As we reach the final week of the fantasy baseball season, we begin recapping what has occurred in this shortened season. Between injuries due to a shortened summer camp, postponements because of COVID-19 and seven-inning doubleheaders, it’s been hard to truly analyze what we’ve seen from pitchers.

I knew coming into this season that drafting starting pitchers early wouldn’t be a strong strategy, as they would only impact your team 10-12 times. That ended up being true as the most starts by a pitcher was 12; the most wins, eight. An argument could be made that the top seven starting pitchers drafted according to FantasyPros.com were all busts this season.

Pitchers Who Exceeded Expectations In 2020:

1. Cleveland Indians Starting Pitcher Shane Bieber — Bieber had an average draft position of No. 8 among pitchers during the draft season and is the first pitcher who 100 percent paid off his draft-day value for fantasy owners. In fact, Bieber should be the frontrunner to win the Cy Young award in the American League. The right-hander heads into the final week with eight wins and an ERA of 1.74. Even more eye-popping are his 112 strikeouts, which lead all of baseball. The next pitcher has 89 strikeouts.

2. Cincinnati Reds Starting Pitcher Trevor Bauer — Bauer was the perfect second-tier starting pitcher to target in 2020. As the 24th pitcher taken, Bauer has simply been one of the best and didn’t cost fantasy owners high draft capital. Bauer hasn’t allowed more than four earned runs in any start heading into the final week and allowed two or fewer in eight. Bauer is pitching to a 1.80 ERA and has 88 strikeouts.

3. San Diego Padres Starting Pitcher Zach Davies — Drafted as the 193rd pitcher and 438th player overall, Davies may be the top player to crush his draft-day position. Heading into the final week, Davies is tied for second in the league with seven wins and has a strong 2.69 ERA. The righty also had a respectable 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings. As a waiver-wire target, there’s not much more fantasy owners can ask for.

Pitchers Who Fell Short Of Expectations In 2020:

1. Washington Nationals Starting Pitcher Max Scherzer — I don’t think fantasy owners lost their league by drafting Scherzer in the second round, but when you invest high draft capital, the expectations are high. Since 2013, the veteran has had only one season with an ERA above 3.00, but it will now be two as Scherzer enters the final week with a 3.67 ERA. I honestly believe if this was a normal season, Scherzer would have settled in as a top pitcher like he has been for nearly a decade. However, the grading scale is harder in 2020, and a win total and ERA outside the top 25 is just not going to cut it.

2. St. Louis Cardinals Starting Pitcher Jack Flaherty — Unfortunately, in a shortened season, everything is magnified. This could not be truer than in the case of Flaherty. The talented righty entered September with a 1.93 ERA. However, after his start on Sept. 20, Flaherty now has a 4.84 ERA. This is attributed to his start Sept. 15 when Flaherty allowed nine earned runs, but fantasy owners can’t afford performances like this when a starting pitcher is only impacting your team less than a dozen times. Flaherty was drafted as a top-eight pitcher and was performing like that early in the season, but his September has definitely been a dagger. Like Scherzer, I believe those starts would have just been a blip during the course of 30 starts. I’m probably being too hard, but the margin of error has been so thin that we have to mention it.

3. Washington Nationals Starting Pitcher Patrick Corbin — There’s a reason the reigning World Series champions are sitting in last place in the National League East, as two Nationals pitchers crack the “Three Down.” Corbin was drafted as the 11th pitcher, but he enters the final week with a 4.76 ERA. The lefty has made 10 starts, but he has had three starts in which he has allowed at least five earned runs. Corbin has also lost his last seven starts. It’s been a disappointing season for the Nationals and those fantasy owners who invested in their pitchers.

Phil Backert

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