Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Starting Pitchers: Will 2012′s Top Arms Regain Elite Form in 2014? Part 2

This is Part two of a three-part series reviewing the struggles of 2012′s best fantasy baseball pitchers in 2013. In Part 1, we reviewed R.A. Dickey of the Toronto Blue Jays, Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers, and David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays. Here’s the link in case you missed it.

 

Today, we’re looking at the men who were the 5-7 ranked starting pitchers in ESPN’s 2012 Player Rater – Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants, Gio Gonzalez of the Washington Nationals, and Jered Weaver of the Los Angeles Angels.

In case you forgot, here’s a quick reminder of that they did in 2012 and 2013. 

Season (SP Rank)
Player
IP
K
W
ERA
WHIP
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
* — Sources: ESPN’s 2012 Player RaterESPN’s 2013 Player Rater 1-50ESPN’s 2013 Player Rater 51-100.

 

Now, can it be better?

 

– Matt Cain

  • What Went Wrong?

In a way, not a lot made sense about Cain’s season. So many of his statistics were right around the same level of what he’d been doing over the last several seasons, but ERA spike couldn’t be ignored.

According to Fangraphs, his line drive rate was as high in 2013 as it had been since 2008 and when you weigh that against a slightly weaker WHIP, it explains why Cain had his highest ERA since 2006.

Look at his 2009-2012 ratio stats compared to 2013. 

Range
H/9
HR/9
BB/9
K/9
SO/BB
ERA
WHIP
2009-20127.30.82.57.32.902.931.096
20137.71.12.77.72.874.001.156
Really, just about everything was just a little off of his recent paces, and it all amounted to a seriously inflated ERA.

Think of Cain’s 2012 and 2013 ERA’s like you would if you’re looking at two students bodies of work in one class in which one received an A and the other a B. If you look at each individual assignment or test, the advantage from the A student to the B student may not appear that great, just a few little differences. But when you look at them all together, the difference becomes a little more immense.

That was Cain in 2012 vs. 2013. Many of the peripherals were similar in 2013, but they were all just a little bit worse. As a result, his ERA was a lot worse. Heading into next season, the most logical thought is that if Matt Cain will need to work the corners better and stay away from the middle of the plate.

  • Will 2014 be Better?

The 2.36 ERA and 1.12 WHIP after the All-Star game would certainly suggest that he’ll be better in 2014. I also like the fact that his second half K/9 (6.8) was lower than his first half’s (8.3). Normally it’s not a good thing but here, it is. That tells me that even if hitters

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

were making more contact with his pitches, the contact they were making was a lot weaker, and that’s what you really want as a pitcher.

Granted, the second half is a smaller sample size than the first, but like I said with Verlander, I’m not letting this bad year change my perception too much heading into the 2014 drafts. When you’ve had that good a sample size and aren’t getting too old, you’ve earned the benefit of the doubt after a bad season.

If I had Cain in a keeper league, I wouldn’t suggest selling low on him. If he did find his form in the second half rediscovered how to pitch to corners, then he’s got one of the best pitcher’s parks in the league as his home stadium, and it’s hard to see him not bouncing back in a big way.

 

– Gio Gonzalez

  • What Went Wrong?

In one respect, Gio Gonzalez is similar to David Price in that 2013 wasn’t as much a regression as it was returning to his norm, which was very good. The 2013 season was certainly not bad.

But if had Gio on a team you take a look at just how he achieved those numbers, I can promise that it felt like he was struggling down the stretch. The reason is simple: He was. 

Season (SP Rank)
IP
K
W
ERA
WHIP
First Half118.211473.031.154
Second Half777843.861.403
Total195.2192113.361.25

To be fair, he was a lot better in September, posting a 2.41 ERA and 1.099 WHIP. But you certainly don’t want your best pitchers to be struggling like that when you’re positioning yourself for a September run, the 4.42 ERA and 1.54 WHIP in July and August were killers. Believe me, I know.

When you look at the full body of work, not too much changed. Gonzalez definitely walks too many guys, but his 2012 and 2013 rates were similar. He did allow more hits in 2013 than 2012, but a 7.8 hits per nine mark is incredibly strong, though it did account for a higher WHIP. What changed in 2013 is that Gio allowed almost twice as many homers (9 in 2012, 17 in 2013). Again, the mark isn’t bad, it just wasn’t at the phenomenal level we saw the year before.

  • Will 2014 be Better?

The struggles don’t concern me too much. Gonzalez has the potential to be one of the best pitchers in baseball and even if he has sort of a disappointing year like 2013, the stats are still good.

But if Gonzalez will be an elite pitcher, he’ll need to walk fewer hitters. Over the last two years, he’s been in the 3.4-3.5 walks per nine ratio, and that needs to come down below 3.0. The other tools are there for him to be one of the best pitchers in the game. My guess is that it happens.

Gio was a wild-child when he broke into the show with the A’s, and he’s gradually worked that walk rate down. Gonzalez only turned 28 in December, so he’s still in sort of the raw phase of his game. Given his consistency in innings pitched over the last four years and overall improvement, I just don’t believe that he’ll get complacent, especially after a letdown season for the Nationals in 2013. I think they’ll be determined to get back to the top of the National League East standings, and that means that their pitchers will work harder to carry the team.

Again, given Gio’s history, 2014 should be a big year.

 

– Jered Weaver

  • What Went Wrong?

Like with Gio, 2013 wasn’t a bad year for Jered Weaver. It was only bad against his 2012 season, which was also bad compared to 2011. 

Season
IP
K
W
ERA
WHIP
2011235.2198182.411.01
2012 188.2142202.811.02
2013 154.1117113.271.14

What does concern me about Weaver and his future fantasy value is that after averaging 224 innings pitched from 2009-2011, he’s been on a decline, as you can see. It’s also noteworthy that he never hit 200 innings before 2009, either. Now, Weaver is 31 and has been dealing with injuries over the course of two seasons. This is not what you like to see.

As far as when he’s on the mound, his 2012 and 2013 seasons were nearly identical, with one exception. In 2012, he led the league in hits per nine innings with 7. In 2013, that number was 8.1, which is good, but obviously a downgrade. Other than that, his walk, strikeout, and home run rates are the same. So, it’s pretty clear that the higher ERA is a result of allowing more men to get hits.

  • Will 2014 be Better?

The injuries worry me, but I’d be lying if I said I felt like we were looking at a massive decline season in 2014. As a matter of fact, I think

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

the numbers will be pretty similar. Weaver throws strikes at such a great rate that even when guys hit him harder than usual, they’re still not reaching base at any great clip. His 1.140 WHIP in 2013 was just ahead of his career number of 1.143.

Again, the hesitancy is those innings pitched, and I’d be really careful in drafting him too early or for too much in an auction. As you can see from the numbers at the top of the page, even with really solid numbers, there were 48 starting pitchers who ranked better for fantasy players — that’s what only 154.1 innings will do.

His career consistency means that you’re likely going to get a 2.90-3.40 ERA, with a 1.10-1.18 WHIP. But he needs to be above 175 innings to be really valuable, and I just don’t love those odds given recent history.

Tags: Gio Gonzalez Jered Weaver Matt Cain

comments powered by Disqus