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April 19, 2013

Fantasy Starting Pitcher Planner

Week Four

by Paul Sporer

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Welcome to the Weekly Pitching Planner. Each week I will cover the pitchers are who slated to make two starts and help you decide who you should start and who you should sit. Sometimes guys will be in the “consider” where they might have one good start, but a second tough one and then your league settings might determine whether or not you should go forward with him. The pitchers will be split by league then by categories:

Auto-Starts – These are your surefire fantasy aces. You paid a handsome sum for them either with an early draft pick or high dollar auction bid so you’re starting them anywhere, anytime. Guys can emerge onto or fall off of this list as the season evolves. There won’t be many – if any – notes associated with these groupings each week. We are starting them automatically so why do I need to expound on how awesome they are and will be in the coming week?

Starts – These are the guys I’m recommending you put into your lineup this week. Some will be obvious, but not quite auto-start excellent while others will be waiver wire fodder who find themselves with a pair of favorable outings that you can take advantage of in your league. There will be accompanying notes supporting the decisions.

Considers – As mentioned earlier, these guys will be on the fence and your league settings and position in the standings will really be a decider here. If the Minnesota Twins fifth starter is slated to face the Astros at home followed by an interleague trip to San Diego, he will appear on this list because the matchups are great though he isn’t and if you are in a 10-team mixed league you probably don’t need to take the risk, but a 10-team AL-only leaguer might see it as a nice opportunity to log some quality innings from a freely available resource.

Sits – These are the guys I’m getting away from this week. They will range in talent from solid to poor. Rarely will you see a really good pitcher here unless he gets an “at COL, at TOR” slate. Speaking of the fateful “at COL”, any mediocre talent with a trip to Coors Field will be a sit until further notice. If they turn the humidor back on, I’ll reconsider, but after last year there is just no reason to throw any non-stud in that park.

And with that, here is our week 4 slate, starting with the AL…

Auto-Starts: David Price, Felix Hernandez, CC Sabathia, Max Scherzer, Matt Moore, R.A. Dickey, and Chris Sale

Start:

Jon Lester

vs. OAK, vs. HOU

Hisashi Iwakuma

at HOU, vs. LAA

Alexi Ogando

at LAA, at MIN

Derek Holland

at LAA, at MIN

Wade Davis

at DET, vs. CLE

Bartolo Colon

at BOS, vs. BAL

Notes:
  • Honestly, I think Lester is safely back into auto-start territory. I put him down here to highlight how excellent his first three starts have been this year. His strikeout rate is 23 percent while his walk rate is a career-best four percent, albeit just three games into the season. In short, he’s been excellent and given his track record of previous excellence, it is setting up well early on for Lester.
  • The only thing coming close to slowing down Iwakuma is a recurring blister issue that popped up again Thursday and relegated him to just six innings against the Tigers. He had a shutout working and just 70 pitches thrown, but had to come out. He has allowed a mere 14 base runners in his 26 2/3 innings of work, yielding an insane 0.53 WHIP.
  • Holland is keeping the ball in the yard early on, which is fueling his success. The four percent HR/FB rate isn’t going to stay intact, but the further it stays from last year’s 15.2 percent, the more successful Holland will be in 2013. He heads to a pair of venues not known for allowing too many homers.
  • The ageless wonder just keeps getting it done. Granted, two of his starts have come against Houston. However, he did handle a potent Tigers offense for seven strong, too. His strikeouts have continued to evaporate so I wouldn’t want to use him too often in leagues with innings or starts caps, because he burns up your allotment without missing bats. Colon held his own against tough teams last year, too, plus the Orioles game is at home (their 20 HR rank fifth in baseball).

Consider:

Justin Masterson

at CWS, at KC

A.J. Griffin

at BOS, vs. BAL

Jason Vargas

vs. TEX, at SEA

Bud Norris

vs. SEA, at BOS

Jose Quintana

vs. CLE, vs. TB

Notes:
  • I didn’t believe in Masterson even before he started his descent back to earth, but the White Sox are a team he has handled well throughout his career and he opens the week with them. The Royals roughed him up last year and they have some strong lefty hitters (his kryptonite), so he’s not a full start recommendation.
  • Griffin’s results have been excellent, but his component skills haven’t supported the low ERA and WHIP. His fly-ball rate is now up over 40 percent, yet his HR/FB is just four percent. Consider me a bit dubious of continued overwhelming success without significant component improvement near last year’s levels.
  • This is a perfect setup for Vargas with games at home and in his old stomping grounds of Seattle, but he’s been brutal, so I understand if you didn’t rush to pick him up as a streaming starter. If you have him on your squad and you’re not willing to use him this week, it’s time to cut him. The Rangers, who are off to a slow start, in his favorable home park and a putrid Mariners offense in a park where he has had tons of success is as good as it will get for Vargas.
  • The most intriguing part of Quintana’s start is his 23.6 percent strikeout rate, which was aided by a seven-strikeout performance against the Indians, a team he’ll face again next week.

Sit:

J.A. Happ

at BAL, at NYY

Miguel Gonzalez

vs. TOR, at OAK

Chris Tillman

vs. TOR, at OAK

Phil Hughes

at TB, vs. TOR

Joe Blanton

vs. TEX, at SEA

Alfredo Aceves

vs. OAK, vs. HOU

Brad Peacock

vs. SEA, at BOS

Mike Pelfrey

vs. MIA, vs. TEX

Notes:
  • Happ can look great at times, but homers are always an issue and both of his opponents can leave the yard. Worse yet, both games are in homer-friendly ballpark, so I would choose to sit out this week with him.
  • I can’t trust either of these Orioles right now. Neither is performing well and they have a pair of offenses that can put up some runs. Sure, it’s in Oakland, but I think the A’s are overlooked as an offense. Not only are they currently leading MLB in runs, but they weren’t exactly anemic last year.
  • So. Many. Homers. #PhilHughes
  • A simple “no thanks” on the rest will suffice.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Auto-Starts: Cole Hamels, A.J. Burnett, and Yovani Gallardo

Start:

Wade Miley

at SF, vs. COL

Kyle Lohse

at SD, at LAD

Shelby Miller

at WAS, vs. PIT

Tony Cingrani

vs. CHC, at WAS

Patrick Corbin

at SF, vs. COL

Ross Detwiler

vs. STL, vs. CIN

Ryan Vogelsong

vs. ARI, at SD

Ricky Nolasco

at MIN, vs. CHC

Jason Marquis

vs. MIL, vs. SF

Notes:
  • Miley has essentially picked up where he left off, limiting hits in exchange for a few more walks, but also bumping his strikeout rate up early on. The Rockies have played well so far, even on the road, but we’ll see how long that holds, and I still trust Miley for both of these matchups.
  • Miller and Cingrani are two very intriguing youngsters and both have a date with Washington, but they also get a meager opponent in the other matchup, which may allow them to do enough to sustain a little damage against the Nats. It’s early enough (meaning you can rebound from a tough week), and their potential is high enough to take the risk.
  • Detwiler just keeps getting it done and despite a pair of tough matchups, I can’t see sitting him when you consider what he’s done since the start of last year. All told, he has 184 1/3 innings of 3.12 ERA and 1.20 WHIP work. His 15 percent strikeout rate is far from special, but a seven percent walk rate makes it more tolerable.
  • Nolasco and Marquis have great matchups this week, making them very nice stream options. 

Consider:

Dan Haren

vs. STL, vs. CIN

Carlos Villanueva

at CIN, at MIA

Travis Wood

at CIN, at MIA

Ted Lilly

at NYM, vs. MIL

Notes:
  • Haren’s velocity is back up from 2012 while his control is better than ever, but his command has been brutal, resulting in a ton of home runs and an 8.10 ERA. He has a pair of tough offenses, too, so I certainly understand if you’re skittish heading into this week. There is speculation that his back is hurting him again, but we haven’t gotten any confirmation to that end. It is still just three starts and he closed 2012 with eight excellent ones. If we see two more like the first three, I’ll be moving him to the Sit column, but for now I’m not giving up.
  • Villanueva is off to a great start, because he’s not walking anybody or allowing many hits; thus, his continued home-run issue has resulted in just three solo shots allowed. His trip to Cincy is enough to worry me a bit and not put him as a full-on start even with a trip to Miami later in the week.

Sit:

Mike Minor

at COL, at DET

Mike Leake

vs. CHC, at WAS

Jon Garland

vs. ATL, at ARI

Jeff Francis

vs. ATL, at ARI

Jeff Locke

at PHI, at STL

Aaron Laffey

vs. LAD, vs. PHI

Notes:
  • Minor has tamped down his home-run issue early on this year, but I’m not interested in seeing if he can continue the trend in Colorado, let alone the fact that he has to face a Detroit lineup that hasn’t popped many homers yet, but can get loose at any given moment.
  • None of the rest of these options were even close to Consider status, let alone Start status.

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:  AT&T Park,  J.A. Happ,  A.J. Griffin,  Matchups

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