September 18, 2013
Eight Surging Starters
As you scramble to lock down your titles, you might have missed these eight starters who have been on fire of late. Their composite numbers are likely obscuring the fact that they have been great the last month or so and need to be in your lineup. Most are these are guys likely sitting on someone’s bench, but a couple may even be on the waiver wire. If you’re not in contention, you might want to start looking deeper at these arms as potential keeper candidates for 2014.
Andrew Cashner, Padres
Cashner hasn’t allowed more than three earned in a single start since the All-Star break, but he’s been particularly sharp over the last calendar month, posting a 0.96 ERA and 0.77 WHIP in 37 2/3 innings over his last five starts. He also has a 31-to-7 K:BB ratio in that span, logging seven strikeouts in each of his last four starts. Perhaps most interesting is the fact that three of those starts have come on the road, where he’d been struggling for the bulk of the season, evidenced by the fact that he still has a 4.00 ERA away from Petco Park.
Tanner Roark, Nationals
He only joined the rotation in September, but he’s twirled three brilliant starts, allowing just two earned runs in 19 innings of work. He was a long reliever in August, often going at least two innings. Over the last month, he has a 1.26 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, and 31-to-9 K:BB ratio in 35 2/3 innings of work spanning his three starts and six relief outings. Unfortunately, the Nationals are closing the season with a six-man rotation, which pushes Roark from the upcoming four-game set with Miami and into the St. Louis series. But he is still someone you can use given the way he is pitching right now.
Dillon Gee, Mets
With a 6.34 ERA through his first 10 starts of the season, Gee appeared headed for the worst season of his career, but things changed when he steamrolled the Yankees in the Bronx on May 30. He allowed one run in a 7 1/3 innings with 12 strikeouts, sparking a 20-start run that has seen him post a 2.42 ERA—fifth in all of baseball—in 137 1/3 innings. Even with a pair of four-earned-run outings on his ledger over the last month, he still has a 2.36 ERA in his last six starts along with a 32-to-7 K:BB ratio in 42 innings.
Joe Kelly, Cardinals
Kelly doesn’t have the supporting stats to back up his 1.80 ERA in his last 40 innings over the course of seven starts, but it’s hard not to take notice. He also has a 6-1 record in those starts. He’s allowing more than a hit per inning, with 41 allowed during the run, and his 23 strikeouts don’t really jump off the page, but the schedule lightens up as he closes out the season with the Brewers and Cubs, so I’d still play the hot hand here.
Ubaldo Jimenez, Indians
Did you know that Jimenez has MLB’s best ERA in September? His 0.42 ERA in three starts easily tops baseball, as he beats out Roark and Bartolo Colon, who are tied for second at 0.95. Jimenez has actually been surging through most of the summer, but he posted a 5.57 ERA through the first two months, so he had a lot of work to do on his overall mark. He has a 1.57 ERA in his last five starts and 1.83 in 10 starts since the break. He also has 42 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings over his last five, including three 10-strikeout games. He’s allowed more than three earned just once since June 1 , too.
Scott Feldman, Orioles
Feldman is surging at just the right time, paying his biggest dividends in the final month-plus for an Orioles team that acquired him back in early-July. He hasn’t been too bad for them overall, but he’s been special lately with a 1.79 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in 40 1/3 innings over his last six starts including a big win against the Red Sox on Tuesday night. His 26-to-16 K:BB ratio is far from special, but he’s kept the ball down with a 54 percent ground-ball rate, which has helped mitigate trouble.
Garrett Richards, Angels
The 25-year-old is making the most of a busted season for the Angels by doing everything he can to establish himself as one of their five rotation members in 2014. He’s been sharp since joining the rotation in late-July, but he’s done some really nice work in his last six starts, posting a 2.48 ERA in 36 1/3 innings. He has been a little Kelly-ish with 35 hits allowed and a 1.40 WHIP, but the talent is obvious.
Esmil Rogers, Blue Jays
Rogers had a disastrous three-start stretch closing out July and entering August. He allowed 20 earned runs in three starts during which he failed to complete more than five innings in any of the three. That looked like it might’ve been the end of the Rogers-as-a-starter experiment, but he has rebounded immediately with a six-outing stretch (five starts, one relief appearance) during which he has a 2.62 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and 27-to-8 K:BB ratio in 34 1/3 innings of work. We’ve seen some really nice work from the 27-year-old, aside from that run of three disasters, so we could reasonably see Rogers in the rotation for the Blue Jays to start the 2014 season, too.
Paul Sporer is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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