Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Starting Pitchers: Will 2012's Top Arms Regain Elite Form in 2014? Part 1

If you play enough fantasy baseball, you’re going to have some surprises every year, good and bad. It’s part of the game, we all accept it and hope the good outweigh the bad.

In 2013, it seemed as though the starting pitching position had as many stars fall completely flat as you could possibly imagine. But was that an accurate perception, or remembering this especially negatively because A) The season just ended and B) A few big name pitchers absolutely toasted my chances to win a few leagues?

Well, take a look at the Top-10 Starting Pitchers in ESPN’s 2012 Player Rater

Season (SP Rank)
2012 (1)R.A. Dickey (2012)233.2230202.731.05
2013 (57)R.A. Dickey (2013)224.2177144.211.24
2012 (2)Justin Verlander (2012)238.1239172.641.06
2013 (41)Justin Verlander (2013)218.1217133.461.31
2012 (3)Clayton Kershaw (2012)227.2229142.531.02
2013 (1)Clayton Kershaw (2013)236232161.830.92
2012 (4)David Price (2012)211205202.561.10
2013 (32)David Price (2013)186.2151103.331.10
2012 (5) Matt Cain (2012)219.1193162.791.04
2013 (64)Matt Cain (2013)184.115884.001.16
2012 (6) Gio Gonzalez (2012)199.1207212.891.13
2013 (42)Gio Gonzalez (2013)195.2192113.361.25
2012 (7)Jered Weaver (2012)188.2142202.811.02
2013 (49)Jered Weaver (2013)154.1117113.271.14
2012 (8)Cole Hamels (2012)215.1216173.051.12
2012 (39)Cole Hamels (2013)22020283.601.16
2012 (9)Kris Medlen (2012)138120101.570.91
2013 (29)Kris Medlen (2013)197157153.111.22
2012 (10)Johnny Cueto (2012)217170192.781.17
2013 (104)Johnny Cueto (2013)60.25152.821.05

* — Sources: ESPN’s 2012 Player Rater, ESPN’s 2013 Player Rater 1-50ESPN’s 2013 Player Rater 51-100ESPN’s 2013 Player Rater 101-150.


Oh, Clayton Kershaw, you pesky non-conformist, you. If it wasn’t for you and your pesky Cy Young Award winning season, we’d have all of 2012’s Top-10 with at least some degree of regression. As it is, the other nine not only all regressed, but none were ranked higher than 29.

So, here’s what we’re going to do this week.

  1. Since he improved on a great season, we’re going to go ahead an eliminate Clayton Kershaw from the discussion.
  2. We’re going to look at the remaining nine guys from 2012’s Top-10 to see just what happened, and if they’re likely to bounce back, or keep on regressing.
  3. Since it would take a long time to profile nine guys, we’re going to break this down into three parts. This is Part 1. Part 2 will run on Wednesday, and Part 3 will run Friday.

So, without any more introduction, let’s get into R.A. Dickey of the Toronto Blue Jays, Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers, and David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays.


– R.A. Dickey

  • What Went Wrong?

The thing that really jumps out is the strikeout difference. Ordinarily, a 7.1 K/9 ratio isn’t bad, but it’s rough sledding with a knuckleballer. When hitters know what’s coming and can get a bat on it, timing is rarely an issue and they hit the ball hard. So, he allowed basically one-hit more per nine innings than he did in 2012, and 0.5 homers per nine innings more. Moving to the American League will have something to do with that, but I don’t think this would have been a great season anywhere.

Something else to note is just how much Dickey struggled at home.


That’s actually a troublesome split. Yes, he struck out more hitters at home, but not nearly enough to be dominant. When hitters were making contact, they were louder hits in Toronto than in the other stadiums, which isn’t surprising. Knuckleballs are often hardest to hit in windy conditions because they dance around so much and hitters can’t get a feel for them. You don’t get a lot of windy days in a dome.

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

  • Will 2014 be Better?

He was better in the second half than in the first, so that’s progress. My inclination is to say that R.A. Dickey will be better, but not by much.

We’re talking about a 39-year-old with one pitch that hitters would appear to be seeing better now than they did over the previous three years. The one outside trade would be if he gets traded to an outdoor team, especially in the NL. You never know in the hot stove season, but I don’t see that happening.

Again, I like Dickey to bounce back in 2014, just not by a lot. Something else that we haven’t considered is the possibility that he’ll get hurt, which is not impossible or improbable for someone at that age.

I wouldn’t be looking at him as a bounce-back sleeper option in the draft, anyway. Let someone else chance it with him.


– Justin Verlander

  • What Went Wrong?

When you walk hitters, it means you’re also falling behind in the count a lot. When you fall behind in the count, hitters can predict what’s coming, and they usually make good contact. Despite 20 fewer innings in 2013, Justin Verlander walked 15 more hitters and allowed 20 more hits, that accounts for the higher WHIP.

Fortunately, his stuff was still good enough to post a respectable ERA, but Detroit’s horse got himself into too many jams all year. It was an okay year from a pitcher who we expect to be much better.

  • Will 2014 be Better?

When you have a pitcher now on the wrong side of 30 who’s pitched into the LCS or deeper three years in a row now, you always wonder if he’s just getting tired. Heck, that was a legitimate question regarding his early 2013 struggles, and now he’s got one more long postseason run. Having said that, I think he’ll be better, and here’s why. 


He got a little unlucky with that August ERA, but he seemed to find his form again just fine over that stretch. Now that he’s struggled with the strike zone and found it again, I just don’t see him not bouncing back in a big way in 2014. I’ve got him in a keeper league and am treating him like one of the regular aces.


– David Price

  • What Went Wrong?

Nothing really went wrong for David Price in 2013. Look at his numbers in those two seasons against the rest of his career and tell me which one stands out stands out more.


He definitely dealt with some injuries in 2013 that cost him some strikeouts and likely some wins, but really 2013 was more about Price reverting to his mean, which is a very good pitcher.

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The one drop that really does concern me is his K rate. I normally don’t put too much into that, but this was a pretty big drop in one year. Over 2011 and 2012, Price struck out 423 hitters over 435.1 innings, which works out to 8.7 per nine innings. In 2013, the number was 151 over 186. innings, which is a rate of 7.3 per nine. That’s a pretty good drop for a pitcher in one year in his Age 27 season.

That accounts for a higher H/9 ratio. In 2013, he allowed 8.6 hits per nine, while he was at 7.5 per nine over 2011 and 2012. Now, he walked significantly fewer hitters and as a result, had the same WHIP in 2013 as 2012. Actually, it was just a little lower in 2013.

  • Will 2014 be Better?

Again, Price certainly had the lowest regression of the three people on this list. He’s also the youngest and as a result, the concern isn’t anywhere near as great. I do want to run a small experiment here. Just for the sake of argument, let’s say that Price pitches 200 innings in 2014. Now, let’s look at what his numbers would be if we take his best ratios over the last two years and apply them to 2014, and then do the same with his worst. 

H (H/9)
BB (BB/9)
K (K/9)
Best200164 (7.4)29 (1.3)193 (8.7)2.560.965
Worst200191 (8.6)56 (2.5)162 (7.3)3.331.235
 Realistically, I don’t think he’ll be between the two ERA’s, but closer. with a WHIP somewhere in between those numbers. As for strikeouts, it’s hard to tell if he’s changed his style or not but if we’re looking at 200 innings, I’d think he’ll be between 170 and 180.

But the worst of the last two years combined still makes for a good pitcher. I think 2014 will be better than 2013, but not as good as 2012.

Tags: David Price Justin Verlander R.A. Dickey

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