Originally written on Baseball Professor  |  Last updated 12/10/12
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Sifting through thousands of pitching numbers and coming out with only five surprises is not as easy as it sounds (actually, it doesn’t even sound that easy). But rules is rules so I had to stick to five, but wait…there’s more! I added a bonus surprise and covered more than one player per surprise. Why? Because I’m a people pleaser. If you haven’t checked out the rest of our position reviews you can check them out here: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF Cliff Lee wins only 6 games…and loses 9! If you didn’t watch baseball last year and then read this headline you’d probably think, “Wow, Cliff Lee must have gotten hurt or pitched horribly last year.” Nope. It was quite the opposite, actually. Lee finished the year with 211 IP, 7.39 K/BB ratio (ridiculous!), 3.16 ERA/3.13 FIP and 1.11 WHIP. Unfortunately, Lee only received 3.6 runs per start from his offense (10th-worst in baseball), which just proves that you should never chase wins when drafting. For what it’s worth, Lee ranked tied for 17th with 21 quality starts. R.A. Dickey turns in Cy Young season The fast knuckleball was all the rage last year as Dickey dazzled us all the way to his first Cy Young Award at the ripe old age of 37. Now, age doesn’t really matter with knuckleballers, but Dickey isn’t a regular knuckleball pitcher because his averages 77.1 mph. He had been a decent pitcher for two years, but the big difference last season was that he whiffed a career high 24.8% of batters while keeping his great control (5.8 BB%). The big question is whether he can repeat in 2013, but you’ll just have to wait for our player profiles to learn the answer. A.J. Burnett comes back in a big way Maybe  a move to the National League was all Burnett needed to find his groove again. Through six seasons in the American League, he pitched 1106.2 innings, 4.39 ERA and 1.44 WHIP, but last year he pitched 202.1 innings with a 3.51 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. Not only did he find his control (7.3 BB%), but he returned to his groundball dominance with a 56.9 GB%. At 35, I’m not sure I’m fully buying into a resurgence, but the numbers don’t lie. First-year starters Chris Sale, Wade Miley and Lance Lynn emerge as quality fantasy options The 2012 season saw a handful of first-year starters become real fantasy assets. Sale continued the successful trend of relievers-turned-starters although he faded a bit down the stretch (3.82 ERA and posted three worst FIPs in last three months). Miley surprised us all with his ridiculous control (4.6 BB%), which he never really showed in the minor leagues. Thanks to some BABIP luck, Lynn (.203 BABIP) came out as hot as anyone in the league in April with a 1.33 ERA and 24 K in 27 IP. However, it was a roller coaster ride for the rest of the year and that probably had to do with his struggles against left-handed hitting (1.3 K/BB vs. L — 10.0 K/BB vs. R). Miley is the lone SP of the bunch that doesn’t pose great strikeout potential, but they all should have decent sophomore campaigns. Ubaldo Jimenez, Tim Lincecum, Dan Haren and Ricky Romero…what happened? A lot was written about the struggles of these four studs and while there aren’t many certain things in this life I can say with almost 100% certainty that the least likely to rebound is Mr. Jimenez. He lost another mph on his fastball and posted his second-worst walk rate at 11.8%. Lincecum had similar issues to Jimenez, as he’s now increased his walk rate for three years now and his fastball lost 2 mph. It also didn’t help that his team won the World Series with him in the bullpen. Haren was another pitcher who had velocity issues as his fastball 88.5 mph, which is a 2 mph decrease from 2011. The good news here is that Haren kept his great control and has a fresh start in Washington. Finally, Romero seemingly couldn’t find the plate last year as his 12.7 BB% wasn’t only the second highest mark among qualified starters, but it almost matched his 15.0 K%. BONUS: Kris Medlen dominates in the second half There was no pitcher better than Medlen from when he took the mound on July 31st. In 83.2 innings (12 starts), Medlen posted a 9-0 record with a 0.97 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and 84 K/10 BB ratio. He has always been regarded as a pitched with upside, but never had a chance to really stick in the Braves’ rotation. I think his second half earned him a spot for 2013 and if his career-best 53.4 GB% is the beginning of a trend, rather than a one-year anomaly, then we are in for a lot of good next year.
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