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A Blind Taste Test of Two Starting Pitchers

Hope everyone out there had a great holiday season. I know I did. And as of yesterday it is now 2013, which means we’re that much closer to a lot of fun things. Another 12 days and the Dynasty Prospect Rankings start. Another 41 days and pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. Another 89 days until Opening Day. So thanks for coming back for another year at the Dynasty Guru, and I plan to make it worth your while to stick around.

This is a fun little exercise that does get to a point — however, what that point is, is up to you. As you can guess from the headline, the concept is simple. I’m going to run through a whole bunch of reasons why Pitcher A and Pitcher B are similar, and if the premise of the exercise is correct, you’ll be a little surprised at the end. Although it’s a little early to start taking ADP information super seriously, one of these pitchers is being taken in the 50’s among SP (and my guess is that will go up as Opening Day approaches). The other isn’t even being drafted.

With that said, let’s get down to business. I’ve broken the comparison into five parts, starting with their impressive performances in the last three months of the season:

The Hot Streak

From June 30th to the end of the 2012 season, both of these pitchers were instrumental in their team’s playoff berths:

Player A – 9 wins, 4 losses, 2.46 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and a 6.8 K/9 in 98 2/3 IP
Player B – 9 wins, 3 losses, 2.93 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and a 6.9 K/9 in 86 IP

This part speaks for itself. Sure, Player B had slightly more impressive ratios, but either one of these performances would be a welcome addition to any fantasy team. Now sometimes, when a player comes into his own for a half of a season, there’s a certain level of skepticism that comes along with, but both of these pitchers come from relatively high pedigrees. Which brings us to..

The Backgrounds

2013 will be the age-25 season for each of these starters, and they are no strangers to relatively high expectations:

Player A – 1st round pick, one appearance as a Baseball America Top-50 prospect
Player B – 2nd round pick, one appearance as a Baseball America Top-50 prospect (and one more on the Top-100)

Despite being three drafts apart (Player A was selected out of college, Player B was selected out of high school), both players are due to reach free agency after the 2017 season. And as you could probably guess, Player A was considered a safer prospect, while Player B was more of an upside play. Unfortunately for each of these players, the hot streaks mentioned above were their first tastes of success in the big leagues — which brings us to..

The Middling Pasts

In addition to similar hot streaks, both of these players come from strikingly similar checkered pasts. Here were their career stats through June 29, 2012:

Player A – 11 wins, 11 losses, 5.29 ERA, 1.49 WHIP and 1.4 HR/9 in 204 IP
Player B – 7 wins, 15 losses, 5.58 ERA, 1.58 WHIP and 1.4 HR/9 in 180 2/3 IP

Player A made his major league debut in 2010 at the age of 22, while Player B debuted in 2009 at the tender age of 21 — and as you can tell, both required some serious learning on the job. Both players suffered through not only struggles, but both were considered at times to be out the outskirts of their own organizations, and for similar reasons. Both were too hittable and allowed too many balls to leave the yard. The similarities don’t stop at the statistical variety, which brings us to..

The Repertoires

Funnily enough, each of these two pitchers had strikingly similar pitch selection during the 2012 season:

Player A – 59% fastballs, 27% breaking balls (both curve and slider), 15% change-up
Player B – 61% fastballs, 25% breaking balls (both curve and slider), 14% change-up

Yes, both pitchers have the same four-pitch mix. They also both generated the most amount of swings and misses with their change-ups in 2012. Of course, Player B (93.0 MPH in 2012) threw his fastball two miles per hour faster than Player A (90.9 MPH) — and this probably a good time to tell you that Player A is left-handed, while Player B is right-handed. And with a similar repertoire, comes a similar batted ball profile. Which brings us to…

A Couple More Fun Facts

1) Both of these guys are fly ball pitchers. Here are their career profiles:

Player A – 35.8% ground ball, 42.0% fly ball, 22.2% line drive
Player B – 37.5% ground ball, 42.9% fly ball, 19.6% line drive

2) Even with their hot streaks, they have both been similarly below average pitchers in their career:

Player A – 90 ERA+, 3.7 combined fWAR and bWAR (FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference)
Player B – 91 ERA+, 3.4 combined fWAR and bWAR

The Reveal

This has gone on long enough. Player A is the one who is being taken within the first 60 SP (this will likely get higher as drafts get closer) and Player B is the one who isn’t even registering on Mock Draft Central yet. Whether you think Player A is getting a little too much love or Player B isn’t getting enough — these players should be considered closer in value than they are.

Player A – Mike Minor
Player B – Chris Tillman

Follow me on Twitter at @dynastyguru.

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The Dynasty Guru

The Dynasty Guru

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