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Fantasy Baseball Edge: Over The Hill Pitchers

(Credit: Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

(Credit: Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

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By Matt Cott, Matthew Schwimmer & Moe Koltun of Roto Analysis

When it comes to fantasy baseball you never want to be the last person on the bandwagon. It’s an awful feeling to draft a guy early with high expectations only to be let down due to injury or simply being over the hill. This week, we at RotoAnalysis are focusing on 3 pitchers who we believe may be “over the hill.” Be weary of trusting them too much for this season, as we would target younger upside options rather than these starters. They all show some of the similar trends that you’ll see as we break them down, so here we go!

Dan Haren, Nationals SP

While Haren is only the 35th ranked pitcher on CBS, he has shown some dangerous downward trends. His K/9 rate has gone down for each of the past 4 seasons, and in 2012 it was the lowest since 2006. This makes a lot of sense when you also consider that his average fastball velocity was down to 88.5 mph last season; that is the lowest mark of his career and a clear decrease from his career average of 90.8. Another mark that was down was his ground ball rate – it dipped beneath 40% for the first time of his career. His career average is 43.2% and 39.6% is dangerous low – it can lead to a lot of inconsistency and more home runs allowed. All in all Haren may look like a safe name due to his past success and great control, but really isn’t safe at all.

Roy Halladay, Phililes SP

This could finally be the season that Halladay falls from his ace-like ways. We’ve seen pitchers like Barry Zito and Ubaldo Jimenez take recent falls and it could be time for Doc to take that same decline. Last season, he posted a FIP over 3.60 for the first time since he pitched just 8 games for the Blue Jays in 2008. Like Haren, he displayed a drop in velocity — Halladay’s MPH on his fastball was just above 90 last season as opposed to his usual career 92 MPH fastball. Many thought a trip to the DL and an offseason would fix this, but that wish doesn’t look like it’s come true. Halladay has struggled to break 90 in spring training and has had many issues with his release spot. It could be the Halladay is hurt and I believe he could easily spend some time on the DL this year, but it’s just as worrisome that there is no true answer for why Halladay is declining other than that he is human. Great pitchers have overcome a loss of velocity in the past (see: Felix Hernandez and Pedro Martinez), but it takes a special arm to overcome that. Definitely don’t count on Doc to be his normal self this year and this season will go a long way in showing us how Halladay will finish his career.

Josh Beckett, Dodgers SP

Josh Beckett was never admired for his sheer dominance. Sure, the guy put together a few extremely respectable seasons, but what was much more impressive than his peak performance was Beckett’s consistency from season-to-season. Until last year, Beckett only had one season with under an 8.16 K/9 rate and never posted a walk rate above 3.68 BB/9. When dominant pitchers start to lose their stuff, there is oftentimes more leeway for a falling from grace period. However, for those more consistently unspectacular starters, the fall is usually much swifter and more drastic, and it seems obvious to me that Beckett has started to rapidly lose his stuff. Up until last year Beckett’s average fastball velocity fluctuated from 93-95 MPH. Last year, it tanked to 91.2. At the same time, Beckett also started throwing his fastball significantly less, from a 32% career fastball rate to only 20% last season—to me, that drop signals that Beckett is aware of the pitch’s diminishing efficacy, and he therefore had to rely on his previously much worse off-speed stuff much more. Beckett is a shell of the pitcher he once was stuff-wise, and a shift from Boston to L.A. will do nothing to change that. We’d stay away on draft day.

Agree? Disagree? Questions? Tweet @RotoAnalysis and be sure to follow Moe @MoeProblems and Matt @KidCotti21. Check out their work on RotoAnalysis.com, as well as The RotoAnalysis Fantasy Sports Podcast.

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