June 11, 2010
Hot Spots: Starting Pitchers
Added to the list
Chris Narveson: Since joining the Milwaukee Brewers organization, Narveson has significantly increased his strikeout rate, and so far this year, he has been able to maintain it with the addition of a slider. He is averaging eight punch-outs per nine innings and has actually struck out batters at a higher clip as a starter than as a reliever (in a small sample of innings, of course). His 5.83 ERA is primarily due to a .353 BABIP and subsequent 66 percent strand rate, thus his 4.32 SIERA should come as no surprise.
Narveson will start today in Milwaukee against a good Texas Rangers offense that ranks fourth in the American League in average runs per game. However, throughout 2010, the Rangers have struggled against lefties, slugging only .371 against them. After the Rangers, Narveson is slated to face the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim who also struggle against lefties, particularly left-handed starters against whom they slug below .400. And after that, he will face the Minnesota Twins. They struggle against lefty starters as well with an OPS 50 points below that of right-handers.
Given that all three teams will be unfamiliar with Narveson and their collective futility against like-handed pitchers, this is not a bad stretch to pick up Narveson if you need a few starts for stability. Narveson is great for strikeouts, but his lack of control will drag down his WHIP and will lead to some unnecessary runs. Given the Brewers' offense (tied for second-best in the National League in average runs per game), he is good for a couple wins.
Jhoulys Chacin: Chacin almost made the Value Picks list when he joined the Colorado Rockies starting rotation at the beginning of May. He had shown good strikeout stuff and decent control in his Minor League work prior to 2009. Chacin started off 2010 with 15 and one-third consecutive scoreless innings (including one inning as a reliever) after which fantasy players rushed to snap him up. After his nine-strikeout performance last Saturday and an eight-strikeout performance yesterday, his popularity should start to rise again.
Still on the list
Felipe Paulino: Paulino has turned into quite the fantasy steal. He has gone eight innings in each of his last three starts in which he has allowed only three total runs (1.13 ERA). The difference between Paulino earlier in the season and Paulino recently has been better batted ball luck (17 hits over his last three starts) and better control (eight walks).
Unfortunately, the Astros have been unable to score runs on a consistent basis, so Paulino only has one win on the season. Even without wins, Paulino is a good fantasy option, still relatively unnoticed -- owned by less than four percent of ESPN fantasy leaguers. If his newfound control is real, he will not only benefit your ERA and strikeouts but your WHIP as well.
Brett Myers: Myers is likely to be removed from the Value Picks list next week because he is growing more and more popular in fantasy leagues. His ownership rate tripled over the last week, from four percent to 12 percent. Myers has gone at least six innings and allowed no more than two runs in each of his last four starts.
Brandon Morrow: I cautioned against starting Morrow against the New York Yankees last week, but he shut me up. Over seven innings, he allowed only one run while striking out eight and walking one. He will make his next start in Colorado against the Rockies. Start him if you got him.
Jason Hammel: Hammel rewarded 0.3 percent of ESPN fantasy owners with a seven and one-third innings shut-out of the Houston Astros on Monday. Thanks to a BABIP regression, he has allowed only three runs in his last 19 and one-third innings while striking out 16 and walking five. He will face Morrow's Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday. I see caution flags here. Not only are the Jays the American League's premier slugging offense, but they eat right-handed starters for breakfast with an OPS nearly 250 points higher than against southpaw starters. Start him for the counting stats like strikeouts and wins; bench him for the rate stats like ERA and WHIP.
Hammel's ownership rate jumped to over two percent, but he is most likely waiting to hear his name called in your fantasy league.
Kris Medlen: Do not worry about his rotator cuff strain, for it is in his left shoulder—his non-pitching shoulder. Medlen got into some long ball trouble in Arizona his last time out, but that should not be a concern as he is not a fly ball specialist. He will start Sunday against the Twins. Start him if Justin Morneau does not scare you—Morneau has been eating change-ups (and many other pitches) for breakfast in 2010.
Removed from the list
Hisanori Takahashi: Last week I wrote, "you can still get a few starts out of him before his job is remotely in jeopardy". After a second straight poor outing against the Florida Marlins, Takahashi's job is in jeopardy. He will start Saturday against the Baltimore Orioles. If his struggles continue, he could be removed from the rotation. There has been speculation that Takahashi has been tipping his pitches. We will see if that theory has any weight as the Orioles are the American League's most impotent offense.
Jake Westbrook: Westbrook's problems are not BABIP- or HR/FB rate-related. He has simply not pitched at a high level and does not have the ability to miss hitters' bats. If and when Westbrook harnesses his control, he may find himself back on the Value Picks list. For now, there are better options available in most leagues.