2013 Fantasy Baseball Face-Off: Cole Hamels vs. Cliff Lee

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The Philadelphia Phillies have one of the top starting rotations around, with Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee among the best pitchers in the National League and all of baseball. Fantasy baseball owners have also certainly had success with any of the three on their roster in recent years, though Halladay is coming off a disappointing season in 2012.

In this edition of my “Fantasy Face-Off” series I will focus on the southpaws of the notable trio, Hamels and Lee. Is one a better fantasy option than the other for 2013?

Takeaways And Trends

- Lee’s win total dropped from 17 in 2011 to just six last season, due in part to abysmal run support. But his peripheral numbers were again excellent, highlighted by a 1.2 BB/9 rate. That drop in win total reveals the uncertainty, and perhaps fallacy, in trying to accurately predict wins for a starting pitcher.

- Lee has pitched over 200 innings in five straight seasons, with at least 30 starts made in four of those seasons. Not to be outdone, Hamels has topped 200 innings pitched in four of the last five seasons with at least 31 starts made in all five campaigns.

- Hamels and Lee induced a similar amount of ground balls in 2012 (43 percent and 45 percent respectively), along with similar K/9 rates (9.0 for Hamels, 8.8 for Lee).

- Lee’s fly ball percentage jumped to 37 percent last season, which played a role in him allowing 26 home runs (tied for fifth-most in the National League). A closer look shows that his fly ball percentage has been at least 35 percent in four of the last five seasons, making 2011′s percentage (32 percent) look like a bit of an outlier.

- Lee spent a short time on the disabled list last season with a left oblique strain, but he finished strongly with a 2.31 ERA and an 88:4 K/BB ratio over his final 12 starts (85.2 innings). Hamels was similarly good late last season, with a 2.58 ERA and a 78:13 K/BB ratio over his last 11 starts (76.2 innings).

Final Analysis

Hamels and Lee clearly belong in the upper echelon of fantasy starting pitchers, and choosing between them requires looking at the finer details. Hamels has the advantage of youth, at just 29 while Lee will turn 35 in August. The oblique issues that have caused Lee to spend a brief time on the disabled list in two of the last three seasons qualify as a bit of a red flag, but recurring arm issues would be a much greater concern.

The choice here really comes down to each fantasy owner’s draft strategy. I think Lee is the better potential draft day value, since some people may avoid drafting him based on the bad in his 2012 stat line, a low win total and a lot of home runs allowed compared to previous seasons. But I think that would be a mistake and savvy owners should stay aware of a possible buy-low opportunity.

Hamels is likely to be among the first handful of pitchers off the board in drafts, and he is well worth an aggressive bid at auction as well. But he will have to perform close to how he did in 2012 to provide value to equal to his lofty draft status, so that makes me lean slightly toward Lee here. Hamels may have a few more wins and a slightly better ERA when it’s all said and done, but the difference in potential draft day cost should make any difference statistically negligible by comparison.

Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.


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