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Three Up, Three Down - 2013 Starting Pitchers
Nate Springfield | Tuesday February 12th, 2013
Don't overlook Hisashi Iwakuma on Draft Day 2013. (US Presswire)
Don't overlook Hisashi Iwakuma on Draft Day 2013. (US Presswire)
Baseball Press presents a returning miniseries entitled "Three Up, Three Down". We'll review player performances from last season and whether or not we feel they are capable of either improving upon last season's performance, or if the player had a "lucky" season in 2012.

So far, we've covered we have covered all of the offensive positions(catchersfirst basemen, second basemen, shortstops and outfielders) for the upcoming 2013 season. Now we turn our attention to the men that toe the rubber at the beginning of the game. As most veteran fantasy players know, starting pitchers can be some of the more volatile positions on draft day, so here are three to watch, and three to avoid.

Three Up

Hisashi Iwakuma - Seattle Mariners
Japanese veteran Hisashi Iwakuma quietly put together a very strong second half in his 2012 major league debut season. The 32-year-old righty moved into the rotation in July, and posted a 2.65 ERA, with 78 strikeouts, walking only 28 in his final 95 innings of the season. Even though his strikeout rate may fall in his second season of major league play, expect his ERA and WHIP to sit around 3.25 and 1.20 as long as he maintains his 52.2-percent ground ball rate. He may not have as much upside as some of his younger peers, but he has a high basement that most will overlook.

Wade Miley - Arizona Diamondbacks
Wade Miley's rookie year was surprising to most fantasy owners for a couple reasons, but probably the most significant is the fact that he achieved the numbers he did while pitching in Arizona. The stat that stands out the most when talking about Miley's success was his walk rate. At a respectable 1.71 BB/9, or walking only 4.6-percent of the batters he faced in 2012, Miley allowed his K/BB ratio to almost hit the starting pitcher elite 4.00 mark, just missing at 3.89. All of his peripherals supported the breakout as well - 3.15 FIP, a 72-percent LOB%, with a .293 BABIP. Look for more growth in 2013, and hope that most other owners in your league see growing pains instead.

Jordan Zimmermann - Washington Nationals
Despite pitching in an extremely talented starting rotation, Jordan Zimmermann pitched as well as anyone in the Nationals rotation in 2012. Even with just 12 pitching wins, Zimmermann posted a 2.94 ERA (3.51 FIP), 7.04 strikeouts per nine innings, and 1.98 walks per nine innings. Although his strikeouts per nine innings is slightly below the league average, the 7.04 K/9 is perfect for any fantasy team. In addition to Zimmermann's strikeouts helping with his ERA in a tough National League East division, his walk totals per nine innings are always below the league average. He has a career 42.4 ground ball percentage, but was able to post a career best in 2012 (43.4%). As an added incentive, Zimmermann finished his 2012 season on a high note, posting a 3.38 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and 8.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 15 starts after the All Star break. His ERA could see an increase to the low three's mark in 2013, but I wouldn't worry too much about it thanks to the neutral play of National's Park. While fantasy owners will target Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez early in drafts, don't forget about Zimmermann for a mid-rotation spot on your roster.

Three Down

Kyle Lohse - Free Agent
Yes, it is true that Kyle Lohse did what every pitcher should do in their walk year, have a career year. Unfortunately for every major league team out there, no one is buying that Lohse can repeat what he did in 2012, and fantasy owners should follow their lead. Many of the 34-year-old veteran's peripherals from 2012 support the fact that he will not be able to repeat his 2012 marks this season - a 3.51 FIP compared to his 2.86 ERA, a 77.2-percent strand rate, and a .262 BABIP for a pitcher with a 23.9-percent line-drive rate is almost unheard of. Overall, Lohse may be an effective pitcher at the end of a major league rotation, but don't expect him to finish top-10 in the ERA department at the end of 2013. Without the strikeouts, there is no reason to take more than a late round flier on him, like most did in 2012.

CC Sabathia - New York Yankees
CC Sabathia had a bone spur surgically removed from his throwing arm over the off-season, and although his rehabilitation is progressing "well" - the whole situation just screams "Buyer Beware". Sabathia, 32, has thrown an average of 232 innings per season over the past five seasons. In 2012, he was limited to 200 innings over 28 starts. The lefthanded ace might be progressing "well" and look "great" during spring training, but there were talks in November-December of 2012 of possibly limiting the innings for Sabathia in 2013. While Sabathia will obviously be against any type of workload limit, it's the Yankees that have the ultimate say. The 2007 Cy Young Award winner is a top-20 fantasy starting pitcher when healthy, but with a draft pick in the early rounds, it could be a risk without the big payoff.

Matt Harrison - Texas Rangers
Matt Harrison of the Rangers has never been a "wow" pitcher for fantasy owners. Despite the 18 pitching wins and 3.29 ERA in 2012, he doesn't offer help in other categories. He totaled over 200 innings for the first time in his career last season, but also posted 5.6 strikeout per nine innings. In addition to the low strikeout totals, he's around 2.5 walks per nine innings. Throwing out low strikeout totals and high walk totals, several other factors such as his .284 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), 78.6 left-on-base-percentage, and 4.03 FIP suggest that Harrison was more lucky in 2012 than he was a good pitcher. Someone like Matt Harrison can be found on the waiver wire in most leagues, so spend your draft choice on another pitcher with more upside in the strikeouts department.


Reggie Yinger and Nate Springfield contributed to this article.
Nate SpringfieldNate Springfield joined the Baseball Press crew for the 2010 season and hosts the site's podcast. His love for the game has grown thanks to fantasy baseball, with a specialty in NL-only auction leagues. You can contact him at nate@baseballpress.com or follow him on Twitter @NateSpringfield.