Talking Baseball

Your weekday baseball fix. Some days.

Posted by Mike on Wednesday, March 10, 2004

I Don't Like Losing Either...

We here at Talking Baseball have all been in the same fantasy baseball league for a few years now. It's fun stuff, especially because I have been lucky enough to win the last couple of years. Well, I won outright last year and the year before I tied for the lead but it's all the same in the end. Anyways, as I said, I was lucky to win both years and it's more like I was lucky to win either year. Last season my pitching staff effectively tanked on me after the draft (thanks RJ). The year before I spent the first half of the season in the bottom half of the league and second half riding some hot players to an anti-climactic tie (like the all-star game that year). What I'm trying to get to (it's early AM and lots and lots of parenthesis look good) is that winning fantasy baseball teams don't need to be perfect. They can actually be horrible flawed but if they're well managed then they can overcome serious problems like an injury to an ace (or two, thanks Morris) or even an entire pitching staff collapsing.

A good draft can save a team from facing many problems down the line and good waiver wire scouring can be the edge that brings victory. Tonight I'm going to talk about who the best aces will be in this year's draft. Unlike past years the best pitchers are not as clear-cut as they once were. In the late 1990s it was easy to tier the pitchers. At the top were Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and to a slightly lesser extent Greg Maddux. None of these guys are in prime form anymore, RJ was hurt all last year and never looked good even when he returned, Pedro is always an injury risk with that hole in his rotator cuff, and Maddux is getting very old and lost his best stuff a few years ago now. No other pitchers have really taken the position of dominant year in and year out super-ace as of yet so the best we can do it speculate over which pitchers will have monster seasons. In no particular order (my mind is wandering) here is the ace tier:

1. Roy Halladay - He's good for 220+ innings and an ERA in the low 3.00 range. No real injury concerns. Last year's CY-Young season was aided by quite a bit of luck during the summer when he received vast amounts of run support from a potent Blue Jay lineup.

2. Pedro Martinez - Will put up the best numbers of any starter on a per inning basis. Too bad there is little chance of him starting more than 30 games because he manages to get injured when the wind blows to hard. Has a partially torn rotator cuff that he's been babying for more than a year now. As a Red Sox fan I worry about this every time he takes the mound...

3. Mark Prior - He's good, really good. Should have an ERA in the 3.00 range and will put up strikeouts like nobody's business. No injury concerns as last year's missed starts were the result of a freak basepath collision. The only thing to worry about is the Cubs offense and the Wrigley fan's defense.

4. Jason Schmidt - He's pretty good but he relies on his fast ball too much for my tastes. Injury risk.

5. Randy Johnson - If he returns to pre-2003 form then he could be the best starter in baseball again. I don't think it will happen and I'm looking for performance somewhere in between last year and the 2002 season. Injury and age concerns here. He's not a bad draft pick but the later in the draft he can be acquired the better that pick is...

6. Curt Schilling - Should finally see some run support in Boston. Expect a pile of strikeouts and an ERA in the low 3.00s. Age is a little bit of a concern (37) but health is not.

7. Javier Vazquez - Draft him. Forget all the talk about feeling the pressure in New York because this guy is the real deal. ERA will be in the low 3.00s and he strikes out oodles of batters. Is sort of a younger and less risky version of Curt Schilling.

8. Tim Hudson - If he had any run support last year then he would have won the Cy Young award. Oakland doesn't seem to have enough offense to get Hudson to 20 wins but he is as solid a pick as an ace as any other pitcher here. Excellent ERA, lots of innings, good WHIP, decent strikeouts, few injury issues... happy fantasy team.

9. Bartolo Colon - Hahaha. I laugh at his reputation. Colon Cancer is his nickname around Talking Baseball, there's a reason for this...

10. Roy Oswalt - This guy is as good as any other pitcher in the game when he's healthy. Too bad he can never be healthy. Have you seen his motion? It's painful to watch so I can only assume that it is part of the reason he breaks down every year. If you haven't seen it then take your arm and reach behind your back with your palm up as far as you can and lean forward... now throw a baseball 95 mph. If you draft him you deserve what you get, you have been warned.

11. Esteban Loaiza - He's pretty good, too bad Chicago is in rebuilding mode all of a sudden.

12. Mike Mussina - Super-solid. Can't go wrong drafting him as long as you don't do it in the first round or before all the better pitchers are gone.

I'm sure I'm missing pitchers who deserve to be on here but I will put together a full list closer to the start of the season...

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