Finding the Fountain of Youth
By Zach Steinhorn
Aging pitchers are generally avoided like the plague in
fantasyland, as most owners would rather take a chance on the young
flamethrower with that all-important “upside.” That strategy usually works, but something strange is happening in 2010: many of
these grizzled veterans are actually providing tremendous return on their draft day investment. Let’s discuss four pitchers who are
defying the odds.
Hudson, SP Braves: Hudson
was a popular sleeper pick after pitching very well in his return from Tommy
John surgery last September, but no one could have seen this coming. Not only
has the right-hander reclaimed his ace status, but he’s turning in the finest season
of his career with a 14-5 record, 2.15 ERA and 1.09 WHIP through 25 starts.
doesn’t offer much in the strikeout department, his low walk rate (2.94 BB/9)
and a knack for inducing tons of ground balls will help keep his ERA down. Expect
continued top-notch production from the 35-year-old sinkerballer.
Wagner, RP Braves: 2010
was supposed to be Wagner’s final season in the big leagues, but the lefty closer might want to delay those retirement plans. Another Tommy John surgery success story, he’s dominated opposing hitters to the
tune of a 1.71 ERA and 0.87 WHIP, and allowed runs in just eight of his 54
appearances this season. Owners who were willing to take on the injury risk and
draft Wagner with a mid-round pick are being handsomely rewarded.
Dickey, SP Mets: Now
this one is baffling. Just about the only positive development in what has been
a bitterly disappointing season for the Mets is the emergence of Dickey, who
entered the season with a career ERA of 5.43. The 35-year-old was called
up from the Minors back in mid-May to serve as a rotation fill-in, and three months later he’s 8-5 with a 2.41 ERA through
18 starts. I remain skeptical as to how much longer his good fortune will last,
but the guy deserves a ton of credit for transforming from an ineffective
hard-thrower to a successful knuckleball pitcher. Who knows — maybe he can
follow in Tim Wakefield’s footsteps and pitch into his mid-40’s. Nice story,
but banking on Dickey to carry your fantasy staff down the stretch is very dangerous.
Pettitte, SP Yankees: The consensus opinion of Pettitte has remained the same
for years: better real-life pitcher than fantasy pitcher. While he was
certainly worth drafting as an innings eater who could rack up a decent number
of wins, owners didn’t expect help in the ERA and WHIP categories from the veteran southpaw. Well, we’ve
been treated to a pleasant surprise this season. Not only was Pettitte 11-2
through 18 starts before going down with a groin injury, but he ranked among
the Major League leaders in ERA (2.88) and held opposing hitters to a .242
average. Pettitte is expected back sometime in
early to mid-September, but the 38-year-old has already far exceeded his owners’ wildest expectations.