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August 30, 2012

Value Picks

Starting Pitching for 8/30/12

by Paul Sporer

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We are now on the cusp of the roster expansion, which should bring a flood of potential arms to try out as we approach the homestretch of another wonderful season. Until then, we still have plenty of arms who are readily available for late-season roster fortification.

Incumbents
Carlos Villanueva (Yahoo! 25%, ESPN 8%, CBS 54%)
 is 0-4 in August, but he isn’t pitching at the level of an 0-4 guy. He has given up four runs a couple of times, but his 29 strikeouts (8.4 K/9) and six walks (1.7 BB/9) in 31 innings suggest that he has deserved a better fate. Of course, he was saddled with a no-decision in his best start of the month, during which he went seven innings while allowing one run on five hits and a walk with eight strikeouts. He also drew losses in another pair of quality starts. His skills have been great in his 59 1/3 innings as a starter, and they say he needs to be on a roster down the stretch: 3.34 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 8.8 K/9, and 3.6 K/BB.

What more does Jose Quintana (Yahoo! 31%, ESPN 30%, CBS 64%) have to do to see his ownership rates tick upward? They aren’t bad in CBS, where the leagues tend to be deeper, but even the shallow leagues that Yahoo! and ESPN cater to should have him on more rosters. No, he doesn’t miss many bats, but when everyone thought the wheels were falling off after outings of five, four, and four earned runs in a four-start stretch to close July, he got right back on track in August with a 3.08 ERA in 26 1/3 innings. His eight walks across the last two starts have elevated his WHIP to 1.48 for the month, but the guy is just getting it done on a consistent basis.

At the very least, Clayton Richard (Yahoo! 26%, ESPN 14%, CBS 59%) should be utilized for every home start in every league; save a blowup or two, he has also been great on the road since June (3.32 ERA in 62 1/3 innings). He has been downright studly at home all year long: 7-4 record, 2.76 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 3.1 K/BB in 84 2/3 innings despite a meager 4.7 K/9.

Arriving
I initially dismissed Richard’s teammate Eric Stults (Yahoo! 7%, ESPN 5%, CBS 12%), but he’s been a mini-version of Richard since joining the Padres back in May. His 3.9 K/9 as a Padre is even worse than Richard’s, but he’s making it somewhat palatable with a 1.9 BB/9 to keep him above the 2.0 threshold in his K/BB rate. Obviously if you need strikeouts you simply cannot roster him, but if you just need some improved ratios and a chance at some sneaky wins, then Stults is your guy. With another win on Wednesday afternoon, he has four in his last five starts with a 1.69 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 32 innings.

NL-only VP
I am once again touting Mark Rogers (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 1%, CBS 10%) in this section because he is being completely ignored. I get that the 4.28 ERA is far from appealing, but getting popped around in St. Louis and Colorado is far from a crime, and his 9.6 K/9 and 3.0 K/BB over his 33 2/3 innings of work are enough to draw my attention to him for the stretch run (or for as long as he pitches before getting shut down). I think he even has some mixed-league viability, especially if you need strikeouts and can pick and choose matchups on a day-to-day basis.

AL-only VP
Another team doubling up in this week’s VP is the Toronto Blue Jays; J.A. Happ (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN 5%, CBS 31%) joins the fray for the first time as an American Leaguer. Like Rogers, he is a consistent strikeout source, at the very least, and a pair of quality starts against Detroit and Texas showed his upside. He netted a cheapie win on Wednesday against the Yankees despite a rather ugly line that included four earned runs in five innings with five walks and six strikeouts. To come out of a four-start stretch with a 3.75 ERA after two against the Yankees and one against both the Rangers and Tigers is pretty impressive, especially given his 25 strikeouts in 24 innings.

Paul Sporer is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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