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September 15, 2011

Value Picks

Starting Pitchers for 9/15/11

by Mike Petriello

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To answer your first question, no, Matt Moore is not on this week’s list. That’s because even though he’s now in the bigs and may yet play a big role for Tampa Bay, he’s likely to be strictly a reliever while doing so. No, Eric Surkamp isn’t either, because while some may see  a 2-0 record and a 3.24 ERA from a freely available lefty and wonder where they sign up, the rest of us see six strikeouts in three starts that all came in either San Francisco or San Diego.

On to the starters who may help you…

Brett Myers, Astros (Yahoo! 32%, ESPN 29%, CBS 45%)
Myers has had a generally poor year for a horrendous Houston club, and a 5-13 record isn’t doing him any favors. That said, he was solid last year, finishing 10th in the Cy Young voting, which, even if probably undeserved, is still something. And that 5-13 mark was 3-13 at the start of the month, thanks to three consecutive quality starts where he’s gone at least seven innings and allowed just one earned run. You could argue that since two of them came against Pittsburgh and San Francisco they can be written off, but his most recent start was against his former Philadelphia mates, a heavy favorite to reach the World Series. As usual, improved control leads to good things, since he’s walked just one in his last 17 2/3 innings.

Jake Westbrook, Cardinals (Yahoo! 8%, ESPN 9%, CBS 33%)
On July 6, Westbrook finished off the first half by allowing seven earned runs in 4 1/3 innings against Cincinnati, inflating his ERA to 5.34 heading into the break. In 12 starts since, he’s allowed more than three runs just twice as he’s returned to the dependable back-end starter the Cardinals hoped they were acquiring. Don’t expect a ton of strikeouts—that’s just not what Jake Westbrook does, you know—but over the last 15 days, he’s got 14 against just two walks. Westbrook has what few other starters do right now, and that’s at least the pretense of a pennant race as the Cardinals desperately try to stay alive. While other pitchers may see their teams pencil in lineups full of reserves, rookies, or Val Pascucci, Westbrook should at least have the full Cardinal lineup behind him for the next start or two.

Drew Pomeranz, Rockies (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 4%, CBS 17%)
Well, there’s no question that Pomeranz is talented; the 2010 first-rounder struck out 119 in 101 innings across two minor league levels while being one of the main pieces of the Ubaldo Jimenez trade and dealing with an August appendectomy. In his debut on Sunday, he needed just 63 pitches to get through five scoreless innings in Coors Field against the Reds and pick up his first win. Pomeranz was limited by a pitch count of 60-65; otherwise he could have easily continued. While the appeal of Pomeranz is obvious, the drawback is how much the Rockies will let him pitch as the month goes on. He’s listed as the Saturday starter against Surkamp and the Giants, which is a favorable matchup even in Colorado, but watch closely.

Saying Goodbye
James McDonald, Pirates (Yahoo! 17%, ESPN 16%, CBS 42%)
McDonald had one of his lesser starts on Sunday, allowing four earned runs while not making it out of the fifth against Florida, but that’s not why we’re saying goodbye to him—it’s simply because he’s overstayed his welcome on the list. In his first full season as a major league starter, the 26-year-old McDonald showed he’s a viable rotation member and should be kept in mind as a back-end starter in 2012.

Sticking Around
Luke Hochevar, Royals (Yahoo! 15%, ESPN 19%, CBS 35%)
Hochevar has suddenly become the most-added American League pitcher in ESPN leagues over the last week, due in large part to his new-found strikeout abilities which we’ve been discussing here for several weeks. He repaid that faith by striking out a season-high nine batters on September 8, though he did allow two homers to the Mariners while picking up the loss.

Mike Minor, Braves (Yahoo! 23%, ESPN 28%, CBS 53%)
Minor’s line on Tuesday doesn’t look all that special—four walks and five whiffs in a no-decision—but he did allow just one earned run while working into the sixth inning, and if he’d been allowed to get one more out he would have come away with the win, since Brian McCann hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the frame. Minor continues to roll—he holds a 40/11 K/BB in seven starts since rejoining the rotation—and is well worth a roster spot.

Henderson Alvarez, Blue Jays (Yahoo! 8%, ESPN 5%, CBS 23%)
After seven starts, Alvarez’ ERA is 3.09, and while that paints a picture that’s a bit optimistic—his FIP is 3.87—it’s also not that far off. He’s still not striking out as many as you’d like (four in each of his last two starts), but that’s much more palatable when you see that he’s walked only seven total in those seven starts. That makes him a worthy candidate in AL-only leagues and even some deeper mixed leagues, though be wary about using him on Saturday when he faces the Yankees; six of his seven starts have come against lesser competition in Oakland (twice), Baltimore (twice), Seattle, and Tampa.

Randy Wells, Cubs (Yahoo! 24%, ESPN %, CBS 32%)
There is absolutely no way Randy Wells is as good as he’s shown over the last month-plus; in his last six starts, he’s 4-0 with a 2.21 ERA and a 24/9 K/BB. He’s also got just a .211 BABIP, so I think you can see where that’s going. The thing is, while regression is looming, he’s still been pretty. Still, championships are not won by the cowardly, so if you really need starts, his Thursday start against Cincinnati is worth going with in hopes that he keeps this recent streak up.

Homer Bailey, Reds (Yahoo! 16%, ESPN 6%, CBS 45%)
After a string of solid starts, Bailey tossed out a stinker in St. Louis on September 3, lasting just three innings. After the uneven start to his season, that heightened worries that his troubles had returned, but he came back to make one of his best starts of the season on Friday in Colorado, allowing one run over 7 2/3 innings while striking out six. Since the start of July, Bailey has allowed three runs or fewer in nine of twelve starts, making him a reasonably dependable back-end starter.

AL-only VP

Jerome Williams (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 9%, CBS 13%)
Yes, that Jerome Williams, as in the guy who washed out of the bigs after a short stint with the Nationals in 2007 and somehow resurfaced with the Angels in August. Like Westbrook, Williams has the advantage of being on the rare club that still has something to fight for, and until a poor outing on Tuesday in Oakland, he’d actually been relatively impressive in his first three starts back, walking three combined against 17 strikeouts. He won’t remind you of rotation-mates Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, or Ervin Santana, but if you’re scanning the waiver wire in the midst of the playoffs, perhaps he doesn’t need to.

NL-only VP

Kevin Millwood, Rockies (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 1%, CBS 7%)

I know. I know. I sort of hate myself for even bringing him up, since we all got quite a good chuckle when Millwood landed in Colorado, of all places. Except… it’s hard to ignore a 27/4 K/BB mark, isn’t it? In his first six starts, Millwood never once walked more than a single batter. Of course, he’s allowed seven homers in those six starts, so don’t think he’s suddenly your savior. But if you’re desperate, and he’s got a favorable matchup…

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

Related Content:  Espn,  Jake Westbrook

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