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July 22, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Weekly Planner #16

by Craig Brown

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We’re heading into the 16th week of the fantasy season, and this seems like the slimmest pickings we’ve seen in quite some time. The no-doubters are owned in 100 percent of online leagues, and there are plenty of guys to outright avoid… hey, there’s Kyle Davies! That leaves just a few scraps for everyone to fight over. The problem is, there just isn’t anyone who piques my interest this week in the usually fertile “consider” category. Maybe someone will catch your eye.

As always, starters listed in this article are those who have been announced at press time and should be considered tentative and subject to change. Pitchers with an * are available in more than half the ESPN or Yahoo! universe, while those with an ^ are up for grabs in more than 80 percent of those leagues.

Good luck this week…

Start
Dan Haren - 7/25 @ CLE, 7/30 @ DET
Jeremy Hellickson - 7/25 @ OAK, 7/30 @ SEA
Jon Lester - 7/25 vs KC, 7/30 @ CHW
Brandon Morrow - 7/26 vs BAL, 7/31 vs TEX
David Price - 7/26 @ OAK, 7/31 @ SEA
Justin Verlander - 7/26 @ CHW, 7/31 vs LAA
Jered Weaver - 7/26 @ CLE, 7/31 @ DET
C.J. Wilson - 7/26 vs MIN, 7/31 @ TOR

Consider
^Freddy Garcia - 7/25 vs SEA, 7/31 vs BAL
^Brandon McCarthy - 7/26 vs TB, 7/31 vs MIN
Josh Tomlin - 7/25 vs LAA, 7/31 vs KC

If you have ever considered rostering Garcia, here’s your best opportunity of the season. He’s facing a pair of weaker offenses this week, and don’t forget, the Yankees have really been managing his pitch count. He should offer some value this week. After a hot start, Tomlin has finally seen his ERA rise to match his 4.29 SIERA. With a .250 BABIP and 68 percent strand rate, he’s still below his career marks, but he’s getting closer. McCarthy hasn’t been particularly sharp since returning from a stint on the DL. Over four starts, he has a 4.70 ERA, but that comes with a 1.22 WHIP. His fastball has shown some life that’s been missing the last couple of years, and he’s not walking anyone (1.5 BB/9) while keeping the ball in the park (0.4 HR/9). He might be worth a look this week.

Sit
^Duane Below - 7/25 @ CHW, 7/30 vs LAA
^Nick Blackburn - 7/25 @ TEX, 7/30 @ OAK
^Kyle Davies - 7/25 @ BOS, 7/31 @ CLE
*Derek Holland - 7/25 vs MIN, 7/30 @ TOR
^Andrew Miller - 7/26 vs KC, 7/31 @ CHW
^Guillermo Moscoso - 7/25 vs TB, 7/30 vs MIN
^Carl Pavano - 7/26 @ TEX, 7/31 @ OAK
^Jason Vargas - 7/25 @ NYY, 7/31 vs TB

Is Holland frustrating or what? Two starts where he lasts a total of six innings while being bombed for 12 runs are sandwiched in between two complete game shutouts. I’m not certain I like his matchups this week as he faces a pair of teams who do well against left-handed pitching. Don’t be fooled by Miller’s last start when he allowed just two hits and no runs… he also walked six. The walks are a recurring theme as he’s issuing 6.4 free passes per nine innings. That’s on the heels of a 4.8 BB/9 in Triple-A this year.

The difference between Pavano in 2010 and the Pavano we’ve come to know this season is all in the strand rate. Last year, he kept 74 percent of all baserunners glued to the bags. This year, he’s down to a 68 percent strand rate, which is right in line with his career mark.

He gets a ground ball 53 percent of the time, but Blackburn still surrenders far too many hits for my taste. SIERA has him at 4.34, which is OK but well above his current ERA of 3.87. Vargas has been wildly inconsistent of late, sandwiching a pair of shutouts between a run of starts where he’s been touched for four or five runs. His best outings of the month have come against San Diego and Oakland; the Yankees and Rays offenses will offer a little more resistance. I’m still not trusting Moscoso and his .209 BABIP. His 4.9 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 are ugly. Nice debut by Below, but the way the Tigers are shuffling their rotation ahead of the trade deadline, there’s no guarantee he’ll be around for both scheduled starts this week.

Onto the NL…

Start
Johnny Cueto - 7/26 vs NYM, 7/31 vs SF
Ryan Dempster - 7/26 @ MIL, 7/31 @ STL
Tommy Hanson - 7/26 vs PIT, 7/31 vs FLA
Tim Hudson - 7/25 vs PIT, 7/30 vs FLA
Cliff Lee - 7/25 vs SD, 7/30 vs PIT
Tim Lincecum - 7/26 @ PHI, 7/31 @ CIN
Ricky Nolasco - 7/26 @ WAS, 7/31 @ ATL
Jordan Zimmerman - 7/26 vs FLA, 7/31 vs NYM

Nolasco fell off the rails in his last start and saw his ERA increase by half a run, which is absolutely insane for this late in the season. I’m betting he bounces back this week. Every time he’s a two-start pitcher, I have to remind myself that Dempster has a 3.45 ERA and 1.27 WHIP since his abysmal April. Keep the faith...

Consider
*Aaron Harang - 7/25 @ PHI, 7/30 vs COL
^Juan Nicasio - 7/25 @ LAD, 7/31 @ SD
*Jon Niese - 7/26 vs CIN, 7/31 vs WAS
*Vance Worley - 7/26 vs SF, 7/31 vs PIT

Nicasio is a hard thrower (average fastball is 94 mph) whose 3.88 SIERA exactly matches his ERA. He has a 2.2 BB/9 and is limiting the opposition to a .259 BA while allowing a .291 BABIP. He has intriguing matchups this week as well. In 18 innings since returning from the DL, Harang has a 1.47 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. It’s a nice stretch, but his 4.33 SIERA—which is over a run higher than his 3.29 ERA—has me skeptical.

In all honesty, I’m torn on Niese this week. His 3.73 ERA is solid and within a tenth of a point of his SIERA, and his 7.5 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 are tempting enough. The point of contention has to do with his facing the Reds, who destroy left-handed pitching. Whatever he gives up in his first start, he should take back in his second. The fantasy flavor of the month would be Worley, who has gone on a tear and has seen his ownership rates jump by as much as 30 percent over the last week in ESPN leagues. That’s what an 80 percent strand rate and a .254 BABIP will get you in your first 10 starts. I’m fine with him this week against two of the lower scoring offenses in the NL, but don’t get too attached.

Sit
^Rubby De La Rosa - 7/25 vs COL, 7/31 vs ARI
^R.A. Dickey - 7/25 @ CIN, 7/30 @ WAS
^J.A. Happ - 7/25 @ STL, 7/30 @ MIL
^Mike Leake - 7/25 vs NYM, 7/30 vs SF
^Kyle McClellan - 7/25 vs HOU, 7/30 vs CHC
^Dustin Moseley - 7/26 vs ARI, 7/31 vs COL
*Brett Myers - 7/26 @ STL, 7/31 @ MIL
^Chris Narveson - 7/26 vs CHC, 7/31 vs HOU
^Joe Saunders - 7/26 @ SD, 7/31 @ LAD
^Jake Westbrook - 7/26 vs HOU, 7/31 vs CHC

PECOTA pegs Leake for a 4.72 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP the rest of the way. That seems kind of harsh given that he doesn’t really do anything wrong. He doesn’t do anything particularly well either, though. I’m not buying him this week while pitching at home. I’d be more intrigued by De La Rosa if he could shave a pair of walks off his 4.7 BB/9. Given the way he torments me, I’m just going to start calling him Moby Dickey.

Never a ground ball pitcher, even in the best of times, but Happ’s 31 percent ground ball rate is low, even for him. And it’s been a killer. What is it with these Astros and their exiled Philadelphians? Myers generally gets 47 percent of his balls in play to be hit on the ground, but this year he’s down to 44 percent. Both of these guys draw difficult assignments this week. Saunders has a 5.0 K/9, which is par for the course for him. It’s the 3.4 BB/9 and 1.3 HR/9 that drive him into the rough.

I’m still smarting from buying into the possibility that McClellan could put together a respectable season. A 6.30 ERA and just 18 strikeouts in his last 40 innings have effectively poisoned my thoughts. Narveson’s SIERA of 3.99 is better than his 4.45 ERA, and it was tempting to toss him into the “consider” pile for this week, but his opponents both hit lefties better than right-handed pitching. Moseley is striking out fewer than five batter per nine and isn’t lasting even six innings per start. Plus, he’s the rare Padre who has been worse at home. If you’re trying to get my attention, you’re doing it wrong.

How can Westbrook have a ground-ball rate above 60 percent and still have a 1.1 HR/9? I don’t plan on rostering him to find out.

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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