The Tiers of Starting Pitching

One of the smartest ways to plan for fantasy sports is organize your prospective players in to tiers. That is, you group players of similar expected production together, and list them that way. Tier 1 is the best, Tier 2 the next, etc etc. It is an effective way of seeing position scarcity and really classifying players.

After witnessing CC Sabathia’s dominant outing against the Orioles tonight (8 IP, 0 R, 7 H, 0/9 BB/K), I started thinking about the way pitchers are classified nowadays. And using the tier system explained above, here is what I came up with, starting with the bottom of the barrel:

Kei Igawa: God damn it I can’t stand him.

Crap, our offense needs to save us today: Fringe starters at absolute best, these are players that should not be starting, but due to a lack of depth and/or injuries, are forced to. If these players are in the majors, they should be long relief guys. An example could be the immortal Sergio Mitre

Keep your fingers crossed, we might get lucky: Better than fringe starters, these guys are starters but should be 4th or 5th best on your staff. Comprised of young guys with little experience, older starters surviving solely on smarts, or pitchers with average stuff. They fill out most rotations (Teams with FIVE ACES!!1!11!! not included) but if you are relying on them, you’re in trouble. An example of this tier would be Ivan Nova

We play smart and score some runs, we have a solid chance: Middle-of-the-rotation guys, these are harder to find than you would think. Solid stuff, veterans who know how to pitch or up-and-coming young guns make up this tier. There is a chance you get a blowout (in a bad way) but you usually have a chance. AJ Burnett is the example that jumps to mind: stuff of a #1, consistency of a #5.

Good chance to win today: Not quite a leader of a staff, these guys are quality pitchers any team would love to have. Above-average stuff and fairly consistent results, you may catch an occasional bad game but you generally get a good effort. If your best starter is at this level, you are in trouble though. An example would be Andy Pettitte towards the end of his career.

Grab an early lead, this one is in the win column: A fine leader, these guys have great stuff and consistently give you quality efforts and leave the game with the lead. These pitchers will peak with a Cy Young season. You can depend on them and they are a great start to any pitching staff. Examples include Dan Haren and Jered Weaver.

I’ll take him over anyone you got: The best of the best, cream of the crop, insert your own euphemism. These are qualified, legitimate, Aces. Few and far between, these are #1 starters with a little something extra. This tier requires a certain consistency and postseason performance – one or two great seasons aren’t enough. The different between this tier and the previous is almost purely mental: aces have a certain swagger about them. When they are on, they are unhittable and on perfect game watch. The most ace-iest of aces I can remember in my lifetime is Pedro Martinez in the late 90s, early 00s. Absolutely dominant, and every person in the ballpark knew it. My current list of aces (in no particular order) is:

  • CC Sabathia
  • Tim Lincecum
  • Roy Halladay
  • Cliff Lee
  • Felix Hernandez
  • Josh Johnson
  • Justin Verlander
  • Carl Pavano (just messing with ya)

Guys like David Price, Jon Lester, Jered Weaver are all on the edge of Ace-dom (Ace-ness?) but just don’t have that final piece. What do you think? Am I missing a tier? Missing an ace? Let me know.

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One Response to The Tiers of Starting Pitching

  1. ivantopumpyouup says:

    I like this list.

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