Early season thoughts - pitching edition

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - We are less than 20 games into the 2012 MLB season, but already there are some unusual patterns which could play a major role in fantasy values. In today's look-in, we're are evaluating a few of those interesting early season pitching statistics.

Who knew Lance Lynn was an "ace"? When Chris Carpenter came up with a lame shoulder, the St. Louis Cardinals weren't sure who was going to take his spot in the rotation.

They settled on Lynn, formerly a reliever, who had just two career starts on his resume heading into 2012. Lynn has been as good as Carpenter ever was, going 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA and 0.737 WHIP. He's yet to give up more than one run in a start.

Compare those numbers to his two 2011 starts when he went 1-1 with a 5.23 ERA and 1.258 WHIP. There was no way you could have expected this type of performance out of Lynn at the draft, but fantasy owners who were paying attention have brought his Yahoo ownership level to 73 percent in three weeks. What are the other 27 percent waiting for?

Once upon a time, Jake Peavy was the stud anchor of the San Diego Padres pitching staff. Twice he led the National League in ERA (2004, '07) and boasted of a 92-68 record. Injuries damaged his fantasy value to the point that Peavy likely wasn't even a thought on Draft Day (Yahoo ADP 309). Psssst ... pass the word, Peavy is back. In four starts for the Chicago White Sox, Peavy is 3-0 with an ERA of 1.88, a 0.733 WHIP and 26 strikeouts in 28 2/3 innings. And he's gotten better in each outing, yielding three runs his first time out, then two, one and finally posting a shutout on Monday. Like Lynn, Peavy is available in about one out of every four leagues.

The Texas Rangers lost C.J. Wilson to free agency, but still own five quality starters - at least that's what the SSRD360 Rankings say. Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis, Neftali Feliz, Derek Holland and Yu Darvish all rank among the top 25 AL starters and Texas is off to a 13-4 start. The Rangers' starting staff owns a 2.96 ERA and a 1.086 WHIP. That's fantasy gold!

Remember last season when Toronto Blue Jays starter Kyle Drabek was one of the worst pitchers in baseball and sent down to the minors in mid-June? Drabek was one of the key pieces in the Toronto-Philadelphia trade that sent Roy Halladay to the City of Brotherly Love and his failure last season took its toll on the Toronto. Don't look now but Drabek has been very effective in 2012. He's 2-0 with a 2.00 ERA. His 1.278 WHIP is a little bit too high due to 10 walks in 18 innings and may indicate that this increase is a mirage, but until he blows up, he's worth stashing on your roster.

The Washington Nationals acquired pitcher Gio Gonzalez from Oakland in the off-season and he's paying immediate dividends. Gonzalez had a solid season in 2011, posting a winning record in Oakland with a 3.12 ERA and much was expected of him in 2012. Although he's just 1-0, the Nationals have won all three of his starts because he's kept them in the games with a 2.04 ERA. An even more important signal of his arrival is his strikeout-to-walk ratio. Last season, Gonzalez led the AL in walks with 91 against 197 strikeouts. In his first three starts for the Nationals, he's struck out 21 and walked just five. Grab him if you can via waiver claim or trade.

Way, way back in 2008, it was Chad Billingsley who was the star of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitching staff, not Clayton Kershaw. Over the past three years, however, Billingsley has not improved while Kershaw has become a Cy Young Award winner. Despite an ugly performance on Sunday night against Houston when he gave up five earned runs in 3 1/3 innings, Billingsley seems to have found it. The 27-year-old has a 3.04 ERA, but, more importantly, a 0.930 WHIP. Given a career WHIP of 1.361, this is exciting news. Billingsley was a late draft pick, if at all, in most leagues (ADP 252) and may still be obtained at a reasonable price off his last effort. You should make the attempt to put him on your roster as he looks a lot like the 2008 version, only better.

Jamie Moyer (5.172) is ranked higher than Tim Lincecum (5.750) on today's TSN SSRD360 rankings. Does that mean I'd rather own Moyer than Lincecum? Certainly not. But it does show just how far Lincecum has fallen. In his first four starts, Lincecum is 1-2 with a 8.20 ERA and 1.875 WHIP. That's unheard-of territory for the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner. Even more ominous is the loss of three to four miles per hour on his fastball. Loss of that much speed on the fastball is usually one of the first signs of serious arm trouble. At this point, I would not trade for Lincecum under any circumstances.

Just three weeks into the season and already so much to deal with. I wonder what tomorrow will bring?

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.