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December 24, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Hot Spots: Starting Pitchers

by Bill Baer

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Joe Blanton, Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies have not yet moved Blanton, but they are actively searching for a suitor. After a career year in 2009, an oblique injury caused him to miss the first month of '10. Blanton appeared to be less effective than he had been the previous year as he finished with a 4.82 ERA and his K/9 dropped from 7.5 to 6.9.

However, most of Blanton's struggles can be attributed to an unsustainable .331 BABIP. There were no meaningful changes in Blanton's batted ball profiles, including line drives. However, liners fell in for hits at nearly four percent more often than the league average rate (72 percent).

As work by our own Matt Swartz and Eric Seidman (among others) have shown, line drive rate has little year-to-year consistency, so we should expect Blanton to allow hits on line drive at around 72 percent going forward. Thus, Blanton's BABIP will be lower, which will lead to a higher strand rate and a lower ERA, all else being equal.

Last year, Blanton finished with a 4.01 SIERA. That may not seem impressive, but pitchers like Blanton who can strike hitters out at a slightly above average rate and possess good control (career 2.5 BB/9) are key cogs in a good fantasy rotation if you were not lucky enough to have several aces fall into your lap.

Another pitcher like Blanton is Jake Westbrook, although he induces quite a bit more ground balls. Westbrook was covered in my Dec. 3 article.

Shaun Marcum, Milwaukee Brewers

Marcum moves from the offensively-potent American League East to the cozier National League Central with the Milwaukee Brewers. Last year, Marcum made 31 starts with a 7.6 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9, both career bests.

He finished 2010 with a .289 BABIP, which may seem a tiny bit fluky, but he has a career .280 BABIP. That is partially due to his fly ball tendencies as 43 percent of batted balls were of the fly ball variety in 2010. In the National League, fly balls fell in for hits only 13.6 percent of the time, so a fly ball pitcher can deflate his BABIP  slightly.

However, that does mean he is more prone to home runs. Marcum has allowed 72 home runs in his past three full seasons (2007-08, '10), spanning over 505 innings (HR/9 of 1.3). While the Rogers Centre was more homer-friendly to right-handed hitters in 2010 (park factor of 116), Miller Park was more homer-friendly to lefties (118 park factor) according to StatCorner.com.

Do not let that deter you from picking up Marcum, though. He finished 2010 with a 3.59 SIERA. and his great K and BB rates will make him valuable in any format.

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

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Prospectus Perspective... (12/23)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Hot Spot... (12/21)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Brad Haw... (12/27)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Prospectus Q&A: Will R... (12/24)

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