September 13, 2012
Starting Pitching for 9/13/12
Can’t give up now; we are in the homestretch, folks. And this goes for those out of contention even more than for those who are fighting for the title. Obviously we know the incentive of those fighting for the prize, but if you’re a bottom-feeder, keep your roster up to date and make sure you’re putting your best foot forward. You can still impact the race by “showing up” so to speak. There may be a gem or two in this week’s Value Picks that you can use to replace an injured or underperforming arm.
Honestly, the chance to get Lance Lynn (Yahoo! 51%, ESPN 39%, CBS 58%) is probably dwindling by the second as he approaches his first start since August 24 later today. He was clearly running out of gas with a 7.31 ERA in his last six starts spanning just 28 1/3 innings. He looked like he was hitting a wall in late June with a 9.98 ERA in his final three starts totaling 15 1/3 innings (yes, it was a pretty even 5-5-5 1/3 split), but then he rebounded by allowing just a single run over his next three across 19 innings. He may still be out of gas, but given how well the majority of his season went as a starter, he is worth a look, especially if you’re chasing.
Andrew Cashner (Yahoo! 11%, ESPN 3%, CBS 30%) was getting ready to make his Value Picks debut when he went down in his July 3 start after just two innings. He would miss over two months before finally returning to the mound late last week. He faced the Diamondbacks—the team he faced when he went down back in July—and picked up where he left off, throwing five strong frames while allowing two runs on four hits with five strikeouts and no walks. He is almost certainly scooped up in any keeper league, but redraft leagues probably have him on the wire if they are 10- or 12-teamers. He likely won’t go too deep into games, but he should get a strikeout per inning (or better) and could sneak a win or three for the white-hot Padres (25-14 since August 1).
The A’s brought Dan Straily (Yahoo! 6%, ESPN 5%, CBS 36%) back into the major league rotation on Tuesday, and he turned in perhaps the best of his four MLB starts, going 6 2/3 innings (the longest he’s gone) while allowing just three runs with a career high eight strikeouts. Straily should stick in the rotation the rest of the way with Bartolo Colon suspended and Brandon McCarthy injured. He has a very impressive 20-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his 23 2/3 innings of work thus far.
Being on the wretched Houston Astros has kept Lucas Harrell (Yahoo! 13%, ESPN 4%, CBS 37%) off the radar all year long despite the fact that he has been excellent since late June. Sure, it’s an arbitrary starting point, but the stretch of greatness does constitute more than half of his season. He has a 2.71 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 8.1 K/9, and 2.2 K/BB in 89 2/3 innings (out of 171 1/3 pitched). That he is 10-9 is a minor miracle given how poorly the team has played, but any wins he gets you are a bonus. Grab Harrell for the strikeouts and ratios.
Jeremy Guthrie (Yahoo! 14%, ESPN 9%, CBS 21%) the pitcher is finally catching up to Jeremy Guthrie person in terms of quality. I haven’t met him, but he’s earned high marks in the outlets through which I have seen his personality on display. I’ve never really been sold on him as a pitcher, though, even when he was putting up solid seasons in Baltimore. So, of course, I was hardly surprised when he was pushed around in his first two starts with the Royals. Then he went on a little run that included two gems against the White Sox, yet I remained steadfast in my disbelief. Watching him thwart my Tigers, then the Rangers, and then the White Sox a third time in his last three starts has sold me, at least temporarily. Be mindful of the potential blow-up start that is seemingly always around the corner with him, but you can’t argue with his numbers as a Royal.
Two Astros? What the what? How many people can even name two of the five Astros starters? Not many I’d guess, even with a Harrell head start. Alas, Edgar Gonzalez (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 1%) fills the NL-only VP role this week. He’s been brilliant in a pair of outings with the Stros this September, fanning 11 in his 10 1/3 innings and notching two wins. He hit each side of the opponent spectrum too, facing the Pirates and Reds, both on the road. Look, there’s a chance (a significant one at that) that he crumbles in his next start and goes back to the Gonzalez we’ve seen since 2003 (5.90 ERA). But there’s also a chance he keeps it going for the rest of the month. We’ve seen lesser pitchers do more in such a small sample. This is what desperation looks like, but if you’re scrounging the NL-only wire for an arm in mid-September, then you’re desperate.
Paul Sporer is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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