Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Tampa Bay Rays lefty David Price and New York Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey won their league's respective Cy Young Awards this season, but were they fantasy's best starters as well?
They were two of four pitchers to win 20 games in 2012 and had the two lowest ERAs among those four, so we can make a good case for them.
Let's take a look at where they ranked on our list of the top 10 fantasy starting pitchers for 2012.
1. R.A. Dickey, New York Mets - Tim Wakefield is either really proud that Dickey is taking the knuckleball to new heights or really jealous that he couldn't make his miss as many bats as Dickey did this season (We'll go with proud; Wakefield doesn't seem like the jealous type). Dickey was simply the best all-around pitcher in fantasy baseball for 2012. He had it all, ranking second in wins (20), third in strikeouts (230), fourth in ERA (2.73) and fourth in WHIP (1.05). He also threw the second-most innings in baseball with 233 2/3.
2. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers - Last year's AL Cy Young Award winner (and MVP) beat out his successor this season in fantasy value even though he won less games and a had a slightly higher ERA. Verlander was simply on the hill more than Price, leading the majors in innings (238 1/3) and strikeouts (239). While he couldn't quite reach last year's peaks, he still was one of the best around with 17 victories and a 2.64 ERA. He also had the fifth-best WHIP among starters (1.05).
3. David Price, Tampa Bay Rays - Just because Price couldn't beat out Verlander in our rankings doesn't mean it wasn't a close call; Verlander simply had more volume. Price was still dominant and effective all season long, going 20-5 with a 2.56 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 205 strikeouts in 211 innings. Price was remarkably consistent, registering an ERA of 2.75 or lower in five of the season's six months with a high of 3.29 in May.
4. Gio Gonzalez, Washington Nationals - Gonzalez was nearly unhittable in 2012. He threw 199 1/3 innings and only gave up 149 hits and nine homers. He led the bigs with 21 wins and had a 2.89 ERA, 207 strikeouts and a 1.13 WHIP. What sets he and Price apart, however, is consistency. Gonzalez had an ERA of 4.34 in June and 4.59 in July. Gonzalez also only threw seven-plus innings 11 times all season; Price did it 12 straight times from June 19 to Aug. 21.
5. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers - How great was Kershaw in 2012? His ERA only stood above three once all season, after his July 24 start. He was otherwise dominant before (7-5, 2.74) and after (7-3, 1.55) that start. Kershaw's lack of run support led to him either losing or getting a no decision 13 times when he allowed two earned runs or less, which explains why his wins decreased from 21 to 14 in one year. The lefty finished first in baseball among starters in ERA (2.53), fourth in Ks (229), tied for first in WHIP (1.02) and tied for fourth in innings (227 2/3).
6. Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants - After throwing a perfect game on June 13, it looked like Cain had made the leap from very good to great. He was 8-2 with a 2.18 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 95 innings at the time. It turns out he wasn't ready to step into the land of Verlander, but he did put together another typical Matt Cain season -- 2.79 ERA, 1.04 WHIP -- with an added coup: career high 16 wins and 193 strikeouts.
7. Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies - It was a season of streaks for Hamels. He won eight straight decisions with a 2.22 ERA from April 15 to May 28 and six straight with a 2.58 ERA in 10 starts from Aug. 7 to Sept. 30. In between, he went 3-5 with a 4.06 ERA in 11 starts. When you put that all together, Hamels registered a career high with 17 wins and 216 strikeouts and had an above average 3.05 ERA and 1.12 WHIP.
8. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners - Most of the time this season, Hernandez looked like the guy who won the AL Cy Young with a 2.27 ERA in 2010. However, Hernandez' poor stretches were abominable. He gave up 51 hits and 25 earned runs in 35 1/3 innings over a six-start stretch from May 11 to June 12 and 30 hits and 16 earned in 16 innings over three starts from Sept. 1-13. In his other 24 starts Hernandez went 12-2 with a microscopic 1.89 ERA and 0.91 WHIP, but those shellings dragged him to a 13-9, 3.06 ERA and 1.14 WHIP finish.
9. Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels - You'd think a 20-5 record would be good enough to place Weaver higher on this list but he just didn't stack up with baseball's other 20-game winners. Weaver was still a top-10 fantasy starter due to his 2.81 ERA and MLB-best 1.02 WHIP (tied with Kershaw), but he only threw 188 2/3 innings and had 142 strikeouts in 188 2/3 innings (6.7 K/9).
10. Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds - In a tight and contested race for the final spot in our top 10, Cueto barely edged 10 other players who also had compelling cases. Cueto was extremely reliable and oftentimes untouchable, posting four months with a sub-three ERA, two of which were sub-two. He won at least two games in every month and four apiece in June, July and August to finish 19-9 with a 2.78 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 170 strikeouts in 217 innings.
Players who just missed the cut:
Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox (17-8, 3.05, 1.14, 192)
James Shields, Tampa Bay Rays (15-10, 3.52, 1.17, 223)
Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers (16-7, 3.74, 1.27, 231)
Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals (15-6, 3.16, 1.15, 197)
Zack Greinke, Milwaukee Brewers/Los Angeles Angels (15-5, 3.48, 1.20, 200)