Workhorses – Old Reliables are the New Targets

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The workhorses that can go deep into games and can handle 200+ innings, year after year, should be more highly valued then ever with the rash of injuries and subsequent season-ending surgeries to so many of the younger crop of pitchers.

In Wednesday’s post, Tommy John Prospects – Land Mines in the Making, we discussed how so many elite young pitchers end up requiring Tommy John surgery. Which led to my conclusion that I will never again use one of my top 3 picks on a 2nd or 3rd year pitcher.

Strikeout rates are exciting stats to look at, but can be deceiving.
Not all pitchers require Tommy John surgery. It just seems that way. There are still plenty of aces left that have yet to succumb to the procedure which is proving to be less full-proof than originally thought. In addition, there are a number of great arms out there for whom Tommy John has been successful, and have become workhorses in their own right. Let’s sort out who’s who in order to figure out which arms to target on Draft Day.

Why should veteran workhorses have a higher value to us lot in Fantasy? For a few reasons. First off, there’s the basic idea of counting stats. A younger pitcher who’s being “babied in” will often be pulled in the sixth inning or sooner. Now, even if he has a higher strikeout rate than the reliable workhorse, it doesn’t mean a heck of a lot. The workhorse who typically goes into the eighth inning will have those two extra innings to “catch up” on Ks. Strikeout rates are exciting stats to look at, but can be deceiving. If you spread strikeouts out over a full season, the same effect holds true. 

The other counting stat, wins, is even more impacted by the differences between the young stud and the workhorse. So much can happen in a ball game after the 100-pitch limit, placed on the young arm, is reached – even if he’s had a good outing. Whereas, a workhorse, who has pitched deep into a game, can often rely on the team’s best reliever (the closer) to nail down the win for him. Take this comparison, for example:

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Player A is the boring old workhorse, James Shields, who pitched 227 innings last year. Player B is the exciting young strikeout artist from Shields’ old team (Tampa), Chris Archer. He pitched a total of 194.2 innings last year. The 34 yr. old Shields is not really considered a high strikeout pitcher any longer, but he still surpassed Archer in total Ks due to the in-game pitch limit, and the innings limit placed on Archer’s season. This is not to say Archer won’t be a good pick this year, especially without an innings limit, but the comparison certainly displays how such a limit can impact final statistics.

The Atlanta Braves organization might not agree, but there have been plently of post-Tommy John success stories, as well.   

So, exactly which workhorses should we target on draft day for 2015:

1. Clayton Kershaw - If you are going to use your 1st-round pick on a pitcher, then the choice is simple. 

2. Felix Hernandez - If you are going to use your 2nd-round pick on a pitcher, then the choice is simple. 

3. Stephen Strasburg - It’s been over 4 years since his surgery. He is a TJ success story, he’s entering his prime, and he finished last year with dominance. Look for him to compete with Kershaw for the Cy Yonug.

4. Madison Bumgarner – His price might be a little inflated with his post-season heroics, but he has already proven he can handle all the extra innings after the 2012 post-season. Despite earning 3 World Series rings already, it’s easy to forget this workhorse is still only 25 yrs old.

5. Adam Wainwright – His numbers haven’t wavered since 2010, which was the season before he went under the knife for Tommy John. Yes he had an injury at the end of the playoffs last year, but he sounds fine for Spring Training. Two 20-win and two 19-win seasons in his last five.

6. Max Scherzer - Has started over 30 games in each of his 5 seasons with Detroit, and has averaged 241 K over the last 3. His poor outingss are still really poor, but over the course of a season you won’t even notice.

7. David Price – Led the majors in IP and Ks with a 1.08 WHIP. More wins to come for Detroit’s new ace. Price has averaged 215.5 IP over his first 5 full seasons

8. Jordan Zimmermann – Like his teammate, Strasburg, he is a Tommy John success. He is now over 5 years removed from the procedure. His stats are great across the board, with 7 complete games over the last 2 years.

9. Zach Greinke - Has had 15 or more wins in 5 of the last 6 seasons, and has had 200 or more strikeouts in 3 of the last 4.

10. Cole Hamels - Has started over 30 games in each season since 2008. His strikeout totals have not wavered since that year. He had 196 K in 227 IP in 2008, and 198 K in 204 IP in 2014. The 31 yr. old is as consistent as arms come. 

11. John Lester - Just like Hamels, Lester has started 30 or more games since 2008, and the parallels between the two lefties don’t end here. Reliable numbers throughout both of their careers, including 6 seasons with 200+ innings. Oh, and Lester is 31 yrs. old, as well. They were born 12 days apart.

12. Jeff Samardzija – Could represent a high value pick, as he has yet to finish with double-digit wins. That should change with a full season on a contending team. His small sample size with the As was impressive, including a tiny WHIP of .94, and a batting average against of .224.

13. James Shields - Boring picks will sometimes drop a couple of rounds. Shields has averaged 223 IP over the last 8 years. His 2014 numbers show no signs of age, as his ERA, WHIP, and BAA are slightly better or the same as his career average.

14. Lance Lynn - As boring a pick as Shields, Lynn started 33 games or more in the past 3 seasons. Aside from a pedestrian career WHIP of 1.28, Lynn is a consistent performer in all other categories.

15. Ian Kennedy - Like Lynn, if you can look past his career average 1.27 WHIP, he can help you with the other categories, and at a cheap price. Kennedy has started 30 or more games in each of the last 5 years. He should get more run support for the W column, as well, with the Padres’ improved offence.


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