.8
Iwakuma 5 30.8 6.4

 

The data follows a predictable trend. Graph 1 shows that as we move from the consensus #1 to the lower ranked players, disagreement increases about any player’s ranking.

 

Chart01week02

The X axis lists the average ranking. Everyone agrees that Kershaw is #1 (That is him in the lower left-hand corner: standard deviation of 0). But, the 70th player on all 5 lists, Edinson Volquez, has an average ranking of 80.8 and a standard deviation of 12.8. This tells us that once we get outside of the top 20 or so, our drafts and rankings are necessarily based on tiers of talent discounted by our intuition and individual analysis.  There is too much disagreement to  seek certainty in the metrics.

If we look at the players who make four or fewer listings, we begin to see some real variability. Players such as Joe Ross (WSH), Alex Cobb (TB), Eduardo Rodriguez (BOS), and Ervin Santana (MIN) start to appear. Each of these guys represents a different category of SP with potential #1 Skills: two rookies (Ross and Rodriguez) entering their second year, a solid young player who is coming back from injury (Cobb), and a veteran who was brilliant and who can still put together streaks of brilliance while delivering strikeouts (Santana) or making you pull out what little hair you have left.

Table 2: SP on exactly Four Lists

Name N Mean Rank SD
Ross (WSH) 4 48.75 4.8
Nola 4 59 2.8
Ryu 4 66.5 7.0
DeSclafani 4 70.5 15.4
Rodriguez 4 71.5 13.5
Santana 4 76 11.0
Gausman 4 78.75 15.8
Heaney 4 79.5 22.8
Holland 4 81 7.2
Eickhoff 4 81.75 12.5
Cobb 4 83 15.2
Dickey 4 90.25 9.2

 

Dollar Value Rankings

This listing of ranks is helpful to get a sense of where the experts are trending. But if we turn to look at dollar values, we find more useful information. The dollar table is a little different because (as last week), Yahoo does not offer dollar values. So, we deal with four sources instead of five. Looking at the the  following graph of the dollar values for the 70 pitchers who appear on all four lists, we see a similar pattern of ranking but an interesting shift in agreement.

chart02week02

 

With a couple of exceptions, the pattern of agreement is reversed: the higher the ranking, the greater the disagreement. For pitchers valued below $25, the standard deviation falls between $0 and $4. Once we cross $25, the pundits start to disagree significantly.

Granted, “significant” disagreement is a term of art. Clay Buchholz (BOS) has an average dollar value of $3.50, but his standard deviation is $2.38.   In the pundits’ opinion, he could be a complete bust or offer nearly a $6 payoff. But, a standard deviation of about $2.38 on your investment in Clay Buchholz has radically different implications than the $2.31 standard deviation that accompanies Matt Harvey’s $22 pricetag. If Harvey delivers between $20 and $24, you will be happy. If Buchholz delivers $1.12, you won’t.

So, what’s peculiar here? That outstanding point at $11.25 value and $6.02 standard deviation is Justin Verlander.   No surprise here.   As Ron Shandler says, “Once you display a skill, you own it.” I guess the question regarding Verlander is, “What skill does Verlander own?” The last couple of years indicate that he’s clearly a high risk, high reward proposition.

Look at the players on the graph valued at $25 or  better.  Those seven points on the right of the graph give us some things to ponder and reflect some of our conclusions from last week.

Table  3: SP Valued $25 or Higher

LastName N Mean StDev
Kershaw 4 $38.50 $6.61
Arrieta 4 $28.75 $3.50
Scherzer 4 $28.75 $4.92
Bumgarner 4 $27.00 $2.71
Sale 4 $26.25 $4.57
Kluber 4 $25.75 $3.86
Price 4 $25.25 $2.87

While Kershaw is the consensus #1 overall, his projected value varies by nearly 20% among the experts ($6.51 on an average value of $38.50). In relative terms, Bumgarner and Price are much more dependable acquisitions in terms of their value. In both cases, the standard deviation of their price tags is only about 10% or so of their value.   So, as you build your rosters, you need to keep such predicted variation in mind. In H2H leagues, that variability matters much more than standard rotisserie formats.

 

Looking at the Tiers

Twenty Seven SP fall between 20 and 50 in the overall rankings. Their dollar values vary significantly. As you work your way down through the rankings, you move from potential #1s who are flawed (Cueto), injured (Tanaka, Wainwright, Darvish and Verlander), or headcases (Ventura),  to solid SP  who have yet to cross the threshold  into  stardom, but seem due (Gray, Salazar, Ross, Martinez, etc.)

LastName MeanRank RankSD MeanValue ValueSD
Cueto 20.2 3.3 $16.25 $2.22
Gray 21.8 2.4 $16.00 $2.00
Wainwright 21.8 1.9 $15.50 $2.65
Hamels 22.2 2.9 $16.75 $2.63
Salazar 25.6 2.3 $12.75 $3.59
Tanaka 26.2 2.9 $13.25 $1.71
Wacha 28.2 5.8 $11.75 $2.22
Iwakuma 30.8 6.4 $9.00 $2.16
Richards 31 4.5 $10.50 $2.08
Ross (SDG) 31 6.3 $9.75 $0.96
Martinez 32.6 9.3 $11.25 $2.75
Stroman 33 6.2 $10.00 $2.71
Matz 34.2 5.4 $8.75 $2.75
Verlander 35.8 11.8 $11.25 $6.02
Liriano 37.8 8.8 $8.50 $2.65
Shields 39.2 5.9 $7.50 $1.29
McHugh 40.2 6.3 $7.75 $1.26
Walker 40.2 11.5 $8.75 $2.22
Severino 40.6 9.9 $7.00 $3.46
Zimmermann 41.4 19.6 $9.50 $2.38
Smyly 41.6 4.5 $7.00 $1.83
Ventura 43.2 6.4 $6.75 $1.71
McCullers 44.2 15.2 $7.75 $3.77
Darvish 44.6 10.0 $8.00 $2.71
Teheran 44.6 3.1 $6.50 $1.00
Garcia 46.4 14.4 $5.50 $2.89
Quintana 46.8 5.5 $5.75 $1.71
Iglesias 48.8 7.5 $5.75 $1.71

I will bite the bullet and offer some clear recommendations on whom to  buy and  whom to  avoid next week.  For now, I’ll  close by looking at the rest of the tiers.

 

Tier 3: Average Rank 51-80

What I find amazing in terms of draft strategy and ranking is the speed with which we enter single-digit values for  pitchers.  We are deep into the single digits when we cross into  the 50s.  In this tier there are solid players worth gambling on–and  who will most likely go for much higher prices than the pundits suggest.  How much does Scott Kazmir have left in him?  Rodon is a young stud.  Is he a sleeper?  What do the experts know?  Will Jeff Samardzjia or Mr. Hyde show  up?  Ho  many novenas  will be  offered up when  paying for Michael Pineda?  We know what Andrew Heaney can do.  But can he  do it for an entire season?

 

LastName MeanRank RankSD MeanValue ValueSD
Corbin 51.4 6.8 $5.25 $1.50
Miller 51.8 16.4 $5.25 $3.77
Kazmir 52.6 9.2 $4.50 $1.92
Rodon 52.6 18.0 $6.00 $3.46
Samardzija 52.8 4.2 $4.75 $1.89
Pineda 54.4 9.2 $5.25 $0.50
Odorizzi 55 16.3 $3.00 $1.16
Lackey 57.6 16.3 $2.50 $1.00
Fiers 58.2 9.8 $3.25 $0.96
Buchholz 59.2 7.4 $3.50 $2.38
Hendricks 60.8 22.6 $3.25 $3.30
Gonzalez 62.8 9.1 $4.00 $0.82
Moore 63 15.6 $3.50 $2.65
Chen 66.8 15.4 $2.50 $2.65
Hammel 66.8 13.6 $2.00 $2.71
Estrada 67.2 14.1 $1.00 $0.00
Nelson 67.4 8.8 $2.00 $1.83
Porcello 70.2 9.0 $2.75 $2.22
Sanchez 70.6 12.6 $1.50 $3.32
Kennedy 71 9.1 $2.00 $1.41
Cashner 73.2 7.6 $1.25 $1.89
Leake 76.8 24.9 $0.00 $0.00
Volquez 80.8 12.8 -$0.25 $2.06
Ross (WSH) 48.75 4.8 $5.50 $1.73
Nola 59 2.8 $3.75 $1.26
Ryu 66.5 7.0 $3.25 $1.71
DeSclafani 70.5 15.4 $2.67 $2.31
Rodriguez 71.5 13.5 $1.00 $1.00
Santana 76 11.0 $1.00 $1.41
Gausman 78.75 15.8 $1.00 $3.16
Heaney 79.5 22.8 $0.67 $1.16

 

 

Tier 4:  Not Quite Bobby Heenen’s Ham and Eggers,  but still… Ranks 80 and Beyond

bobby-heenan

“It’s a dog eat dog world and Mr. Perfect is Milk Bone.”  “Shut up, Monsoon…”

OK,  If I’m going to cite Bobby the Brain, I owe him at  least one quote.  So many quotes, so little time…  You had to love his ham and eggers references.  The SP ranking below 80 are hardly Joe Shlabotniks. In fact,  this is where we will find the SP who will make a difference between getting into and watching the playoffs.

But, that does not devalue a good Heenan quote…

I won’t add another table here.  You can see the entire table below.  Needless to say, the value here is outstanding.  Alex Cobb, Nathan Eovaldi, James Paxton…Yovani Gallardo are all quality SP who will deliver value to your roster.  What’s important to note;  there are 30 teams in MLB.  They all maintain starting rotations of 4-5 pitchers.  This ranking includes only 130 layers–there are 20 innings-eating #5 SP out there that have not made the list–in the same way that  a nontrivial number of the folks  in the bottom tier won’t  be on it come Opening Day or Labor Day.

More to come from this analysis next week.  Best wishes for the South Carolina Primary!

 

 

 

Appendix

Table: Summary Data: Top 100 players listed on Yahoo!, CBS Sportsline and calculated from BaseballHQ. 14 February 2015

 

Explanation:

RankN: The number of lists on which a SP is ranked  in the Top 100

Mean Rank: The average rank across those five lists

RankSD: The standard deviation of the ranks

Value N: The number of lists on which a SP is ranked  in the  Top 100 in terms of  Dollar Value

Mean Value: The average dollar value across the four lists

ValueSD: The standard deviation of those dollar values

 

LastName RankN MeanRank RankSD ValueN MeanValue ValueSD
Kershaw 5 1 0.0 4 $38.50 $6.61
Scherzer 5 3 2.2 4 $28.75 $4.92
Arrieta 5 3.4 0.9 4 $28.75 $3.50
Bumgarner 5 4.4 1.5 4 $27.00 $2.71
Sale 5 6.4 2.6 4 $26.25 $4.57
Price 5 7.6 2.7 4 $25.25 $2.87
Kluber 5 8 4.1 4 $25.75 $3.86
Fernandez 5 8.4 2.9 4 $23.50 $1.29
deGrom 5 9.6 4.2 4 $22.50 $2.65
Strasburg 5 9.6 2.6 4 $22.75 $2.06
Harvey 5 10.6 2.6 4 $22.00 $2.31
Greinke 5 11.2 2.4 4 $22.00 $1.63
Cole 5 11.8 5.1 4 $21.00 $1.41
Keuchel 5 14.2 5.1 4 $21.00 $1.41
Hernandez 5 15.2 1.1 4 $20.50 $1.00
Archer 5 16.4 3.2 4 $19.50 $1.92
Carrasco 5 16.6 4.7 4 $20.00 $1.41
Syndergaard 5 17.4 2.7 4 $18.50 $1.29
Lester 5 18.6 1.9 4 $18.75 $0.50
Cueto 5 20.2 3.3 4 $16.25 $2.22
Gray 5 21.8 2.4 4 $16.00 $2.00
Wainwright 5 21.8 1.9 4 $15.50 $2.65
Hamels 5 22.2 2.9 4 $16.75 $2.63
Salazar 5 25.6 2.3 4 $12.75 $3.59
Tanaka 5 26.2 2.9 4 $13.25 $1.71
Wacha 5 28.2 5.8 4 $11.75 $2.22
Iwakuma 5 30.8 6.4 4 $9.00 $2.16
Richards 5 31 4.5 4 $10.50 $2.08
RossT 5 31 6.3 4 $9.75 $0.96
Martinez 5 32.6 9.3 4 $11.25 $2.75
Stroman 5 33 6.2 4 $10.00 $2.71
Matz 5 34.2 5.4 4 $8.75 $2.75
Verlander 5 35.8 11.8 4 $11.25 $6.02
Liriano 5 37.8 8.8 4 $8.50 $2.65
Shields 5 39.2 5.9 4 $7.50 $1.29
McHugh 5 40.2 6.3 4 $7.75 $1.26
Walker 5 40.2 11.5 4 $8.75 $2.22
Severino 5 40.6 9.9 4 $7.00 $3.46
Zimmermann 5 41.4 19.6 4 $9.50 $2.38
Smyly 5 41.6 4.5 4 $7.00 $1.83
Ventura 5 43.2 6.4 4 $6.75 $1.71
McCullers 5 44.2 15.2 4 $7.75 $3.77
Darvish 5 44.6 10.0 4 $8.00 $2.71
Teheran 5 44.6 3.1 4 $6.50 $1.00
Garcia 5 46.4 14.4 4 $5.50 $2.89
Quintana 5 46.8 5.5 4 $5.75 $1.71
Iglesias 5 48.8 7.5 4 $5.75 $1.71
Corbin 5 51.4 6.8 4 $5.25 $1.50
Miller 5 51.8 16.4 4 $5.25 $3.77
Kazmir 5 52.6 9.2 4 $4.50 $1.92
Rodon 5 52.6 18.0 4 $6.00 $3.46
Samardzija 5 52.8 4.2 4 $4.75 $1.89
Pineda 5 54.4 9.2 4 $5.25 $0.50
Odorizzi 5 55 16.3 4 $3.00 $1.16
Lackey 5 57.6 16.3 4 $2.50 $1.00
Fiers 5 58.2 9.8 4 $3.25 $0.96
Buchholz 5 59.2 7.4 4 $3.50 $2.38
Hendricks 5 60.8 22.6 4 $3.25 $3.30
Gonzalez 5 62.8 9.1 4 $4.00 $0.82
Moore 5 63 15.6 4 $3.50 $2.65
Chen 5 66.8 15.4 4 $2.50 $2.65
Hammel 5 66.8 13.6 4 $2.00 $2.71
Estrada 5 67.2 14.1 4 $1.00 $0.00
Nelson 5 67.4 8.8 4 $2.00 $1.83
Porcello 5 70.2 9.0 4 $2.75 $2.22
Sanchez 5 70.6 12.6 4 $1.50 $3.32
Kennedy 5 71 9.1 4 $2.00 $1.41
Cashner 5 73.2 7.6 4 $1.25 $1.89
Leake 5 76.8 24.9 4 $0.00 $0.00
Volquez 5 80.8 12.8 4 -$0.25 $2.06
RossJ 4 48.75 4.8 4 $5.50 $1.73
Nola 4 59 2.8 4 $3.75 $1.26
Ryu 4 66.5 7.0 4 $3.25 $1.71
DeSclafani 4 70.5 15.4 3 $2.67 $2.31
Rodriguez 4 71.5 13.5 3 $1.00 $1.00
Santana 4 76 11.0 4 $1.00 $1.41
Gausman 4 78.75 15.8 4 $1.00 $3.16
Heaney 4 79.5 22.8 3 $0.67 $1.16
Holland 4 81 7.2 4 $0.00 $0.82
Eickhoff 4 81.75 12.5 3 $0.33 $0.58
Cobb 4 83 15.2 3 $1.00 $1.73
Dickey 4 90.25 9.2 3 -$0.33 $0.58
Maeda 3 55.33 15.4 3 $4.00 $2.65
Glasnow 3 69.3 17.6 3 $2.33 $3.21
Bauer 3 71.33 10.4 2 $2.50 $2.12
Eovaldi 3 77 19.3 3 $1.67 $2.89
Berrios 3 78.67 10.8 3 $1.00 $1.00
Hill 3 78.67 14.8 3 $0.67 $0.58
Paxton 3 82 9.6 2 $0.50 $0.71
Wheeler 3 83.33 7.5 3 $0.33 $0.58
Ramirez 3 83.67 9.3 3 $0.00 $2.00
Karns 3 88 12.0 3 $0.33 $0.58
Weaver 3 93.67 6.7 3 -$0.33 $0.58
Wood 2 50.5 13.4 1 $7.00 *
Miley 2 69.5 10.6 1 $3.00 *
Anderson 2 78 1.4 2 $1.00 $0.00
Duffey 2 81 4.2 2 $0.00 $0.00
GrayJ 2 82 5.7 2 $0.00 $0.00
Gibson 2 83 24.0 1 -$3.00 *
Happ 2 84.5 12.0 2 $0.50 $0.71
Ray 2 87.5 9.2 2 $0.00 $0.00
Hughes 2 88.5 12.0 2 $0.00 $0.00
Wilson 2 89 9.9 2 $0.00 $0.00
Hahn 2 90.5 0.7 2 -$1.00 $1.41
Fister 2 92 2.8 2 $0.00 $0.00
Roark 2 97 1.4 2 $0.00 $0.00
Finnegan 1 63 *
Santiago 1 69 *
Tomlin 1 71 * 1 $1.00 *
Velasquez 1 80 * 1 $0.00 *
DeLaRosaJ 1 81 * 1 $0.00 *
Kelly 1 82 *
May 1 82 * 1 $0.00 *
Pomeranz 1 84 * 1 $0.00 *
DeLaRosaR 1 85 * 1 $0.00 *
Maurer 1 85 * 1 -$1.00 *
Minor 1 85 * 1 $0.00 *
Urias 1 86 * 1 $0.00 *
Hutchison 1 87 * 1 -$2.00 *
Owens 1 87 * 1 $0.00 *
Peavy 1 87 * 1 $0.00 *
Milone 1 89 * 1 -$2.00 *
Niese 1 89 * 1 $0.00 *
Davies 1 92 * 1 -$2.00 *
Tillman 1 92 * 1 $0.00 *
Bailey 1 93 * 1 -$3.00 *
Jungmann 1 93 * 1 $0.00 *
Harris 1 94 * 1 -$3.00 *
Giolito 1 95 * 1 $0.00 *
Latos 1 96 * 1 -$3.00 *
Shoemaker 1 98 * 1 -$3.00 *
Bradley 1 99 * 1 $0.00 *
Gallardo 1 99 * 1 -$3.00 *

 

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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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