An aging veteran hurler or, for virtually the same cost, a solid outfielder and an up and coming flame thrower who often has no idea where he is throwing the ball.
From 2000-09, Vazquez was the
In his career, Vazquez's average fastball has been 91 mph, but last year that number dropped to 88.7. Less heat equaled less Ks and his K/9 rate of 6.92 was more than a full batter below his career rate of 8.07. Last year was also the first time the mark was below 8.00 since '04. Vazquez also had a walk rate of 3.72, his first season with a mark over 3.00 since, get this, the 20th century (1999). On the plus side he is back in the NL, where he owns a career ERA of 4.02 with a WHIP of 1.24. He's also going to pitch his home games in a park that helps to hold down the homers, an important factor for a hurler who has allowed 1.20 HR/9 in his career. Will the return to the Senior Circuit, combined with the better home ball yard, be enough to return him to glory?
Byrd isn't worthy of being leaned on mixed leagues, but he is just the type of performer that helps to win league specific setups. Only once in his five seasons of at least 400 at-bats has he hit more than 12 homers, knocked in more than 70 runs or scored more than 70 times, but over the last four seasons an average Byrd season has produced a 5x5 line of .294-13-70-70-6. Moreover, the last four years he has never hit below .283. There could be some concern about everyday playing time if everyone stays healthy in the Cubs' outfield, but there isn't much doubt that if Byrd is given 500 at-bats that he will once again be a solid producer, even if none of his numbers jump off the page.
As for Bud Norris, I've already written about his outlook for '11 in
So which side "wins" here? The one with two players. Byrd isn't an MVP candidate, but he is a solid, stable performer who can boost any NL-only offense. While Vazquez has history on his side, the depths he fell to last season, coupled with ongoing concerns about the mph on his fastball this spring (he's still unable to reach 90 mph on most of his fastballs), point to him being nothing more than an average hurler, and a somewhat expensive one in this setup. I'd take a chance on the fireballing arm of Norris and the stable production of Byrd, and then go and spend the extra three dollars on another hurler.
The age old question ...
I'm on record saying I'm in favor of waiting on pitching. In fact, I wrote an article about why, in many cases, it makes a lot of sense to let others dive into pitching early, called
Think of it this way.
There are five starters and 30 major league teams. That's 150 starters that can be drafted. Each team also has a closer and a setup man that probably should be drafted in standard leagues. That's another 60 pitchers. Add those numbers together and we can say there are 210 pitchers that probably shouldn't scare the hell out of you on draft day. If you are in a 12-team league that starts nine pitchers, then there will be 108 pitchers active in any week. Now, tell me, do you think if there are 210 pitchers who are decent, but only 108 who are starting in a fantasy league at any one time (just over 51 percent of the hurlers mentioned), that you should be able to put together a decent pitching staff if you wait on hurlers?
I'm not sticking to this "plan" above all in any draft. In general, it makes a lot of sense to have one anchor starting pitcher and one reliever in your first 10 selections in a 12-team draft. If that makes you nervous you can go with two starters and a reliever in your first 10 picks. At the same time, there have been many a draft where I came out of the first 10 rounds with one hurler.
The answer to the question is that there is no answer that suffices in all situations. Honestly, it's about performance, risk and value. If your league is going heavy early on pitching you can either (a) jump into the mix or (b) build a juggernaut on offense. An intimate understanding of the player pool is key here as it will help you to know when you simply must get involved in the hurler run. To help you to understand what point that might be, I'd direct you to