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June 24, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Weekly Planner #13

by Craig Brown

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Unlucky ‘Week 13’ on The Planner sees interleague wrapping up and a slate of doubleheaders to make up for some of those April rain delays. The Cubs and Giants will play a pair as will the Nationals and Pirates. As usual, teams are playing their probable starters close to the vest for these match-ups, so they’ve been skipped in this edition. There’s still plenty to choose from, though, with something for everyone in both leagues this week.

As always, starters listed are tentative and subject to change. Those listed 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.

We start in the AL...

Start
Erik Bedard - 6/27 vs ATL, 7/3 vs SD
Gio Gonzalez - 6/28 vs FLA, 7/3 vs ARI
Jeremy Hellickson - 6/27 vs CIN, 7/3 vs STL
C.J. Wilson - 6/28 @ HOU, 7/3 vs FLA

Consider
^Nick Blackburn - 6/27 vs LAD, 7/3 vs MIL
*Gavin Floyd - 6/28 @ COL, 7/3 @ CHC
^Freddy Garcia - 6/28 vs MIL, 7/3 @ NYM
*Ervin Santana - 6/27 vs WAS, 7/3 vs LAD
Max Scherzer - 6/27 vs TOR, 7/2 vs SF

Scherzer has now posted four consecutive starts and five of his last six where he has failed to strike out more than four batters. His swinging strike rate has remained static for the entire season (around 10 percent), so he must be catching too much of the plate too frequently. During this stretch he has a 7.79 ERA with a 1.58 WHIPBlackburn is on quite a roll, with a 2.35 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP in 69 innings going back to his first start of May. Not a huge fan of the 88 percent contact rate, though. He has at least one favorable matchup with the weak-hitting Dodgers at home where he owns a 2.40 ERA.

With a 1.32 WHIP, Santana is allowing too many base runners for my taste, and his 1.3 HR/9 is toeing that danger line. He’s yet to recapture the magic of his 2008 season, but with a 3.92 SIERA, this is as close as he’s been. Garcia seems to have made the transformation to pitching elder statesman. With a .276 BABIP and 4.50 SIERA, his tenure may be brief. With a 4.04 SIERA, Floyd is right where he should be performance-wise.

Sit
^Jake Arrieta - 6/28 vs STL, 7/3 @ ATL
^Jeff Francis - 6/27 @ SD, 7/3 @ COL
^Andrew Miller - 6/28 @ PHI, 7/3 @ HOU
^Rick Porcello 6/28 vs NYM, 7/3 vs SF
^Jo-Jo Reyes - 6/28 vs PIT, 7/3 vs PHI
^Zach Stewart - 6/27 @ DET, 7/2 vs PHI
^Mitch Talbot - 6/27 @ ARI, 7/3 @ CIN

Stewart has made two starts since bypassing Triple-A (at least as a starter. He made 20 relief appearances at that level in 2009) and the results have been about what you would expect… lots of base runners and a handful of runs allowed. Why do organizations do this to prospects?  Talbot has been a bit unlucky in his eight starts with an 81 percent left on base percentage and a .340 BABIP. While that may be unfortunate, it’s not enough for us to risk a pair of starts against two of the NL’s highest scoring clubs.

Late news has the Orioles pushing Arrieta’s start back a day due to elbow inflammation. As of press time, no replacement has been named. Francis is still struggling with his velocity–which is really saying something. Porcello is still battling inconsistency. His walks are up over his last four starts, and he’s been allowing far too many base runners.

Since he picked up that elusive first win, Reyes has settled back into his usual underwhelming pattern. Over his last four starts, he has a 4.81 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. Miller pitched well at Triple-A this season with a 2.47 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, but we’ll need to see him do it at the major league level for a few starts before we’re buying.
On to the NL...

ATL - 6/27 @ SEA, 7/3 vs BAL

Start
Chad Billingsley - 6/27 @ MIN, 7/3 @ LAA
Jhoulys Chacin - 6/27 @ CHC, 7/2 vs KC
Zack Greinke - 6/28 @ NYY, 7/3 @ MIN
Ian Kennedy - 6/27 vs CLE, 7/3 @ OAK
Mat Latos - 6/27 vs KC, 7/3 @ SEA
Cliff Lee - 6/28 vs BOS, 7/3 @ TOR

The cards seem to be stacked against Billingsley, who has been rocked in three of his last four starts. Ugly stuff, to be sure, but his .466 BABIP and 65 percent strand rate in June simply cannot continue. Latos was on the right track until last week when he was battered for eight runs in 11 innings covering his last two starts. A start at home in PETCO and one at Safeco is the way for him to get right again.

Consider
Matt Garza - 6/27 vs COL, 7/2 vs CHW
^John Lannan - 6/27 @ ANA, 7/3 vs PIT
^Mike Leake - 6/27 @ TB, 7/3 vs CLE

Lannan has had a remarkable run where he’s gone six starts without allowing more than two runs. Closer examination reveals that he’s been bulking up on some patsies; Seattle, San Diego (twice), and San Francisco have all been victims. He could keep it going this week against two of the lower scoring teams in the league. Overall, his 81 percent contact rate is the lowest of his career, and with a 0.8 HR/9, he’s keeping the ball in the yard. Worth a look this week.

Since returning from a brief stint on the DL, Garza has a 5.14 ERA with 10 walks and 14 strikeouts in 21 innings. His last start against the White Sox was his best one this month but was cut short because of a rain delay. Maybe some time in the bullpen and the minors was the right prescription for Leake. Over his last six starts, he’s posted a 2.85 ERA with a 1.07 WHIP and a 4:1 K/BB ratio.

Sit
^R.A. Dickey - 6/28 @ DET, 7/3 vs NYY
^Jason Hammel - 6/28 vs CHW, 7/3 vs KC
Kyle Lohse - 6/28 @ BAL, 7/3 @ TB
^Jordan Lyles - 6/28 vs TEX, 7/3 vs BOS
^Charlie Morton - 6/28 @ TOR, 7/3 vs @ WAS
^Javier Vazquez - 6/28 @ OAK, 7/3 @ TEX

Here we go again… Dickey has strung together a few quality starts. In three of his last four outings he’s gone eight innings and allowed one run. It’s easy to resist, though, as he battles two of the American League’s best offenses this week. Still hunting for his first major league win, Lyles will likely have to put that dream on hold for at least another week given the stiff AL competition he’s scheduled to face.

Trends: Lohse has seen his ground ball and strikeout rates decline each month of the season. It’s all come to a head in June as he’s been battered for a 5.47 ERA while surrendering seven home runs in 24 innings.  Hammel has picked up just one win in his last 10 starts. During that time, his ERA has ballooned to 4.57. The interesting thing about his win: it came during one of his worst performances in this stretch.

After he was hammered for seven runs and eight hits in just two innings, the Pirates announced Morton will have his next start skipped due to fatigue. It was the second time in three starts he was hammered by a team with a league average offense. Avoid.

Vazquez is still searching for those strikeouts… and he’s still not finding them. Maybe they’re in the Independent League.

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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