Justin Verlander Player Projection No. 11

Key Stats: Justin Verlander had the most strikeouts, innings, wins, and best WHIP among qualifying starting pitchers last season. That along with the third best ERA made him the best starting pitcher in all of fantasy baseball last season, and is good enough in these rankings to make him the top pitcher again heading into this season.

Skeptics  Say: Month to month, Verlander never seriously struggled. The highest WHIP he had in any month was 1.10 in August (by comparison the 30th ranked starting pitcher at Mock Draft Central, Gio Gonzalez, could only muster a 1.14 WHIP in his best month). That said, Verlander did not look like the first pitcher to be named an MVP in two decades last October. He had an ERA in the fives as he faced tough competition in high stress games. He could have been worn out from a heavy workload on a team that needed every out he helped them get last season. The 271 combined innings that Verlander threw was almost 50 more than he fired in 2010.

Peer Comparison: Verlander’s Cy Young Award isn’t exactly a kiss of death, but we have not seen a pitcher win two Cy Youngs in the American League since Johan Santana did it in 2006. Nobody has done it back to back seasons since Pedro Martinez at the turn of the century. It’s not as if the Cy Young is necessarily a reflection on the best fantasy pitcher (or even the best pitcher for that matter), but I would have assumed a player would have dominance for a long enough stretch to clearly be the best for a while. Here’s a look at some of the post Cy Young drops in recent seasons:

Player

ERA (Cy)

ERA (Post-Cy)

FIP (Cy)

FIP (Post-Cy)

WHIP(Cy)

WHIP (Post-Cy)

Roger Clemens

3.51

4.35

3.29

3.30

1.26

1.31

Barry Zito

2.75

3.30

3.87

4.05

1.13

1.18

Roy Halladay

3.25

4.20

3.23

3.79

1.07

1.35

Johan Santana

2.61

2.87

2.92

2.80

0.92

0.97

Bartolo Colon

3.48

5.11

3.75

5.33

1.16

1.46

Johan Santana

2.77

3.33

3.04

3.82

1.00

1.07

CC Sabathia

3.21

2.70

3.14

2.91

1.14

1.11

Cliff Lee

2.54

3.22

2.83

3.11

1.11

1.24

Zack Greinke

2.16

4.17

2.33

3.34

1.07

1.25

Felix Hernandez

2.27

3.47

3.04

3.13

1.06

1.22

Justin Verlander

2.40

???

2.99

???

0.92

???

With Sabathia and Santana being exceptions, it appears difficult for players to sustain success for a number of reasons. Colon and Halladay got hurt after their fine seasons. Other players like Greinke and Zito have not been able to pitch at that level since winning the award.

Team Outlook: Victor Martinez out and Prince Fielder in would help any lineup, but this is going to do some damage to Verlander’s WHIP and ERA. In the long run this season, I don’t see how the Tigers will be able to trot out Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder on the corners of their infield this season and not give their pitchers heart attacks.

What They’re Saying: CBS Sportsline: #3 Starting Pitcher; Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN.com: #2 Starting Pitcher & #14 Overall; Yahoo: #3 Starting Pitcher & #19 Overall; Mock Draft Central ADP: #1 Starting Pitcher & #18 Overall; RotoChamp: #17 Overall;

Projection: In considering Verlander versus Clayton Kershaw, the tie-breaking factor was win potential. As McMillen wrote yesterday, the Dodgers are likely to pull in the reins on Kershaw’s innings this season. I look for some of the same numbers from Verlander, but more wins.
19 wins 2.89 ERA 1.05 WHIP 243 K in 240 innings