July 15, 2010

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Much like when a card accidentally gets flipped in the middle of a poker hand, it's time to shuffle and re-deal. Starting pitchers that is.

The season is more than half over and a lot has gone on in the pitching world. It's definitely time to take a look at starting pitching rankings and make some big adjustments.

A couple of notes: These rankings are from the All-Star break forward. While the first half of 2010 has a big bearing on the rankings, it isn't everything that goes into them. Also, if you've read Tipping Pitches much, you'll know that wins aren't factored in a ton on the rankings (sorry, Ubaldo) because they're just so darn unpredictable.

Without further ado, here are the rest-of-2010 rankings:

1. Tim Lincecum -- This ranking is based on faith that Lincecum can move past his first-half control woes; his 3.70 BB/9 is up from 2.72 last year. The strikeouts are still there and his .320 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is slightly unlucky. Lincecum clearly has the skill set to be fantasy's best pitcher.

2. Roy Halladay

3. Josh Johnson

4. Jon Lester -- It's been quite a turnaround since his rough first month. Lester has been fortunate on contact (.274 BABIP) and might see his 0.45 home runs per nine innings (HR/9) inch upward. Even so, his likely top-notch placement among strikeout and earned run average (ERA) leaders makes him an easy pick.

5. Felix Hernandez

6. Justin Verlander

7. Ubaldo Jimenez

8. Adam Wainwright -- He's essentially producing the same exact numbers as 2009 except his BABIP has dropped to .263. His ERA might finish closer to 3.00, but he has the St. Louis-pitcher bonus working for him.

9. CC Sabathia -- Big CC finally awoke from an early malaise, though his K/BB downward trend in the past few years is worrisome.

10. Cliff Lee -- Lee goes from the park 26th in home runs to the one that's seventh. He has the stuff to combat it, but there's sure to be some dip in performance.

11. Zack Greinke -- No, he's not replicating his magical 2009. Still, his K/BB is almost on pace (thanks to an improved walk rate to combat the downturn in K/9) and the 3.71 ERA looks bloated based on left on base percentage (LOB%) and Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) rate.

12. Yovani Gallardo -- Lost in the flock of NL pitchers doing amazing things, is Gallardo's breakout. He's 24, has a 9.83 K/9, and is moving past the control blip from 2009. This ranking assumes he'll return from his oblique injury quickly.

13. Clayton Kershaw -- Kershaw's First Strike Percentage (FS%) and Zone% (percentage of pitches seen in the zone) are improving, meaning his 4.01 BB/9 should be on the way down. Elite strikeouts, 22-years old, and improving control? He has Top 5 upside.

14. Francisco Liriano -- Liriano's 2.18 FIP is insane considering his ERA is 3.86. His 3.90 K/BB and 50.9 GB% rates are very impressive. How much will workload issues affect him in the second half (career high 136.2 innings)?

15. Jered Weaver -- The strikeouts (10.19 K/9) are a career high by a big margin. His improved Z-Contact% (percentage of swings batters make contact with in the zone) supports the K/9 jump.

16. Dan Haren -- Haren has his usual elite first-half numbers, minus HR/9, ERA and FIP. Is it now time for the yearly decline?

17. David Price -- A low HR/9 (0.70), low BABIP (.276) and high LOB% (80.2) suggest Price's 2.42 ERA is very likely to rise.

18. Chris Carpenter -- Carpenter's FIP is 3.99 and he's only had four seasons of 180 or more innings since 2002. Memories of dominant 2009, and hope for a return to that in 2010, keep him this high.

19. Stephen Strasburg -- The 12.87 K/9, 2.32 BB/9 and 1.94 FIP are all enticing. The innings cap is not.

20. Roy Oswalt

21. Tommy Hanson -- Hanson's K/9, BB/9 and FIP are all better than last season; his good luck from 2009 has simply flipped the other way. Keep the faith.

22. Matt Cain

23. Johan Santana

24. Tim Hudson -- Slider and cutter usage from last season has flip-flopped, perhaps making his fastball better (21.8 runs above average). Hudson's top-of-the-line, 67.4 Ground Ball Rate (GB%) makes up for his mediocre 4.52 K/9.

25. Cole Hamels

26. Mat Latos

27. Phil Hughes

28. Ricky Nolasco

29. Josh Beckett

30. Jonathan Sanchez

31. Clay Buchholz

32. Scott Baker -- Baker is a prime example of how an elite K/BB doesn't always lead to good overall performance. His 5.00 K/BB has netted a 3.98 FIP and 4.87 ERA. His HR/9 is 1.40, much too high (again).

33. Matt Garza -- Garza's K/9 is back to pre-2009 levels (6.83). That makes him a solid rotation-filler in fantasy leagues, not the budding ace he looked like early this season.

34. Brett Anderson -- With the A's being more cautious about his rehab this time around, Anderson has a great chance to make positive strides once he returns. He needs to get his K/9 up to 2009 levels to match his outstanding GB% and make him an ace. He's probably the only pitcher this low that could easily be in the Top 20 next season.

35. Ted Lilly

36. Ryan Dempster

37. Ricky Romero

38. Brandon Morrow

39. Gavin Floyd

40. Jaime Garcia -- Now that Garcia's GB% has come back to earth (56.1), he is a solid strikeout/ground ball pitcher with room to grow as far as control goes. Expect his HR/9 (0.36) and FIP (3.29) to increase in the second half.

42. John Danks

41. Chad Billingsley

43. Max Scherzer

44. James Shields

45. Joel Pineiro

46. Javier Vazquez

47. Jorge de la Rosa

48. Hiroki Kuroda

49. Mike Pelfrey

50. Kevin Slowey

Just missed:

John Lackey -- He just missed because of slim hopes he can return to his former self. The 1.48 K/BB of 2010 is not pretty.

Brian Matusz -- Matusz is still learning how to pitch and has the dubious duty of doing it in the AL East. There's plenty of upside here.

Anibal Sanchez -- Doesn't have great strikeout ability (6.18 K/9) or control (3.40), but there's something to be said for a 3.46 FIP.

Jonathan Niese -- He's making great strides from 2009 and has a bright future.

Ervin Santana -- Santana can dominate, it's just his inconsistency that keeps him from moving up this list.

Tipping Pitches will return to its regular format next week.

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Need more pitches tipped? Send questions and comments to amcfadden@rentonreporter.com.

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