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July 13, 2012

Value Picks

Starting Pitching for 7/13/12

by Paul Sporer

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We have a light schedule of MLB action this week, making it a prime time to pluck some value picks off of your waiver wire as your leaguemates enjoy a break of their own.

Last Chance
Derek Holland (Yahoo! 52%, ESPN 30%, CBS 81%) returned on July 7 with little fanfare and put together a quality start, albeit a baseline one, with four strikeouts and two walks against the Minnesota Twins. His start coming right before the break likely caused it to be overlooked a bit, leaving him more available than he should be. I was high on him coming into the season and remain so for the second half.

Returning
Welcome back Jeff Samardzija (Yahoo! 36%, ESPN 26%, CBS 75%), who was unceremoniously dispatched a few weeks back after a run of wobbly starts. I’m back on board after a pair of gems in Atlanta and New York during which he posted a 2.57 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 15 strikeouts, and three walks in 14 innings. Small sample? Sure, but hardly the only sample of his this year worth getting excited about. I was concerned that his rough patch—during which he struggled to go more than 5 1/3 in any of his five June starts—was some sort of burnout, and wins will be even tougher to come by if the Cubs move pieces at the deadline, but he is a big-time strikeout asset and should see improvement in his ERA over the dog days of summer.

Arriving
Why was Zach McAllister (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 6%, CBS 15%) dispatched back to Triple-A in late May on the heels of a strong outing against the Tigers? You can’t tell me their incumbents all deserved a spot ahead of him. Heck, you could make a case that none of them deserved a spot ahead of him. I guess I shouldn’t gripe too much as a Tigers fan. At any rate, he was summoned once again on June 28 and has picked up where he left off.

In three starts, McAllister posted a 2.60 ERA and 1.33 WHIP with 19 strikeouts and four walks in 17 1/3 innings of work. He is missing bats (8.7 K/9) and not walking batters (2.1 BB/9), yielding an excellent 4.1 K/BB in his 42 1/3 innings. He has a 3.40 ERA despite a horrid 60 percent LOB rate, but some of that is some unearned run good fortune. He will need to sort out his LOB issues if he expects to stay on the right side of 4.00 the rest of the way, but that seems relatively likely.

It’s just 32 innings, but Jeff Karstens (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 2%, CBS 13%) is pitching pretty well with some notable improvements. His velocity has shot up a full mph (though fastball velo is still modest at 91 mph), no doubt aiding his career-best 9.7 percent whiff rate, up from 8.4 percent a year ago while continuing a four-year rise. Parsing his sample even smaller, he has looked great in his two most recent starts, thwarting St. Louis in Busch and Houston at home while posting a 1.20 ERA and 0.73 WHIP in the process.

More impressive were his 15 strikeouts in as many innings, paired against just three walks. If he can maintain these skills with some of his metrics from last year, namely his .275 BABIP and 77% LOB rate, then perhaps he can rightfully earn a 3.38 ERA. That was his ERA a year ago, but xFIP suggested a mark of 4.00, which is about where his ERA is this year thanks to a .317 BABIP and 65 percent LOB rate. I’m dipping my toe in here, but I like what I’m seeing from Karstens in an admittedly tiny sample of work.

AL-only VP
Oakland’s A.J. Griffin (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 3%, CBS 25%) tore apart both Double-A and Triple-A this year en route to the majors, where he has acquitted himself in three starts, including a trip into Texas and a home bout against Boston. The former saw him produce six shutout innings, though he came away with a no-decision. In fact, he has three quality starts (all six innings with two or fewer earned runs) but zero decisions. Such is life as an Oakland Athletic, but trying to predict wins is a fool’s errand anyway, so don’t concern yourself with that; instead, focus more on the opportunity to acquire someone who should be able to help your rates a bit.

NL-only VP
The return of Karstens sent Brad Lincoln (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 2%, CBS 13%) back to the bullpen, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t still useful. First off, he could easily find himself back in the rotation at some point this year, but even if he doesn’t, he still has value as a reliever. His best work has come out of the bullpen this year, so if you do decide to invest, you may even hope he stays there instead of breaking back into the rotation.

He has a minuscule 0.33 ERA and 0.80 WHIP in 27 2/3 innings out of the bullpen compared to 6.08 and 1.48 marks in 23 2/3 as a starter. Meanwhile, he is toting a gaudy 10.4 K/9 and 4.6 K/BB out of the bullpen as well. Don’t be afraid to plug a middle reliever into your lineup to supplement your ratios and strikeouts and lessen the damage of some of those rough five-earned-run-in-four-innings outings.

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

Related Content:  Jeff Karstens

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