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July 1, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Weekly Planner #14

by Craig Brown

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It’s the week before the All-Star Break, and the schedule makers were sure to cram in all the action they could ahead of the season’s pseudo midway point. Only the Phillies and Pirates have a day off this week, providing tons of options for fantasy leaguers looking for two-start pitchers.

As always, pitchers listed are tentative and subject to change. Those marked with an * are available in more than half of ESPN or Yahoo leagues while those with a ^ are available in more than 80 percent of those leagues.

We celebrate the National League’s strong showing in interleague play (a 92-96 record through Wednesday’s games!) by kicking things off in the senior circuit.
 

Start

Chris Carpenter - 7/4 vs CIN, 7/9 vs ARI

Johnny Cueto - 7/4 @ STL, 7/9 @ MIL

*Ryan Dempster - 7/4 @ WAS, 7/9 @ PIT

Jaime Garcia - 7/5 vs CIN, 7/10 vs ARI

Tommy Hanson- 7/4 vs COL, 7/9 @ PHI

Daniel Hudson - 7/4 @ MIL, 7/9 @ STL

Ubaldo Jimenez - 7/4 @ ATL, 7/9 @ WAS

Tim Lincecum - 7/5 vs SD, 7/10 vs NYM

Shaun Marcum - 7/4 vs ARI, 7/9 vs CIN

Wandy Rodriguez - 7/5 @ PIT, 7/10 @ FLA

Tim Stauffer - 7/5 @ SF, 7/10 @ LAD

Jordan Zimmerman - 7/4 vs CHC, 7/9 vs COL

Yes, Dempster has a gaudy 4.99 ERA and 1.41 WHIP. Yes, he has just five wins because his team is awful. However, I continue to point to his 3.65 SIERA and recent run of form where he’s struck out 69 batters over his last 75 innings dating to the first of May. That’s a span of 12 starts where nine of them have been really strong, resulting in a 3.11 ERA and 1.22 WHIP.

It’s taken awhile, but Carpenter should see his ERA drop below four this week. Finally. Stauffer has been outstanding this year with a 3.5 K/BB ratio and a 3.36 SIERA. If he’s available in your league (he’s owned in just 54 percent in both ESPN and Yahoo leagues), he’s your best pickup option for the week.
 

Consider

*Ted Lilly - 7/4 vs NYM, 7/9 vs SD

*Derek Lowe - 7/5 vs COL, 7/10 @ PHI

*Brett Myers - 7/4 @ PIT, 7/9 @ FLA

Ricky Nolasco - 7/4 vs PHI, 7/9 vs HOU

^Clayton Richard - 7/4 @ SF, 7/9 @ LAD

*Carlos Zambrano - 7/5 @ WAS, 7/10 @ PIT

One year removed from posting an 8.5 percent HR/FB rate - which was the best of his career by far - Myers is showing how much of an outlier that was by reverting to form. In his career he has a 14.5 percent HR/FB rate, and this year he’s at 15.7 percent with a league-high 22 home runs allowed. Nolasco’s strikeout rate is tumbling… he’s currently at 6.5 K/9, which is his lowest rate since his rookie season. It’s worse over his last seven starts where he’s punching out just 5.5 batters per nine. It’s no coincidence that he owns a 5.74 ERA over that stretch.

Lilly has been on a horrible run, allowing six runs in each of his last three starts. Prior to that, though, he was rolling with a 3.53 ERA over a stretch of 11 starts. Still, those last three starts have been so putrid, he’s tacked a full run onto his season ERA, pushing it to 4.97. His 4.15 SIERA indicates there is some upside, but beware. He gets two home starts this week, but this season Chavez Ravine hasn’t provided any kind of refuge. Capuano pitched through an abdominal strain in his last start, surrendering three home runs, but still got the win. That was a blip on an otherwise strong stretch of starts during which he has posted a 3.58 ERA over 65 innings dating back to early May. If he can shake the effects of the strain, he’s someone to consider as the Mets take their resurgent offense to a pair of West Coast, pitcher-friendly ballparks.

 As long as Lowe is collecting ground balls, I’m still thinking about starting him. If you’re going to start Zambrano at any point this year, it may as well be this week against two teams that average less than four runs scored per contest. But you’ll have to wait and see about the extent of the back injury that caused him to leave his start on Thursday.
 

Sit

^Chris Capuano - 7/4 @ LAD, 7/9 @ SF

^Aaron Cook - 7/5 @ ATL, 7/10 @ WAS

^Rubby De La Rosa - 7/5 vs NYM, 7/10 vs SD

^Zach Duke - 7/5 @ MIL, 7/10 @ STL

^John Lannan - 7/5 vs CHC, 7/10 vs COL

^Paul Maholm - 7/4 vs HOU, 7/10 vs CHC

^Mike Pelfrey - 7/5 @ LAD, 7/10 @ SF

*Edinson Volquez - 7/5 @ STL, 7/10 @ MIL

^Chris Volstad - 7/5 vs PHI, 7/10 vs HOU

*Randy Wolf - 7/5 vs ARI, 7/10 vs CIN

^Vance Worley - 7/4 @ FLA, 7/10 vs ATL

^Barry Zito - 7/4 vs SD, 7/9 vs NYM

Cook has been dreadful since returning from the DL, where he was recovering from both a broken finger and shoulder tendinitis. He’s always carried a high contact rate, but this year’s 21 percent line drive rate means that contact has often been too strong for him to overcome - he’s allowing 12.1 H/9. I’m keeping an eye on Volstad, as I was tempted to put him in the “consider” category this week. He owns a 4.17 SIERA, which is a run and a quarter stronger than his ERA. Plus, he has a 2.8 BB/9 and is getting a grounder more than half the time the ball is put in play. He needs to find consistency and the ability to pitch deeper into games if he’s to have a fantasy impact. A 1.4 K/BB ratio and a seven percent swing and miss rate are reason enough for me to avoid Lannan, despite the strong ERA. I’ll avoid Wolf due to his SIERA being a full run higher than his 3.20 ERA.

De La Rosa has a 4.88 ERA and 1.62 WHIP since moving into the rotation at the first of June. Maholm has a 4.61 SIERA, which is a run and a half higher than his ERA. Somehow, he still has a low (.254) BABIP and a better than career average 75 percent strand rate. I don’t like the 1.6 K/BB ratio either. The problems run deep with Volquez; a 6.0 BB/9 and a 1.4 HR/9 are enough to keep me away. Pelfrey’s 4.78 ERA is right in the neighborhood of his 4.46 SIERA.

In his last nine starts, Richard has a 3.54 ERA but a 1.40 WHIP.  He struggles to miss bats (just 5% of his strikes are swings and misses over those nine starts) and his 87 percent contact rate puts a lot of pressure on the Padre defense, which grades as below average. He gets a pair of attractive road starts this week against two teams that struggle to score runs, but since run support is hard to come by, I just can’t give him a recommend.  Worley has pitched much better since his return from the minors, but he’s still walking too many (4 BB/9) and getting by on a .204 BABIP and 97 percent strand rate.

There’s the bottom of the barrel, and then there’s Duke. Or maybe Zito. Probably both.

 

On to the AL…

Orioles - 7/5 @ TEX, 7/10 @ BOS
 

Start

Scott Baker - 7/5 vs TB, 7/10 @ CHW

Trevor Cahill - 7/5 vs SEA, 7/10 @ TEX

Dan Haren - 7/5 vs DET, 7/10 vs SEA

*Matt Harrison - 7/5 vs BAL, 7/10 vs OAK

Felix Hernandez - 7/5 @ OAK, 7/10 @ LAA

Jon Lester - 7/5 vs TOR, 7/10 vs BAL

Brandon Morrow - 7/4 @ BOS, 7/9 @ CLE

Michael Pineda - 7/4 @ OAK, 7/9 @ LAA

David Price - 7/4 @ MIN, 7/9 @ NYY

CC Sabathia - 7/5 @ CLE, 7/10 vs TB

James Shields - 7/5 @ MIN, 7/10 @ NYY

Justin Verlander - 7/5 @ ANA, 7/10 @ KC

That horrible start three weeks ago isn’t enough to shake my confidence in Morrow. He’s whiffed 25 batters in his last 21 innings and gets one opponent who is around league average in strikeouts (Boston) and another who is at the top (Cleveland).

Since his first start of May, Harrison owns a 1.95 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. The 1.55 K/BB ratio could be better, but he’s done a fine job of keeping the ball in the park, yielding only three home runs during this stretch. A .255 BABIP suggests the good times won’t last, but he has a pair of starts against below average offenses, making him a good candidate for the week.  Baker is whiffing 8.6 batters per nine, which is the best rate of his career.
 

Consider

^Mark Buehrle - 7/4 vs KC, 7/10 vs MIN

A.J. Burnett - 7/4 @ CLE, 7/9 vs TB

Carlos Carrasco - 7/5 vs NYY, 7/10 vs TOR

^Brian Duensing - 7/4 vs TB, 7/9 @ CHW

Colby Lewis - 7/4 vs BAL, 7/9 vs OAK

Josh Tomlin - 7/4 vs NYY, 7/9 vs TOR

Carrasco is firing on all cylinders, but there’s reason to exercise caution: his great June was powered by a .216 BABIP and 75 percent strand rate. Still, there’s plenty to like: improving control and a ground ball rate of more than 50 percent. Just keep your expectations in check and you’ll be fine. Burnett has a 4.24 SIERA and 4.70 FRA. He’s limiting hitters to a .250 BABIP, but that should nudge higher over time to bring him closer to his career mark of a .287 BABIP.

Tomlin doesn’t miss many bats, but his control is exquisite. His 1.1 BB/9 is best in the league. If he was able to get a few more ground balls and had better than average defense behind him, he’d be unstoppable. Buehrle, with a 3.65 ERA, is pitching much better than his 4.81 SIERA would suggest, but he’s kind of made a career out of doing that.

Duensing has pitched better of late with a 3.25 ERA and 1.01 WHIP over his last five starts and has at least one favorable match-up against the White Sox, who have an OPS 40 points lower against lefties. Lewis has recovered from a pair of disaster starts from earlier in June, but he makes both starts this week at home where his ERA is a whopping three runs higher. Opponents are slugging almost .150 higher against him in Arlington.
 

Sit

^Brett Cecil - 7/5 @ BOS, 7/10 @ CLE

^Jeff Francis - 7/4 @ CHW, 7/10 vs DET

^Charlie Furbush - 7/4 @ ANA, 7/9 @ KC

^Chris Jakubauskas - 7/4 @ TEX, 7/9 @ BOS

^John Lackey - 7/4 vs TOR, 7/9 vs BAL

^Guillermo Moscoso - 7/4 vs SEA, 7/9 @ TEX

^Joel Pineiro - 7/4 vs DET, 7/9 vs SEA

After appearing in 12 games out of the bullpen, Furbush will make his rotation debut this week, replacing Phil Coke for the Tigers. He’s been a starter his entire career and was doing quite well at Triple-A Toledo as a starter earlier in the season. Prior to his recall, he had a 2.91 ERA with a 10.7 SO/9 and 2.7 BB/9. He’ll need a turn or two through the rotation before he’s stretched out.

A trip to the minors solved Cecil’s velocity problems, and he returns for his first start for the Blue Jays since last April. Not really an option, even if he’s throwing at full speed.

Pineiro’s success is dependent upon his ground ball rate. He really needs to keep it above 50 percent in order to provide fantasy value. In June, his ground ball rate has dipped to 48 percent, and his ERA has jumped accordingly to 5.10 for the month. If he can discover more grounders, he’ll find himself back in the “consider” category. Moscoso is off to a great start, but his 6.06 SIERA is much higher than his 2.51 ERA, and through his first nine starts, he’s holding a .200 BABIP.

The Royals are shifting to a six man rotation, so despite playing the full slate of games this week, only Francis will have a pair of starts. This barely registers on the fantasy radar. Jakubauskas, with a 5.68 ERA and 1.68 WHIP, has a tenuous hold on a starting job and may not make both scheduled appearances this week.

Lackey was toxic even before we started hearing the words “Tommy” and “John.”

Craig Brown is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Craig's other articles. You can contact Craig by clicking here

3 comments have been left for this article.

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Premium Article Overthinking It: The U... (06/30)
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