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June 10, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Weekly Planner #11

by Craig Brown

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Interleague play returns next week with the leagues knotted up at 21 wins apiece. (Oh, the rivalries! The competition!) Given the recent history of interleague play, it may be surprising that the best bets for good starts are going for the National League this week.  That’s not to say the AL two-start pitchers are lacking, it’s just that there’s some quality that’s more likely to be found in your fantasy league on the NL side of the ledger.  

As always, the starters listed are tentative and subject to change.  A * means the starter is available in more than half the ESPN or Yahoo leagues and a ^ means he’s available in more than 80 percent of those leagues. 

We’ll begin with the NL...
 

Start

Matt Cain - 6/14 @ ARI, 6/19 @ OAK

*Ryan Dempster - 6/13 vs MIL, 6/18 vs NYY

Jaime Garcia - 6/14 @ WAS, 6/19 vs KC

Yovani Gallardo - 6/14 @ CHC, 6/19 @ BOS

Cole Hamels - 6/15 vs FLA, 6/19 @ SEA

Jair Jurrjens - 6/14 vs NYM, 6/19 vs TEX

Hiroki Kuroda - 6/13 vs CIN, 6/19 vs HOU

Ricky Nolasco - 6/13 vs ARI, 6/18 @ TB

*Bud Norris - 6/14 vs PIT, 6/19 @ LAD

Wandy Rodriguez - 6/13 vs ATL, 6/18 @ LAD

I’ll just keep repeating this and updating the numbers as the season rolls along: since May 1, Dempster has a 3.67 ERA, an 8.5 K/9, a 2.4 BB/9 and has allowed just four home runs in 49 innings.  Owners abandoned him after a crummy April and his recovery represents an excellent buying opportunity.  Same for Norris, especially this week.

Rodriguez was rolling prior to landing on the DL with elbow joint effusion but looked good in a rehab outing in Double-A this week, throwing four innings, striking out two, and walking one.  Barring setbacks, he is scheduled to return Monday.

 

Consider

Josh Collmenter - 6/14 vs SF, 6/19 vs CHW

^Jeff Karstens - 6/15 @ HOU, 6/19 @ CLE

*Derek Lowe - 6/13 @ HOU, 6/18 vs TEX

^Jon Niese - 6/15 @ ATL, 6/19 vs LAA

Niese has amped up the strikeout rate of late, fanning 25 batters in his last 26 innings while walking just seven.  With a career strikeout rate of 7.3, he’s been doing decent enough in that category that an increase like the one he’s experiencing is enough to get me to pay closer attention.  In the past, the knock on him has always been an elevated WHIP (career 1.48), so if he can keep setting hitters down on strikes, those base runner totals will drop.  Plus, he’s only 24.  This could be a good development…

Karstens hasn’t walked a batter since May 14.  Bouncing between relief and the rotation, he doesn’t pitch deep into games but could be a boon to your WHIP. When I last visited Lowe in Week 7, I noted his swing-and-miss strike rate was elevated at 19 percent.  Since then, he’s dropped to 16 percent overall.  It’s not a coincidence that he has a 4.50 ERA and a 1:1 K:BB ratio over that time.

Collmenter is the fantasy starter du jour, but with a .163 BABIP and 86 percent left on base percentage, he’s going to cause some owners some pain in the near future.  Plus, he features just two primary pitches–a fastball that sits at 87-88 mph and a slider–and is getting a swinging strike just eight percent of the time. While I remain extremely skeptical, he does have one start against the Giants this week.
 

Sit

*Bronson Arroyo - 6/13 @ LAD, 6/19 vs TOR

^Aaron Cook - 6/13 vs SD, 6/19 vs DET

^Zach Duke - 6/13 @ FLA, 6/18 vs CHW

^Paul Maholm - 6/14 vs NYM, 6/18 @ CLE

^Yunesky Maya - 6/14 vs STL, 6/19 vs BAL

^Dustin Moseley - 6/13 @ COL, 6/19 @ MIN

^Mike Pelfrey - 6/14 @ PIT, 6/18 vs LAA

^Chris Volstad - 6/14 @ PHI, 6/19 @ TB

^Randy Wells - 6/14 vs MIL, 6/19 vs NYY

*Randy Wolf - 6/13 @ CHC, 6/18 @ BOS

A marginal fantasy starter in the best of times, Pelfrey has served up nine home runs in his last eight starts.  That’s not helping.  Maholm’s ground ball rate is 48%–the first time he’s been below 50 percent in his career.  A 4.38 SIERA is a slight improvement on last year’s number, but he’s really overperforming with his 3.39 ERADuke is jumping ahead of hitters, delivering a first-pitch strike 59 percent of the time and is throwing a strike in 66 percent of all pitches.  Plus, he has an 0.5 BB/9, walking just one batter in his first 19 innings this season.  That sounds great, but beware... while he’s set up shop in the strike zone, he’s not missing enough bats, posting a 5.2 K/9 with just 12 percent of his strikes coming off swings and misses.

Moseley’s shoulder popped out of its socket while he was swinging a bat on Wednesday.  That looked… painful.  Some are taking a second ride on the Wolf bandwagon, but his 4.32 SIERA is almost a full run above his current ERA.  He’s not keeping the ball on the ground and will be homer-prone as a result.  He draws a tough interleague test this week against the Red Sox, who are second in the AL with a .440 slugging percentage.  Cook struggled with his command and stamina in his return from a shoulder injury. 

The good news for Wells in his second start since his return from the DL is the fact he found his control, walking just one batter.  The bad news was that he found bats, getting just four swinging strikes and striking out just a single hitter. Arroyo’s strikeout numbers are meh, but his 1.9 HR/9 and his 39 percent ground ball rate are the real concern. He may get by against a weak Dodger offense, but the Jays are going to murder him.  Volstad has been a bit unlucky with a 4.15 SIERA against a 5.67 ERA, but that can hardly be considered an endorsement of future performance. 

 

On to the AL…

Start

Gavin Floyd - 6/14 @ MIN, 6/19 @ ARI

Dan Haren - 6/13 @ SEA, 6/19 @ NYM

Alexi Ogando - 6/14 @ NYY, 6/19 @ ATL

CC Sabathia - 6/14 vs TEX, 6/19 @ CHC

James Shields - 6/14 vs BOS, 6/19 vs FLA

Justin Verlander - 6/14 vs CLE, 6/19 @ COL

The match-up of the week is Ogando visiting Sabathia in a start where two seven-game winners square off looking for win number eight.
 

Consider

Zach Britton - 6/14 @ TOR, 6/19 @ WAS

A.J. Burnett - 6/13 vs CLE, 6/18 @ CHC

Justin Masterson - 6/14 @ DET, 6/19 vs PIT

^Jason Vargas - 6/13 vs ANA, 6/19 vs PHI

In 36 innings since May 11, Burnett has walked 21 batters and struck out 27.  And given up six home runs.  His 4.44 SIERA suggests he’s settled into where he’s supposed to be, which is a mid-to-lower tier starter.  You know the Yankees will support him with some runs, but the question is always whether or not he’ll stick around long enough to qualify for the win.

Dump and run: Nearly a quarter of ESPN owners have thrown Britton back into the waiver pool in the last seven days.  It may be a good idea to rest him against the Jays, who touched him for seven runs in a start last week. Vargas bounced back from disaster starts against the Twins and Yankees to deliver a pair of fine starts against the Rays and White Sox.  His numbers have fallen almost exactly in line with what he did last year when he outperformed his 4.69 SIERA with a 3.78 ERA.  Currently at a 3.94 ERA and 1.25 WHIP, this feels like a comfortable old sneaker.  Similarly, are the wheels coming off the Masterson bandwagon?  In his last six starts, he has a 4.43 ERA and 1.43 WHIP.  It’s all about the creeping fly ball rate.  In his first seven starts his GB/FB ratio was 1.69.  Since then, it’s 1.02. 
 

Sit

^Carlos Carrasco - 6/13 @ NYY, 6/18 vs PIT

^Alex Cobb - 6/13 @ DET, 6/18 vs FLA

^Phil Coke - 6/13 vs TB, 6/18 @ COL

^Danny Duffy - 6/14 @ OAK, 6/19 @ STL

^Josh Outman - 6/14 vs KC, 6/19 vs SF

^Carl Pavano - 6/14 vs CHW, 6/19 vs SD

^Carlos Villanueva - 6/14 vs BAL, 6/19 @ CIN

^Tim Wakefield - 6/14 @ TAM, 6/19 vs MIL

Cobb has been throwing vanilla since joining the Rays rotation with an ERA that matches his walk rate - 4.24.  It’s only been three starts, but once his .255 BABIP and 69 percent LOB% normalize, it could get bumpy. Returning from an ankle injury, Coke had a very Coke-like performance, giving up six runs (four earned) in five innings against Texas.  He used to strike out over seven batters per nine as a reliever, but as a starter, he’s down to a 4.7 K/9. Depending on how Jesse Litsch does on his rehab outings, Villanueva may not make both scheduled starts this week and will likely shift back to the bullpen.

Duffy has the talent, but with a 6.3 BB/9, he has yet to find the control.  Outman had a positive outing in his last start as he didn’t walk a batter.  After missing all of last year recovering from Tommy John surgery, he still hasn’t boosted his strikeout rate, which remains at 4.2 K/9. Carrasco handled the Twins in his last start but faces a much more difficult customer in the Yankees this week.  Last season, he whiffed 38 batters in 44 innings.  This year, he needed 65 innings to reach 38 strikeouts.  Pavano has a 4.98 SIERA and the main difference between this year and last is he’s getting fewer ground balls and strikeouts.

Is it a hate crime if I write bad things about a 44 year old knuckleballer?  Isn’t Wakefield protected by the New England Historical Society?

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 Value Picks: Starting ... (06/10)
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