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Friday 23rd Feb 2018

The state of starting pitching this season? Not good. In fact, Lawr discussed this in yesterday's Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down column, and the comment by Scott Pianowski that most owners would be happy with a 4.00 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP is just as depressing as it is true. Despite the bar being lowered this year, one overriding trend has remained, and it's the main reason why I don't like to spend heavily on starting pitching in drafts. With only a few exceptions, the performance level of starting pitchers tends to be extremely inconsistent from one season to the next. 

So, using the 2017 Mixed Auction Tout Wars draft as the example, here's a look at five pairs of starting pitchers whose price difference was no greater than three dollars. Let's just say that a lot can change in three months.

Chris Sale ($27) and Jake Arrieta ($24)

Remember I mentioned the "few exceptions"? Well, Sale certainly belongs in that group, as he's piecing together yet another Cy Young caliber season, boasting a 11-3 record to go along with a 2.61 ERA, a 0.90 WHIP and a league-leading 166 strikeouts through 17 starts. 

Meanwhile, Arrieta, a former Cy Young award winner, has looked more like the mediocre hurler who posted a 4.60 ERA last September than the fantasy ace of 2014-2015. Being that Arrieta has notched back-to-back quality starts on just one occasion since early-April, it's hard to be optimistic about his outlook going forward.

Corey Kluber ($26) and Justin Verlander ($24)

Kluber got off to a disappointing start to the season, but he's been outstanding since returning from a one-month stint on the DL, going 4-0 with a 1.26 ERA and a 0.67 WHIP in six starts. Simply put, he's an ace.

Owners who were relying on Verlander to repeat his ace-level 2016 campaign have been sorely disappointed, as the veteran righty enters July with an underwhelming 4.47 ERA and 1.45 WHIP. While the strikeout rate remains strong, Verlander is on pace to surpass the 90-walk mark for the first time in his career. Chances are the best part of his season is still to come, and he did register a 4.07 ERA in the first half last season before pitching to an exceptional 1.96 ERA following the All-Star break. But, the control issues are concerning, and he is a year older. I wouldn't bank on another dominant second half. 

Julio Teheran ($18) and Carlos Carrasco ($17)

Teheran's struggles this year are surprising being that he's coming off one of the best seasons of his career, a season that earned him borderline SP2 status in mixed leagues heading into 2017. Glancing at his stat line, there's really nothing positive to talk about, though his solid big league track record suggests that a turnaround is quite possible. 

Ignoring the health risk, Carrasco is a legitimate 20-plus dollar pitcher. But his injury history depressed his draft day cost to a very reasonable $17, and since he's remained healthy, the Indians righty has proven to be a big-time bargain. 

Danny Salazar ($13) and Zack Greinke ($12)

Speaking of injury-prone Indians pitchers, Salazar has been sidelined since early-June with a shoulder injury. And he wasn't particularly effective before then, recording a 5.40 ERA and a 1.58 WHIP in 12 appearances (10 starts). On the bright side, the 27-year-old righty certainly has not lost his ability to miss bats, with 77 whiffs across 55 innings so far this season. However, the long-awaited breakout campaign might have to wait until 2018, or later.

Those who wrote off Greinke following a rough inaugural season with the Diamondbacks could not have been more mistaken. The proven ace is officially back to his old self, boasting a 3.08 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP through 16 starts with well over a strikeout per inning. I'll go out on a limb and say that he will cost well over $12 in drafts next spring. 

Matt Moore ($5) and Robbie Ray ($4)

I was high on Moore coming into this season, figuring that he would thrive in his first full year with San Francisco, pitching in the NL and in a pitcher-friendly home ballpark. So it's not much of a surprise that I was the lucky one who forked over five bucks in exchange for Moore's services. I'm usually good at identifying underrated starting pitchers, but I was way off on this one. Instead of improving upon the gains he made last season in hit rate and home run rate, the Giants southpaw enters July with career-worst numbers in both of those categories. And that's not to mention his frequent bouts of wildness. Imagine if I had drafted Robbie Ray instead?

The sad part is that all I can do is imagine. 

Zach Steinhorn is the 2016 Mixed Auction Tout Wars champion. Follow him on Twitter @ZachMLB

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