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May 18, 2012

Weekly Planner

Week Eight

by Paul Sporer

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It’s been a shaky start to the two-start week for several of our American League options from last week.  Drew Smyly and Max Scherzer were both touched up in Chicago.  Jeff Niemann had his leg broken and now sits on the 60-day disabled list.  Ivan Nova and Jason Hammel were smacked around in an 8-5 slugfest against each other.

National Leaguers didn’t fare much better as Erik Bedard, Ryan Dempster, and Chad Billingsley were among the casualties in their first start.  I should’ve known better with Dempster; I gave the reason not to start him within the article—he was facing St. Louis.  They have become a team you must sit your non-star pitchers against. 

Brandon Morrow skirted disaster and actually lowered his ERA despite giving up six runs since just one was earned in his five innings.  He walked four for a second straight outing, but he also fanned seven.  After four outings where he struck out a total of 12 in 27 innings, he has 34 strikeouts in his last four starts spanning 26 innings.  Meanwhile, Ervin Santana, Tim Hudson, and Anthony Bass kicked off the week with gems. 

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

Hellickson’s composite peripherals aren’t particularly special, but he is heating up.  After walking three or more in each of his first three starts, he has done so just once in his last five, during which he has posted a 2.45 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 8.0 K/9, and 3.3 K/BB in 29.3 innings. 

Hiroki Kuroda (vs. KC; @ OAK)
Gavin Floyd (vs. MIN; vs. CLE)
Jerome Williams (@OAK; @ SEA)
Felipe Paulino (@ NYY; @ BAL)

The two-start pickins’ are slim in the American League this week in terms of quantity, but the quality is strong.  Kuroda grabs a pair of starts on the heels of a shellacking at the hands of the Blue Jays.  There are far worse teams you can get crushed by, and Kuroda had run off a four-start streak with a 2.52 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 25 innings.  His peripherals won’t jump out at you, but what he lacks in strikeouts he makes up for in win probability with the Yankees supporting him. 

Paulino draws the toughest duo of opponents, but he is also the most talented pitcher in this quartet.  While I don’t love the matchups, I do love the 10.1 K/9 and 4.2 K/BB he has posted in his first three starts of the year.  Williams has been better than most probably assume, and he gets the best possible matchups an American League pitcher can get in two of the best venues.

Rick Porcello (@ CLE; @ MIN)
Tom Milone (vs. LAA; vs. NYY)

The infield defense that everyone worried about in Detroit really hadn’t hurt the team too overwhelmingly much this season… until the two-game set against the MINNESOTA TWINS!  Porcello was stung as the Tigers got the rare around-the-horn error—an error for the first baseman, second baseman, shortstop, and third baseman.  He had looked sharp in his three starts prior to that outing. 

Milone’s three worst starts have all come on the road against three of the toughest offenses: Boston, Tampa Bay, and Texas.  He draws a tough Yankees offense this week, but at least it’s at home.

Clay Buchholz (@ BAL; vs. TB)
Kyle Drabek (@ TB; @ TEX)
Hector Noesi (vs. TEX; vs. LAA)
Ubaldo Jimenez (vs. DET; @ CHW)
Tommy Hunter (vs. BOS; vs. KC)
SubstiTwin* (@ CHW; vs. DET)
*Nick Blackburn was slated here, but he has hit the DL and a replacement hasn’t been announced.

My podcast co-host, Jason Collette, gave Buchholz an endorsement on this week’s show after watching him against his Tampa Bay Rays.  I respect him immensely, but I’m not buying in.  I am open to watching one or both of these starts and assessing for myself whether there is some growth, but I wouldn’t put my fantasy team at risk in the meantime. 

To say Jimenez is a mess is an insult to Lindsay Lohan and other messes.  I’m not sold by his borderline quality start against Seattle in his most recent outing or even his seven shutout innings against Texas two weeks ago.  He has walked five or more in four of eight starts and three or more in seven of eight starts. 

Auto-Starts: Roy Halladay, Brandon Beachy, Matt Garza, Matt Cain, Gio Gonzalez, Johan Santana, Madison Bumgarner, and Adam Wainwright

His composite numbers say “Vintage Johan,” but Santana’s 9.5 K/9 is a bit inflated by outings with 11 and 8 strikeouts.  In his last four, he has a very steady 7.7 K/9, and I think that is a more accurate baseline to work off of going forward. 

This is Wainwright’s last shot in the auto-starts.  He has been very inconsistent, which shouldn’t be unexpected for someone returning from a year off, but the peripherals (9.2 K/9, 3.3 K/BB) suggest that a 6.16 ERA is kind of crazy.  Matchups against San Diego and Philly are the perfect time for him to get right. 

Jaime Garcia (vs. SD; vs. PHI)
Chris Capuano (@ ARI; vs. HOU)
R.A. Dickey (@ PIT; vs. SD)
Bud Norris (vs. CHC; @ LAD)
Erik Bedard (vs. NYM; vs. CHC)
Mat Latos (vs. ATL; vs. COL)

Capuano’s three earned runs on Wednesday in San Diego were the most he has allowed since his season debut when he allowed four… yep, in San Diego.  Going to Petco Park has inexplicably been his kryptonite this season. 

With eight more strikeouts on Thursday, Dickey raised his strikeout rate to 7.2 per nine, which is easily a career-best as a knuckleballer and the highest mark in his career since 2003, when he had 7.3 K/9 sans the knuckler.  Of course, those came with a 5.09 ERA in Texas. 

Edinson Volquez (@ StL; @ NYM)
Mike Minor (@ CIN; vs WAS)
Mark Buehrle (vs. COL; vs. SF)
Ricky Nolasco (vs. COL; vs. SF)

I always worry about Buehrle because he doesn’t strike anybody out.  That makes it tough to start him in any league with an innings cap or starts cap, but if that’s not a concern, then he can help in ERA and WHIP.  He has proven year after year that he doesn’t need to strike batters out to succeed. 

Nolasco has seen his peripherals deteriorate to Buehrle-like levels this year, but he hasn’t proven that he can succeed with them, nor has he taken any advantage of his home ballpark with a 6.60 ERA at home compared to a 2.15 mark on the road. 

Pat Corbin (vs. LAD; vs. MIL)
Randy Wolf (vs. SF; @ ARI)
Mike Leake (vs. ATL; vs. COL)
Clayton Richard (@ StL; @ NYM)
Jamie Moyer (@ MIA; @ CIN)
Kyle Kendrick (vs. COL; vs. SF)

Moyer is older than the other five pitchers combined, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

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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