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September 22, 2011

Value Picks

Starting Pitchers for 9/22/11

by Mike Petriello

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Since this is the final Value Picks article of the season, we’ll need to switch up the format just a bit. Rather than continuing with the list from last week, what’s more important than anything for those of you with exceptionally long playoff rounds is choosing from the small pool of starting pitchers who are still lined up to get  one (or sometimes two) more shots on the mound over the six remaining days of the season.

You can see that list of probables here, but we’ll need to narrow it down a bit—obviously, you’re not going to be able to run out and pick up Cole Hamels or Chris Carpenter. So sticking with our usual ownership threshold limits…

Two Starts
There are four pitchers of note who look likely to receive two starts before the end of the season…

Chris Capuano, Mets (Yahoo! 15%, ESPN6%, CBS 45%)
Thurs @ STL, Tues vs CIN
A statistical oddity that otherwise means nothing—four times, Capuano has pitched at least 150 innings in a season: 2005-07 and again this year. Four times (so far) Capuano has ended up with precisely twelve losses on the season. If he wants to avoid that fate, he’ll need to finish up well against two NL Central foes. Fortunately for Capuano, he’s been on a relative roll, wrapping four very good starts (never allowing more than two earned runs with a 29/4 K/BB ratio) around one lousy outing in Florida. If there’s a downside for Capuano, it’s that the Cardinals will still be making a last-gasp attempt at the wild card, so expect them to run out their regular lineup.

Philip Humber, White Sox (Yahoo! 32%, ESPN22%, CBS 56%)
Thurs @ CLE, Tues vs TOR
After five years of bouncing between the Mets, Twins, and Royals, Humber finally established himself as a viable major leaguer with the White Sox in 2011. After missing several weeks on the disabled list, Humber returned with two excellent starts against the Twins and Indians—13 innings in which he struck out 13 and walked no one. Of course, he followed that up with a poor outing in Kansas City—during which he was struck with a liner—but if he was consistently good every time out, he wouldn’t be Philip Humber, would he? Of the two-start pitchers, particularly with Cleveland first up, Humber is one of the best bets.

Zach Britton, Orioles (Yahoo! 17%, ESPN18%, CBS 37%)
Thurs @ DET, Tues vs BOS
There’s one obviously large red flag here, and that’s that Britton is unfortunate enough to go against two of the better offenses in the American League in the Tigers and Red Sox, and both have something to play for (though Boston may have finally fought off the Rays by the final day of the season). Even so, Britton’s season has come full circle after being one of the AL’s top rookie pitchers over the first two months and then slumping so badly that he was sent back to Double-A. In the six starts since his permanent return to the rotation, he’s held opponents to a .218/.308/.306 line, made more impressive by the fact that two of the six starts came against the Yankees.

Jake Westbrook, Cardinals (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN8%, CBS 33%)
Thurs vs NYM, Tues @ HOU
Westbrook is what Westbrook is. He’ll never strike out very many batters, but he’ll do a decent job of limiting homers and walks (though he did allow five free passes to the Phillies his last time out). What’s enticing here is that unlike Britton, Westbrook is perfectly lined up to end the season against the lowly Mets and Astros. The Cardinals should still be alive for at least a few more days, so that helps him as far as the offense that gets sent out behind him, too.


One-Start
Drew Pomeranz, Rockies (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN6%, CBS 19%)
We talked about Pomeranz last week, and he followed up his successful debut with 5 2/3 quality innings against the Giants last week. He didn’t hold San Francisco scoreless as he did against the Reds in his first start, but he did manage to increase the strikeouts. With a final start of the season fortuitously coming against Houston on Friday, Pomeranz is positioned to be a permanent member of the Colorado rotation next season.

Felipe Paulino, Royals (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN1%, CBS 9%)
What a steal for the Royals—claimed off waivers from Colorado for nothing in May, all he’s done is throw out the lowest FIP of any regular Kansas City starter. The standard “yeah, but look at his competition” jokes apply, but it doesn’t diminish his performance. After showing signs of slowing in August, Paulino has been outstanding his last two times out entering Wednesday, including striking out eleven Mariners without a walk on the 10th. He’s lucky enough to end his season against the Twins on Monday, and he’ll almost certainly open 2012 as a regular in the Kansas City rotation.

Ross Detwiler, Nationals (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN1%, CBS 8%)
You probably won’t look to Detwiler outside of a deep NL-only league, but it’s still worth noting the best start of his career on Tuesday, outdueling Cliff Lee by holding the Phillies to just three hits over 7 1/3 scoreless innings (with the exception of Ryan Howard sitting for John Mayberry, it was essentially the regular Philadelphia lineup, despite being the second game of a doubleheader). If there’s a concern with Detwiler, it’s that his strikeout rate (5.6 per 9) isn’t high enough to withstand much less than stellar HR/9 and BB/9 rates, and he doesn’t boast either, which is why his nice 3.30 ERA comes with a 4.31 FIP. To his credit, he’s managed to hold opponents below three earned runs in all but one of his starts this year. He’s lined up to finish the season against Atlanta on Sunday, and while the Braves will likely still have something to play for, they haven’t exactly been crushing the ball either.

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:  Philip Humber,  Humber

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