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April 27, 2012

Weekly Planner

Week Five

by Paul Sporer

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Welcome to the 2012 debut of the Weekly Planner!  Here, we will look at the scheduled (subject to change, of course) two-start pitchers across the league and decide whether or not they are worth a start in your league based on performance to date, opponents, and venues.

Some pitchers are no doubters and, obviously, we won’t need to spend too much time on them.  I don’t care if Justin Verlander is starting in Texas or against the Yankees; you are not benching him.  Others get the thumbs up for this specific week because things set up favorably for them, even if you wouldn’t otherwise use them. Finally, there are the guys we would be wise to avoid. Sometimes this will be because we would always avoid them, and other times these are guys who we might otherwise start but the factors align to make them too risky. 

(Starts and Sits are ranked in order of confidence)

AMERICAN LEAGUE
Auto-Starts:
Felix Hernandez, C.J. Wilson, Yu Darvish, Jeremy Hellickson, and Matt Moore

Those two Rays might be a bit shocking as auto-starts, but the price paid to acquire their services this March combined with the talent and expectations upon them make it virtually impossible to pass on them, even as both struggle a bit either with their skills (Hellickson) or across the board (Moore). 

Start
Hiroki Kuroda (vs. BAL; @ KC)
Chris Sale (vs. CLE; @ DET)
Phil Hughes (vs. BAL; @ KC)
Clay Buchholz (vs. OAK; vs. BAL)

Buchholz and Hughes are somewhat similar in that they are their team’s heralded but underperforming young arms who get more acclaim than they deserve due in large part to their team situation.  That said, they aren’t bereft of talent, and each has shown in spurts what they are capable of becoming at their peak.  If you aren’t starting them in these matchups, then why even roster them at this point? 

Sit
Ubaldo Jimenez (@ CHW; vs. TEX)
Jason Hammel (@ NYY; @ BOS)
Tom Milone (@ BOS; @ TB)
Luke Hochevar (@ DET; vs. NYY)
Kyle Drabek (vs. TEX; @ LAA)
Hector Noesi (@ TB; vs. MIN)
Liam Hendriks (@ LAA; @ SEA)
Jerome Williams (vs. MIN; vs. TOR)
Adam Wilk (vs. KC; vs. CHW)
Luis Mendoza (@ DET; vs. NYY)

Jimenez is a mess right now.  It is hard to have any measure of confidence in him given how he has performed in his first four outings (4.50 ERA, 1.50 WHIP), especially when you consider that he has had two against Kansas City and one in Oakland, so it’s not like baseball’s best are thwarting him.  He does, however, face baseball’s best late next week, so even if you wanted to take a shot against the White Sox, the tax of a start against Texas (in weekly leagues where you can’t just take him out after the Sox start) is far too hefty.

Both Hammel and Milone have been excellent so far this year, particularly Hammel, who has backed his killer start (1.73 ERA, 1.00 WHIP) with incredible peripherals (8.7 K/9, 3.1 K/BB). Milone is more of a finesse/command guy getting by on guile and deception.  Both get a pair of difficult matchups on the road, making them an easy pass for the upcoming week.  Drabek and Hochevar each have some intrigue talent-wise going forward, but not with those matchups on tap. 

NATIONAL LEAGUE
Auto-Starts:
Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, Brandon Beachy, Jordan Zimmermann, and Adam Wainwright

For all the fuss caused by Wainwright’s gaudy 7.32 ERA, his 9.6 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 have yielded a career-best 4.2 K/BB in the early going.  He is fine.

Start
Vance Worley (vs. CHC; @ WAS)
R.A. Dickey (@ HOU; vs. ARI)
Mike Minor (vs. PIT; @ COL)
Jeff Samardzija (@ PHI; vs. LAD)
Juan Nicasio (vs. LAD; vs. ATL)
Trevor Cahill (@ WAS; @ NYM)
Mark Buehrle (vs. ARI; @ SD)
Ricky Nolasco (@ SF; @ SD)
Randy Wolf (@ SD; @ SF)

Worley was really close to being an auto-start.  It sounds crazy on the surface, but he is following up his breakout 2011 with an excellent start to 2012, including a 2.16 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and a 9.7 K/9 in 25 innings.  Minor’s skills plus a really favorable matchup against Pittsburgh left me confident enough to take the shot in Colorado too.  Cahill, Buerhle, Nolasco, and Wolf aren’t toting the kind of peripherals that make you overwhelmingly confident in them, but all of them have appealing matchups for the week. This is especially true for Nolasco and Wolf, who are facing two down-trodden offenses in pitcher-friendly ballparks.  This is the time to use these kind of guys.

Consider
Chris Volstad (@ CIN; vs. LAD)
Joe Wieland (vs. MIL; vs. MIA)
James McDonald (@ ATL; vs. CIN)
Bronson Arroyo (vs. CHC; @ PIT)

The rookie Wieland gets two starts at home, and if you are in a league where he is a roster consideration, then you might want to roll him out there, even with Milwaukee coming to town.  McDonald has improved his control early on, but the strikeouts are way down.  He does have the ability to miss bats (career 7.5 K/9), though, so keep him on the radar even if you choose not to start him this week. 

Arroyo has been excellent thanks to a virtually non-existent walk rate (0.7 BB/9), but I just can’t get behind the idea of Arroyo as an every-week starter.  These two matchups do set him up to stay hot, but he is still Bronson Arroyo. 

Sit
Aaron Harang (@ COL; @ CHC)
Josh Collmenter (@ MIA; @ NYM)
J.A. Happ (vs. NYM; vs. StL)
Charlie Morton (@StL; vs. CIN)

Harang has always had home run issues, so trips into Colorado and Chicago (especially if the wind works against him there) could be especially problematic for a guy who already has a 5.16 ERA in his first 23 innings.  Speaking of homers, they have been killing Collmenter this year (NL-worst six allowed) and completely overshadowing the fact that his skills haven’t been too bad with a 7.9 K/9 and 3.2 K/BB.

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

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