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April 23, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Weekly Planner #4

by Craig Brown

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Quality abounds this week as many teams will be throwing their number one starter in a pair of games.  A few fifth starters are in the mix though, so exercise caution.  The list comes courtesy of Heater Magazine.  You can download a detailed pdf of the pitchers discussed here.

Let's begin in the American League...

Jered Weaver - vs. Cle (4/26), @ Det (5/2)
Kevin Millwood - vs NYY (4/27), vs Bos (5/2)
Josh Beckett - @ Tor (4/26), @ Bal (5/2)
Jeremy Bonderman - @Tex (4/26), vs Ana (5/1)
Mark Buehrle - @ Tex (4/27), @ NYY (5/2)
Wade Davis - vs. Oak (4/27), vs. KC (5/2)
Zack Greinke - vs. Sea (4/27), @ Tam (5/2)
Matt Harrison - vs. Det (4/26), @ Sea (5/1)
David Huff - @ Ana (4/27), vs. Min (5/2)
Phil Hughes - @ Bal (4/27), vs. CHW (5/2)
Francisco Liriano - @ Det (4/27), @ Cle (5/2)
Shaun Marcum - vs. Bos (4/27), vs. Oak (5/2)
Ben Sheets - @ Tam (4/27), @ Tor (5/2)
Justin Verlander - vs. Min (4/27), vs. Ana (5/2)

Weaver’s jump in strikeouts is very real as he’s getting a swinging strike in over 17% of all strikes thrown.  His 9.3 K/9 is almost two strikeouts better than his career best.  I’ll call it… this is the year he makes the leap into the fantasy elite.  Millwood is winless, but with a 3.38 ERA and a 3.74 FIP, he’s pitched well enough.  It’s just he’s running into his opponent’s top starters who are better.  Beckett’s strikeouts are down (8.4 K/9 last year to 6.0 K/9 this year) and his walks are up (2.3 BB/9 last year to 3.5 BB/9 this year).  He’s made one decent start out of four, making him an unexpected two-start gamble.  Buehrle has historically done well in Texas and against the Rangers in general with a 2.93 ERA in 104 career innings.  Against the Yankees though, he’s struggled with a 6.43 ERA in 10 career starts.  In this case the negative may outweigh the positives.  Huff isn’t a strikeout pitcher by any means, but he has whiffed only seven batters in 21 innings this year.  The Twins will be a tough opponent for him this week.

Detroit has a pair of pitchers with two starts scheduled this week.  Bonderman is still battling control issues and despite throwing well against the Angels this week is too risky to trust with one start, let alone two.  Before you start panicking about Verlander, realize he has a 50% strand rate.  It will get better.  I promise.

Is Liriano back?  The evidence (7.3 K/9, 18% swinging strikes, 15 scoreless innings) says yes.  Even if you don’t have a horse in the race, the early week tilt between Liriano and Verlander is the pitching match-up to watch.  Hughes has shown a tendency to overthrow (5.1 BB/9) but has been downright unhittable in his two starts.  Baltimore and Chicago are two of the worst offenses in the AL right now, so he’s a strong bet to continue.  Sheets has done well in his three starts, but a 0.92 SO/BB ratio and his 5.59 SIERA suggests a correction is coming.  Speaking of corrections, keep an eye on Davis.  He’s allowed as many hits as walks and has a 4.61 SIERA compared to his 2.65 ERA.  With a 0.78 GO/AO ratio compared to a career rate of 1.04 GO/AO Harrison is relying on his outfielders more than in the past.  Unfortunately, his outfielders can’t help him keep the ball in the yard.  He’s surrendered four home runs in 17 innings.

On to the NL...

Chris Carpenter - vs Atl (4/27), vs. Cin (5/2)
Zach Duke - @ MIL (4/26), @ LAD (5/1)
Yovani Gallardo - vs. Pit, (4/26) @ SD (5/1)
Jon Garland - @ FLA (4/27), vs. MIL (5/2)
Tom Gorzelanny - vs. WAS (4/27), vs. ARI (5/2)
Roy Halladay - @ SF (4/26), vs. NYM (5/2)
Jason Hammel- vs. ARI (4/26), @ SF (5/2)
Aaron Harang - @ HOU (4/27), @ StL (5/2)
Dan Haren - @ COL (4/26), @ CHN (5/1)
Livan Hernandez - @ CHN (4/27), @ FLA (5/2)
Tim Hudson - @ StL (4/26), vs. HOU (5/1)
Edwin Jackson - @ COL (4/27), @ CHN (5/2)
Josh Johnson - vs. SD (4/26), vs. WAS (5/2)
Hiroki Kuroda - @ NYM (4/26), vs. PIT (5/1)
John Lannan - @ CHN (4/26), @ FLA (5/2)
Mat Latos- @ FLA (4/26), vs. MIL (5/1)
Kyle Lohse - vs. ALT (4/26), vs. CIN (5/1)
Derek Lowe - @ StL (4/27), vs. HOU (5/2)
Daniel McCutchen - @ MIL (4/27), @ LAD (5/2)
Bud Norris - vs. CIN (4/27), @ ATL (5/2)
Vicente Padilla - @ NYM (4/27), vs. PIT (5/2)
Oliver Perez - vs. LAD (4/26), @ PHI (5/1)
Jonathan Sanchez - vs. PHI (4/26), vs. COL (5/2)
Johan Santana - vs. LAD (4/27), @ PHI (5/2)
Carlos Silva - vs. WAS (4/26), vs. ARI (5/1)
Randy Wolf - vs. PIT (4/27), @ SD (5/2)

Carpenter has whiffed 10 in back to back starts, but those came against the Diamondbacks and Mets - two of the freest-swinging teams in the NL.  The Braves and Reds will exhibit better discipline.  In his four starts, Duke has yet to have an outing where he’s struck out more than he’s walked.  He’s been keeping the ball on the ground (1.34 GB/FB ratio) so he’s been relying on his infielders to keep him in games.  Garland is another starter with more walks (12) than strikeouts (10).  His 5.61 SIERA says he’s walking a fine line.  Hudson has a 1.0 SO/BB ratio, but his 1.8 GB/FB ratio (above his career ratio of 1.4) is keeping him in games.

Gallardo stumbled in his first two starts but is showing signs of quality.  Still, he’s averaging 102 pitches per start, yet is averaging under six innings - the sign of a young pitcher who has yet to learn how to pace himself.  Hernandez doesn’t have that problem.  He’s a freak of nature who seems like he can pitch forever.  A weakening fastball and rising contact rate where hitters are putting the bat on the ball 91% of the time, will prevent that.  Johnson has walked three or more batters in three of his four starts.  Last year, he walked three or more in 10 of his 33 starts.  

With a 4.62 SIERA, Hammel has pitched better than his 8.04 ERA would indicate, and his .423 BABIP has to come down.  However, he’s up against some stiff competition for the Win this week against Haren and Sanchez.  Speaking of Sanchez, with 430 career innings now under his belt and a strikeout rate of 12.6 K/9 on the year, I’m betting this is the season where he makes the leap into the fantasy elite.  Wins could be difficult to come by this week though, as Halladay is his first opponent.  Harang hasn’t been as horrible as his stats would suggest as he owns a 8.31 ERA against a 4.36 SIERA.  Allowing six home runs in 21 innings won’t help the cause.  Note he’s pitching this week in two of the more HR-friendly parks in the NL.  Meanwhile Loshe is keeping the ball in the park and still giving up runs.  Not a good sign.  

Haren owns two rough starts and two good ones.  His 15% HR/FB rate is the culprit.  He’ll be fine.  Jackson has been picking up two ground ball outs for every one in the air so far.  That’s helping erase some of that 1.21 WHIP - he’s induced five double play ground balls - tops in the NL.  Opponents are hitting .337 against Lannan.  That is reflected in his 1.89 WHIP, which is the second worst rate among NL starters.   Speaking of elevated WHIP, Lowe’s is the product of an elevated walk rate of 6.3 BB/9.  I smell a sample size issue as seven of his 12 walks came in his second start of the year.

Kuroda has never pitched well against the Mets.  In three starts, he owns a 10.45 ERA.  Padilla has been striking out hitters ever since moving to LA, but he’s always been too hittable.  His 61% strand rate says he can be better - but not enough to make a difference. McCutchen is merely keeping the spot warm for Ross Ohlendorf.  Don’t bother.  The opposition is hitting .320 against Norris with men on base.  Since he owns a 1.74 WHIP, this is an issue.  Silva is still in the rotation in Chicago?  Just thought I’d check.

If the Santana and Halladay match-up materializes at the end of the week, fantasy or not, that will be the one to watch.
 

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

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Premium Article Prospectus Q&A: Tony F... (04/23)
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Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Hot Spot... (04/22)
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