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June 28, 2012

Value Picks

Starting Pitchers for 6/28/12

by Paul Sporer

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I’m sorry if you cut someone of value to get the jump on Felipe Paulino last week.  The news of his setback came out after I recommended him.  He finally starts putting together a breakout season, and now he can’t stay on the field.  I hope he doesn’t suffer Brandon McCarthy syndrome, another favorite of mine who has had health issues keeping him from great seasons.

Last Chance
After another gem on Wednesday afternoon in Seattle, Jarrod Parker (Yahoo! 43%, ESPN 47%, CBS 72%) is likely to see another surge in pickups. His seven innings of one-run ball now gives him a stretch of seven starts dating back to May 23 during which he has a 1.85 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 8.0 K/9, and 2.1 K/BB in 46 innings.  That includes a six-run battering in Arizona too.  In fact, that outing and another six-run battering in San Francisco are the only two starts this year in which he has allowed more than two runs. 

He isn’t just getting fat on tomato cans either.  This seven-start stretch includes a trip to Coors Field during which he threw seven shutout innings and a game against the Texas Rangers in which he spun eight shutout (and seven no-hit) innings.  No pitcher is getting out of Coors alive these days, and the Rangers fielded their A-team, making these two extremely impressive feats on the rookie’s ledger.  Parker has earned some trust, even in 10-team mixed leagues where talent is more plentiful on the waiver wire. 

Departures
Meanwhile, the stock of Jeff Samardzija (Yahoo! 44%, ESPN 35%, CBS 80%) took another severe hit on Wednesday afternoon, and he would be the perfect candidate to cut if you were looking to pick up Parker.  After an incredible run from his last start in April through his first one this month (2.26 ERA in 52 innings), Samardzija has been brutal in his last four with a 1.97 WHIP (!) in 18 1/3 innings to go with his 12.30 ERA.  He was running a 9.2 K/9 prior to the stretch, but that has dipped to 6.9 during the fade; in yesterday’s demolition at the hands of the Mets, he managed just one strikeout.  The Mets tattooed him for nine runs on six hits and four walks in 4 1/3 innings of work. 

Tread Cautiously
I simply cannot preach enough caution with Francisco Liriano (Yahoo! 36%, ESPN 17%, CBS 74%).  In fact, this is the only VP recommendation this year where I won’t actually put my money where my mouth is. I simply don’t have any particular interest in the devastating rollercoaster ride that is Liriano.  I don’t go to Six Flags either.  Rollercoasters aren’t my thing.  Nevertheless, he is in a six-start stretch during which he has posted a 2.41 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 9.7 K/9, and 2.9 K/BB in 37 1/3 innings with five quality starts. 

I wouldn’t be doing my job very well if I didn’t at least alert you to his stretch of success and then allow you to make your decision on him.  I will point out that his foes during the run have been Oakland (before they became the ’27 Yankees), Kansas City, both Chicagos, Milwaukee, and Pittsburgh.  The White Sox and Brewers are the best of that bunch, and neither are much better than league average. 

I will also point out that Liriano had a similar stretch last year, starting with his no-hitter and lasting seven starts, during which he had a 2.20 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 8.0 K/9, and 2.1 K/BB in 45 innings before the bottom inexplicably fell out.  He then stabilized for a spell before the bottom fell out again.  Rinse and repeat.  If you think you can time the jump off point properly, then by all means.  Otherwise, you have a well-mapped-out history of what you’re getting into with him. 

Gavin Floyd (Yahoo! 28%, ESPN 47%, CBS 55%) might be the right-handed version of Liriano this year.  But while he doesn’t have same great highs we’ve seen in Liriano’s career, he doesn’t have the gut-wrenching lows either.  After a slow start where Floyd sandwiched a strong outing with two big-time clunkers, he got on a real run with four quality starts during which he never allowed more than two earned runs en route to a 1.26 ERA in 28.7 innings. 

From there, he went on an unthinkably bad six-start run of awfulness that left everyone completely baffled, especially since it included matchups against Minnesota, Seattle, Houston, and Cleveland.  He had a 10.38 ERA in 30 1/3 innings of season-killing work.  He appears to have righted the ship a bit with back-to-back excellent outings, but since they were against the Cubs and Twins, it is hard to dive back in headfirst. 

Let’s dip our toe back into the Floyd pool to see if he is really ready to curb the home run woes that plagued him during that horrid stretch.  I’d pick him up and reserve him for now, that way if he is back on track and ready to post results commensurate with his sharp 8.5 K/9 and 3.5 K/BB rates, you don’t have to worry about being too late with the waiver claim. 

Arriving
The much anticipated debut of Trevor Bauer (Yahoo! 43%, ESPN 44%, CBS 81%) comes today against the Atlanta Braves, and some fantasy managers are hoping the electrifying youngster can save their season.  With Daniel Hudson’s season coming to an end thanks to injury, Bauer should be here to stay, but that doesn’t mean he will be a savior.  The ceiling is sky-high, as evidenced by his 2.23 ERA and 11.2 K/9 in the minors, but he is far from flawless, as evidenced by the 4.6 BB/9.  He has to learn to be more pitch efficient or major leaguers will eat him up.  The upside alone is worth a pickup, but understand there is a substantial risk with any rookie.  

AL-only VP
I thought we would see Luke Hochevar (Yahoo! 6%, ESPN 1%, CBS 25%) build on his strong second-half from 2011 (3.52 ERA, 7.7 K/9, 2.8 K/BB in 79 IP), but after starting the season with a quality start in Los Angeles against the Angels, he has been maddeningly inconsistent.  He cancels out his gems with nine-run, four-inning implosions and seemingly has a real dud at the ready every time he strings together a couple of quality starts. 

He may be in the midst of turning the proverbial corner, though.  He had strung together a trio of quality starts that also happen to be his three longest outings of the season.  During the stretch, he has 1.13 ERA in 24 innings, powered by a shutout against Tampa Bay and 7 2/3 shutout innings in Houston the outing before that one.  He started the run by surviving a pair of home runs (both solo shots) in 7 1/3 innings against Milwaukee, during which he allowed three runs on six hits and just one walk.  The skills and talent are there; it’s now time for him to prove at age 28 that the maturity and consistency are too. 

NL-only VP
Joe Blanton (Yahoo! 13%, ESPN 9%, CBS 48%)
returns to the VP arena with the National League’s best K/BB (6.3) in tow, built on a minuscule 1.2 BB/9 (also an NL-best).  Unfortunately, the results haven’t followed with any measure of consistency, as you might have guessed from his 4.87 ERA.  It is tough to get beyond the fact that he has allowed five earned runs in three of his outings this month, but at the same time his 34 strikeouts and three walks in 35 2/3 innings are also very tough to ignore. 

His boom (two complete games, one of which was a shutout) or bust (back-to-back 4 1/3-inning, seven-run outings in late May) potential likely plays better in a head-to-head league, but there is potential for a big run if he can maintain his K/BB ratio and become just a bit less hittable (10.0 H/9).

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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