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July 10, 2013

Sporer Report

Home-Cooking Starters

by Paul Sporer

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A couple of weeks ago, I started to take a look at the 2014 first round, discussing what we’ve learned so far in 2013 and how it might impact the early part of drafts next March. I also mentioned a second part next time out. The “Sporer Report” was off last week for the holidays, and though it’s obviously back this week, I’m tabling part two for a little while to cover a topic a bit more useful for the here and now as you charge toward your 2013 league pennants.

There is nothing new about streaming pitchers as it relates to fantasy baseball. It’s a viable strategy with known pros and cons. It is often a matchup-based decision, but today we are going to look at some guys who are useful candidates for the other primary factor when deciding on streamers: venue. Depending on their team’s ballparks, some pitchers perform markedly better at home or on the road. I have 10 such pitchers, five for each side, whom you can maximize by deploying them only on their plus side. Let’s start with the homebodies.

PLAYER

H/A

IP

ERA

WHIP

K%

BB%

SO/BB

Eric Stults, SD

home

56.3

2.56

0.91

19%

4%

4.6

away

64.7

4.31

1.39

12%

6%

2.1

The first one is kind of easy, as virtually all Padres fare well at home, but Stults has been particularly sharp in Petco while turning in an unspectacular line everywhere else. He added a complete game, four-hitter against the Rockies to his ledger on Tuesday night, allowing just one run while walking three and striking out five. Though no one is surprised to learn that a Padres pitcher has home success, that doesn’t mean it is being taken advantage of properly: Stults is rostered in just 13 percent of ESPN leagues and 27 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

His next outing will be at home against the Giants just before the break. After that, the Padres can shuffle their rotation however they choose, but if they are smart, they will throw Stults in St. Louis immediately after the All-Star break so they can maximize him with a pair of home starts between July 29 and August 7. The Padres don’t play in a particularly friendly road park until September, when they hit PNC Park in Pittsburgh for four.

PLAYER

H/A

IP

ERA

WHIP

K%

BB%

SO/BB

Tommy Milone, OAK

home

50.7

3.20

1.22

19%

7%

2.9

away

63.3

4.83

1.22

17%

4%

3.8

Milone is notorious for being a home-only starter, though maybe he is trying to shirk that reputation with gems in three of his last four road outings; the only dud came in Texas, where no one paying attention would start him anyway. Milone has the same 4.83 road ERA that he did a season ago, but his home ERA has climbed from last year’s sparkling 2.74 in 98 2/3 innings. The culprit behind Milone’s stark splits: a home-run problem exacerbated by his fly-ball tendencies.

His ground-ball rate has dipped from 38 percent to 34 percent this year, while his fly-ball and home-run rates are up sharply. The fly-ball rate was at 37 percent a year ago, which landed him among the top 25, but this year it has shot up to 47 percent, good for third in the majors among qualifying starters. The home-run rate has jumped from 1.1 HR/9 to a very ugly 1.5 HR/9. His 3.20 ERA at home is almost fortunate when you consider the 1.8 HR/9 at home, but it might actually be worse if the Coliseum didn’t eat up many of those long flies, especially considering his 51 percent home fly-ball rate. Despite the disconcerting home-run issues, I would still utilize Milone in home outings, and I would actually use him for his next start, which is on the road in Pittsburgh.

PLAYER

H/A

IP

ERA

WHIP

K%

BB%

SO/BB

Barry Zito

home

69.7

2.45

1.28

15%

10%

1.5

away

31.7

9.38

2.40

15%

7%

2.3

Zito’s numbers were positively brilliant before Tuesday night, as the Mets roughed him up in AT&T Park, but nonetheless, the park brings out the best in the veteran lefty. He has logged a 4.00 ERA or better in San Francisco in every season since 2009, which covers most of his otherwise forgettable Giants career.

Then again, it’s only forgettable because of the contract; if he had been paid like a fourth or fifth starter, he might be heralded as a dependable innings eater who can twirl the occasional gem. Given their composite numbers, I’m surprised Zito’s ownership rates are so close to Stults’s, with the Giants lefty turning up on 11 percent of ESPN rosters and 20 percent at Yahoo!

The two square off on Sunday and, despite the favorable conditions, I don’t think I’d roll with Zito. He’s struggled at Petco in his career, and even this year’s 2.45 ERA in one start is misleading because he gave up just one earned run, but six runs total in his 3 2/3 innings. For his career, he has a 5.06 ERA and 1.65 WHIP over 53 1/3 innings in San Diego. Even in the seasons where he had a decent ERA there, he was hit around and yielded tons of base runners.

PLAYER

H/A

IP

ERA

WHIP

K%

BB%

SO/BB

Joe Saunders

home

48

3.56

1.19

16%

7%

2.5

away

59.7

5.28

1.61

9%

7%

1.3

Perhaps the saddest thing about Saunders’s 5.28 road ERA is the fact that he has a 1.26 ERA innings over his last five road outings spanning 35 2/3 innings, and they probably didn’t end up on anyone’s roster since the run included trips to Cincinnati, Texas, Anaheim, and Oakland. Meanwhile, the Pirates ripped him for six earned in just 1 2/3 innings during his last home start. That said, he’s been brilliant in Safeco otherwise, and if you want to best utilize the 32-year-old southpaw, then his home starts are your best bets. As his most recent outings show, he can still lay an egg at Safeco, but he’s cut up the Rangers, Orioles, and A’s once apiece at home, so he didn’t build the numbers on weak competition.

PLAYER

H/A

IP

ERA

WHIP

K%

BB%

SO/BB

Wandy Rodriguez, PIT

home

39.7

2.04

0.81

22%

4%

5.5

away

23

6.26

1.65

12%

6%

2.2

This is a name to file away since Rodriguez is on the disabled list, so we won’t dive into him too deeply. He’s been out since June 6 after prematurely leaving his start against the Braves with just one out in the books. He was part of the Pirates pitching brigade that could do no wrong, but of course they just found another capable arm to drop a low-3.00 ERA on opponents in his stead. Looking ahead, we see that even if Rodriguez isn’t able to return until late July, he won’t miss much, as the team hits the road from July 19-28 for a huge trip before returning home for 10.

And though his road numbers are shoddy on the whole, they are inflated by a seven-earned-run outing in Milwaukee, and the Pirates do get several favorable road venues in the second half including trips to Miami, San Diego, San Francisco, and Chicago to face the Cubs, who may be down to Anthony Rizzo and eight of his high school friends after trades. That said, you might only want to roster Rodriguez and other borderline Pirates arms in leagues where you can make daily transactions, because they also have two trips to Cincinnati, one to Colorado, one to Texas, and approximately 217 games against the Cardinals both home and away. Okay, it’s just 13, but their second-half schedule is very boom or bust for pitchers.

Next time: five road warriors.

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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