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July 16, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Weekly Planner #16

by Craig Brown

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We’re back in the swing of things after a week off from the Planner.  Anyone else go through fantasy withdrawal during the All-Star Break?  Surely, I’m not the only one.  The ratings for this year’s edition of the mid summer classic were the lowest ever… They really want fans to be interested, why not make fantasy stats count?  Imagine padding your team stats with a couple of David Price strikeouts or a handful of Brian McCann RBI.  OK… I’m not being (entirely) serious about this.  Still, having a few days without meaningful baseball is tough.

Since the break lasts three (or in some cases four) days and teams juggle their rotations to have their best pitchers get the ball when the games mercifully resume, that kind of limits our quality in the week immediately following the All-Star Game.  There are a tons of two-start pitchers this week who are owned in less than 50% of either ESPN or Yahoo leagues, as noted by the asterisk.  

As always the list of two-start pitchers for the upcoming week is provided by Heater Magazine and is subject to change.  Click here for a handy pdf featuring this list along with some other useful nuggets.

Not only does the winner of that game earn home field advantage for their league in the World Series, they also leadoff the Weekly Planner.  To the victor go all the spoils.

Start
Chris Carpenter - vs PHI, @ CHN
Yovani Gallardo - @ PIT, vs WAS
Ubaldo Jimenez - @ FLA, @ PHI
Jair Jurrjens - vs SD, @ FLA
Clayton Kershaw - vs SF, vs NYN
Tim Lincecum - @ LAN, @ ARI
Carlos Silva - vs HOU, vs STL

Missing two months with a hamstring injury, Jurrjens has made three starts since his return from the DL and looked sharp, striking out 13 in 17 innings of work while posting a 2.55 ERA and 1.19 WHIP.  Wrigley Field is where Carpenter has made the most road starts in his career where he owns a 7-2 record with a 3.66 ERA and 1.22 WHIP.

Consider
*Madison Bumgarner - @ LAN, @ ARI
*R.A. Dickey - @ ARI, @ LAN
*Jeff Francis - vs FLA, @ PHI
*Ian Kennedy - vs NYN, vs SF
*Mike Leake - vs WAS, @ HOU
*Wade LeBlanc - @ ATL, @ PIT
*Anibal Sanchez - vs COL, @ ATL

The former first round pick (from 2007) Bumgarner has delivered in his first four starts.  Rated by Kevin Goldstein as the Giants number two prospect (behind Buster Posey), he has the control and his velocity - after dropping at times last year and this spring - has been “acceptable,” to quote an unnamed club source.  He has a couple of favorable match-ups this week and would be worth grabbing for the final two and a half months of the season.  Here’s a rookie going the other direction: On June 5, Leake’s ERA was at 2.22.  In his six starts since, he’s posted a 6.14 ERA with 14 walks and 20 strikeouts in 36 innings of work.  He’s not missing bats anymore as just 6% of his strikes in these starts were the swing and miss variety.  His 4.45 SIERA warns of continued rocky days ahead.  Sanchez’s 4.51 SIERA and 1.43 WHIP are enough to cause some concern.  His expected match-ups against Jimenez and Kris Medlen are another reason to think this week may not be so good for the Marlins starter.

LeBlanc has always pitched much better at PETCO than on the road and makes both starts this week wearing the grays.  He has a career 5.94 ERA on the road and is currently owns a 5.19 away ERA.  I mentioned fatigue being a factor as the season unfolds for Kennedy and that continues to be a topic to watch.  He has a 5.36 ERA and 1.38 WHIP over his last seven starts dating back to the first part of June.  He’s still punching batters out - he owns a 9.2 SO/9 over that stretch and a 8.1 SO/9 overall - but his control has suffered at times.  If you need strikeouts though, he’s your guy.  Just be prepared for some collateral damage.  

Francis is getting a swinging strike 14% of the time (his career average is 15%), yet with a 4.4 SO/9, he can’t put batters away.  At least he’s keeping the ball on the ground and has a nifty home run rate of 0.43 HR/9 (although that’s built upon an unsustainable 4.3% HR/FB)  His 4.34 SIERA and 62% strand rate suggest he’s been a bit unlucky.  He gets a “consider” this week based on a pair of favorable match-ups.

Kuckleballers mock me.  So I go ahead and give Dickey a “start” designation a couple weeks ago and since then he hasn’t won a game in four starts and has experienced two of his worst outings of the year.  

Sit
*Doug Davis - @ PIT, vs WAS
*Barry Enright - vs NYN, vs SF
*Blake Hawksworth - vs PHI, @ CHN
*Jeff Karstens - vs MIL, vs SD
*Kyle Kendrick - @ STL, vs COL
*Brad Lincoln - vs MIL, vs SD
*J.D. Martin - @ CIN, @ MIL
*Jamie Moyer - @ STL, vs COL
Wandy Rodriguez - @ CHN, vs CIN

New Starter Watch:  Enright made the jump from Double-A where he had a nifty 5.5 SO/BB ratio and a 1.03 WHIP.  He’s done a fair job in his first three starts, but has pitched past the fifth inning only once.  Lincoln has made one good start in seven and has a lofty 86% contact rate.  In four starts since joining the rotation, Hawksworth has a 3.38 ERA covering 21 innings of work.  Not too shabby, but his 83% contact rate is on the high side and he hasn’t pitched deep into games, so I’ll err on the side of caution here.  In his second go around with the Nationals, Martin is featuring pinpoint control, walking just five batters in 40 innings.  Imagine if he could improve on his 38% ground ball rate and actually keep the ball in the yard.

His first start since returning from pericarditis, Davis was very Davis-like in his performance throwing five innings and allowing four runs (including two HR.)  He has topped 50 on the Game Score meter only once in eight starts this year. Both bullpens will be on DEFCON 4 this week for the Karstens versus Davis match-up. Kendrick made a post-break relief appearance on Thursday and his spot in the rotation appears to be in jeopardy.  His 4.49 ERA is high, but his 4.90 SIERA is even higher.  His 88% contact rate is another strike against him.  Pass.  

Rodriguez gets next to no run support (3.6 R/G) yet does himself no favors with a 1.52 WHIP.   Moyer is a marvel, but he faces a pair of teams who do well against left-handed starters.

To the league that no longer has home field advantage…

Start
Scott Baker - vs CLE, @ BAL
Phil Hughes - vs LAA, vs KC
Tommy Hunter - @ DET, vs LAA

Yeah, I know Hunter has a 4.31 SIERA against a 2.39 ERA, but I like his match-ups this week.  Going forward, his 85% strand rate will surely tumble as the second half progresses.  Long term, be wary.  Short term, give him a start or two.

Conundrum: Baker is missing more bats than at any point in his career, yet his hit rate of 10.2 H/9 is on target to be a personal career high for a full season.  However, opponents own a .327 BABIP against him and his SIERA of 3.44 suggests he could be a second half sleeper. His current walk rate of 1.6 BB/9 is a solid foundation.

Consider
*Brett Cecil - @ KC, @ DET
*Daisuke Matsuzaka - @ OAK, @ SEA
*Ben Sheets - vs BOS, vs CHA
*Kevin Slowey - vs CLE, @ BAL

If you’re going to chase wins, you may as well have Matsuzaka leading the way this week as the Red Sox square off against two of the weakest offenses in the league.  His penchant for walks (4.4 BB/9) means he’s averaging fewer than six innings per start.  With a 3.84 ERA and 1.17 WHIP over his last 10 starts, Sheets has shaved a full point off his overall ERA and is now within striking distance of his 4.38 SIERA.  He’s sliced his walk rate, allowing 2.1 BB/9 in this stretch which is more in line with how he preformed pre-injury.  The strikeouts still aren’t all the way back (and may never be) but he’s certainly a different pitcher than we saw earlier this season.

Nothing Slowey is doing is particularly exciting.  He’s just consistent as his rates from 2010 line up almost exactly with his 2009 performance.  At least you know what you’re going to get in the long haul.  Cecil has done a fine job keeping runners off the bases (1.16 WHIP) and his 68% strand rate suggests he could improve his ERA.  He draws one favorable assignment this week against the Royals who have struggled against left-handed starters.  Meanwhile, his second start this week - against the Tigers - could be difficult as Detroit’s lineup features only two left-handed bats.  They’ve hammered lefty starters to the tune of .287/.356/.455.

Sit
*Jake Arrieta - vs TB, vs MIN
*Kyle Davies - vs TOR, @ CLE
*Scott Feldman - @ DET, vs LA
*Douglas Fister - vs CHA, vs BOS
*Armando Galarraga - vs TEX, vs TOR
*Daniel Hudson - @ SEA, @ OAK
*Scott Kazmir - @ NYA, @ TEX
*Anthony Lerew - vs TOR, @ NYA
*Jesse Litsch - @ KC, @ DET
*Ian Snell - vs CHA, vs BOS
*Chris Tillman - vs TB, vs MIN

With a 4.6 BB/9 and a matching 4.6 SO/9, Arrieta hasn’t distinguished himself in his seven starts.  Small sample disclaimer:  His three best starts have come on the road.  Feldman has made only six quality starts (I know, a trick stat, but it can be useful in identifying decent fantasy starters) in 18 starts for the Rangers.  Speaking of quality starts, Kazmir has only four in 17 starts.  His quality start percentage of 24% is the second worst in the AL.

Hudson joined the White Sox just prior to the break after putting up a 3.47 ERA and a strikeout rate of 10.4 SO/9 for Triple-A Charlotte.  I’m intrigued, but always err on the side of caution with pitchers with so little experience above Double-A.  Having said that, I love his minor league numbers and think he’ll eventually be a fantasy asset.  Clip and save.  

Apparently, Snell is returning to Seattle after making five starts for Triple-A Tacoma and posting a 3.95 ERA and 1.39 WHIP.  Outside of his near-perfecto, Galarraga just hasn’t been good enough to roster.  He owns a 5.61 ERA and 1.63 WHIP covering six starts and 34 innings since that game.  Fister has a 7.08 ERA since returning from the DL with shoulder issues.  His 4.47 SIERA against a 3.09 ERA doesn’t inspire long-term confidence, either.

Davies
and Lerew both make two starts for Kansas City this week? Talk about a speed bump on the road to success.

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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