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May 28, 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
Hisanori Takahashi LH 4 38.0 32 1 2.13 1.24 10.4 3.6 0.2 7.3 4.0 1.0 2 3.09
Justin Masterson RH 0 47.0 63 4 6.13 1.89 8.8 5.0 0.8 9.5 4.2 1.0 9 3.67
Jake Westbrook RH 2 58.1 63 8 4.78 1.49 5.6 3.7 1.2 5.0 3.6 1.1 10 4.28
Brett Myers RH 3 67.0 73 6 3.22 1.43 6.6 3.1 0.8 9.4 3.6 1.3 10 3.96
Brandon Morrow RH 3 50.0 53 5 6.66 1.70 11.7 5.8 0.9 8.3 4.8 1.2 10 3.54
Tom Gorzelanny LH 2 51.2 50 2 3.66 1.36 9.2 3.5 0.3 9.0 4.6 1.2 9 3.54
Kris Medlen RH 1 35.0 36 3 2.57 1.23 7.2 1.8 0.8 9.1 3.1 0.8 3 3.66
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  

Players added to the list

Hisanori Takahashi: Takahashi has faced two high-octane offenses -- the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees -- in his first two starts as a fill-in for the New York Mets and has yet to allow a run in 12 innings of work. In those 12 innings, he has struck out 11 and walked merely one batter. As a reliever, he missed a lot of bats but also missed the strike zone frequently. As you can see by the averages in the Value Picks table, that is simply par for the course. Also something to note is that the southpaw, in 38 innings, has a distinct platoon split which may be why he has held the Phillies and Yankees in check. His next start will come on May 31 against a weak Padres offense in their very pitcher-friendly ballpark. Get Takahashi while you can. Despite being available in 95 percent of ESPN leagues, he is being snapped up quickly after dominating the Phillies on Wednesday.

Kris Medlen: Medlen, like Takahashi, is a substitution while ailing pitchers ride the pine. However, with continued success, the Atlanta Braves may have to reconsider moving Medlen back to the bullpen once Jair Jurrjens is fully recovered. In three starts against the Phillies, Mets, and Pittsburgh Pirates, Medlen has compiled a 2.76 ERA with an average strikeout rate and well below-average walk rate. At the very least, he is a reliable short-term option to stabilize ERA and WHIP and he may even pick up a few wins now that the Braves' offense has been nudged awake. Medlen is available in over 96 percent of ESPN leagues.

Players removed from the list

Justin Masterson: That .405 BABIP of his has got to start plummeting one of these days, right? The right-hander has a 6.13 ERA but a very impressive 3.67 SIERA built on 8.8 strikeouts per nine innings and inducing ground balls at nearly a 61% clip. However, he has struck out only seven and walked 11 in his last three starts, a span of 14 and one-third innings. This is after starting the month with two starts in which he struck out 15 and walked four in 13 and two-thirds innings. In last week's "Hot Spots", I described Masterson as having "perceived inconsistency", but in fact that inconsistency may be very real. Masterson has been on the Value Picks list twice and has swung and missed both times. With an 0-2 count, toss him some breaking stuff away by avoiding him until he actually shows better K/BB stuff. (Oh, what a tangled metaphor we weave.)

Tom Gorzelanny: Despite how well he has pitched in 2010, Gorzelanny is in danger of losing his spot in the Chicago Cubs starting rotation when they decide to re-insert erstwhile starter Carlos Zambrano. Gorzelanny also took a line drive off of his pitching hand in a recent start against the Philadelphia Phillies, which may have had a leading role in his poor performance in his most recent start against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He allowed five runs in five innings of work. Otherwise, he has pitched brilliantly in 2010 and his success is very real. He is an absolute buy if those two question marks result in his keeping a spot in the rotation and a clean bill of health.

Players still on the list

Jake Westbrook: Westbrook has been a bit unlucky with home runs with a HR/FB% of 17% but his ERA and SIERA are not too disparate. As mentioned last week, Westbrook should help your ERA and WHIP but cannot be relied on for strikeouts with a K/9 a full strikeout below-average. He has also had some problems with control as his 3.7 BB/9 is the highest it has been for Westbrook since 2003. This could be due to his Tommy John surgery, so as the season progresses, his walk rate should crawl down to his career average 2.8 per nine innings. Westbrook is still available in over 99 percent of ESPN leagues.

Brett Myers: Myers remains a model of consistency. (That sentence should startle most Phillies fans.) He has allowed three or fewer runs in seven out of his ten starts this season. As his SIERA indicates, he is about a mid-3 to low-4's ERA pitcher and he has a lot in common with Kris Medlen. Myers is still available in 95 percent of ESPN leagues but that number will likely change given his start against the Milwaukee Brewers yesterday in which his ERA dropped into the low-3's.

Brandon Morrow: Morrow has only pitched a total of nine innings in his last two starts. Like Masterson, he has been very unlucky on balls in play with a .387 BABIP. His walk rate is also worrisome at about 5.8 per nine innings, but with his ability to miss bats and his location behind a very potent Toronto offense, he is a decent option for deep and AL-only fantasy baseball leagues. He is still available in about 94 percent of ESPN leagues and his ownership rate has actually decreased by two percent over the past week. While you will have to put up some of his five-inning, five-walk starts, you will also get starts like May 16 where he struck out eight and walked one in six innings. With BABIP regression, he should enjoy more of the latter.

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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Premium Article Contractual Matters: T... (05/27)
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