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May 14, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Hot Spots: Starting Pitchers

by Bill Baer

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Value Picks 2010 PECOTA Games '10
Starting Pitchers Throws W IP H HR ERA WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K/9 BB/9 HR/9 Starts SIERA
Craig Stammen RH 1 37.0 44 4 5.84 1.40 5.1 1.9 1.0 5.1 3.4 1.2 7 4.28
Justin Masterson RH 0 32.2 41 4 5.23 1.71 10.7 4.1 1.1 9.5 4.2 1.0 6 3.10
Gio Gonzalez LH 3 39.2 35 2 4.08 1.36 8.4 4.3 0.5 10.7 5.7 1.4 7 3.95
Brett Myers RH 2 46.0 55 4 3.52 1.48 6.3 2.5 0.8 9.4 3.6 1.3 7 3.98
Aaron Harang RH 2 40.1 51 7 6.02 1.46 8.0 1.8 1.6 9.4 3.0 1.6 7 3.45
Ian Kennedy RH 2 44.0 38 8 3.48 1.11 7.2 2.3 1.6 9.8 5.1 1.3 7 3.85
Tom Gorzelanny LH 1 35.0 31 2 2.83 1.20 9.3 2.8 0.5 9.0 4.6 1.2 6 3.25
Jason Vargas RH 3 39.0 28 3 3.00 1.00 7.2 2.5 0.7 7.0 3.8 1.4 6 3.95
Subscribe to Heater 2007-09 in Rotation 1.39 6.6 3.1 1.1  
Heater Magazine 2007-09 in Relief 1.36 7.7 3.8 0.9  

Added to the list

Craig Stammen: Stammen displayed great control in his brief time in the Majors with the Washington Nationals. In 142 and two-thirds innings, Stammen walked 32 batters, a rate of just over two walks per nine innings. However, he possesses below-average strikeout stuff. Stammen should help your ERA and WHIP stabilize, but you should look elsewhere if you are looking for punch-outs. If your league uses strikeout-to-walk ratio, he becomes an even better value as he should fall somewhere in the 2.5 area. Additionally, he does not have a platoon split, so he is someone you can feel confident starting him against anyone (except the Phillies, to whom he has allowed 11 runs in six and one-third innings this year).

Stammen is not on anyone's radar with an ownership rate well under one percent, so he should be yours for the taking.

Justin Masterson: Masterson makes a return to the list after his one-week stint on "Value Picks" from April 16 to 23. He has been unable to deflate his walk rate below four per nine innings, but you have to like the way he has pitched despite the high ERA. Along with averaging nearly 11 punch-outs per nine, 55% of his batted balls have been of the ground ball variety. The victim of an astronomically high BABIP (.411), Masterson should see more success in the near future as long as he does not make any dramatic changes to his mechanics or pitch selection. Pick your spots with Masterson, though, as he has a drastic platoon split -- right-handed batters have a sub-.600 OPS against him in his career while left-handed batters are approaching .900. He starts today against the Baltimore Orioles and again on Wednesday against the uninspiring Kansas City Royals offense.

Due to his poor results -- not poor performances -- so far this season, fantasy owners have backed away from him as he is available in 98 percent of ESPN leagues.

Still on the list

Brett Myers: He has not pitched well at home in Houston, but I would not read much into that. His .398 home BABIP is bound to regress. However, he will make his next start on Sunday on the road in San Francisco against Barry Zito. Although AT&T Park has played well to hitters, the Giants offense has been struggling averaging fewer than four runs per game over the last week. Zito struggled in his last start, walking seven in five innings. I do not think Myers would be a bad play against the Giants. He is still available in 99 percent of ESPN leagues.

Ian Kennedy: Kennedy has pitched remarkably well despite leading the National League in home runs allowed. He has been lucky on balls in play as only 25 percent have dropped in for hits. However, his walk rate has played a crucial role in his success. PECOTA projects him to walk more than five per nine innings, but he has averaged just over two per nine thus far. He will make his eighth start of the season today against Kenshin Kawakami and the struggling Atlanta Braves offense. Chances are your league will not let you pick up Kennedy, owned in 11 percent of ESPN leagues, to start today, but he will make his next start on Wednesday at home against the Giants.

Tom Gorzelanny: Something must be in the water in the Chicago Cubs' clubhouse. With the Pittsburgh Pirates, he averaged fewer than six strikeouts and about four walks per nine innings. With the Cubs, those rates have shot up to 9.3 and 2.9 respectively. Gorz and Masterson have by far the lowest SIERA of anyone else listed in the "Value Picks" table. It is no surprise that fantasy owners are starting to snap him up. He is still available in 91.5 percent of ESPN leagues but with the way he has been pitching, get your hands on him now before it is too late.

Gorzelanny will also make a start today against the struggling Pittsburgh Pirates offense. His next start will come on Wednesday in Philadelphia. The Phillies hit lefties slightly better than right-handers -- despite Ryan Howard's struggles -- but given that the Phillies' lineup will include Paul Hoover and Juan Castro or Wilson Valdez instead of Carlos Ruiz and Jimmy Rollins, it may be a decent spot to start Gorzelanny.

Jason Vargas: Vargas has emerged in a season full of surprising starts by obscure or old starting pitchers. Above-average strikeout rate, below-average walk rate. The only problem is getting credit for wins with the American League's worst offense in the Seattle Mariners. His next start will come on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays. I would not pick him up or start him here. He is still available in 93 percent of ESPN leagues, so wait out his start Saturday. Thursday against the Toronto Blue Jays is probably a better play.

Removed from the list

Gio Gonzalez: Gonzalez struggled in his start against the Texas Rangers on Wednesday after a stretch of three great starts in which he had a two-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio and allowed only five runs in 20 and two-thirds innings. While he should enjoy more success than failure in 2010, you may want to wait until he becomes more economic with his pitches. Currently, he is averaging over 17 pitches per inning which will cut down on his opportunities to accrue wins, quality starts, and aggregate stats like strikeouts. If you play in a deep mixed league, an AL-only league, or a league that focuses more on rate stats like SO/9 or K/BB, Gonzalez is still a great play.

Aaron Harang: He is owned in 32 percent of ESPN leagues. Make a spot for him if he is sitting in the free agent pool in your league. That 6.02 ERA is very misleading. His strikeout and walk rates are to die for! He will start today against the St. Louis Cardinals. Aside from an 11-run outburst against the Pirates, the offense has been struggling since the second game of their series in Philadelphia on May 5. Current Cardinals have combined for a .740 OPS over their careers against Harang. Given the timing, this is a decent play for Harang.

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

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