Dynasty Deals: Best Pitchers Over 35
My last post brought you 10 hitters over the age of 35 that made for valuable targets in your dynasty leagues. This week I am doing the same with pitchers. Pitching is by nature a more volatile skill than hitting so the names on this list do not bring with them the same star power as the hitters. Interestingly enough the average age of our best pitchers over 35 was 38.5 vs 36.2 for our hitters—pitchers that figure it out do this for a long time.
Pitchers tend to really figure it out and hit their stride in their mid to late 20’s and in their early 30’s they start to decline. Depending on what makes that particular pitcher effective the decline may be gradual or it may be sudden. These pitchers below have one or many of these three qualities:
• Skill-set that allows them to continue to have success as they age
• Excellent durability
• Opportunity-either in the rotation or in high leverage relief
Here are your ten best pitchers over 35 to target in dynasty leagues based off of skill and price to acquire.
LaTroy Hawkins-Entering his age 42 season: 2015 will be the 21st consecutive season in which LaTroy Hawkins is a professional baseball player. Hawkins will be only the 104th player to ever play 21 plus major league seasons. He stated on MLB.TV in December that this would be his last year in the bigs. Until Hawkins calls it quits he is one of only thirty players in the MLB whose job it is to close out games. The numbers aren’t pretty but with only Adam Ottavino lurking behind him Hawkins doesn’t face much competition. Interestingly enough Hawkins saw his highest fastball velocity since 2009 last year. Maybe there is something to the idea of old man strength. Look for another season of 20+ saves.
Bartolo Colon-Entering his age 41 season: At 41 years old Bartolo Colon is playing his best baseball since 2005 when he was a member of the Anaheim Angels. Colon has become quite the control freak in his advanced age posting his best ever BB% at 3.6%. Someone clearly forgot to tell Colon you weren’t supposed to get better in your 40’s. Over the last four seasons Colon has also brought his innings pitched up nearly every season breaking 200 IP last year for the first time in nine years. Colon throws over 80% fastballs and mixes in a slider and changeup. While his pitches aren’t dominant he knows where to place them and continues to post decent ratios and counting stats. We hate to look at the win stat in sabermetric analysis but it is valuable for fantasy—over the last two season Colon has won 18 and 15 games. Colon is worth a roster spot as a back end starter in dynasty leagues especially if he can get to 150 SO again.
R.A. Dickey-Entering his age 40 season: Dickey has posted four seasons of over 200 IP and all of them have come after the age of 36. Knuckle ball pitchers are the oddest ducks in the baseball world since they don’t really adhere to any traditional notions about pitching. Dickey has been maddening over the last three seasons with his HR/FB averaging 11.5% but we can all live with it since he has struck out an average of 193 batters over the same time span. You never know what you are going to get from Dickey from an ERA standpoint but his WHIP is generally tolerable. Dickey provides near elite strikeout numbers for next to nothing so if you have five other solid starters you can take a chance on him. Dickey has also posted win totals over 14 in each of his last three seasons and the Jays offense looks to be the best its been in years during 2015.
Koji Uehara-Entering his age 40 season: After the dream season that was 2013 Koji Uehara found himself physically banged up towards the end of last year. After posting 1.65 ERA in the first half Uehara lost his closers job and limped to the finish with a 4.35 second half ERA. The Red Sox know how good he can be and rewarded Uehara with a two-year 18M dollar contract this off-season believing that his health issues surrounding his shoulder are behind him. Over the last two seasons minimum 120 IP Uehara has been one of baseball’s best pitchers here are some of his ranks:
• Best K-BB% in all of baseball at 31.9%
• Best WHIP in baseball at 0.73
• 4th best ERA in baseball at 1.75
Those marks show that when healthy he belongs in the discussion with Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, Greg Holland, and Kenley Jansen for the best closer in baseball. Buy him now and you may get two 40 plus save years out of him.
Tim Hudson-Entering his age 39 season: It’s possible that 2015 could be Tim Hudson’s last year since he is 39 and entering the final year of his deal. With the way that Hudson pitched in 2014 I think the Giants will try pretty hard to keep him on for a few more seasons. In 2014, Hudson posted a very strong 3.57 ERA that was backed up by a 3.57 xFIP, he also posted a career low 4.3% BB rate. Hudson isn’t going to overpower many guys but his career 58.1% GB rate ensures that even without blowing it by you he can minimize damage. AT&T Park is the stingiest park in all of baseball for homers allowed so it comes as a surprise that Hudson was actually less effective at home 3.94 ERA than he was away 3.23 ERA. I expect Hudson to get pretty close to his numbers from 2014 again next year and that line was worth rostering in virtually all leagues.
AJ Burnett-Entering his age 38 season: The Pittsburgh Pirates really enjoyed having A.J. Burnett on their team and it’s safe to say that the feeling was mutual. In Burnett’s two seasons with the Pirates he enjoyed two of his most productive seasons of his career. Burnett posted a 3.51 ERA in 2012 and improved upon that in 2013 with a 3.30 ERA. In 2014, Burnett was a member of the Philadelphia Phillies and while the two cities share the same state their home parks couldn’t be much more different. Burnett saw his ERA rise to a nearly unusable 4.59 as a result. This off-season Burnett and the Pirates once again professed their love for one another and he will be joining the Bucs again on a one-year 8.5 M dollar pact. At 38, coming off a miserable year he should cost you little but as we saw before he is quite good at pitching in Pittsburgh.
Joaquin Benoit-Entering his age 37 season: Over the course of A.J. Preller’s amazing and never dull off-season many Padres players have been sent packing or at the very least had their name involved in some rumor or another—Benoit has not been one. At 37, Benoit is still a very effective right handed reliever whose 2.30 SIERA from 2014 was his best mark over the last four seasons. Benoit is slated to close games for the much improved Padres team and with a reasonable salary of 8M in 2015 with a team option for 2016 there is little incentive for the Padres to move him. Benoit likely won’t cost you too much since he’s aging and Kevin Quackenbush garnered some saves last year. Benoit might not be a sexy name on draft day but with the 9th best K-BB% and 11th best SIERA amongst closers in 2014 he is still plenty effective.
Cliff Lee-Entering his age 36 season: Many fantasy owners are leaving Cliff Lee for dead after his injury plagued 2014 where he only posted 81.1 IP and dealt with elbow issues the whole season. Before you do the same let’s consider where he ranked among starting pitchers in the six-years prior. These are where Cliff Lee ranks compared to other starting pitchers between 2008-2013:
• 1st in WAR at 36.9
• 5th in IP at 1333.2
• 3rd in SIERA at 3.18
• 3rd in ERA at 2.89
• 3rd in WHIP at 1.09
• 4th in K-BB% at 18.8%
Did you know Cliff Lee was that good? Let’s take a second too look at a few other pitchers, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, who like Lee did not rely on overpowering stuff but rather precise location and see how they performed during their age 36 seasons.
• Tom Glavine- 18 Wins, 2.96 ERA, 1.28 WHIP
• Greg Maddux-16 Wins, 2.62 ERA, 1.19 WHIP
While difficult it is not impossible to succeed later in your career and Cliff Lee has the skill-set to get it done. I am buying many shares of this potential ace.
Kyle Lohse-Entering his age 36 season: Out of all the pitchers on this list Kyle Lohse is probably the least exciting and talented of the bunch. What Kyle Lohse does have going for him is that over the last four-seasons he has refined his control exponentially which has allowed him to post his four lowest marks in WHIP. This new found control has allowed him to outperform his FIP each of the last four-seasons and become very helpful pitcher for maintain good ratio’s. Here are his ERA vs FIP for the last four years:
• 2011, ERA 3.39, FIP 3.67
• 2012, ERA 2.86, FIP 3.51
• 2013, ERA 3.35, FIP 4.08
• 2014, ERA 3.54, FIP 3.95
Lohse doesn’t strike out a ton of batters but he pitches in nearly 200 innings each season and can be had for next to nothing. Since Lohse is older and not particularly dominate in any one rotisserie category he will likely continue his trend of being undrafted in most leagues.
John Lackey-Entering his age 36 season: The last man on this list is far and away the last person I would have expected to be writing about following his 6.41 ERA in 2011. After undergoing Tommy John surgery John Lackey bounced back in 2013 to help the Red Sox win the World Series. Since the surgery Lackey didn’t just get back to being his pre-injury self, he was better. Lackey’s 3.48 SIERA from 2014 and 3.64 from 2014 are his 1st and 3rd best marks of his entire career. Since SIERA is typically a good indicator of how effective a starters offerings are its safe to say his stuff has never been better. Lackey will be entering the his second season with the St. Louis Cardinals in a division that is by all accounts easier to pitch in than the AL East. I would bank on a very solid return from Lackey in 2015.