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April 16, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Weekly Planner #3

by Craig Brown

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This is Weekly Planner number three because we’re coming up to the third week of the season. Don’t panic, you didn’t miss number one or two. This is something new we’re trying on the Fantasy Beat. The purpose is to handicap the two-start starters while giving a couple of tips on useful (and not so useful) bench players for the upcoming week. Planning ahead is essential in piloting a successful fantasy team. Hopefully, this information helps you gain an edge in your league.

The probable two-start pitchers are gleaned from team releases and websites and are subject to change.  ***NOW UPDATED to include more starters***

Two-start starters - AL Edition:

Brian Bannister - @ TOR 4/19, vs. MIN 4/25
Brad Bergesen - @ SEA 4/19, @ BOS 4/25
Douglas Fister - vs. BAL 4/19, @ CHA 4/25
Scott Kazmir - vs. DET 4/20, vs. NYY 4/25
John Lackey - vs. TAM 4/19, vs. BAL 4/24
Colby Lewis - @ BOS 4/20, vs DET 4/25
Justin Masterson - @ MIN 4/20, @ OAK 4/25
Brandon Morrow - vs. KC 4/19, vs. TAM 4/25
Jeff Niemann - @ BOS 4/19, vs. TOR 4/24
Joel Pineiro - vs. DET 4/19, vs. NYY 4/24
Rick Porcello - @ LAA 4/20, @ TEX 4/25
Kevin Slowey - vs. CLE 4/20, @ KC 4/25
Dontrelle Willis - @ LAA 4/19, @ TEX 4/24

In the AL, Lackey will continue to exorcise his Fenway demons. For his career, he owns a 5.15 ERA in 10 starts with a 2.11 SO/BB ratio, but he threw six scoreless innings in his first start at home against the Yankees. Niemann looked good in his first start after taking a batted ball off his shoulder but was cuffed around in his only career appearance against the Sox, lasting just three innings. Bannister has posted solid back to back outings, but he’s living dangerously as he’s morphed into a fly ball machine.  His 0.18 GB/FB ratio isn’t a misprint. With six walks in nine innings, Morrow has had trouble finding the strike zone--again. If you pick up Willis for a two start week, you’re either brave or foolish. I would lean toward the latter. Bergesen hasn’t looked sharp in his first two starts as his 11.74 ERA and 8.39 FIP will attest. Fister may be a decent option as the Orioles and White Sox have struggled to get the bats going in the early weeks.

It’s a small sample size, but historically, Masterson’s best month has been April where he has a 2.41 ERA and 3.2 SO/BB ratio.  After walking six in his first two starts, Slowey has been strangely erratic.  He looked great in the spring with just four walks against 20 strikeouts in 27 innings, so I’m assuming this is just a minor speedbump.  Kazmir looked like he had nothing in his first start against the Yankees on Thursday.  A couple of tough lineups come rolling into Anaheim this week.  Porcello hasn’t shown much in his first pair of starts, but the Tigers will always get him some runs - especially in that first game against Kazmir. 

Your best bet is probably Pineiro, who owns a 2.66 ERA in nine career starts against the Tigers and a 3.22 ERA in 17 appearances (nine starts) against the Yankees. And, with a 2.08 GB/FB ratio in the early going, he’s keeping the ball on the ground again this season.   

Two-start starters - NL Edition:

Matt Cain - @ SD 4/19, vs. STL 4/25
Aaron Cook  - @ WAS 4/19, vs. FLA 4/24
Jorge de la Rosa - @ WAS 4/20, vs. FLA 4/25
Kyle Kendrick - @ ATL 4/20, @ ARI 4/25
Charlie Morton - vs. MIL 4/20, @ HOU 4/25
Jonathon Niese - @ NYM 4/19, @ MIL 4/24
Brad Penny - @ ARI 4/19, @ SF 4/25
Clayton Richard - vs. SF 4/19, @ CIN 4/25
Craig Stammen - vs. COL 4/19, vs. LAD 4/24
Chris Volstad - @ HOU 4/20, @ COL 4/25
Carlos Zambrano - @ NYM 4/20, @ MIL 4/25

Better pickings in the senior circuit. Penny has been outstanding in his first two starts since moving to the House of Duncan. He’s getting those grounders (1.5 GB/FB ratio) and again flashing excellent control. Cain has a 2.91 ERA against the Padres but a 4.94 ERA in four starts against the Cardinals. Richard hasn’t done much to distinguish himself but pitches well at home, with a 2.40 ERA in 41 innings since moving to the coast. Too bad his other start this week is on the road. 

De la Rosa was nails in his first start (9 Ks) and wobbly in his second (5 BB).  He’s struggled in his career against the Nats with a 4.32 ERA and is even worse against the Fish with a 7.03 ERA.  With just one BB in 9 innings, Morton is walking anyone, which is good.  But he’s catching too much of the plate, allowing 17 hits and four home runs, which is bad.  Early returns show Volstad’s strikeouts are down (4.8 K/9) and his fly ball rate is up (0.68 GB/FB), but you have to like him in a week where one of his starts comes against Houston.  Pitching at Coors Field didn’t bother him in his only start there: 6 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO, 1 HR.  Do you have a player who you refuse to own because he scares the hell out of you?  Zambrano is that player for me.

The clunkers here are Cook, who is at it again, allowing baserunners (1.41 WHIP) and home runs (two in 11 innings) just like last year. If Kendrick keeps pitching like he did in his first two starts, he probably won’t be around to make both turns this week.  If you’re thinking about Stammen and his 5.71 career ERA in 21 starts, you’re either in the deepest league in the world, or you’re just not paying attention.

Consider:

Brandon Inge - 3 games @ Los Angeles, 3 games @ Texas

Inge is off to a hot start, hitting .353/.421/.529 in his first nine games. His hot streak and the Tigers upcoming road trip provide owners with some fortuitous timing. This is Inge’s favorite trip of the year as he hits better at Angel Stadium and Ameriquest Field than any other stadium.

In 151 plate appearances in Anaheim, Inge has hit .284/.349/.433 with four home runs and 18 RBI. His tOPS+ in LA is 124, his best of any AL ballpark. Then in 113 plate appearances in Texas, Inge has hit .291/.345/.437 with a pair of home runs and 17 RBI. His tOPS+ in Arlington is 123.

Inge is owned in 11 percent of all ESPN leagues.

Corey Hart - 3 games @ Pittsburgh, 3 games vs. Cubs

Hart, owned in 62 percent of ESPN leagues, loves visiting Pittsburgh. In 111 plate appearances, the Brewer outfielder owns a slash line of .350/.396/.631 with 12 doubles and five home runs.  

Avoid:

Jhonny Peralta - 3 games @ Minnesota, 3 games @ Oakland

Peralta has always struggled against the divisional rival Twins. He owns a career line of .232/.282/.376 in 395 plate appearances. While he owns 10 home runs against Minnesota in his career, his AB/HR rate is 36.2, a little higher than his career rate of 32.2. He’ll be paying his first visit to Target Field, with two night games and a day game. Obviously, we still have no idea how the Twins new home will play, but watching a couple of games on TV, it seems like it takes a little extra effort to get the ball over the wall.

When Peralta visits the A’s later in the week, things don’t figure to improve. For his career, he’s hit .226/.309/.387 against Oakland, and he really struggles in McAfee Coliseum when he owns a lifetime slash line of .174/.250/.232. In 76 plate appearances, he’s managed just two extra base hits and has struck out 23 times.

Peralta is owned in 10 percent of ESPN leagues.
 

Craig Brown is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Craig's other articles. You can contact Craig by clicking here

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