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August 23, 2013

Fantasy Starting Pitcher Planner

Week 22

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 22 slate…

AMERICAN LEAGUE

AUTO-START: Anibal Sanchez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Shields, and C.J. Wilson

START

Felix Doubront

BAL, CWS

Justin Verlander

OAK, CLE

Brett Oberholtzer

at CWS, SEA

Miguel Gonzalez

at BOS, at NYY

Notes:

  • After a couple of bumps in the road where he went just four innings apiece, Doubront smashed the Giants with eight strong allowing just one run. The O’s are no walkover, but the White Sox are quite dreadful.
  • Can you really bench Verlander? For all of his alleged season-ruining, he has a 3.68 ERA, so if your season is really ruined, it is because your team sucked around Verlander, not that you had some sick team torpedoed by him.
  • Oberholtzer isn’t missing bats, but he’s doing everything else well—from logging innings to preventing runs and stifling walks. He has done it against quality competition, too, thwarting Baltimore, Texas, and Boston within his first four starts. And the Angels aren’t exactly poor offensively.

CONSIDER

Sonny Gray

at DET, TB

A.J. Griffin

at DET, TB

Danny Salazar

at ATL, at DET

R.A. Dickey

NYY, KC

Andre Rienzo

HOU, at BOS

J.A. Happ

NYY, KC

Notes:

  • Our first three here have very difficult matchups with all three headed to Detroit, but we’re getting down to the homestretch and some of you need the Hail Mary more than the high floor, 6 IP/3 ER outings. These guys not only offer the upside of quality innings, but at the very least they should bring some strikeouts to the table. Let your current situation in the standings dictate your moves here.
  • Dickey and Happ are lower level versions of our first three as they should at least log some strikeouts, but both have been far too inconsistent to be assured that the strikeouts will come with quality innings attached.

SIT

Travis Blackley

at SEA, MIN

Kevin Correia

KC, at TEX

Jeremy Hellickson

at KC, at OAK

Jeremy Guthrie

TB, at TOR

Phil Hughes

at TOR, BAL

Joe Saunders

TEX, at HOU

Notes:

  • Blackley could’ve been at least a consideration if I had confidence that he get a shot to log the innings to have an impact. He made his first start of 2013 on the 20th, but only went four against Texas. He may struggle to go five in either, especially if he isn’t as sharp as he was against the Rangers, when he allowed just one run on three base runners.
  • Hughes and Hellickson are two names that get a lot of credit based on track record, but they simply haven’t shown enough to be worth your time the rest of this year. Hughes is a home-run machine and he faces the top two teams in homers against righties.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

AUTO-START: Cliff Lee, Zack Greinke, and Kyle Lohse

Lohse had a 2.53 ERA in April, then a terrible May where he posted a 6.51 in five starts, and he once again has a 2.53 in the three months since May. In short, he’s been great this year save a rough patch in May. He’s someone you’re not pulling from your lineup.

START

Zack Wheeler

PHI, at WAS

Gerrit Cole

MIL, STL

Tyson Ross

at ARI, at LAD

Notes:

  • Cole has just been solid all year long. He’s allowed more than three earned just once (4 ER against Miami of all teams) and after a paltry 11 percent strikeout rate in June, his first month as a big leaguer, he has a 21 percent mark in the two months since then. The Cardinals start is a little scary, but I think he gets by without getting smashed.
  • While he has been better at home, Ross hasn’t just been a Petco product. He has a 3.06 ERA and 1.28 WHIP on the road and he’s allowed just two earned in his last three starts on the road spanning 21 innings including a trip to Arizona. As with Cole, he has that scary second outing against one of the hottest teams going, but let’s ride the hot hand who has a 2.01 ERA and 27 percent strikeout rate since the All-Star break.

CONSIDER

Mike Leake

at STL, at COL

Nathan Eovaldi

at WAS, at ATL

Brandon McCarthy

SD, SF

Ross Ohlendorf

MIA, NYM

Juan Nicasio

SF, CIN

Notes:

  • Like the AL, this consider pool will depend on your standings. If you’re protecting ERA and WHIP, then you can’t feel comfortable starting Leake on the road against two great lineups and I would totally understand playing it cautiously by sitting him. Conversely, if you’re trying to pile up wins and strikeouts while catching lightning in the ERA and WHIP bottles, then Eovaldi, Ohlendorf, and McCarthy are perfect options for that. Okay, “perfect” might be stretching it with regard to McCarthy and strikeouts, but you get my point.
  • If McCarthy can’t do something against two of the league’s worst lineups, even at home, then it’s time to just run away from him entirely for the rest of 2013.
  • Ohlendorf gets a pair of cupcakes, too, but the expectations aren’t quite as high for him as a swingman for the Nats.
  • Nicasio is actually better in Coors Field with a 3.95 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and 2.7 K:BB ratio in 54 2/3 innings compared to 5.43, 1.63, and 1.4 in 71 1/3 innings on the road.

SIT

Jake Westbrook

CIN, at PIT

Barry Zito

at COL, at ARI

Notes:

  • Westbrook somehow carried a sub-3.00 ERA and sub-1.0 K:BB ratio through 14 starts this year. Everyone was waiting for the wheels to come off and you couldn’t have paid me to roster him in a 14-team NL Central and guys with last names starting with W-only league. The wheels are strewn about! He has a 9.69 ERA in his last five outings, his K:BB ratio is even worse at 0.69, and he’s allowed 38 hits in 26 innings.

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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