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June 3, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Weekly Planner #10

by Craig Brown

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There are a few of starters in line to take a two turns in the rotation who just might be available in your league to give you an edge in head-to-head action this week. This is one of the most wide open weeks of the season where there will be plenty of pitchers to think about as you set your lineup.

As always, the starters listed are tentative and subject to change.  Those with a * are available in more than 50 percent of ESPN and Yahoo leagues, while those with a ^ are available in more than 80 percent of those leagues. 

Happy hunting… We start in the AL... 


Start

Gio Gonzalez - 6/6 @ BAL, 6/11 @ CHW

Felix Hernandez - 6/7 @ CHW, 6/12 @ DET

Jon Lester - 6/7 @ NYY, 6/12 @ TOR

Colby Lewis - 6/6 vs DET, 6/11 @ MIN

Michael Pineda - 6/6 @ CHW, 6/11 @ DET

Brandon Morrow - 6/6 @ KC, 6/11 vs BOS

Joel Pineiro - 6/6 vs TB, 6/12 vs KC

David Price - 6/6 @ ANA, 6/12 @ BAL

Yes, with a 5.11 ERA and 1.43 WHIP, Morrow has been disappointing.  I will point out that his 2.95 SIERA and 11.7 SO/9 indicate the struggles will be short-lived.  This is the week he bounces back.
 

Consider

^Freddy Garcia - 6/7 vs BOS, 6/12 vs CLE

*Matt Harrison - 6/7 vs DET, 6/12 @ MIN

Brian Matusz - 6/6 vs OAK, 6/12 vs TB

^Rick Porcello - 6/7 @ TEX, 6/12 vs SEA

Max Scherzer - 6/6 @ TEX, 6/11 vs SEA

Josh Tomlin - 6/6 vs MIN, 6/12 @ NYY

It’s been a rough couple of starts for Scherzer, who has seen a run and a half added to his ERA since bottoming out in mid-May at 2.81.  Currently sitting with a 4.38 ERA and 1.47 WHIP, he’s been elevating the ball more than in the past and the result has been a jump in his home run rate to 1.4 HR/9, up from last season’s 0.9 HR/9.  Arlington is a difficult place to find an antidote to the long ball disease, and the left-handed Ranger bats are crushing right handed pitching to the tune of a .470 slugging percentage this season.  He might need to wait until his weekend start vs Seattle to turn things around.

Matusz cruised through his minor league rehab starts and made a strong debut this week against the Mariners.  He was pulled after throwing 84 pitches as the Orioles decided to play it safe. Unfortunately, his last batter reached on an error, causing those of you who count quality starts in your fantasy league to lose out.  Harrison has benefitted from a .242 BABIP, but he’s done well keeping the ball on the ground and in the yard.  He was scheduled to start on Thursday but was skipped due to a blister on his finger.  Make sure you monitor the situation going forward as he could miss additional time.

Tomlin bolted out of the starting gate but has pulled up in his last pair of starts where he’s been touched for 10 runs in 12 innings.  Quick review: he’s a fly ball pitcher who doesn’t miss a ton of bats.  That may play against the Twins and their anemic offense this week, but I don’t know that I’d press my luck in his start against the Yankees.  Porcello is whiffing just 5.5 K/9 but is also walking 2.7 batters per nine.  His first two starts of the year were clunkers, and he got roughed up just prior to Memorial Day, but he’s been brilliant in those other seven starts, allowing two or fewer earned runs in each. 
 

Sit

^Scott Baker - 6/6 @ CLE, 6/11 vs TEX

^John Danks - 6/6 vs SEA, 6/12 @ TOR

^Kyle Drabek - 6/7 @ KC, 6/12 vs BOS

^Guillermo Moscoso - 6/7 @ BAL, 6/12 @ CHW

^Sean O’Sullivan - 6/7 vs TOR, 6/12 @ ANA

^Felipe Paulino - 6/6 vs TOR, 6/11 @ ANA

^Anthony Swarzak - 6/7 @ CLE, 6/12 vs TEX

Baker’s 8.8 K/9 is a strikeout and a half above his career rate, but he’s pumped his totals despite his swinging strike rate (16 percent) and his overall strike rate (68 percent) remaining static.  It may be tempting, but a correction is coming.  Normally he’d be a “consider,” but the fact that he’s facing two of the top offenses in the American League and the fact that the Twins can’t buy a win make this an especially risky play.  Danks is still searching for that elusive first win.  Even more damning… the White Sox are 1-9 in his 10 starts.

Drabek is falling short of modest expectations with a 4.69 ERA and 5.43 SIERA. His 6.4 BB/9 is downright ugly.  In his 12 starts this year he’s thrown just six quality starts and has an average Game Score of 47.  Making a spot start for Francisco Liriano, Swarzak looked strong for the Twins, tossing eight innings of one-hit ball.  Given his track record (6.25 ERA and 1.62 WHIP in 12 starts for Minnesota in 2009) that start will be difficult to match.  Not that you’re considering him, but Moscoso had his start skipped when the A’s had an off day this week. 

If you start O’Sullivan, the government should take away your fantasy team. Fact: Paulino is in the rotation only because the Royals lack two things in their rotation: quality and depth. (See: Sean O’Sullivan.) Other than that, they’re fine.

 

On to the National League...

FLA  - 6/7 vs ATL, 6/12 vs ARI

Start

*Ryan Dempster - 6/7 @ CIN, 6/12 @ PHI

Zack Greinke - 6/6 @ FLA, 6/11 vs STL

Tommy Hanson - 6/7 @ FLA, 6/12 @ HOU

Cliff Lee - 6/6 vs LAD, 6/11 vs CHC

Tim Lincecum - 6/6 vs SF, 6/11 vs CIN

Shaun Marcum - 6/7 vs NYM, 6/12 vs STL

Roy Oswalt - 6/7 vs LAD, 6/12 vs CHC

Jonathan Sanchez - 6/7 vs SF, 6/12 vs CIN

Jordan Zimmermann - 6/7 @ SF, 6/12 @ SD

Dempster’s April was so bad that his overall numbers are still recovering.  He’s in this category because his May has been business as usual.  He’s a strong buy candidate as he found his control (2.1 BB/9 after 4.7 BB/9 in April) and his BABIP and left on base percentage have normalized.  Just for fun, here are his SIERA numbers for the last four seasons:

2008 - 3.74
2009 - 3.79
2010 - 3.70
2011 - 3.78

Zimmerman owns a 3.96 SIERA and gets the Padres (last in the NL at 3.4 R/G) and the Giants (second to last in the NL at 3.5 R/G) this week.
 

Consider

*Kevin Correia - 6/7 vs ARI, 6/12 vs NYM

Daniel Hudson - 6/7 @ PIT, 6/12 @ FLA

Ubaldo Jimenez - 6/7 @ SD, 6/12 vs LAD

Ted Lilly - 6/6 @ PHI, 6/11 @ COL

^Clayton Richard - 6/6 vs COL, 6/11 vs WAS

^Tim Stauffer - 6/7 vs COL, 6/12 vs WAS

Am I ready to declare Jimenez all the way back after his shutout of the Dodgers on Wednesday? If only things were that simple.  You have to be encouraged he was able to maintain his velocity through the entire nine innings, but he was still missing a couple mph off his heater from last season.  He’s shown flashes of the old Jimenez in the last six or so starts but has been a risk because he hasn’t been able to find consistency.  Having said all that, if there was ever a time to run him out for a pair of starts, it would be this week against the Padres and Dodgers (again).

It hasn’t been the easiest start to the season for Lilly, but things seem to be regressing to the mean.  His 4.05 SIERA and 4.22 ERA are close enough, but the real reason to think about adding him would be his stellar 1.5 BB/9.  It continues a trend that began following the 2006 season when he made his move to the NL as a free agent.  He doesn’t gain any kind of split advantage against either of his opponents this week as both the Phillies and the Rockies share similar fates against left and right handed pitchers.   Richard is a soft “consider” this week.  He gets two home starts at PETCO, where he has a 2.42 ERA compared to a gaudy 5.97 road ERA.  Plus, one of his starts are against the Nationals, who are horrible against left-handed pitching, managing a measly .211/.296/.346 against southpaws this season.  The same goes for Stauffer, who has a strong 53 percent ground ball rate and 3.0 K/BB ratio but lacks any kind of run support necessary for him to pick up a win.

Who leads the NL in wins?  It’s Correia, who has eight in 12 starts.  That he’s doing this with a 4.0 K/9 and a 4.76 SIERA gives us something to think about.  What it makes me think is there’s no way he can keep this going.  Hudson scuffled in his last couple of starts and is still trying to get out from under a .338 BABIP and 67 percent left on base percentage that has contributed to his 4.22 ERA.  Indeed, his SIERA is a solid 3.66, indicating that better times are ahead.  He’s getting a swinging strike about one in every ten pitches, which is better than league average, and he owns a 75 percent contact rate (six points better than the average).  There’s still some upside here. 
 

Sit

^Chris Capuano - 6/7 @ MIL, 6/12 @ PIT

^Doug Davis - 6/6 @ CIN, 6/11 @ PHI

^Jon Garland - 6/7 @ PHI, 6/12 @ COL

^John Lannan - 6/6 @ SF, 6/11 @ SD

^Mike Leake - 6/7 vs CHC, 6/12 @ SF

^Clayton Mortensen - 6/6 @ SD, 6/11 vs LAD

*Brett Myers - 6/7 vs STL, 6/12 vs ATL

^Chad Reineke - 6/6 vs CHC, 6/11 @ SF

^Javier Vazquez - 6/6 vs MIL, 6/11 vs ARI

^Jake Westbrook - 6/7 @ HOU, 6/12 @ MIL

Garland had success in San Diego last year on the back of a 52 percent ground ball rate.  Moving up the coast this year, his GB rate has dropped to 39 percent.  That can’t account for everything that’s happened to him this year, or maybe it can and it just underscores what an outlier 2010 was.  This week, he heads to two parks that hold the advantage for hitters and will likely give up a few home runs in the process.  Not a good week to start a ground ball pitcher who is no longer keeping the ball on the ground.

Myers had his best start of the season this week against the Cubs, but it was only the third time in his last nine starts that his Game Score topped 50.  During that span, he’s posted a 5.96 ERA and an unsightly 1.60 WHIP.   He’s always been prone to the home run, but this year’s 1.8 HR/9 is off-the-charts high.  After a successful rookie campaign, Leake has bounced around this year: from the rotation, to the bullpen, to the minors, and now back to the Reds rotation.  He’s looked better in his two starts since his return from Triple-A exile but is still a risky play for the short-term.  Capuano, as usual, is having difficulty keeping the ball in the park (1.3 HR/9.)

Davis and Reineke square off against each other on Monday in Cincinnati in a match-up that’s notable in as much as both starters are in the rotation only because of injuries.  Neither are good bets to make both starts this week.  Likewise for Mortensen, who will probably shift back to the bullpen when Aaron Cook returns. 

I just can’t bring myself to mark Lannan a “consider”, even in a week when he gets a pair of starts against two of the weakest offenses in the league.  Westbrook has an 0.4 HR/9, which is a good thing since he is allowing 10.2 H/9 and 4.2 BB/9.  It would appear he’s mastered the Dave Duncan school of groundball pitching as 63 percent of all balls in play have stayed on the ground. 

Someday, when his career is over–and given the way he’s pitched this season, it could be closer than we think–I’d like to sit down and put Vazquez’s entire career under a microscope.  The rollercoaster ride of his fantasy value has been insane.

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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