As we head towards our fantasy drafts for 2011 there’s a debate raging as to who should be the first pitcher off the board. Sure, you may get the occasional person who prefers Tim Lincecum, but for most the decision comes down to the 2010 Cy Young Award winners: Roy Halladay and Felix Hernandez.
Who should be the first pitcher off the board on draft day? Let’s break it down category-by-category and see:
The hope was that, moving to the NL, Halladay could see a significant increase in strikeouts. However, he showed the status quo instead. In 2008 & 2009 he had rates of 7.54 and 7.83 while pitching for the Blue Jays. There were dreams of an 8.00 mark, maybe even 8.50. Instead, we got 7.86.
He does throw a significant number of innings year in and year out, however. Since 2006 he has thrown at least 220 innings a year, topping out at 250.2 innings in 2010. With that number of innings and the rate he posted, he’s a lock for 200 K.
Hernandez, meanwhile, is a little bit more electric. He, too, throws a lot of innings (249.2 in 2010 after 238.2 in 2009), but does so with a more impressive strikeout rate. The worst mark of his career was 7.80 in 2007, topping out at 8.36 last season. It helped lead to 232 K, a number that he easily could match in 2011.
At this point in his career it is hard to imagine Halladay improving dramatically in the strikeout department. However, Hernandez has already proven that he is the slightly better strikeout artist and, at 24-years old, he could still be getting better.
Edge – Hernandez
It is never recommended that you draft a pitcher based on wins, but when people are close it should factor into your decision. The Mariners look to be one of the bottom-feeders in the AL Central, with wins and runs tough to come by. Hernandez can throw eight shutout innings, only to see the bullpen allow a run in the ninth inning and take a no decision or even a loss. He won just 13 games in 2010 and they could once again be difficult to come by.
Halladay, meanwhile, pitches for one of the elite teams in the NL, at least on paper. Obviously, the game is not played on paper, but with two 20+ win seasons in the past three, he clearly has the edge.
Edge – Halladay
In 2010 Halladay posted a 1.04 mark to Hernandez’ 1.06. No matter how we slice it, whichever player you pick is going to bring with him a potentially elite WHIP.
Halladay’s mark came courtesy of a .298 BABIP, so there certainly is even room for improvement there. What he possesses, however, is elite control. In 2010 he posted a BB/9 of 1.08. Since 2005 he has only posted a BB/9 of higher than 1.43 once (a 1.92 BB/9 in 2007). With those types of marks, there is no reason to think that he is going to post anything but an elite WHIP once again in 2011.
Hernandez has good control (2.52 BB/9 in ’10), but not quite as sparkling as Halladay’s. Couple that with a .273 BABIP, and there is reason to believe that his WHIP is going to rise in 2011. He easily could regress in the BABIP, and while his WHIP should be solid, Halladay has the advantage thanks to his other worldly control.
Edge – Halladay
Yes, Roy Halladay pitches in a hitter’s park, but he proved in 2010 that it shouldn’t be a concern. In 131.2 innings at home he pitched to a 2.32 ERA. Overall he sported a 2.44 ERA, the second best season of his career. You have to think that the move out of the AL East and into the NL East certainly helped him there.
Yes, there could be a regression thanks to an 82.7% strand rate, but with elite control and a sparkling WHIP, he is a virtual lock that he posts a sub-3.00 ERA.
Felix Hernandez was spectacular, posting a 2.27 ERA in 2010. His mark came courtesy of a much more realistic strand rate of 77.4%, only marginally better than the 76.7% marks he had posted each of the past two seasons.
The problem could be that, if his BABIP does regress even a little bit, his ERA will likely suffer slightly thanks to more runners on base. Is he going to be among the best in the league? Absolutely. Is he going to be sub-2.50 again? I’m not so sure.
Edge – Draw
The fact of the matter is, when you are picking between these two pitchers you are picking between two of the elite players in the game. Between the two, however, I would lean towards Halladay. The fact that he’s in the NL gives him a slight edge off the bat, but with his control, there’s a good chance that he could be a better option in both the ERA and WHIP departments.
Hernandez does have the strikeout advantage and is only a small step behind Halladay in the other two categories (if he is even behind him at all), but it’s more than enough for me.
What about you? Which pitcher would you prefer to draft? Why?
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Make sure to check out our 2011 rankings: