by Eno Sarris //
Pitchers get injured. We all know this, and Adam Wainwright serves as a fresh reminder. Still, you might be surprised to learn that the average starting pitcher is 39.1% likely to hit the disabled list? Yes, two out of five starting pitchers will hit the DL this year, and for an average of 66 days. Let that sink in.
So we know that all pitchers are fairly likely to be injured, and that helps us avoid spending too heavily on pitching early in our draft. But once a pitcher is tabbed as an injury risk and falls in drafts, he could become a value. Hey, if all pitchers are 39% likely to hit the DL, how much worse could an injury risk be?
With that in mind, I used the Bloomberg Sports Front Office Tool to make a list. Using “Negative Durability” as a factor, I sorted injury-risk pitchers by their B-Rank for the next year. What follows are the Top 10 Injury-Risk Starters for the upcoming season. Click here to see the full list.
B-Rank / Pitcher
152 Shaun Marcum
177 Ricky Nolasco
440 Josh Beckett
670 Anibal Sanchez
748 Edinson Volquez
752 Dallas Braden
777 Brett Myers
803 Kevin Slowey
814 Jake Peavy
840 Jordan Zimmermann
Obviously, all the entrants on this list are not created equal. Shaun Marcum has averaged 169 innings over the last three seasons, Ricky Nolasco 185 and Josh Beckett 171. They may be less durable than your average pitcher, but they are more durable than the rest of this list – and that’s probably why they rose to the top. All three are projected for around 170 innings this year, and all three are generally regarded as sleepers later in your draft.
Another type of pitcher that shows up on this list are the Tommy John returners, Edinson Volquez and Jordan Zimmermann. B-Rank is skeptical about their innings totals – it projects them both for just short of 140 innings – but thinks they might be useful enough at the back end of a rotation, with ERAs around four and WHIPs around 1.3. Both have the upside to better those numbers based on their best outputs to date, but they’re also coming off major injury. Wait a little bit longer for these guys, but if you need a home run pick late, they might be for you.
Maybe the least interesting group on the list consists of injury-ridden pitchers that with less upside. Brett Myers (161 three-year IP average), Dallas Braden (152) and Kevin Slowey (136) have all averaged fewer innings than the healthier group, and don’t have the upside of the TJ survivors.
And then there’s Jake Peavy. Projected for 123 innings after averaging 128 over the last three years, he might belong in the high-upside group if you believe he can approximate his early-career work in the American League. If you believe he was more a PetCo mirage that benefited from the environs of the NL West, you’ll probably stay away. The nice thing is, he’ll be cheap if you do deign to pick him up.
And there you have your list of injury-risk starters for 2011. Naturally, they should go after the more durable at their position. But they might also provide some nice value for their cost.
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By Tommy Rancel //
Tucked behind the announcement of Jayson Werth‘s monster contract with the Washington Nationals, the Milwaukee Brewers acquired starting pitcher Shaun Marcum from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for top prospect infielder Brett Lawrie.
Marcum returned in 2010 after missing the entire 2009 major league season due to Tommy John surgery. Once a death sentence for pitchers, Marcum is the latest in a long line of post-Tommy John success stories. He made 31 starts for the Jays, tossing 195.1 innings – both career highs. He never had much of a fastball to begin with, but his velocity returned to the high 80s.
Had Marcum been able to make 30 starts and toss 200 innings with mediocre results, it would’ve still been considered a successful comeback. Meanwhile, he not only returned healthy, but very effective. After posting a 3.39 ERA in 25 starts back in 2008, he went 13-8 with a 3.64 ERA in 2010. The 13 victories also qualify as a career high.
Without the natural ability to blow hitters away with a blazing fastball, Marcum has relied on one of the best change-ups in the game to get hitters out. While throwing the pitch more than 25% of the time in 2010, he was able to get a swing and a miss a jaw-dropping 28.1% of the time.
Because of the pitch’s effectiveness, Marcum has been able to have great success against left-handed batters, defying the usual platoon disadvantage. Last season, LHB hit just .190/.233/.299 against him. So pronounced was Marcum’s reverse split that Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon employed a reverse-platoon lineup against him that featured mostly right-handed batters.
In addition to the unhittable change-up, Marcum exhibited above-average control. His strikeout rate near 7.5 strikeouts per nine (K/9) was slightly above the league average (7.13) while his walk rate of 1.98 was well below (3.28).In fact Marcum posted the 6th-best strikeout-to-walk ratio in the league, topping even the likes of Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez – while pitching in a tougher ballpark, in a tougher division.
Marcum, 29 as of opening day, should be on your list of #2 starters headed in 2010 – he’s that good. The recovery from surgery looked complete last year. Also, consider that the shift to the National League – more specifically the NL Central – should benefit Marcum going forward.
On the Toronto side, it is unknown who replaces Marcum in the rotation; in Brett Lawrie, they did receive Milwaukee’s top prospect. Last season as a 20-year-old in Double-A, Lawrie hit .285/.346/.449. He hasn’t shown much home run power, yet still smacked 59 extra-base hits last year.
Thus far, Lawrie has played second base exclusively in the minor leagues. That said, there are some who say he is destined for the corner outfield in the future. There is also some speculation that Toronto may have acquired the native Canadian in order to flip him in a package for another piece. In any event, there is little chance that he has a significant fantasy impact in 2011 – outside of a potential September call-up.
By Jonah Keri //
Biggest Surprise: Shaun Marcum
Ricky Romero‘s very close, with a 13-9 record, 3.79 ERA, and
7.5 strikeouts per nine innings. But we’re giving the nod to Marcum,
given his great comeback from injuries. The 13-8 record, 3.63 ERA and
7.7 K/9 IP rate are nearly identical to Romero’s line. But the 2.1 BB/9
IP points to a pitcher with a much better WHIP than Romero (for 2010
fantasy purposes) and generally better command. At any rate, if you
drafted either of these guys this year, you’re happy.
Biggest Bust: None
The pitching staff overachieved en masse. In fact, looking at the seasons put up by Jose Bautista and Vernon Wells,
and the terrific performances by several young starters, it’s a wonder
the Jays didn’t make a bigger run at the postseason. Goes to show what
a killer division the AL East is.
2011 Keeper Alert: Brandon Morrow
No one can figure out why the Mariners gave up so early on Morrow,
the hard-throwing number-one pick. But the Jays are happy they did.
Morrow’s 178 strikeouts in just 146.1 IP yield an off-the-charts
strikeout rate for a starting pitcher. His 17 K, one-hitter against the
Rays marked the single best game by any pitcher this season, according
to Bill James’ Game Score stat. Morrow has real ace potential, but you
won’t have to pay nearly that much given the modest 10-7 record and
4.49 ERA. Keep him if you can, or draft him at a discount next season.
2011 Regression Alert: Kevin Gregg
The 36 saves are great, but Gregg’s success was purely a function of
opportunity. He was his usual wild self this season, walking a batter
every other inning and working in and out of trouble far more
frequently than a pitcher usually tasked with pitching ahead and with
the bases empty ever should. We recommend buying skills when shopping
for relief pitchers, because skills-challenged closers like Gregg
become nearly useless the moment they lose their job. And it’ll happen
sooner or later.
For more on Shaun Marcum, Brandon Morrow and the Toronto Blue Jays pitching staff, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.