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April 23, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Hot Spots: Starting Pitchers

by Bill Baer

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Value Picks 2010 PECOTA Games '10
Starting Pitchers Throws W Sv IP H HR ERA WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K/9 BB/9 HR/9 Starts Relief
Jeff Niemann RH 1 0 15.1 13 2 3.94 1.11 4.1 2.3 1.2 5.9 3.2 1.0 3 0
Randy Wolf LH 1 0 24.1 25 3 3.70 1.40 6.7 3.3 1.1 7.0 2.9 1.2 4 0
Kevin Correia RH 2 0 17.1 14 3 3.12 1.15 8.8 3.1 1.6 6.3 3.3 0.8 3 0
Doug Fister RH 2 0 19.0 12 0 1.42 0.84 4.3 1.9 0.0 7.1 2.5 1.2 3 0
Jason Vargas LH 2 0 18.1 16 2 3.93 1.04 7.9 1.5 1.0 8.8 3.2 1.3 3 0
Ian Kennedy RH 0 0 14.1 14 4 5.65 1.40 10.7 3.8 2.5 9.6 4.5 1.1 3 0
Subscribe to Heater 2007-09 in Rotation 4.43 1.39 6.6 3.1 1.1  
Heater Magazine 2007-09 in Relief 3.94 1.36 7.7 3.8 0.9  

Over the last two weeks, I have detailed some pitchers who I think would provide most fantasy baseball players with some decent value. As we go further and further into the season, the list will be constantly updated as players rise and fall in value and rise and fall in fantasy ownership. You may wonder why some patently good pitchers were omitted from the list. That is because you will not need me to beat the "Pick up Brad Penny" drum throughout the season when he will end up being owned by everybody eventually anyway. I will be identifying the less obvious value picks.

Still a good value:

Jeff Niemann, Tampa Bay Rays: Somehow, Niemann is still not owned in most fantasy leagues. He performed well in Monday's start against the Red Sox, holding them to two runs over seven innings. As mentioned last week, he is simply a steady performer with decent K and BB numbers (do not panic -- his 4.1 K/9 will start to rise). Stability is a good thing in fantasy baseball. He may even surprise you as he did many last year when he tossed two complete game shut-outs. His blase repertoire will tell you he does not have it in him, but he has been able to mix up his pitches very well, enough so that opposing hitters are swinging at roughly every other pitch he throws on average.

Randy Wolf, Milwaukee Brewers: Wolf went from 35 percent ownership to 22 percent after a mediocre start against the Washington Nationals. Assuming ESPN leagues are representative of the population, there is a chance that Wolf may have been dropped by someone in your fantasy league after Saturday's start in Washington and has since cleared waivers. His popularity may shoot back up following yesterday's start against the Pittsburgh Pirates. As he did yesterday, Wolf went at least six innings in 29 of his 34 starts last year. He is an innings-eater with above-average strikeout ability.

Kevin Correia, San Diego Padres: Check your league's free agent pool for Kevin Correia, he of the 3.37 SIERA. People are starting to catch on that he is a good pitcher, but he is still available in 95 percent of ESPN leagues. In his last two starts, he has failed to pitch through six innings, but he struck out eight, walked two, and allowed two runs in five and two-thirds innings Saturday against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He pitches today against the Cincinnati Reds, who have hit him hard in limited at-bats.

New to the list:

Doug Fister, Seattle Mariners: Fister, owned in two percent of ESPN leagues (and most likely broadcaster Chip Caray's favorite baseball player), has burst out of the gate with a 1.42 ERA in three starts. He has had a very low BABIP (.212) and a high strand rate (82.4%) as well as allowing zero home runs, so he will regress to the mean for sure. However, Fister should still provide some value to your fantasy roster with great projected K and BB rates and a mid-four ERA. You may want to avoid starting him against lefty-heavy line-ups. In a small sample of 80 innings, lefties hit for about slugging percentage of about one hundred points higher than right-handers.

Jason Vargas, Seattle Mariners: There is no intention on promoting only Seattle pitchers, but Vargas is a steal right now. He is owned in less than half of one percent of ESPN leagues, and he has thus far pitched very well with a 3.27 SIERA. He has not benefited from batted ball luck or a significant lack of home runs allowed. Vargas has simply pitched very well with great control. Between his time with the Florida Marlins, New York Mets, and Seattle Mariners from 2005-09, Vargas never really put it together, but this could be his year. He is absolutely dominating left-handed hitters this year; right-handers have accounted for all six of the extra-base hits he has allowed thus far (four doubles and two home runs).

Ian Kennedy, Arizona Diamondbacks: Yes, that 5.65 ERA of his is misleading. Kennedy, owned in just one percent of ESPN leagues, has pitched much better than it appears, given his 3.29 SIERA. He has struck out 17 batters in 14 and one-third innings while only walking six. He has yet to reach the sixth inning due to an inability to end innings quickly, averaging about 21 pitches per inning. Additionally, he has allowed four home runs already this year and does not have the ability to induce ground balls at will. That said, as long as he is striking out eight-plus hitters per nine innings and walking fewer than four per nine, he should be a solid pick-up for you given expected regression to the mean.

As an aside, make sure you stay away from Livan Hernandez, despite the great start to the season. It's all smoke and mirrors.

Bill Baer is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Bill's other articles. You can contact Bill by clicking here

Related Content:  Jeff Niemann,  Doug Fister

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