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April 22, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Weekly Planner #4

by Craig Brown

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It’s the haves and the have-nots this week, as there isn’t a single pitcher who possesses between a 50 and 20 percent ownership rate in ESPN or Yahoo leagues. That discrepancy doesn’t make selecting a pitcher for a potential two-start week any easier. If you’re shopping in the bargain bins, you may want to start in the National League, as you’re more likely to find some bang for your buck.

As a reminder, the week begins on Monday and all starters listed are tentative and subject to change. Pitchers marked with an * are available in less than 50 percent of Yahoo or ESPN leagues. (As previously mentioned, there aren’t any of those guys this week.) Those marked with an ^ are claimed in less than 20 percent of those leagues.

We begin in the American League...

TOR - 4/26 @ TEX, 5/1 @ NYY

Start

Zach Britton - 4/26 vs. BOS, 5/1 @ CHW

Gavin Floyd - 4/26 @ NYY, 5/1 vs. SEA

Gio Gonzalez - 4/25 @ ANA, 5/1 vs. TEX

Jered Weaver - 4/25 vs. OAK, 5/1 @ TAM

I still like Britton, even though the Indians knocked him around in his last start. He gave up five runs in six innings, but he still got 10 ground balls and eight swinging strikes. For the season, he owns a 53 percent ground ball rate and is getting a swing and a miss on 11 percent of his strikes.

The matchup of the week comes on Monday when Weaver and Gonzalez square off in Anaheim.

Consider

A.J. Burnett - 4/25 vs. CHW, 4/30 vs. TOR

Wade Davis - 4/26 @ DET, 5/1 @ BOS

Kyle Drabek - 4/25 @ TEX, 4/30 @ NYY

Matt Harrison - 4/26 vs. TOR, 5/1 @ OAK

Colby Lewis - 4/25 vs. TOR, 4/30 @ OAK

Justin Masterson - 4/26 vs. KC, 5/1 vs. DET

Masterson owns right-handed batters (lifetime .233/.300/.314 vs. RHB) and the Tigers lineup is heavy on the right side. The Royals have a few more options from the left side, but he proved he could handle the hot KC bats in his previous start. With a four percent swing and miss rate, Davis isn’t missing many bats. His 91 percent contact rate remains high. Harrison’s .192 BABIP and 88 percent strand rate through his first four starts should make you think about selling high.

A rough start where he has allowed 11 earned runs in 17 innings has owners giving up on Lewis. He has lost a couple of mph off his fastball and is throwing his change almost 20 percent of the time. Last year, he offered his change just under seven percent of the time. Walks are nipping at Drabek and his potential for effectiveness and pitching deep into games. He has issued four free passes in three of his four starts. However, as I noted last week, he is bailing himself out with a spiffy 48 percent ground ball rate. He will need those ground balls this week as he has road starts in New York and Texas.

Four starts into the season and it’s already the same old Burnett. PECOTA projected a 4.54 ERA and 1.42 WHIP and he currently owns a 4.37 ERA and 1.46 WHIP. Yeah, small sample size and all that, but sometimes—to paraphrase Popeye—you are what you are.

Sit

^Eric Bedard - 4/26 @ DET, 5/1 @ BOS

^Nick Blackburn - 4/26 vs. TAM, 5/1 @ KC

^Phil Coke - 4/26 vs. SEA, 5/1 @ CLE

^Bartolo Colon - 4/26 vs. CHW, 5/1 vs. TOR

^Luke Hochevar - 4/26 @ CLE, 5/1 vs. MIN

^Philip Humber - 4/25 @ NYY, 4/30 vs. SEA

It’s a little unnerving when the Mariners touch you for six runs in just less than four innings of work like they did to Coke last week. He gets another chance this week. His spot in the rotation is safe for the time being, but be aware of his current .222 BABIP and 59 percent strand rate. Both are out of whack, the BABIP especially so. Since Jake Peavy has been temporarily shut down (again) for a few days, Humber buys a pair of starts this week. He has been adequate as a starter, throwing 11 innings and allowing 13 base runners and three earned runs, but that start in the Bronx looks risky.

Hochevar retired 31 straight batters at one point over his last two starts. He then celebrated by coughing up four runs in an inning. Inconsistency is what you’re going to get if you choose to put him on your roster. Bedard is striking out 9.9 per nine innings, which is good. But he owns a 13.8 H/9 which is very, very bad. He hasn’t shown anything in this young season where you should think about starting him.

The only difference between the 2010 Blackburn and this year’s model is his strand rate is 78 percent. That is 10 percentage points above his rate last season and about seven points above his career average. He left his start this week with a tight back making him questionable to make both starts this week.

Have you seen Colon? It looks like he ate CC Sabathia.

On to the NL…

Start

Matt Cain - @ PIT 4/26, @ WAS 5/1

Jaime Garcia - @ HOU 4/26, @ ATL 5/1

Matt Garza - vs. Col 4/25, @ ARI 4/30

Cliff Lee - @ ARI 4/25, vs. NYM 5/1

Derek Lowe - @ SD 4/25, vs. STL 5/1

Ricky Nolasco - vs. LAD 4/25, @ CIN 5/1

The ERA isn’t so hot, but Garza has been a little unfortunate in his first four starts. He leads the NL in strikeout rate at 12.4 K/9 and has yet to allow a home run. A .471 BABIP is the culprit here—buy low. Nolasco’s control has been spot-on. Through his first four starts, he’s issued just a pair of free passes in 27 innings.

Lowe has allowed 29 base hits, and just three for extras (two doubles and a home run.) It’s all about the ground balls, baby.

Consider

Bronson Arroyo - @ MIL 4/25, vs. FLA 5/1

^RA Dickey - @ WAS 4/26, @ PHI 5/1

Aaron Harang - vs. ATL 4/25, @ LAD 5/1

^Bud Norris - vs. STL 4/26, vs. MIL 5/1

^Randy Wolf - vs. CIN 4/25, @ HOU 5/1

Love the early week start against at San Diego, but a little nervous about the weekend tilt against the Cardinals. If you need strikeouts, think about Norris, who has whiffed 26 in 22 innings. He’s always been spotty on his control, but he has cut down on the walks, allowing just 2.9 BB/9 against his career rate of 4.2 BB/9.

I don’t quite know what to do with Wolf. He was dreadful in his first two starts and has since thrown over 12 scoreless innings. In his bad starts he was coughing up home runs, and in his good starts he has been limiting base runners. In all his starts, he is striking out batters . The knuckleball has been up in the zone for Dickey—correspondingly, so are his key fantasy numbers.

What’s up is down and what is down is up… After posting a .239 BABIP last summer, hitters are tuning Arroyo up with a .339 BABIP. One big problem is his 31 percent ground ball rate (well below his career number of 40 percent). His former teammate Harang has been outstanding, but he has gone exactly six innings in each start. He has yet to surrender a home run.

Sit

^Jon Garland - @ FLA 4/25, vs. SD 5/1

Ubaldo Jimenez - @ CHC 4/25, vs. PIT 5/1

Ian Kennedy - vs. PHI 4/25, vs. CHC 4/30

^Charlie Morton - vs. SF 4/26, @ COL 5/1

^Atahualpa Severino - 4/26 vs. NYM, 5/1 vs. SF

Jimenez draws a couple of favorable starts this week, but was rusty in his return from the DL, going just five innings and allowing four runs. It’s just 11 innings of work, but he has surrendered three home runs. Last season, he didn’t allow his third home run until start number 13. We need to see more before he can be counted on for a full week. His strand rate of 60 percent has to go up, plus Kennedy’s strikeouts are down and he remains an extreme fly ball pitcher in a park that slightly favors home runs.

Garland missed most of the spring with a strained oblique and has looked good (a complete game against the Braves) and not so good (giving up five runs in four innings against the Cardinals.) He hasn’t found his ground ball mojo yet, and even if he had, he’d be a marginal play. A 0.8 K/BB ratio and a .247 BABIP are just two of the warning signs that Morton can’t sustain his current 3.33 ERA.

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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Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Value Pi... (04/22)
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