Beware the Young Stud
by Eddie Mayrose
Fantasy Baseball Owners are a superstitious lot. If a certain preview magazine was purchased the year before a championship, you can bet that publication will be the first one off the rack every year. That faded Daryl Strawberry jersey that you wear to every draft? If Daryl helped you win in 1988, it’s common sense that his jersey needs to be worn at the draft in 2012. (Hope it was a button-down. ) So, then, if you’ve stumbled upon something that’s actually tangible, like a mathematical system for projecting pitchers’ injuries and underperformance, you guard it with your life.
Three years ago, in The Sporting News 2009 Fantasy Baseball Preview, (I’ve won 6 out of the last 9, I don’t read any other!) Brad Pinkerton wrote a terrific piece on young pitchers titled, Folding Aces. In it, he analyzed the performance of rising stars in the season after their stellar debuts. He presented a formula for targeting those young hurlers that could reasonably be expected to turn up on the disabled list or suffer a disappointing campaign. He had my interest when he presented those hurlers that violated his criteria in 2007. Ian Kennedy, Dustin McGowan, Fausto Carmona, and Yovani Gallardo all turned out to be disappointing selections for Fantasy Baseball owners in 2008.
In ’09, Ricky Nolasco, Mike Pelfrey, Glen Perkins and Manny Parra either underperformed or landed on the DL. 2010 saw Max Scherzer, Joba Chamberlain, Mark Rzepczynski, Tommy Hanson and Derek Holland disappointed to different degrees.
Last year, after doing the math, we targeted nine young hurlers that were safe bets to struggle and, sure enough, six of them did. While Gio Gonzalez, Madison Bumgarner and Jaime Garcia starred, Brett Cecil, Jhoulys Chacin, Tommy Hanson, Mat Latos, Brian Matusz, and Jonathan Niese struggled, landed on the DL or both. So, what are these criteria and who made the list in 2011?
Pinkerton looked for pitchers, 25 and younger, that had experienced a jump of 30 innings pitched over their previous career high in pro ball. Next, he eliminated those who’d registered 200 IP in any Major League season or had exceeded 35 career starts. What was left was a roster of hurlers with the potential to destroy your season. Now, it’s not a perfect indicator,as evidenced by the performances of Bumgarner, Garcia and Gonzalez . What it does tell you, though, is that you’re running a big risk if you take more than one of the following guys. As you can see, there may be trouble ahead for the Braves and Yankees.
Brandon Beachy- Atlanta Braves
Jeremy Hellickson- Tampa Bay Rays
Mike Minor- Atlanta Braves
Ivan Nova- New York Yankees
Michael Pineda- New York Yankees
Vance Worley- Philadelphia Phillies
Keep this formula close by, as you’ll need it to evaluate any rookies that make the big club in Spring Training. Remember, the formula applies to IP on the professional level, so there will be a few that exceeded their previous high by 30 IP in the minor leagues that will be in Opening Day rotations.