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May 14, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Weekly Planner #7

by Craig Brown

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Let’s play seven!

Every team has a full slate of games next week.  Every team.  That means we have 59 two start pitchers to run through. Why 59 and not 60 you ask?  Because the Boston Red Sox are being kind and throwing six pitchers this week with Tim Wakefield going early and Josh Beckett taking his spot for the weekend.

This week also marks the return of interleague play.  The Pirates and the Braves are the NL teams that miss out on the opening series.  

Due to the volume of starters, we’ll only touch on those who are owned in less than 50% of ESPN or Yahoo leagues, as noted by the asterisk.  As usual, the list is provided by Heater Magazine and is subject to change.  

You can download the color-coded pdf here.

*Brad Bergesen - vs KC, @ WAS
*Jeremy Bonderman - vs CHA, @ LAN
*Fausto Carmona - @ TB, vs CIN
John Danks - @ DET, vs. FLA
*Kyle Davies - @ BAL, vs COL
*Dana Eveland - vs MIN, @ ARI
*Freddy Garcia - @ DET, vs FLA
*Gio Gonzalez - vs SEA, @ SF
Zack Greinke - @ BAL, vs COL
Felix Hernandez - @ OAK, vs SD
*Derek Holland - vs LAA, vs CHN
*David Huff - @ TB, vs CIN
Phil Hughes - vs BOS, @ NYN
Scott Kazmir - @ TEX, @ STL
Shaun Marcum - vs MIN, @ ARI
Daisuke Matsuzaka - @ NYA, @ PHI
*Kevin Millwood - vs KC, @ WAS
Jeff Niemann - vs CLE, @ HOU
Carl Pavano - @ TOR, vs MIL
David Price - vs CLE, @ HOU
*Ryan Rowland-Smith - @ OAK, vs SD
CC Sabathia - vs BOS, @ NYN
*Ben Sheets - vs SEA, vs SF
*Kevin Slowey - @ TOR, vs MIL
Justin Verlander - vs CHA, @ LAN
Jered Weaver - @ TEX, @ STL
C.J. Wilson - vs LAA, vs CHN

SIERA still doesn’t like Carmona - he’s at 5.34, almost two runs higher than his ERA.  His strikeout rate is way down to 3.8 K/9 and his 0.94 SO/BB ratio make him a sell.  Especially with his match-ups this week.  No starter has a lower percentage of strikes thrown than Eveland, who is hitting his target just 57% of the time.  No wonder he’s walking more than he whiffs (0.86 SO/BB)  It’s close but neither Eveland or Carmona have the worst SO/BB ratio in baseball. That belongs to Rowland-Smith with a 0.76 SO/BB.  He’s done well in Oakland, where he makes his first start, with a 3.63 ERA in 22 innings.  However he’ll face the Padres who walk a lot and don’t strikeout in his second turn. 

Hooray for Holland!  He dominated Triple-A with a 0.93 ERA, a 1.01 WHIP and 37 strikeouts in 39 innings.  His 2010 debut Wednesday went about as good as you could expect:  Six innings of scoreless ball with seven K’s.

Are you looking for a league average starter?  Davies is about as vanilla as the come.  Of his seven starts, three of them have finished with a Game Score of 50.  Bergesen has posted back to back quality starts (14 IP, 11 H, 1 ER), but his high contact rate of 80% suggests this will be a short-term trend.  There’s no strikeouts (3.0 K/9) here, either.  Owners are abandoning Slowey… Probably because of his 11.3 H/9 and the fact he’s completed six innings in only one of his seven starts.  SIERA is still on his side, but not by much.

The control issues that plagued Gonzalez in the past seem to have diminished - slightly.  He’s walking 4.3 batters per nine compared to a career rate of 5.2 BB/9.  He will still fall on the wild side though - he’s walked at least four batters in two of his seven starts - but he’s getting more ground balls this year, so he’s keeping the ball in the park and limiting the damage.  I know he was downgraded in our starting pitching Hot Spot, but I still like him.

Huff owns an 87% contact rate.  His BABIP is .281, yet he’s allowing almost 11 hits per nine.  Over 78% of all plate appearances against him end with the ball in play. Have I scared you yet?  Bonderman owns a 1.31 WHIP, which is his best rate since 2006, but with a 0.60 GB/FB ratio, he’s still allowing far too many fly balls.  With all those balls in the air, his 3.3% HR/FB rate won’t stay this low.  As expected after coming back from elbow surgery, strikeouts are down and walks and hits are up for Sheets.  His high SIERA only confirms what we already know.  Plus, he’s coming off a season high 103 pitches in his last start.

Millwood is the poor man’s Greinke this year in that he’s pitched well enough to get the win on multiple occasions, yet remains winless.  The Orioles anemic offense was mustering less that 2.5 runs per start for the right hander before they exploded for six runs against the Mariners on Thursday.    Sadly for Millwood, five of those runs game after he left the game.  Garcia has thrown a couple of decent starts, but he’s become extremely hittable ever since the shoulder surgery.  He does draw a tempting assignment this week, but he’s a sharp risk with little upside.

Best Bets - Gonzalez makes both his starts at home, including one against the Mariners who own the AL’s worst offense.  I'd hop on the Holland bandwagon now.

To the National League..

*Homer Bailey - vs MIL, @ CLE
*Dave Bush - @ CIN, @ MIN
Matt Cain - @ SD, @ OAK
Chris Carpenter - vs WAS, vs LAA
*Jhoulys Chacin - @ CHN, @ KC
*Johnny Cueto - vs MIL, @ CLE
*Zach Duke - @ PHI, vs ATL
*John Ely - vs HOU, vs DET
Yovani Gallardo - @ CIN, @ MIN
Roy Halladay - vs PIT, vs BOS
Jason Hammel - @ CHN, @ KC
*Edwin Jackson - @ FLA, vs TOR
Josh Johnson - vs ARI, @ CHA
*Kyle Kendrick - vs PIT, vs BOS
Hiroki Kuroda - vs HOU, vs DET
*John Lannan - @ STL, vs BAL
Mat Latos - vs SF, @ SEA
Kyle Lohse - vs WAS, vs LAA
*Derek Lowe - vs NYN, @ PIT
*Kris Medlen - vs NYN, @ PIT
*Charlie Morton - @ PHI, vs ATL
*Bud Norris - @ LAN, vs TB
Mike Pelfrey - @ ATL, vs NYA
*Clayton Richard - vs SF, @ SEA
Wandy Rodriguez - @ LAN, vs TB
Jonathan Sanchez - @ SD, @ OAK
Johan Santana - @ ATL, vs NYA
*Carlos Silva - vs COL, @ TEX
*Craig Stammen - @ STL, vs BAL
*Cesar Valdez - @ FLA, vs TOR
Chris Volstad - vs ARI, @ CHA
Randy Wells - vs COL, @ TEX

Good times in Cincinnati as Cueto tossed a one-hit shutout in his last start, but it did come against the hitless wonders known as the Pirates.  Overall, he needs to be more economical with his pitches. Despite averaging 102 pitches per start, that was the first time all year where he pitched beyond the sixth inning.  Milwaukee will treat him differently this week. His rotation mate Bailey is still coughing up the long ball (1.3 HR/9) and hasn’t cut his walk rate enough, although 3.9 BB/9 does represent a slight improvement.  Speaking of home runs, Bush is the NL’s favorite whipping boy… He’s surrendered a league high eight home runs in 40 innings.  Even with the home runs, SIERA warns his ERA is artificially low. Yikes.

Chacin was the Rockies fourth best prospect entering the season and has yet to be scored upon in 15 innings after dominating Triple-A with a 1.69 ERA and a 8.9 K/9 over 21 innings.  He’s allowed just seven hits, so it’s safe to say hitters have yet to figure him out.  He draws a couple of good assignments this week.  Meanwhile Ely has thrown a total of 36 innings above Double-A.  With a 3.53 SIERA, he’s held his own, but I have a difficult time trusting a fringe prospect with so little experience above the mid-minors.   After posting a 3.80 ERA in four starts in Triple-A, Valdez had a nice debut versus the Astros but got ripped in his second start against the Brewers.  For a guy who is primarily a sinkerball pitcher, he's racked up a bunch of strikeouts in the minors.

Kendrick’s ratios are almost exactly in line with what he posted in the 2008 season.  They’re not good, but they’re consistent.  Hitters are ripping him for a 26% line drive rate with over 54% of all hits he surrenders going for extra bases.  Across the state, the opposition is scorching Duke for a .319/.386/.527 line.  Of the league high 60 hits he’s allowed, 23 of them have gone for extra bases. With some quality control (1.9 BB/9) and decent ground ball rates (47% of all balls in play are on the ground) Stammen intrigues me.  However, he’s falling behind in the count early - he’s throwing a first pitch strike only 53% of the time - and he doesn’t have overpowering stuff.  No wonder opponents are hitting .299 against him.

Lannan
had a cortisone shot in his left elbow a couple of weeks ago and his first start in 11 days on Thursday did not go well.  Not that it matters, but I doubt he makes both starts this week.  Hammel is making his return after missing a couple of weeks with a mild groin strain.  With a 9.16 ERA and 1.93 WHIP in four starts before his injury, excuse me for not welcoming him back with open arms.  Medlen was pushed into the rotation when Jair Jurrjens went to the DL and needed 88 pitches to get through 4.1 innings in his first start after making 11 relief appearances.

Owners have been running away from Jackson for good reason.  Since he threw six shutout innings on April 16, he has a 9.96 ERA and 1.89 WHIP in 28 innings.  Opponents are battering him for a line of .326/.390/.549.  Lowe, who is getting a swing and a miss strike in 6% of all strikes, is getting a similar cold shoulder.  For a ground ball pitcher, a swing and miss rate that low isn’t the end of the world.  However, Lowe’s 1.23 GB/FB ratio shows he’s actually allowing fewer ground balls than at any point in his career. SIERA says he can improve, but not by much.  With a 6.06 ERA in the month of May, the correction has already started for Silva.  The Cubs are scoring runs for him though, so he’s still collecting Wins.  He makes a start in Texas this week where he owns a career 9.09 ERA and has surrendered 52 hits and 7 HR in 32 innings.

There is a a five point gap between Morton’s ERA (9.19) and his SIERA (3.94).  With a 2.9 BB/9, the control is there, but he’s never been able to avoid the base hits.  He’s giving up over 13 hits per nine and owns a career 10.1 H/9. Norris owns a 0.69 ERA and 11.8 K/9 this season in two starts against the Cardinals.  He has a 9.28 ERA and 10.1 K/9 in five starts against the rest of the league.  He won’t get another crack at the Cardinals until just prior to the All-Star Break.  Volstad is throwing more sinkers this year and is getting even more ground balls - over 26% of all plate appearances against him end with a ground ball out.  He’s lowered his hit rate from last year’s 9.6 H/9 to his current 7.3 H/9.

Wells is striking out 20% of all batters.  He's raised his strikeout rate (7.8 K/9, career rate of 6.0 K/9), lowered his walk rate (2.0 BB/9, career rate of 2.5 BB/9) and is still getting ground balls.  Plus, his SIERA is 3.61, a full run lower than his actual ERA.  What's not to like? 

Best Bets - Wells' ownership is down 20% in ESPN leagues to 22%.  Texas is a tough assignment, but as long as he keeps racking up the ground balls, he'll be fine.  Volstad draws a pair of winnable starts against Jackson at home against Arizona and then against Garcia in Chicago later in the week. 

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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