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July 2, 2010
Hot Spots: Starting Pitchers
Added to the list
Tom Gorzelanny: Gorzelanny recently reclaimed a spot in the Cubs' starting rotation following the Carlos Zambrano debacle. You may recall Gorz was a respected member of the "Value Picks" list thanks to a well above-average strikeout rate (9.2 per nine) and an average walk rate (3.5 per nine) in his nine starts before moving to the bullpen. He held his opponents to three or fewer runs in seven of those nine starts.
Gorzelanny picked up where he left off, tossing five scoreless innings in his return against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday. He is available in 96 percent of ESPN leagues, one of the better options you will see so freely available this late in the baseball season.
J.D. Martin: Martin's 3.38 ERA is not here to stay but his 1.30 WHIP is. With a 1.0 BB/9 and 43.5 percent fly ball rate, Martin is a great option if you need a boost in WHIP at the expense of strikeouts and wins (he has yet to receive a win in six starts thanks to scant run support from a shoddy Washington National offense). His walk rate seems too good to be true but he was a control freak even in the Minor Leagues. As Major League hitters become more familiar with him, his walk rate should increase a little bit but he is no Dontrelle Willis.
Removed from the list
Brandon Morrow: Parting from "Value Picks" is such sweet sorrow for Brandon Morrow. Having pitched exceptionally well over his last six starts -- 40 IP, 1.80 ERA, 7.9 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 -- his popularity has skyrocketed in fantasy leagues across the map. (Even in NL-only leagues! I kid.) He is taken in nearly one of every three ESPN fantasy league compared to one in every ten just a week ago. Cross your fingers, hope your fantasy opponents slept through the month of June, and check the available players pool for him.
Kris Medlen: It is officially official: Medlen will retain his spot in the Atlanta starting rotation as Kenshin Kawakami has been demoted to the bullpen following the activation of Jair Jurrjens from the disabled list. There had been some doubt that, despite Medlen's great pitching out of the rotation, he was the one who would lose his spot. However, the Braves just could not look past his 3.40 ERA and nearly 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio as a starter. With a definitive role and six quality starts, you can understand why Medlen's ownership rate has increased by over 35 percent in ESPN leagues from 8.5 percent to 11.5 percent over the last week.
Staying on the list
Randy Wells: Wells may be suffering from a Justin Masterson-esque bout of untreatable inconsistency and buoyant BABIP. There is a lot to like about how he has pitched in 2010 including his 7.1 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, and 45 percent ground ball rate. However, he just has not been able to put it together for a prolonged period of time this season, having achieved back-to-back quality starts on just two separate occasions (April 19th and 25th along with May 11th, 17th, and 22nd). Given that the Cubs have an above-average defense, the undeniable conclusion is that his BABIP and subsequently his ERA are due for a correction going into the second half of the season. If you would like to buy low on Wells, now is the time as ESPN fantasy players have been releasing him -- he is taken in fewer than seven percent of the leagues.
Bud Norris: Like Wells, Norris is a member of the inflated BABIP club. In fact, with a .411 BABIP, Norris may be the honorary leader of the pack. There is a lot of Brandon Morrow in Bud Norris: a lot of strikeouts and a lot of walks. If you missed out on the Morrow sweepstakes, you can get seated early on the Norris bandwagon. If his BABIP corrects as expected (and it may not to the fullest extent since the Astros have thus far played subpar defense) everything else should fall in place. Norris is still available in over 99 percent of ESPN leagues. He will start tomorrow in San Diego against the Padres. Weak offense plus pitcher's park equals good circumstances.
Manny Parra: Parra is one of the many high-strikeout, high-walk starters who have populated the "Value Picks" list throughout the year. Control was never his thing, and he has been, throughout his Major League career, a BABIP anomaly. A pitcher's BABIP tends to float around .300 give or take a few thousandths but Parra's career average is .352 and it is .375 this year. The Brewer defense has been atrocious although it was about average in prior years when Parra toed the rubber. If his fielders improve (or regress up towards their mean), Parra will provide even more value to your fantasy team. For now, his calling card is his propensity for the strikeout. In the month of June, his K/9 was second-best in the National League behind some unknown pitcher in Washington by the name of Stephen Strasburg (kudos to Jack Moore of FanGraphs and the Brewers blog Disciples of Uecker for finding that neat stat).
If you are in need of the punch-outs, Parra can be plucked from the free agent pool in around 99 percent of ESPN leagues. His next start will come tomorrow at home against the San Francisco Giants, one of the weaker offenses in the National League.
Jhoulys Chacin: I cannot wrap my mind around why Chacin is not owned in at least half of all ESPN leagues. Or 75 percent, really. His ownership rate is at a paltry five percent despite a 3.51 ERA and a K/9 rate approaching ten per nine innings. His success is not a fluke as his ERA matches up with your retrodictor of choice, be it FIP, xFIP, or SIERA and his BABIP and HR/FB rates are normal. He averages six innings per start which is just fine.
By the time I write next week's column, Chacin should be taken in every NL-eligible fantasy baseball league, meriting his honorable discharge from the "Value Picks" list.
June was an improvement from May thanks to stalwarts like Brett Myers, Jason Hammel, Brandon Morrow, and Kris Medlen. Hopefully you were able to benefit from these hidden gems while avoiding the land mines by the name of Hisanori Takahashi and Jake Arrieta.
The month-by-month results: