Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011
Posted: 8:50 p.m.
By Hamilton Bolduc
Thanks to our friends at Fangraphs.com we have the statistical analysis to delve into the value of baseballs hardest throwers. This week were checking out the AL Central.
The division is home to the ALs hardest throwing starter and reliever. The AL Central also sports some of the biggest uncertainties in fantasy baseball and offers two bad hitting teams to boost pitching stats in intradivisional matchups. You'll want your pitchers this year to get as many meetings against the Royals and Indians as possible.
Starter Francisco Liriano (93.7): Lirianos velocity has steadily climbed since having Tommy John surgery, leading to an increase in his K9 to 9.44 from 7.93 pre-surgery. This season he looks to clear another hurdle the 200-inning mark. He may never be 2006 filthy again, but hell still be a top starter in the AL.
Reliever Matt Capps (94.0): Capps enters the season as the leading candidate to close for the Twins, but much depends on the health of long-time closer Joe Nathan (Tommy John surgery). A healthy Nathan likely makes Capps the setup guy.
TigersStarter Justin Verlander (95.4): Verlanders heat knows no limits. Hes been known to touch the high 90s late into games and is by far the divisions, and baseballs, hardest throwing starter. Verlander has started at least 30 games each year of his career and has topped 200 innings without fail since 2007. Last seasons average velocity and innings pitched were the second highest of his career.
Reliever Joel Zumaya (99.3): None throw harder than Zumaya, but few are as fragile. His rookie season 62 games, 83.1 IP, 6-3, 1 SV, 1.94 ERA, 97 K positioned him to for a meteoric ascension to closer stardom. Last season looked like Zumayas bounce-back year until the horrific fractured right elbow. He may throw too hard for his own good.
White SoxStarter Gavin Floyd (92.4): Hes not overpowering, but he sometimes show 2008 form (17-8, 3.84 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 206.1 IP), though it consistency alludes him. His K-rate trails his velocity.
Reliever Matt Thornton (96.1): After years of toying with idea of replacing Bobby Jenks, the White Sox brass has finally red-lighted the Matt Thornton Era. Last season was as good as a reliever can be and well finally get to see Thorton have a chance to become a top closer.
RoyalsStarter Kyle Davies (92.6): Kansas Citys acquisition of Jeff Francis means that Davies wont be expected to be the ace of the Royals new staff. But expect Davies to pile up the innings to take the stress of the bullpen. So 200-innings isnt out of the question (183.1 IP was his previous high), but they're unlikely to be of high quality
Reliever Blake Wood (95.4): In Woods first campaign in the majors, he struggled on the road (1.004 OPS allowed). If you cant get Soria, you best stay away from Royals relievers this season.
IndiansStarter Fausto Carmona (92.6): Many believe he peaked in 2007, but last season was his strongest since (13-14, 3.77 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 210.1 IP). It may not mean much if the Indians do little to support their ace. A fantasy owners best hope is that Cleveland keeps the fire sale going and ships Carmona to a contender.
Reliever Chris Perez (94.6): Perez had an outstanding season as a closer (2-2, 23 SV, 1.71 ERA, 1.08 WHIP) and that figures to continue. Of course the concern with playing on a sub-.500 team is the lack of opportunities. But there's a poor correlation between team wins and save opportunities, so Perez can easily out-perform his price as a second- or third-tier closer.