April 01, 2010

Ah, the season for predictions. Making predictions is a risky business for fantasy writers. Especially if they don't know the can't-miss prediction method.

What is the method you ask? Well, first the predictions are made, and then follow one of two possible steps. If a prediction is right, bring it up repeatedly to make sure readers know just how good you are. If a prediction is wrong, hope like heck no one remembers. Luckily, here at Tipping Pitches, there isn't a need to worry about that second step.

In the final Tipping Pitches before Opening Day, here are some 2010 fantasy pitching predictions:

• Tim Lincecum and Roy Halladay make mincemeat of the National League - We already know what Lincecum can do, but Halladay's move from baseball's toughest division to the N.L. should put him in shape to be one of fantasy baseball's best. Lincecum takes strikeouts, while Halladay takes Earned Run Average.

Josh Johnson, Yovani Gallardo and Ubaldo Jimenez finish the season among the Top 12 fantasy pitchers -- these three guys are young and have crazy skills. It's not that far of a reach to think they will all take the next step in their career and finish in the Top 12. This could be the last year you get to draft them as non-aces.

Jake Peavy wins the starting pitcher fantasy baseball bounce back award - Peavy will be back in 2010. He finishes with an ERA under 3.70 and a K/9 above 9.00. The move to the A.L. won't carry the repercussions on his numbers that many are predicting.

Matt Cain finishes the season ranked behind Cole Hamels, Peavy, Clayton Kershaw, Brett Anderson and Tim Hudson -- Cain was off the charts in luck categories in 2009. He bounces back to his solid and productive 3.65-ERA self, while the other five listed pitchers improve on their 2009 seasons.

Speaking of Hudson, he pitches at least 180 innings, with an ERA under 3.30 - Hudson completes his recovery from Tommy John surgery and is again excellent with his old recipe: lots of ground balls and just enough strikeouts.

Erik Bedard makes more starts than Rich Harden -- this one is kind of a crap shoot. Harden has averaged about 108 innings per season in his career, while Bedard has averaged about 117. Harden is the favorite going into the season as he's relatively healthy, but there's nothing quite like rooting for the underdog.

Scott Baker posts a HR/9 above 1.20 again -- Baker was a popular breakout candidate before 2009, but again failed to make strides in his home run rate. He's useful because his K/BB is strong, but he's not likely to make the leap to a top option.

Joel Pineiro will do it again - By "it" I mean he will produce a GB% near 60 percent and a Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) rate below 3.40. Pineiro's fastball went from valued at 20.1 runs below average in 2008 to 23.1 above average in 2009 because he figured out a better way to use it.

He increased its usage from 58.4 percent of his pitches in 2008, to 71.0 in 2009. He won't forget his new tricks just because he changed teams.

Predicted 2010 leaders (predicted rates):

BB/9 - A.J. Burnett (4.55)K/9 - Lincecum (10.71)K/BB - Halladay (6.01)HR/9 - Kershaw (0.34)FIP - Halladay (2.12)GB% - Brandon Webb (62.1)HR/FB% - Kershaw (4.3)Contact% - Jorge de la Rosa (74.2)FS% - Dan Haren (67.5)

Top seven overall fantasy pitchers:

1. Lincecum2. Halladay3. Felix Hernandez4. Zack Greinke5. Johan Santana6. Dan Haren7. Gallardo

Top seven A.L. fantasy pitchers:

1. Hernandez2. Greinke3. Justin Verlander4. Jon Lester5. Peavy6. CC Sabathia7. Josh Beckett

Top seven N.L. fantasy pitchers:

1. Lincecum2. Halladay3. Santana4. Haren5. Gallardo6. Johnson7. Jimenez

Best draft values:

1. Peavy2. Santana3. Hudson

Worst draft values:

1. Cliff Lee2. Cain3. Javier Vazquez

Now back to the regularly scheduled programming. Below are some quick-hitting sections that you'll find during the entire regular season in Tipping Pitches.

Pick up, trade for or steal: You want these guys

Carlos Zambrano - It will be nearly impossible to find another pitcher that has a similar ADP with a FIP below 3.70 and a K/9 above 8.00. His reputation is pushing his price down.

Max Scherzer - Drafters are losing confidence in Scherzer because of his move to Detroit. What is lost in the mix is that Comerica Park is ranked lower in both runs and home runs than Chase Field. Any performance lost with the addition of the DH could be offset by a friendlier home park.

Number(s) you should know

3,937: Pitches Justin Verlander threw last season, or over 300 more than any other pitcher in the majors.

There have been a few recent pitchers with heavy workloads that struggled out of the gate the next season, like Sabathia, so don't be too worried about a slow start from Verlander in 2010.

He actually decreased his pitches per inning from 2008 to 2009, despite a 2.79 increase in K/9 in the same span. He's making great strides.

Two up, two down

UP:Fausto Carmona - He has improved his control so far this spring. If he keeps it up, he becomes mixed-league worthy again.

UP:Francisco Liriano - Liriano will stay in the rotation and has posted a 22:2 K:BB ratio this spring.

DOWN:Ervin Santana - With elbow inflammation, he has too many red flags for fantasy owners to have confidence in a bounce back to 2008 numbers.

DOWN:Wandy Rodriguez - Struggles in spring and a change in delivery is not what fantasy owners who invested in Rodriguez want to hear.

Don't forget to enter RotoExpert's Fight for you Write Challenge. Need more pitches tipped? Send questions and comments to adamtmcfadden@rotoexperts.com

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