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April 26, 2013

Fantasy Starting Pitcher Planner

Week Five

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 five slate…

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Auto-Starts: Stephen Strasburg, Adam Wainwright, Gio Gonzalez, Mat Latos, Matt Cain, Matt Harvey and Jeff Samardzija

Start:

Start

Opp.

Roy Halladay

at CLE, at MIA

Ian Kennedy

vs. SF, at SD

Jaime Garcia

vs. CIN, at MIL

Marco Estrada

vs. PIT, vs. STL

Wandy Rodriguez

at MIL, vs. WAS

Ted Lilly

vs. COL, at SF

Edwin Jackson

vs. SD, vs. CIN

Kevin Slowey

vs. NYM, at PHI

Tim Hudson

vs. WAS, vs. NYM

Notes:

How bad was Halladay’s start? He had logged 21 innings in his last three starts (75 percent of his season total) with a 1.71 ERA, and yet his composite ERA is still 5.08 because of his first two outings. Ready to snuggle up with a nice wet blanket? Halladay’s three outings have come against three of the league’s worst offenses by True Average: the Marlins (30th), the Cardinals (22nd), and the Pirates (20th). It is at least worth noting that the Cards have the fifth-most runs, though. He’s a start this week, even facing the Indians (seventh in TAv).

The only thing that could make Kennedy’s week better is if the Giants start was in AT&T Park. The San-San Two Step™ in AT&T and Petco is the best setup an NL West pitcher can get in a given week.

Estrada has given up homers in every single one of his starts, and he is lucky to have a 3.86 ERA despite his 17.5 percent HR/FB. But he faces the 22nd- and 23rd-ranked teams in home runs this week, so I’m sticking by him. Plus, he strikes out plenty of batters and walks very few, which lessens the potential damage of the long balls.

There are enough good things in E-Jax’s game early on that make him worth sticking by, especially with a Padres start mixed into his week. He is fanning 22 percent of the batters he faces, he has a 59 percent ground-ball rate, and he’s not allowing homers (0.32 HR/9). He needs to stop walking so many, and if he does, his ERA will plummet.

Slowey is healthy and off to a great start. My continued support of him is finally paying off. He could be missing a few more bats, especially since wins will be tight with the Marlins, but I’ll take the quality ratios, as he walks nobody. His homer issue plays down in Miami, too.

Consider:

Consider

Opp.

Jose Fernandez

vs. NYM, at PHI

 
Notes:

Fernandez will go six if you’re lucky, putting the chances of a win in serious peril, given his supporting cast both in the lineup and bullpen. So, if he’s not missing a ton of bats (42 percent strikeout rate in his debut, 17 percent in 15 innings since) then he has little use in most formats. If you have a starts limit in your league, he is doing more harm than good, as he eats precious starts with little return.

Sit:

Sit

Opp.

Yovani Gallardo

vs. PIT, vs. STL

Edinson Volquez

at CHC, vs. ARI

Clayton Richard

at CHC, vs. ARI

Julio Teheran

vs. WAS, vs. NYM

Tyler Chatwood

at LAD, vs. TB

Notes:
  • It looks like a washout week for Gallardo. He usually owns the Pirates and gets destroyed by the Cards, and the destruction usually erases a good start. I know a lot of folks don’t put any stock in pitcher’s lines versus particular batters or teams, but I can’t see how a 6.84 ERA and 1.49 WHIP in 79 innings with a 1-10 record against the Cards doesn’t affect Gallardo at all. Current Cards have a 926 OPS against him in 182 plate appearances, too. These samples aren’t huge, but why does he keep getting killed by them if they mean nothing? They already popped him for five runs in 5 1/3 this year, too.
  • Baseball at its finest: A struggling youngster who has shown next to nothing in his brief major-league work goes into the lion’s den that is Coors Field against a Rockies team that is clicking on all cylinders and totally gets rocked for eight earned in two innings throws seven strong, allowing one run on eight hits with no walks.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Auto-Start: Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Yu Darvish, James Shields, and Jon Lester

Start:

Start

Opp.

Andy Pettitte

vs. HOU, vs. OAK

Jason Hammel

at SEA, at LAA

Wade Davis

vs. CLE, vs. CWS

Zach McAllister

vs. PHI, vs. MIN

Notes:
  • The ageless wonder has picked up where his brief 2012 appearance left off, and he’s been a boon for those who secured his services this past draft season. His value was tough to corral. The only thing that worried me before the season and still concerns me going forward is durability, but no one paid for a 200-inning beast or even a 180-inning workhorse, so if he can give you 150 quality innings, he’s going to be a net positive. He gets the super-tough A’s late in the week, but he’s still someone you have to have in the lineup this week.
  • Hammel’s start on Thursday took his ERA below 4.00 for the first time this year (3.82), but he has a brilliant 1.14 WHIP, and he’s been going six innings in every start (exactly six in four, 6 2/3 in the other one). He doesn’t jump off the page like he did at the start of last year, but he’s been strong and I think he will only get better.
  • McAllister has been a Hammel Lite from the standpoint that he hasn’t done anything spectacular so far this season, but he’s been fine through four starts. Walks bit him in his last two, but he hadn’t walked anyone in his first two. Meanwhile, he continues to miss more bats than you would expect given his stuff, with a 19.8 strikeout rate for the season and his 166-inning career.

Consider:

Consider

Opp.

Alex Cobb

at KC, at COL

Brandon Morrow

vs. BOS, vs. SEA

Jose Quintana

at TEX, at KC

Notes:
  • As much as I love Cobb, I have to be consistent, and I’ve said that any non-star has to be viewed with caution with a trip to Coors on the docket. Mike Minor gives up homers as if it’s his actual job, and he escaped with a baseline quality start so that is heartening. I will personally be starting Cobb on the two teams on which I own him, but I know others are far more cautious with where and when they start certain guys.
  • Morrow has become tiring to have on a team, which is why I jumped off of that bandwagon this year. I realize he gets his former team for a start late in the week and they can’t hit anyone, but he’s exactly the guy who will give up six in five innings against them. Look beyond the name value with him. When he finally had great ratios, his skills imploded, so he’s got a meager 4.10 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in his last 331 1/3 innings spanning 2011-2013.

Sit:

Sit

Opp.

Brett Anderson

vs. LAA, at NYY

Garrett Richards

at OAK, vs. BAL

Tommy Hanson

at OAK, vs. BAL

Lucas Harrell

at NYY, vs. DET

Joe Saunders

vs. BAL, at TOR

Mike Pelfrey

at DET, at CLE

BLANK ROSTER SPOT

and then…

Philip Humber

at NYY, vs. DET

Notes:
  • Anderson is another “look beyond the name” candidate and a pitcher I often pair with Morrow is the Disappointment Bin ($4.99 at the Container Store). He finally starts striking guys out, but it comes with a ton of walks and horrible ratios. I don’t know if the ankle was an issue in his last start, but he did fall down two different times when I was watching. The announcers seemed to suggest it was the hole on the mound that they land in (Lester was pitching and he’s also a lefty, so it was a shared hole), but I’m wondering if the ankle was the culprit. Two very dangerous offenses and a struggling pitcher makes for a perfect time to sit.
  • Richards is inconsistent, so good luck predicting when his gems are coming.
  • Harrell is a guy I like some in AL-only formats, but not against two powerhouses (yes, it felt weird writing “powerhouse” about the Vernon Wells/Travis Hafner-led Yankees offense, but they’ve been killing it).
  • Blank Roster Spot is off to a decent start this year, so definitely start it over Humber.

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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