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July 5, 2013

Fantasy Starting Pitcher Planner

Week 15

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 15 slate...

AMERICAN LEAGUE

AUTO-START: Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, CC Sabathia, James Shields, Hisashi Iwakuma, Derek Holland, and Bartolo Colon

Colon has joined the ranks here and I’m not sure I’ll write anything more surprising in this column this year. But seriously, where are you benching him at this point? Going back to last year he now has a 3.15 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 265 2/3 innings, and that masks his brilliance this year: 2.78 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 113 1/3 innings. His strikeout rate is undeniably weak, but his 4.1 K:BB (4.4 this year) in the 2011-2012 span is seventh in baseball among starters with 250 or more innings. Oh yeah, and he’s 40.

START

Jon Lester

at SEA, at OAK

Chris Archer

MIN, HOU

Hector Santiago

CHC, at PHI

Zach Britton

TEX, TOR

Jerome Williams

at CHC, at SEA

Martin Perez

at BAL, at DET

Jose Quintana

at DET, at PHI

David Phelps

KC, MIN

Scott Kazmir

DET, KC

Notes:

I have no idea what to do with Lester right now. He was off to a brilliant start this year looking like vintage Lester in mid-May with a 2.72 ERA through nine starts, but he’s fallen off the rails since then posting a vomit-inducing 6.26 ERA in his last nine starts. And yet, even with the collapse, it is hard to just flat-out bench him. Both of these venues are nice, but the A’s rake lefties at home while the M’s are just about league average. In most formats I think you have to just ride this out. I’m not averse to benching him where applicable, but I wouldn’t cut him in even the shallowest of leagues.

It’s a thin week in the AL for those who like to stream pitchers. A large portion of the two-start guys are studs, leaving a group of risky plays, including guys like Archer. The massively talented rookie is starting to show some signs of improvement, plus he gets a nice set of matchups this week. Walks are his biggest issue and the Twins are tied for the highest walk rate in baseball against righties (9.4 percent), but both the Twins and Astros are among the top 10 in strikeout rate against righties. Plus, his Houston matchup is a rematch of his Fourth of July outing where he went six strong, allowing just two runs on five base runners with five strikeouts.

Outside of a smashing at the hands of the Indians, Santiago has been sharp as a starter and he bounced back from the rough outing with an absolute gem against the Orioles his next time out.

Britton’s peripherals are trash, namely a 14/12 K:BB, but he’s been getting the job done thanks in large part to a 56 percent ground-ball rate. He has filthy stuff capable of generating missed bats, but it hasn’t manifested itself in the big leagues yet with a modest 15 percent strikeout rate over his 250 innings. Both the Rangers and Jays are below league average in OPS against lefties so I like the idea of taking a chance here.

Even factoring in his destruction at the hands of the Cardinals, Williams still has a 4.50 ERA in 58 innings as a starter. A 4.50 isn’t special on any level, but consider that the Cards hung seven on him in just 1 2/3, adding a full run to his starter ERA. He gets a reprieve with trips to Wrigley and Safeco, though he may need a while to work off that destruction from the Cardinals.

Even with trips to Baltimore and Detroit on the horizon, Perez gets the nod this week. He’s put up a 1.85 ERA thus far (in 24 1/3 innings) despite trips to Arizona and St. Louis as well as a home outing against the Reds, so the competition has been fierce throughout for him.

Kazmir left his June 26 outing against the Orioles with back spasms, but it didn’t cost him any time as he made his next start against the Royals and pitched okay. I don’t love the Detroit outing at all, but he’s been much better in his last seven, so this is a vote of confidence.

CONSIDER

Scott Feldman

TEX, TOR

Ubaldo Jimenez

TOR, KC

Kyle Gibson

at TB, at NYY

Roberto Hernandez

MIN, HOU

Samuel Deduno

at TB, at NYY

Notes:
  • To be honest, several of those “starts” could’ve just as easily been here in the consideration pool. It’s a tough week in the AL. Feldman returns to the American League, and while I like the move by the O’s from a baseball standpoint, it’s obviously not a boost to his fantasy value in the slightest. In fact, it is a significant hit. He eased his way back with a trip to the South Side of Chicago, but I don’t feel great about him against a pair of top-10 offenses against righties.
  • Jimenez has actually been pitching well for last two months with a 3.24 ERA over his last 12 starts, but you’ll pardon me for not jumping in headfirst all the same. He hasn’t completed six innings in any of his last five starts, though only his three-inning, three-run outing versus Detroit was particularly bad among that group. The 17 walks and 30 hits in 24 innings over that five-start span keep me skeptical.
  • Gibson epitomized in his first two MLB starts why rookies are so enticing and yet so dangerous. He rolled the Royals in his debut going six strong for the win only to come back in his second and get obliterated by the Yankees, allowing eight runs in just 5 1/3 innings on 11 hits and a walk. I wouldn’t be surprised if he made some adjustments and did fine against the Yanks in the rematch next week, but that trip to Tampa won’t be easy, either.
  • Hernandez gets a nice slate, but he’s been so wildly inconsistent this year that it’s hard to trust him. There is no rhyme or reason to his success or failure, either. He’ll smash good teams, get pummeled by weak teams, and then do the opposite the following week. Proceed at your own risk.

SIT

Josh Johnson

at CLE, at BAL

Jeremy Guthrie

at NYY, at CLE

Allen Webster

at SEA, at OAK

Notes:
  • Johnson has the name value, but what else? Outside of a strikeout per inning, he’s done nothing worthwhile this season.
  • One nice start against the Padres doesn’t change the outlook on Webster, especially since he still walked four in six innings during the outing. Keep an eye on him for the long term (like 2014), but for now, he is waiver wire fodder.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

AUTO-START: Matt Harvey, Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, Homer Bailey, Shelby Miller, and Jeff Locke

  • Bailey’s no-no isn’t the reason he’s part of the auto-starts now. It didn’t hurt, but even though he had a 3.88 ERA prior to the achievement against the Giants, is he someone you’re picking and choosing starts with in any format? He has three particularly rough outings inflating his ERA: Two were trips to St. Louis and Cleveland, the third was a home outing against the Brewers. He gave up 20 of his 44 earned runs in those three starts over 15 2/3 innings. In his other 14 starts, he has a 2.27 ERA in 95 1/3 innings.
  • Locke isn’t quite as surprising an addition as Colon, but I certainly didn’t expect to put him in this section at any point in the 2013 season when I was projecting his season back in March. He’s given up more than three runs just twice, and it was four both times, all the way back in April. He has a 1.59 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 62 1/3 innings over his last 10 starts.

START

Cole Hamels

WAS, CWS

Matt Garza

at CWS, STL

Travis Wood

LAA, STL

Tony Cingrani

at MIL, at ATL

Kyle Lohse

CIN, at ARI

Tyler Chatwood

at SD, at LAD

Jhoulys Chacin

at SD, at LAD

Tim Lincecum

NYM, at SD

Eric Stults

COL, SF

Dan Haren

at PHI, at MIA

Edinson Volquez

COL, SF

Ross Detwiler

at PHI, at MIA

Randall Delgado

LAD, MIL

John Lannan

WAS, CWS

Notes:

  • Hamels has fallen from the auto-starts because he simply hasn’t been himself this year, but I’d still have a hard time benching him in any scenario. This week sets up perfectly for him, as he faces the worst and third-worst teams in OPS against lefties.
  • Garza might not even be a Cub for both of these starts, as he’s been a major consideration on the rumor mill for teams looking for an arm. His 0.90 ERA and WHIP over his last four starts certainly haven’t hurt that status.
  • Wood is similar to Garza in that he may be gone for one or both of these starts, but until then, it’s standard operating procedure, and Wood has been excellent this season.
  • Cingrani is back in the rotation yet again thanks to Johnny Cueto’s third DL stint of the season and he brings the same thing he’s offered all season: bundles of strikeouts. His control has wavered a bit in his last two outings (one of which was a four-inning relief appearance in Texas) with 10 walks in 9 2/3 innings, but he’d had a 6.4 percent walk rate in 43 1/3 innings prior to that, so it may have just been a temporary blip.
  • It’s always nice to see a pair of road starts for Colorado starters. Neither Chatwood nor Chacin has been worthless at home, but both have been decidedly better on the road.
  • Lincecum was set up for starts against the Reds and Dodgers last week so I had him as a “sit,” but that two-start week was disrupted by rain on the Fourth of July, so now we’re looking at a Mets/Padres combo including a trip to Petco Park. It won’t get much better for the struggling former ace, so if you’re not using him here, then just cut him.
  • A pair of home starts is a perfect way for Stults to get back on track after getting smoked by the Red Sox (understandable) and the Marlins (huh?).
  • This is a really nice setup for Haren as he returns from the DL. We’ll see if the injury was the culprit for his struggles or if he’s truly just not the guy he used to be anymore.
  • Volquez been so bad this season that even five starts of 2.73 ERA work only pushed his ERA down to 5.26. But, he gets a chance to stay hot with two home starts, so let’s roll the dice.
  • Lannan joins his southpaw teammate, Hamels, in facing two of the absolute worst teams against lefties and thus makes a nice spot-starter for the week.

CONSIDER

Barry Zito

NYM, at SD

Notes:

  • Zito has a 3.27 ERA over his last four starts, which include trips to Colorado and Cincinnati. Of course, the other two were against Miami and San Diego, and he definitely made the most of those allowing just three earned runs in 12 2/3 innings. This is a nice setup to use the veteran lefty.

SIT

Ian Kennedy

LAD, MIL

Chris Capuano

at ARI, COL

Donovan Hand

CIN, at ARI

Notes:

  • I need more than a strong outing against the Mets before I’ll fully trust Kennedy. Neither of these lineups are particularly easy, and while his 4.55 ERA at home is better than his 5.81 road mark, I don’t trust the 1.45 home WHIP against two quality lineups.

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:  Homer Bailey,  Fantasy,  Bartolo Colon

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