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June 17, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Weekly Planner #12

by Craig Brown

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Interesting quirk in the schedule this week as each team has exactly one two-start pitcher going. Again, the starts seem to align for interleague. Unfortunately, the lack of two-start hurlers mean the pickings are slim this week, especially in the American League.

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 with the AL...
 

Start

Josh Beckett - 6/20 vs SD, 6/26 @ PIT

Jeremy Hellickson - 6/20 @ MIL, 6/26 @ HOU

Ricky Romero - 6/20 @ ATL, 6/26 @ STL

Jered Weaver - 6/20 @ FLA, 6/26 @ LAD
 

Consider

Gavin Floyd - 6/20 vs CHC, 6/26 vs WAS

^Derek Holland - 6/20 vs HOU, 6/26 vs NYM

^Carl Pavano - 6/21 @ SF, 6/26 @ MIL

Call this a hunch on Holland, who is finding out how difficult it is to find success on a consistent basis in this league. Two starts ago, he struck out 10 batters and walked just one. He followed that up by walking five and failing to record a strikeout in his last outing. Having said that, if there was ever a week for him to string together back to back solid outings, this is the one. The Mets are abysmal against left-handed pitching, posting a line of .227/.307/.343 against southpaws this season. The Astros don’t own extreme splits, but they remain a below average offense, scoring just under four runs per game. 

Floyd’s strikeout rate is 6.7 per nine, which is right in line with his career average of 6.8 per nine. Still, it feels like it could be better, given he was hovering around a 7.4 K/9 his previous two seasons. His contact rate is up to 84 percent (above his career rate of 81 percent) and he’s allowing hitters to put the ball in play in 72 percent of all plate appearances, which is slightly above his career average of 70 percent. It seems to be working for him as his 1.19 WHIP would be the best of his career. The elevated contact and balls in play rate indicate he’ll have a difficult time maintaining that, however.  How good has Pavano been of late? He has shaved a full run off his ERA over his last three starts. Going back even further, through his last seven starts, he owns a 2.24 ERA. Those facts, along with a start in San Francisco this week, land him in this category. His 4.98 SIERA warns against too much optimism, though. Consider with care.
 

Sit

^Jake Arrieta - 6/20 @ PIT, 6/26 vs CIN

^Fausto Carmona - 6/20 vs COL, 6/26 @ SF

^Doug Fister - 6/21 @ WAS, 6/26 @ FLA

^Luke Hochevar - 6/21 vs ARI, 6/26 vs CHC

^Ivan Nova - 6/20 @ CIN, 6/26 vs COL

^Josh Outman - 6/21 @ NYM, 6/26 @ PHI

^Brad Penny - 6/20 @ LAD, 6/26 vs ARI

I thought about going out on a ledge for Outman, another lefty who has the benefit of facing the Mets this week. Plus, the Phillies’ power has been neutralized by left-handed pitching. The fact he’s allowed a single home run in 29 innings is nice, but I just can’t get past the fact that he’s walked 11 against 12 strikeouts. Nova get’s a swinging strike less than five percent of the time and has a lofty contact rate of 89 percent. Shaky command and the lack of a strikeout pitch mean he will struggle to push his K/BB ratio past its current 1.2.  Carmona’s worst outings in the last couple of months have come when he topped 100 pitches in his prior start.  Last time out, he needed 103 pitches to pick up his first win in his last eight starts.  Since throwing 108 pitches on May 24, he has worked 19 innings, walked eight, whiffed 10, and allowed six home runs. 

I still have hopes for Arrieta, but it’s basically in the long-term. Short-term, he’s allowing too many home runs (1.3 HR/9) and his 4.39 SIERA says he’s coming by his 4.45 ERA honestly.  Not much hope for Penny as his 3.9 K/9 against a 2.9 BB/9 doesn’t bode well for future improvement.

It would be one thing to think about Fister if his offense could score some runs, and the 4.19 SIERA points to another mid-season setback. Hochevar owns a 53 percent ground ball rate, which is good news for the sinkerballer, but a .259 BABIP and 4.70 SIERA don’t leave me enthused. Plus, his strikeout rate is way down to 3.9 K/9 against a career mark of 5.6 K/9.
 

On to the NL…

Start

Madison Bumgarner - 6/21 vs MIN, 6/26 vs CLE

Johnny Cueto - 6/20 vs NYY, 6/26 @ BAL

Dillon Gee - 6/21 vs OAK, 6/26 @ TEX

Roy Halladay - 6/21 @ STL, 6/26 vs OAK

Tim Hudson - 6/20 vs TOR, 6/26 @ SD

Clayton Kershaw - 6/20 vs DET, 6/26 vs LAA

Mat Latos - 6/20 @ BOS, 6/26 vs ATL

Anibal Sanchez - 6/20 vs LAA, 6/26 vs SEA

Hudson has been hamstrung by a 61 percent left on base percentage. Buy the 1.15 WHIP and the 3.82 SIERAGee has been added in 45 percent of ESPN leagues over the last seven days.
 

Consider

*Kyle McClellan - 6/21 vs PHI, 6/26 vs TOR

^Chris Narveson - 6/20 vs TB, 6/26 vs MIN

Let’s try this again… The last time I placed Narveson in this category, he repaid my generosity by coughing up nine runs in nine innings in his two starts in Week 9. Still, I like his bump in ground ball rate and his K/9 is up to 8.0. Plus, his 3.87 SIERA remains strong.  I was bullish on McClellan earlier in the season but wasn’t all that impressed in his return from the DL.  The 54 percent ground ball rate is fine, but the 4.6 K/9 isn’t.
 

Sit

^J.A. Happ - 6/20 @ TEX, 6/26 vs TB

^Livan Hernandez - 6/21 vs SEA, 6/26 @ CHW

*Charlie Morton - 6/20 vs BAL, 6/26 vs BOS

^Juan Nicasio - 6/20 @ CLE, 6/26 @ NYY

^Joe Saunders - 6/21 @ KC, 6/26 @ DET

*Carlos Zambrano - 6/20 @ CHW, 6/26 @ KC

Morton is still doing his thing, which means he’s keeping the ball in the yard.  He’s allowed just two home runs in 84 innings on the back of a 63 percent groundball rate.  The question is, can it continue?  His 3.93 SIERA holds some promise, but his strikeout rate of 4.9 K/9 is too low to convince me he’s for real. Nicasio was pushed from Double-A to the majors to fill in for the Rockies rotation. So far, so good, but the mere fact that he’s thrown only 56 innings above High-A ball makes me hesitant. For him, it’s all about the command, which he has in spades: so far, he has a 1.9 BB/9.  The issue will be avoiding bats.

Happ has some upside with a 4.58 SIERA, but it’s not enough to seriously consider. Besides, a 30 percent ground ball rate and 1.1 HR/9 make sure that upside would be extremely limited. It feels like he’s been around forever, but Saunders has only pitched in six seasons.  He’s never been an option. Maybe I should rename the “Sit” category after him. To paraphrase Prince, Hernandez is pitching like it’s 2010 and just broke an eight start winless skid by tossing a three-hit shutout against the Cardinals. Still can’t help but think he’s as dangerous as a box of nitroglycerin in the trunk of a Pinto.

Saw somewhere that referred to Zambrano as an innings-eater. I’m not too sure he can even do that anymore.

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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