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September 17, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Weekly Planner #25

by Craig Brown

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Two weeks remain, you know the drill... The starters listed are subject to change.  Especially now we're at the point of the season where teams are shutting down starters, juggling their rotation for the post season or just jumping around to get a look at new guys on an expanded roster.  Starters marked with an asterisk are owned in less than 50% of ESPN or Yahoo leagues.  The list is provided by Heater Magazine and covers the week beginning Monday, September 6.  Feel free to download a list of all pitchers featured in this article in an easy to use pdf file.

If you're in the finals in a head to head league, best of luck to you.  If you're scrambling for position in a roto league, the same sentiment applies.  And if you're in the bottom half of your league, there's always next year.

We begin in the AL...

Start
*Brian Duensing - vs CLE, @ DET
Matt Garza - @ NYA, @ SEA
Gio Gonzalez - vs CHA, vs TEX
Zack Greinke - @ DET, @ CLE
Colby Lewis - @ LAA, @ OAK
James Shields - @ NYA, vs SEA
Jered Weaver - vs TEX, vs CHA

Yes, Garza has been ripped in his last two starts, but he remains in this category.  Overall, his 2010 numbers now resemble his lines from the previous two years.  Call it a correction.  Gonzalez had a string of nine consecutive starts with a Game Score above 50 snapped in his last start in Kansas City.    He gets both starts at home this week, where he owns a decided platoon advantage with a 2.70 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 90 home innings against a 4.22 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in 92 innings on the road.

Consider
Trevor Cahill - vs CHA, vs TEX
*Fausto Carmona - @ MIN, vs KC
Gavin Floyd - @ OAK, @ LAA
Phil Hughes - vs TB, vs BOS
*Rick Porcello - vs KC, vs MIN

Cahill has been a mixed bag of late… Remember when people were thinking of including him in the Cy Young debate?  The argument against him was his success through his first 23 starts was because of an insanely low .215 BABIP and that it was premature to suggest he would be among the contenders for the AL’s best pitcher at the end of the season.  So in his last four starts, he’s been rocked by New York and Kansas City but held the Angels and Red Sox scoreless. (Although he issued a season high six walks against the Angels.)  With a 5.2 SO/9 and an 84% contact rate, he’s not a strikeout guy which makes his low BABIP even more unsustainable.  Plus, his 4.28 SIERA is way off his 2.84 ERA.  While he’s having a fine fantasy season, as the innings pile up, I just don’t trust him enough down the stretch to give him a full endorsement.

Since returning from the minors, Porcello has five wins in 11 starts, a 4.09 ERA and a shiny 1.07 WHIP.  He’s getting a swinging strike in just 7% of his total strikes and opponents have a .248 BABIP against him in this stretch.  The .327 BABIP is the highest of Floyd’s career.  Fortunately, his home run rate of 0.7 HR/9 is the lowest of his tenure with the White Sox.  Hughes already had one start skipped this month and with 163 IP, is nearing an innings limit believed to be around 180 IP.  The Yankees have their spot in October locked up and are jockeying for position, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see them handle their young starter with extra care over the last two weeks of the regular season.

After losing six consecutive starts, Carmona finally picked up a win against the Twins last week by tossing a three hit shutout.  And for the first time all season, he’s strung together three starts with a high volume of strikeouts - no small feat for him.  His ground ball rate is up over his last several starts as well.  Those are some quality trends.

Sit
*Bruce Chen - @ DET, @ CLE
*Lucas French - @ TOR, @ TB
*Jeanmar Gomez - @ MIN, vs KC
*Derek Holland - @ LAA, @ OAK
*Daisuke Matsuzaka - vs BAL, @ NYA
*Marc Rzepczynski - vs SEA, vs BAL
Javier Vazquez - vs TB, vs BOS

Vazquez
? My opinion on him hasn’t changed in the last week.  Since joining the Mariners rotation full-time at the first of August, French has thrown 59 innings with 19 walks and 23 strikeouts.  He’s done a decent job keeping the ball in the yard (0.9 HR/9) but I fear his opposition this week.  Gomez has seen his innings workload increase by about 9% over his previous high and was rocked in his last outing.  The Indians have been juggling their rotation and he’s made his last two starts on seven and nine days of rest, respectively.  Although he’s listed as a two-start pitcher, I seriously doubt he takes both turns.

Matsuzaka has allowed at least four runs in each of his last six starts.  While the Red Sox have picked up four victories, Dice-K has only one win to his credit.  Holland has a bright future, but he hasn’t pitched deep into games and faces a pair of difficult head to head match-ups this week.  He’s a candidate to have his start moved or skipped altogether.  Chen’s ERA as a starter is now 4.86 and his WHIP is 1.48.  Opponent’s are hitting a line drive against him 21% of the time when they put the ball in play.

On to the NL…

Start
Chad Billingsley - vs SD, @ ARI
Matt Cain - @ CHN, @ COL
Chris Carpenter - @ FLA, @ CHN
Jorge De La Rosa - @ ARI, vs SF
Roy Halladay - vs ATL, vs NYN
Cole Hamels - vs ATL, vs NYN
*Clayton Richard - @ LAN, vs CIN
*Jake Westbrook - @ PIT, @ CHN

De la Rosa hit a minor speed bump in his last start, but owns a 3.42 ERA and 1.21 WHIP over his last 11 starts covering 71 innings.  His 3.45 SIERA and 55% ground ball rate point to the possibility of a strong finish.  Richard starts this week because he takes one turn at home where he owns a 2.77 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 100 IP and because he faces the fading Dodgers in LA.

Another success story for the House of Duncan?  Westbrook’s ground ball rate has been an extraordinary 62% since joining the Cardinals.  As a result he owns a 79% strand rate and a 3.26 ERA.  Plus, he has a pair of good looking match-ups this week, as well.  Grab him, now!

Consider
J.A. Happ - @ WAS, @ PIT
*Livan Hernandez - vs HOU, vs ATL
Jair Jurrjens - @ PHI, @ WAS
*John Lannan - vs HOU, vs ATL
*Bud Norris - @ WAS, @ PIT
*Edinson Volquez - @ MIL, @ SD

A few weeks ago, I placed Happ in the “sit” category because I was less than impressed with his walk rate.  He must have been listening because since then he’s issued just 10 free passes in 37.2 IP.  Although his contact rate remains a bit too high for my tastes, with his improved command, I like his match-ups this week. Accountability watch: the last time I put him in the "sit" category, he tossed a complete game, two-hit shutout.  Volquez has fanned 17 in 13.2 IP since his return from High-A.  Promising…

Lannan has been riding quite the wave with six wins in his last eight starts with a 3.02 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 50.2 IP.  Add Jurrjens to the list of pitchers I just can’t get excited about.  His 4.37 SIERA says he is what he is.  Basically, his BABIP and home run rate normalized this year.  Norris continues striking out batters while giving up home runs.  I still really like him as a sleeper for next year.

Every time Hernandez throws a stinker like the eight hit, eight run disaster earlier in the month at Pittsburgh, I think to myself, “Finally.  He's reached the end of the line.”  Then he shuts down Atlanta on five hits over eight innings.  I believe it was Joaquin Andujar who summed up baseball in one word: “Youneverknow.”

Sit
*Homer Bailey - @ MIL, @ SD
*Dave Bush - vs CIN, vs FLA
*Chris Capuano - vs CIN, vs FLA
*Paul Maholm - vs STL, vs HOU
*Adalberto Mendez - vs NYN, @ MIL
*Joe Saunders - vs COL, vs LAN
*Chris Volstad - vs STL, @ MIL

Bailey has done well since returning to the Reds rotation (8 SO/9, 4.02 ERA), but left his last start against the Diamondbacks with a headache and dizziness.  He still had the symptoms on Thursday.  The Reds aren't saying anything, but you have to think his early week start is in jeopardy.  The Pirates are averaging 3.7 runs per start for Maholm and have scored four or fewer runs in 23 of his 30 starts.  Given his 5.36 ERA, is it any wonder he leads the NL in losses?  Saunders has been the same pitcher in Arizona he was in Anaheim.  He’s not throwing enough strikes - 71% of all pitches are swung at or in the zone - and with an 87% contact rate he’s not missing enough bats.

Capuano’s return from Tommy John surgery has been a nice story, and he’s pitched OK as a starter with a 4.50 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and 22 strikeouts in 30 IP.  The Brewers have been understandably cautious and haven’t pushed him past 90 pitches in a single start.  His teammate Bush has won only three of his last 12 starts and has a 5.61 ERA and 1.55 WHIP in that stretch.  Mendez had a 4.14 ERA and 1.30 WHIP bouncing between the rotation and bullpen in Triple-A. 

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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Premium Article Prospectus Q&A: Russel... (09/17)
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