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May 27, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Weekly Planner #9

by Craig Brown

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Memorial Day weekend represents a third of the way through the baseball season, and it’s a time when we can finally decide that some new trends are here to stay. Several starters who are catching our attention for their fantasy value are in action this week and will pick up a pair of starts. The best value looks to be in the National League, where a handful of newcomers and veterans returning from exile are racking up the fantasy points.

Remember, all starters listed are tentative and subject to change. They are accurate through Thursday evening’s games. Those listed with a * are owned in fewer than 50 percent of ESPN or Yahoo leagues, while those with a ^ are owned in less than 20 percent of those same leagues.

We start in the National League…

Start
Chad Billingsley: 5/30 vs. COL, 6/5 @ CIN
Madison Bumgarner: 5/30 @ STL, 6/4 vs. COL
Chris Carpenter: 5/31 vs. SF, 6/5 vs. CHC
Roy Halladay: 5/30 @ WAS, 6/5 @ PIT
Tim Hudson: 5/30 vs. SD, 6/5 @ NYM
Ian Kennedy: 5/31 vs. FLA, 6/5 vs. WAS
Mat Latos: 5/31 @ ATL, 6/5 vs. HOU
Kyle McClellan: 5/30 vs. SF, 6/4 vs. CHC

Owners deserted McClellan when he hit a rough patch at the end of April and gave up nine runs in 10 innings over two starts. They’re back now that he has posted a 2.25 ERA over his last four starts. Fickle group, fantasy owners… Speaking of which, I hope you didn’t give up on Latos after his rough start. He has shaved a full run off his ERA this month. His 3.69 SIERA suggests it may go lower still.

Keep the faith on Carpenter. The .333 BABIP and 68 percent strand rate isn’t helping, but his 6.8 SO/9 and 2.2 BB/9 are right in line with his career rates. He will come around.

He’s in the start category, but color me cautious when it comes to Hudson. He had his last start skipped because of back pain and he owns a 4.29 SIERA, which would be the highest rate of his career if the season were over. He’s here this week because of his favorable opposition.

Consider
*Aaron Harang: 5/30 @ ATL, 6/4 vs. HOU
^James McDonald: 5/31 @ NYM, 6/5 vs. PHI
*Charlie Morton: 5/30 @ NYM, 6/4 vs. PHI
^Chris Narveson: 5/30 @ CIN, 6/5 @ FL
Ryan Vogelsong: 5/31 @ STL, 6/5 vs. COL
*Travis Wood: 5/30 vs. MIL, 6/5 vs. LAD

Last seen in the majors in 2006, Vogelsong has our attention after making his third consecutive start in which he didn’t allow an earned run. His 1.93 ERA is amazing, but his 3.61 SIERA is pretty nifty in its own right. The 83 percent strand rate will certainly correct itself, but the 2.8 BB/9 shows much improved command from his last go-round in the bigs. It helps that Vogelsong is starting batters with a strike 66 percent of the time, the seventh-best rate among NL starters. We’ll see how he fares this week against two of the top three offenses in the league.

In seven of Harang’s 10 starts, he has allowed two or fewer runs. Twice, he has surrendered seven or more. One of those starts was against the Braves. Narveson’s peripherals (3.2 BB/9, 7.2 SO/9) are similar to last season, but he has shaved nine percentage points off his contact rate, dropping it to 71 percent. His 3.85 SIERA suggests a solid option.

My pre-season sleeper, McDonald had me reconsidering my line of work after a dreadful April. However, he has bounced back this month with a 3.14 ERA with a 9.4 SO/9 and 2.5 BB/9. He won’t pick up enough wins given how the Pirates score runs, but he has plenty of value and upside.

Almost a full run separates Wood’s 5.11 ERA from his 4.18 SIERA. He will have to tame a low (35 percent) ground-ball rate if he’s to be successful. Karma alert: Morton had rotten luck last year; this year, he has been the beneficiary of an 80 percent strand rate and a .262 BABIP. Someday this will all even out.

Sit
^Casey Coleman: 5/30 vs. HOU, 6/5 @ STL
^Josh Collmenter: 5/30 vs. FLA, 6/4 vs. WAS
^R.A. Dickey: 5/31 vs. PIT, 6/5 vs. ATL
^Dillon Gee: 5/30 vs. PIT, 6/4 vs. ATL
^Jason Hammel: 5/30 @ LAD, 6/5 @ SF
^J.A. Happ: 5/30 @ CHC, 6/4 @ SD
^Livan Hernandez: 5/30 vs. PHI, 6/4 @ ARI
^Jason Marquis: 5/31 vs. PHI, 6/5 @ ARI
^Aneury Rodriguez: 5/30 @ CHC, 6/4 @ SD
^Chris Volstad: 5/30 @ ARI, 6/5 vs. MIL

Hammel is off to a good fantasy start, but his SIERA remains high at 4.50, and his 5.3 SO/9 is off by two strikeouts from last year. Collmenter’s calling card is his command, but living around the plate with a mid-80s fastball will get you hurt in the big leagues. Volstad has amped up his strikeout rate to 6.7 SO/9, but it’s still not enough to pique my interest. Dickey left his last start after injuring his heel and foot while covering first base. Even without the injury, he’d be in this category because he’s having a difficult time repeating his 2010 success.

Gee has pitched relatively well, but his 4.1 BB/9 scares me a bit. He has also benefitted from an unsustainable .239 BABIP. Happ and Coleman square off against each other this week in a game that has massive fantasy implications… For those of you in leagues where you try to be awful, I’m not going to be fooled by Hernandez again. I’m not.

On to the AL…

Start
*Erik Bedard: 5/31 vs. BAL, 6/5 vs. TB
Trevor Cahill: 5/30 vs. NYY, 6/5 @ BOS
Wade Davis: 5/30 vs. TEX, 6/4 @ SEA
Jon Lester: 5/30 vs. CHW, 6/5 vs. OAK
Jake Peavy: 5/30 @ BOS, 6/4 vs. DET
CC Sabathia: 5/30 @ OAK, 6/5 @ ANA
C.J. Wilson: 5/31 @ TB, 6/5 @ CLE

Is he back? After posting a 0.89 GB/FB ratio in April, Bedard owns a 2.2 GB/FB ratio in May. Over his last five starts, he has a 1.09 ERA and a 4.0 SO/BB ratio. Grab him.

Especially since he squares off at home against the weak sisters of the AL East.

Consider
^Nick Blackburn: 5/30 @ DET, 6/4 @ KC
*Ervin Santana: 5/30 @ KC, 6/5 vs. NYY

Pitcher Abuse Point Alert: Blackburn threw a career-high 127 pitches in his last outing. If there’s some fallout, that would be a sham; he’s having a great run of form, posting a 1.72 ERA and 1.06 WHIP over his last five starts. He currently ranks 20th on total PAP.

Santana’s control has been an impeccable 2.2 BB/9, but his success stems from when he’s able to keep the ball in the park. In five starts where his team has lost, he has surrendered seven home runs. In five starts where his team has recorded a victory, he has been taken deep only once.

Sit
*Jake Arrieta: 5/30 @ SEA, 6/5 vs. TOR
^Fausto Carmona: 5/30 @ TOR, 6/3 vs. TEX
^Brian Duensing: 5/31 @ DET, 6/5 @ KC
^Doug Fister: 5/30 vs. BAL, 6/4 vs. TB
^Jeff Francis: 5/31 vs. ANA, 6/5 vs. MI
^Luke Hochevar: 5/30 vs. ANA, 6/4 vs. MIN
^Derek Holland: 5/30 @ TB, 6/4 @ CLE
Brad Penny: 5/30 vs. MIN, 6/4 @ CHW
^Jo-Jo Reyes: 5/30 vs. CLE, 6/5 @ BAL
^Andy Sonnanstine: 5/31 vs. TEX, 6/5 @ SEA
^Mitch Talbot: 5/31 @ TOR, 6/4 vs. TEX

Hochevar has a 4.59 SIERA this year, which would lead you to believe he has pitched slightly better than his 4.81 ERA indicates. He also ranks sixth in all of baseball with 4.9 Support-Neutral Wins. As enticing as that may sound, I’d still give a wide berth. Arrieta still hasn’t learned about pitch economy. He’s averaging 97 pitches per start, but doesn’t last six innings in those outings. Talbot was rocked in his first start back after missing a month with a strained elbow. Exercise caution.

Carmona’s peripherals (5.8 SO/9, 2.5 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9) are almost identical to his 2007 season. His SIERA that year finished at 3.52. Currently, he’s at 3.82. Good news aside, he has had three consecutive rocky outings, and after allowing just two home runs in his first seven starts, he has served up four in his last three. Didn’t we go through this last year with Fister? His 4.36 SIERA is a full run higher than his 3.18 ERA. Two months into the season and Reyes is still searching for his first win. Given the way Sonnanstine has looked in his starts this year, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him bumped back to the bullpen soon.

 Since Duensing made a bizarre relief appearance in which he threw an inning out of the bullpen, waited out an hour-long rain delay, then threw another inning, he has been rocked to the tune of 15 runs in 16 innings. Penny has been frustratingly inconsistent this season, especially with his command. One area where he has exhibited some consistency is pitching to contact. He’s getting a swing and a miss just over four percent of the time, and opposing hitters own an 89 percent contact rate against him. He’s not fooling hitters, and he shouldn’t fool you into thinking he can deliver two quality starts this week. 

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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Prospectus Hit and Run... (05/26)
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