Tipping pitches: Longevity key to maximizing starters' talents
Why else would he refuse to pitch into the seventh inning? OK, maybe he's not shortening his outings by choice. And he did technically pitch seven innings a few times last year (five times out of 26 starts), but he doesn't do it often. And he's not alone.
He's part of a collective group usually skilled in whiffs, but not longevity. Pitchers in this group have so many 35-pitch innings they are currently lobbying for a rule change that would add a bench behind the mound for short rests. They are the anti-
Lasting only a few innings is generally a bad thing for fantasy owners. Just ask any tortured
Limiting an excellent strikeout per nine innings statistic to five innings per start is like sending
Some pitchers are listed below along with something called "I." It's not some fancy new stat, it's simply innings per start subtracted from pitches per inning (numbers are from 2009 as 2010 is too young to field reliable figures). It saves a little space and makes it quicker to compare pitchers. A higher "I" rate equals a less efficient pitcher.
Those two represent the best-case scenario for fantasy owners. They're not the most efficient pitchers, but they meld efficiency with strikeouts.
Let's see how a select group of baseball's less efficient pitchers stack up:
Carmona bucks the trend followed by many inefficient pitchers by not striking out many. Because of that, and his walk issues, his strikeout-to-walk ratio was a miserable 1.13 last season.
Scherzer has dynamic stuff and his walk rate isn't outrageous (3.33 walks per nine innings last year). He simply works very hard to get through innings. At 26, and with just 232.1 major league innings under his belt, improvement is still very much within reach.
Harden is what he is: An amazing strikeout pitcher (9.40 career K/9), who cannot work deep into games. Last season, 23 percent of his starts went less than five innings, while another 19 percent went exactly five innings.
Kazmir is Harden-lite, except he's two years younger and has had more success staying healthy. A troubling sign for Kazmir is that his K/9 dipped to 7.15 in 2009. That's not nearly enough strikeout payoff for the risk.
Kershaw's first strike percentage (FS%) bears out his walk issues. It was 55.6-percent last season, well below average. That flawed approach from the start of at-bats led to his bloated 4.79 BB/9 and many short outings. He's just 22 and has plenty of room to grow.
Gallardo's FS% was even worse than Kershaw's, at 52.6-percent. Gallardo is also young (24) and his walk problems look like a bump in the road. He didn't have a BB/9 above 3.26 at any level before his 4.56 last season.
De la Rosa has turned around his game from a 5.68 K/9 in 2007 to a 9.39 K/9 last year. As long as his walks and strikeouts stay high, he'll throw a lot of pitches.
Garza regressed as far as efficiency from '08 to '09. He saw a bump in both K/9 (6.24 to 8.38) and BB/9 (2.88 to 3.50).
Billingsley hasn't shown an ability to harness his control problems, and they're costing him innings and wins. He could be a star with a BB/9 below 3.00.
Lester's 9.96 K/9 in '09 came out of nowhere. He posted 7.14 and 6.50 rates in his first two major league years and only topped that 9.96 mark once previously -- in 13 innings of Single-A ball in '07. A return to lower strikeout ways could mean more efficient pitching.
Jimenez will be intriguing to watch this year. Can his '09 control improvement continue? It would certainly help him extend his starts. His first two '10 outings have been six innings each.
- A good number to aim for strikeout pitchers is 10.00 or below. Lower strikeout pitchers probably need to be closer to 8.00 in order to be effective. There aren't any legitimate fantasy No. 1 pitchers above the 10.00 mark except Lester.
- The top of the list is littered with young and/or inexperienced pitchers, except Harden and Kazmir. Those two might be locked into their ways.
- The high numbers from both Kershaw and Gallardo indicate they might be a little farther away from acedom than many projected.
- Lester and Garza could be in line for big drops. They both are still learning and struck out many more batters in 2009 than they had previously.
Jorge De La Rosa -- After an offseason full of buzz, de la Rosa hit the ground running in his first start. There aren't many options at his price with such impressive strikeout upside.