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May 24, 2013

Fantasy Starting Pitcher Planner

Week Nine

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 nine slate…

AMERICAN LEAGUE

AUTO-START: Yu Darvish, Justin Verlander, James Shields, Chris Sale, Hiroki Kuroda, and Clay Buchholz

Verlander now has three straight rough outings, including a pair against Cleveland. I dare you to bench him, though. He will be fine, and despite the struggles, he has logged a 28 percent strikeout rate during the stretch.

START

C.J. Wilson

at LAD, HOU

Zach McAllister

at CIN, TB

Jarrod Parker

SF, CWS

Jose Quintana

CHC, at OAK

Notes:
  • Wilson is quietly improving as the season wears on with five straight quality starts. After walking three or more in his first four outings, he has walked more than two just once in his last four. It should be noted that one of his quality starts was somewhat ill-gotten, as he did allow seven runs against the Astros, but only two were earned.
  • While not every start for McAllister has been a quality start, he has yet to give up more than three runs in an outing. The issue preventing him from nine quality starts is the fact, of course, that he hasn’t gone six innings in each of his starts. Nevertheless, he’s toting a sub-3.00 ERA so far, and while that almost certainly isn’t his true talent level, he is someone worth starting in most situations right now.
  • Parker now has three straight quality starts, going seven innings in his last two, including one in Texas. He’s looking better since his four-homer outing in Cleveland, and I like him for a two-start week here even with the solid Giants offense on his slate.

CONSIDER

Ervin Santana

STL, at TEX

Phil Hughes

NYM, at BOS

Dan Straily

SF, CWS

Rick Porcello

PIT, at BAL

Notes:
  • I love Santana, but his homer issue still pops up from time to time, and when it does, it’s fierce (four on Thursday, two against the Yankees on May 12, and three in Chicago in his season debut) enough to make starting him in a venue like Texas terrifying. And even though the Cardinals don’t have a ton of homers so far this year, they still have several guys who can leave the yard at any moment. Of course, he’s gone to Boston and Baltimore and come out unscathed, so it’s not as if he isn’t capable of shutting down strong lineups.
  • For Hughes, see also: Santana, Ervin and add in the fact that he’s been worse overall this season, make him even scarier despite lesser opponents.
  • Straily finally had another good start, stopping a streak of four duds after his season debut against the Astros. He threw seven shutout innings in Arlington. Is he turning the corner or was this just a one-off good outing? This isn’t an easy pair of assignments, as the Giants are much better than in previous seasons, but both are at home, so that helps if you do decide to start him.
  • If you’ve ever had Porcello on your team, you know how infuriating the ups and downs are with him. Look sharp against the Rangers in Arlington one night, give up five in five to the Twins five days later. Roll the dice as you see fit here.

SIT

Brandon Morrow

ATL, at SD

Jeremy Hellickson

MIA, at CLE

Brandon Maurer

SD, at MIN

Ryan Dempster

PHI, at NYY

Kevin Gausman

at WAS, DET

Scott Diamond

at MIL, SEA

Joe Blanton

at LAD, HOU

Mark Buehrle

ATL, at SD

Bud Norris

COL, at LAA

Jake Odorizzi

MIA, at CLE

Jason Hammel

at WAS, DET

Ubaldo Jimenez

at CIN, TB

Aaron Harang

SD, at MIN

Jordan Lyles

COL, at LAA

Notes:
  • This is the state of the AL pitching ranks right now. Just a bunch of high-risk, middling-to-low-reward guys, many of whom should be pitching better but just can’t seem to break out of their funks. I’ve had it with Morrow, especially. I need to see either two excellent starts against quality opponents or three solid ones with a mix of competition before I’ll recommend him in this piece.
  • Hellickson needn’t have quite the same streak as Morrow to get back in my good graces, but I still need more than the one gem he threw his last time out in Toronto. In fact, he probably would’ve made the “Consider“ pool if he didn’t have Cleveland in his second start. The Miami start is definitely appealing, but one bad start can completely erase a gem, and then some. Hence, I’m avoiding him against Cleveland unless I have absolutely no other options.
  • Like Hellickson, several of these remaining arms have at least one appealing start, but a second that is too dangerous to risk. Gausman and Hammel facing Detroit, Diamond facing Milwaukee, Buehrle facing Atlanta, and Odorizzi facing Cleveland all fall into this category. Gausman and Odorizzi are risky in general because of their inexperience, but facing a juggernaut offense substantially adds to the risk.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

AUTO-START: Adam Wainwright, Madison Bumgarner, Cliff Lee, Matt Harvey, Mat Latos, Gio Gonzalez, Jeff Samardzija, and Zack Greinke

START

Paul Maholm

at TOR, WAS

Ian Kennedy

TEX, at CHC

Jose Fernandez

at TB, NYM

Hyun-Jin Ryu

LAA, at COL

Ross Detwiler

BAL, at ATL

Jonathon Niese

NYY, at MIA

Kevin Slowey

at TB, NYM

Edwin Jackson

at CWS, ARI

Tim Hudson

at TOR, WAS

Notes:
  • Kennedy seems to be rounding into form after some early-season hiccups, although he does have a five-earned-run outing in Petco Park on his ledger in May. He balances it out with a pair of quality starts in Coors Field. Walks have been a bigger issue than his normal gopheritis. In fact, from his third start through his ninth, he walked at least three per game in six of the seven. Stick with him; he can only get better.
  • Fernandez continues to get better as the season wears on, though it is upsetting to see his good starts go unrewarded with wins thanks to his supporting cast. This is especially difficult in head-to-head and points leagues, where wins can be more important than in a season-long roto league.
  • This is a tough slate for Ryu, including a trip to Coors, but I think he has done enough in his first 10 starts to earn the trust of his fantasy managers. The Angels haven’t done much against lefties, as much of their May surge has come at the expense of righties.
  • I don’t think we are out of the woods with Niese just yet after back-to-back strong starts, but the Yankees (26) and Marlins (29) are both in the bottom five in OPS against lefties.
  • Hudson in Toronto is a little daunting, but they’ve only been league average in the SkyDome (I know what it’s really called) this year, so I think we can take a shot with him there and then enjoy the start against the Nats.

CONSIDER

Francisco Liriano

at DET, CIN

Jhoulys Chacin

at HOU, LAD

Jorge de la Rosa

at HOU, LAD

Notes:
  • How many times have we seen this routine from Liriano? Even in his worst seasons, he had a stretch of brilliance that teased and tantalized. Don’t be surprised if the Tigers hasten his return to earth after a hot start to his 2013.
  • The results haven’t been too bad for the pair of Rockies, but their component numbers don’t offer a ton of support, as both have weak strikeout rates and a meager 1.7 K:BB.

SIT

Mike Leake

CLE, at PIT

Edinson Volquez

at SEA, TOR

Wily Peralta

MIN, at PHI

Tyler Cloyd

at BOS, MIL

Tyler Lyons

at KC, SF

Jeanmar Gomez

at DET, CIN

Hiram Burgos

MIN, at PHI

Notes:
  • The only one close to consideration was Leake, but as I’ve noted already in this piece, Cleveland is a stay-away unless it’s a stud. Plus, it’s not like his trip to Pittsburgh is a guarantee, either. The Pirates smashed him for five in six innings during his second start of the season back in early April. I could see him improving on that outing, but he’s off the table entirely because of Cleveland. 

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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