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July 28, 2009

Fantasy Beat

Rookie Pitchers

by Marc Normandin

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Unlike the somewhat uninspired rookie hitter class, there are a few first-time hurlers worth talking about, for both good and bad reasons. There is no true standout in the group though-there hasn't been a rookie pitcher that is turning the tide of the league all by his lonesome, like we have had the past few years when people like Tim Lincecum, Yovani Gallardo, and Joba Chamberlain were called up-but there are some that you should pay attention to during these last two months of the season.

For starters among starters, you have J.A. Happ of the Phillies, who has much better numbers in the real world than his adjusted numbers suggest he should. He has been improving though, as last time he was in this space, his FIP was 5.25, about a run worse than it is now at 4.18. He's dropped his UIBB/9 from 4.1 to 2.9, and his HR/9 from 1.4 to 1.0. This makes it look as if he is maturing rapidly, but there is more to it than that. Happ had the 12th-highest opponent OPS back when I wrote about him last, and now he is down at 81st. From the look of things though, it appears as if before he was lucky, but now his performance appears much more descriptive of what to expect from him, which is a good sign for both the Phillies and owners of Happ. Of course, if he were dealt to the Blue Jays, he would move to the tougher league, but would also get out of Citizen's Bank Park, where he has allowed seven homers in 48 1/3 innings and has an ERA of 4.47. That's something to keep in mind as these negotiations between the Jays and Phillies progress (or fall apart) over the next few days. I was previously skeptical of Happ maintaining the ERA he had, but that was when he was giving up far too many walks and had issues with the long ball during his initial time as a starter. It seems that he has dealt with both of those problems, and now you can reap the benefits of it if you stuck with him.

Down in Tampa Bay, David Price has had a lot go wrong for him during his rookie season. Maybe our expectations were a bit too high given his dominating performance at the end of last year and in the playoffs, but it has not been all of his fault. First off, Price has been squeezed quite a bit, as R.J. Anderson points out after combing through PITCHf/x data. For a guy who has shown some issues walking hitters-he has 5.6 walks per nine through his first 53 innings-getting squeezed is about the last thing you need. Second, much like Happ earlier in the season, Price is facing some stiff competition; in fact, among all major league pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched, Price has the highest opponent OPS at .777. Sure, he's done some of that damage to himself with the walk rate, but again, not all of those are his fault (though it seems he cannot locate his curveball) but pitching in the American League East will cause your stats to be a little uglier than they should be. The homer rate is the real killer for Price's value-at 1.9 HR/9, and in the company of all of those walks, it's difficult to consider Price for a spot in your staff, even with the 23-year-old striking out over a batter per inning. It would be interesting to see how many of those homers resulted after Price had a strike called a ball somewhere else in the at-bat, but for now the safe thing might be to stash him away on your bench until he has shown he can move on from these early-career snags.

The A's Brett Anderson has seen his velocity increase as the season has progressed, which has helped him begin to overcome a poor first half. Whereas his best monthly ERA pre-July was 5.00 in June, he managed a 1.30 mark in July with 25 punchouts in 27 2/3 innings pitched. While this is a great sign for the young starter as far as what we can expect going forward-even without a 1.30 ERA every month, you have to love the increase in strikeouts and velocity-what might be even better to realize is that Anderson has had to face some of the toughest opponents of anyone in the majors. His .769 opponent OPS is the seventh-highest mark in the majors among pitchers with 50 innings, which may have partially been his doing earlier, but now with that extra boost on his fastball he may be able to overcome that (see July of 2009). Given his home park-Oakland is known to lower BABIP thanks to its expansive foul ground-he should be doing a bit better than that, but Oakland's Defensive Efficiency ranks just 24th in the majors. Expansive space does not help you if your team can't field the balls hit in it, so Anderson has suffered for his defense's limitations. I still like him going forward, and given his previous trouble, he may be available in some leagues, or you may have an owner thinking of selling high on him after his one great month. Pick him up if you can.

Clayton Richard still qualified as a rookie with the White Sox this year based on innings pitched, and he's a good player to look at in this article due to the ups and downs he has suffered through this year. He has not been as good at home (5.60 ERA, 1.5 HR/9) but on the road he's had more success (4.50 ERA, 0.8 HR/9). He's had stretches, including one he is in right now, where he has been dominating (16 innings, two runs allowed, 10 Ks, and four walks in his last two starts) and others where things do not go so well like the two starts prior to that (4 2/3 innings, 10 runs, four Ks, and three walks). It's frustrating as a fantasy owner to have someone pitch poorly enough that you consider dropping them, only to have them bust out with two great performances that put you in some kind of pleased-but-paranoid frame of mind. Chances are good he can't keep up the same kind of performance he gave during the last two starts, given his struggles against right-handers (.299/.372/.442 in 251 at-bats) so if you have the roster space to keep or pick up Richard-assuming you are that desperate for starting pitching-then using him in road starts might be your best shot so you can try to avoid the homer problems that the Cell presents.

Related Content:  J.A. Happ

20 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Nathan M. Smith

No Tommy Hanson?

Jul 28, 2009 10:36 AM
rating: 2
 
Shankweather

Jordan Zimmermann? He has the best peripherals of the whole group.

Jul 28, 2009 10:46 AM
rating: -1
 
wonkothesane1

The kid doesn't have a lot of fantasy value currently. Not exactly the best time to be writing about him in a fantasy oriented column, is it?

Jul 28, 2009 11:49 AM
rating: 2
 
JD Sussman

Currently he is on the DL. So he doesn't have any value. LOL. But he is a stud when healthy.

Jul 29, 2009 09:09 AM
rating: 0
 
TGisriel

I would have liked to have seen Brad Bergesen.

Jul 28, 2009 12:39 PM
rating: 0
 
Andrew
(38)

I really don't get the point of this article, which leads me to believe it's about the best rookie pitchers for fantasy. But then there's no mention of possible ROY Tommy Hanson? And Randy Wells will likely get some consideration as well and that's just from the NL side).

But if this article is supposed to showcase four rookie pitchers that may still be available in 8-team mixed leagues, then it hits the target. But otherwise, there's no context, and it's yet another scatter-shot BP fantasy offering.

Here's a tip: We like lists of players categorized by particular stats. Tell us of a new approach, or a statistic that may help identify good young pitchers for fantasy, demonstrate it, and then do write ups for some of them.

This article merely highlights four guys that we all already know about, without any new context.

Jul 28, 2009 12:52 PM
rating: 6
 
R.A.Wagman

Really? You don't get it? These are four guys (he can't write about everyone) that have some noise in their numbers and Marc has tried to separate the signal from the noise,

Jul 28, 2009 13:05 PM
rating: -1
 
dalbano

Marc, please take this as constructive criticism - I only hope to state what I hope could help improve the fantasy info delivered here.

I have to agree that this article, as are most in this series, does not offer much useful fantasy insight.

The title 'Rookie Pitchers' is about as vague as it gets. I would assume you aren't looking at the best of the rookie crop, but then why make a comparison to the crop that featured Lincecum & Gallardo?

The 4 guys mentioned are not going to help anyone decide a fantasy league this year at this point. Marc, you state these are guys to look at over the last two months and I would strongly advise against this. I'm not touching any of these guys. Price might be worth a shot as a keeper in big multi-keeper leagues, that's it!

Lists are GREAT for fantasy players, as previously mentioned. A BP list of rookies pitchers in this case that are coming into there own based on there last few starts with a look at some critical data when compared to established stars would be IDEAL. I don't want to read a big paragraph about each guy, especially when the payoff is 'use if you are desperate' or 'stash on your bench'. If I have the bench space, I doubt I'll use it on an average rookie pitcher. I would rather spot start an available veteran in a favorable matchup, or grab a utility guy with multi-position eligibility to fill my gaps down the stretch.

I used to look forward to the BP Fantasy articles, now I cringe when I open them up because I know this is primarily what I'm getting. I don't want to stop reading because, like these rookies, I'm sure the talent is there, just needs to develop more.

Jul 28, 2009 13:28 PM
rating: 5
 
Andrew
(38)

This was a much better explanation of the article's shortcoming than my ham-handed comment. Thanks dalbano!

Jul 29, 2009 14:54 PM
rating: 0
 
eligieryna

This is a great post. This is my first year subscribing to BP for fantasy content and I've been greatly disappointed so far. Whether it's this vague story or an article saying how good Adrian Gonzalez would be if he magically played in another ballpark, I'm rarely able to take away anything of use for my own league.

Jul 29, 2009 20:57 PM
rating: 0
 
J.T. Hildebrand

Bergesen was not a huge name as a prospect and, therefore, seems to get no love on BP. I think he should be in the top three in rookie of the year voting thus far.

Jul 28, 2009 14:19 PM
rating: -1
 
xBrandxBlandx

How does Tommy Hanson not get mentioned in this article?

Jul 28, 2009 15:48 PM
rating: 0
 
greenfrog

...Ricky Romero?

Jul 28, 2009 17:15 PM
rating: 0
 
CRP13

I was going to say the same.

Jul 30, 2009 08:59 AM
rating: 0
 
Ira

I set the bar at 30 innings, simply to weed out some really small sample sizes. With that, top rookies in adjusted Run average are:

Darren O'Day, 33 inn, RA 1.91 RA+ 254
Tommy Hunter, 36 inn, RA 2.00 RA+ 242
Mark DiFelice, 40 inn, RA 2.03 RA+ 222
Andrew Bailey, 58 inn, RA 2.17 RA+ 214
Dan Meyer, 38 inn, RA 2.37 RA+ 192

(Hunter being the only starter above)

Jul 28, 2009 17:22 PM
rating: 0
 
Ira

oh, and btw, thank you Omar Minaya for waiving Darren O'Day.

Jul 28, 2009 17:23 PM
rating: 0
 
drawbb

Just for the record, ira, I believe O'Day exceeded the 45-day service-time threshold last year with the Angels and no longer has rookie eligibility.

Aug 02, 2009 12:52 PM
rating: 0
 
greenfrog

Ricky Romero arguably has better stats than all of the above pitchers (possibly with the exception of J.A. Happ, but Happ pitches in the NL, whereas RR pitches in the tough AL East).

I've suspected for a while that BP has been going downhill. Gaffes like this one lend support to my theory.

Jul 28, 2009 18:05 PM
rating: 1
 
opp1212

Very disappointing article.

Jul 29, 2009 07:31 AM
rating: 1
 
Aduncaroo

I have to admit, there is no way you can't mention Randy Wells or Tommy Hanson here...

Aug 03, 2009 11:36 AM
rating: 0
 
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