Is The Best Pitcher In Baseball … Underrated? & My Fantasy Crush
By Michael Jokinen 5/15/13
(All time great? Maybe. He’s certainly well on his way.)
I was thinking late last night, after watching another Clayton Kershaw masterpiece … is Kershaw the most underappreciated historically great athlete of modern sports? Forget baseball, I’m talking all sports. I know I’m getting ahead of myself, but hear me out for a minute. I mean, anyone would tell you he’s great, but I get the sense people don’t fully appreciate just how great he is. ESPN and fans alike fawn over Justin Verlander and Steven Strasburg. Now Matt Harvey is the new shiny toy. Feels like Kershaw doesn’t get his full due.
Whose star has shone so brightly at such a young age? Microscopic ratio stats, dazzling peripherals, gaudy strikeout totals, amazing durability, and a truckload of awards and accolades. Look at the numbers. He’s consistently atop major league leader-boards in ERA, FIP, xFIP, SIERA, and the like. His resume is astounding for such a young guy; who else has done what he’s done at his age? He’s just 25 years old and already he’s got a Cy Young, Triple Crown, and two ERA titles under his belt. His 1.40 ERA is is now tops in the majors in 2013. Yet so many think he’s just another really good pitcher. Looking at his combination of age/production, people should view him as a candidate to join Maddux, Martinez, and Clemens as one of the best pitchers of the past 20-30 years. His legacy is yet to be fully written, of course, but he’s got a chance to breathe this rarified air. He’s truly laying the groundwork for a run at baseball history.
You can count on one hand the number of pitchers who’ve accomplished what he has by his age 25 season. And age aside, he’s scaled mountains that only baseball legends have scaled. He’s one of only four pitchers (Koufax/Maddux/Martinez) since WWII to lead the majors in ERA in back-to-back seasons. Kershaw’s 2.70 career ERA is the best of any starter since 1920 with a minimum of 1,000 innings under his belt. Now, he has an advantage there because his ERA will level off as he ages and declines, but as a rough approximation, it illustrates the elite company he’s in. People get carried away with player comparisons – they always like to hear that Prospect X looks like a young version of Hall of Famer Y. So when some suggested that Kershaw as a prospect looked like a young Sandy Koufax (the surface similarities are obvious: both are Dodger lefties with majestic curveballs) many rolled their eyes. It’s becoming clearer every day – perhaps this comparison isn’t hyperbole. Maybe he really is the next legendary pitcher. People shouldn’t take him for granted. Savor every start.
– MY FANTASY CRUSH –
SS – Jean Segura, Brewers: Oh, Jean Segura, how I love you so! Considered by many as the 20-something ranked shortstop in auctions coming into the year, he’s not a fantasy afterthought anymore. Not only has he been the number one fantasy shortstop, but he’s ascended to #4 player on the Yahoo! Player Rater, surpassed only by Miguel Cabrera, Matt Harvey, and … Clayton Kershaw. Per Fangraphs.com, Segura and Milwaukee teammate Carlos Gomez are the only two players to appear on both Steamer and ZiPS lists of “most improved hitters.” The speed is so bona fide – once he stole 37 bases in the minors. Another season he stole 50. In both the minors and majors he’s stolen bases at both a prolific and efficient rate. Combining minors and majors numbers, Segura is 159-for-200 on stolen base attempts, or swiping bags at a 79.5% clip. The surprising power surge will certainly tail off, but the ridiculous average (.359) won’t regress as much as people might assume. Sure his BABIP is .393, but he was a career .313 hitter in the minors and his xBABIP this year is a cool .376 – gotta’ love those speedsters with contact skills! Don’t be shocked at all if he hits around .280 the rest of the way.
Segura has exploded on the scene, but I think he’ll keep it up and finish as a top-3 fantasy shortstop. Pretty crazy stuff, because just two months ago that would’ve seemed like sheer madness. He’s near the top of a very underrated Brewers lineup, sandwiched between two other unheralded fantasy beasts, Norichika Aoki and Carlos Gomez. And of course, perennial MVP Ryan Braun is right behind them to clean up the mess. Why can’t Segura continue to score runs at a crazy pace if he keeps getting on base at a reasonable rate? In keeper formats his combination of age, skills, and position make him a terrific commodity to own. Go get him. I think it’s a great time to “buy high” on him and take him from an owner who outsmarts himself, thinking he might be “selling high.” Sorry buddy, Jean Segura is here to stay.