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June 4, 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 42.0 40 2 3.21 1.36 9.6 3.6 0.4 7.3 4.0 1.0 3 3.43
Felipe Paulino RH 0 59.1 53 2 4.40 1.47 8.2 5.2 0.3 7.8 4.2 0.8 10 4.38
Jake Westbrook RH 3 66.0 68 8 4.36 1.41 5.0 3.4 1.1 5.0 3.6 1.1 11 4.38
Brett Myers RH 3 74.0 77 6 3.04 1.39 7.2 3.2 0.7 9.4 3.6 1.3 11 3.96
Brandon Morrow RH 4 57.0 56 5 6.00 1.58 10.4 5.4 0.8 8.3 4.8 1.2 11 3.77
Jason Hammel RH 2 44.1 54 5 6.09 1.47 7.9 2.2 1.0 6.8 2.7 0.9 8 3.57
Kris Medlen RH 3 48.1 51 4 2.79 1.24 6.7 1.7 0.7 8.8 3.2 1.0 5 3.78
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  

No cuts on this week's "Value Picks". Starting with the new guys...

Added to the list

Jason Hammel: That 6.09 ERA is menacing. I am reminded of an old episode of The Simpsons called "Lisa the Vegetarian" where Homer and Bart are chasing a rotisserie pig as it careens through nature. As it passes through some bushes, a highway, and a river before getting stuck in a dam, Homer exclaims, "It's just a little dirty! It's still good, it's still good! [...] It's just a little slimy! It's still good, it's still good! [...] It's just a little airborne! It's still good, it's still good!"

And that is how to approach Hammel's ERA. It is a bit dirty and rather slimy—and, yes, airborne—but he has pitched much, much better than his 6.09 indicates. The Colorado Rockies hurler is approaching eight strikeouts per nine innings with a minuscule walk rate a touch above two per nine. Hammel has been egregiously unlucky BABIP-wise (.363) and that has led to an inability to strand base runners (merely 61 percent). All ERA retrodictors agree that Hammel has pitched surprisingly well. He has a 3.76 FIP, 3.58 xFIP, and 3.57 SIERA.

Hammel went on the DL at the end of April with a right groin strain, but has pitched well in four starts since being removed, accruing 25.2 innings, striking out 26 and walking only three with a 3.86 ERA. 99.7 percent of ESPN leagues have passed over Hammel, so go look for him in your free agent pool if you are searching for starting pitching help.

Felipe Paulino: Paulino is cut from the same cloth as Brandon Morrow—electric fastball, lots of strikeouts, but a dire lack of command. He is averaging more than five walks per nine innings, a rate that has held true even during his stretch of three consecutive quality starts. He dominated the Cincinnati Reds on May 30, shutting them out through eight innings. In his two starts prior, he had allowed two runs in six innings each.

Every now and then, with pitchers like Paulino and Morrow, you will get an absolute gem. Paulino's most recent came on May 8 at home against the San Diego Padres when he struck out 11, did not issue a walk, and allowed only one run in seven innings of work. Unfortunately, Paulino receives scant run support (2.7 runs on average) so he will not be helping you in the wins department as his current 0-7 record would indicate. However, he is a decent stopgap with high-strikeout potential, still un-owned in more than 99 percent of ESPN leagues.

Still on the list

Hisanori Takahashi: Takahashi was shelled in his most recent start in San Diego but that should not deter you from picking up Takahashi. However, the southpaw is scheduled to take the bump on Sunday against the Florida Marlins, a lineup that is very heavy on right-handed hitters. Takahashi has been hit around by right-handed hitters to the tune of a .766 OPS, more than 240 points higher than the OPS of left-handers. The Marlins have collectively hit for a .788 OPS against lefties so far this season. Furthermore, the Marlins have hit him around in a small sample of four and one-third innings of work: in 24 plate appearances, Marlin hitters have accrued a .522 on-base percentage and .688 SLG.

If you put any stock in the platoon split or the small amount of previous success the Marlins have had against him, you may be inclined to pass over Takahashi until after his start on Sunday. The Mets are without fallback options if Takahashi flounders on Sunday, so his rotation spot appears secure at least in the near future. Even if you skip Takahashi this time around, you can still get a few starts out of him before his job is remotely in jeopardy.

Jake Westbrook: The Cleveland Indians offense is providing him with fewer than four runs per game on average, but as his name is being floated in trade rumors, he could end up on a contending team with a more potent offense. As such, he would earn wins more frequently.

At present, though, he is stuck with the Indians, nearly the victims of a perfect game thrown by Armando Galarraga on Wednesday. He is still a decent fantasy value as he will stabilize the staff ERA because he rarely tosses a clunker. And every so often, he will rack up the strikeouts—despite his K/9 barely pushing five, he has struck out seven batters in two starts and eight batters once.

Westbrook is still available in 99.5 percent of ESPN leagues. He will toe the rubber on Sunday against a below-average Chicago White Sox offense. However, the offense has struck out the least among all American League teams. This start has good W and ERA potential, not so much for K's.

Brett Myers: Myers is another arm who could change addresses before the July 31 trading deadline. It is a crime that Myers has compiled a 3.04 ERA but only earned three wins, but that is the story with starting pitchers on the Houston Astros. Seven of Myers' last eight outings qualified as quality starts, and he has not allowed a home run in three games (as with last week's write-up, that sentence comes as a total shocker to Phillies fans). He struck out ten in most recent outing against the Washington Nationals in which his defense and bullpen failed him.

It is very surprising that Myers is still available in 96 percent of ESPN leagues. As his 3.96 SIERA indicates, he is not exactly 3.04 ERA good, but still an awesome fantasy value at this point in the season. Wins, of course, will be hard to come by with the Astros offense, but Myers will still benefit your ERA, K's, and even WHIP. As seems to be the case with every pitcher on this list, Myers will start on Sunday against the Chicago Cubs. There are no evident warning flags, and Myers is a no-doubt start.

Brandon Morrow: Morrow brought a no-hitter into the seventh inning in his last start on May 31 against the Tampa Bay Rays, but Sean Rodriguez singled with two outs in the sixth. Surprisingly, Morrow only struck out one batter but he also limited himself to issuing two free passes. For a seven-inning, one-run performance, that is acceptable.

Morrow's next start will come on—you guessed it—Sunday against the New York Yankees. The Yanks lead the American League in batting average, on-base percentage, and OPS. Additionally, they are an extremely patient team (third in walks) that does not strike out often (fourth-fewest). Benching Morrow for this start is not a bad idea, even though he is coming off of an impressive outing against the Rays.

Kris Medlen: Medlen had another strong outing against the Los Angeles Dodgers last night, holding them scoreless through seven and one-third innings. His defense let him down, though, as the glovemen could not convert some easy outs. Peter Moylan poured salt in the wounds by allowing all three of Medlen's runners to cross home plate. In my mind, Medlen tossed seven and one-third scoreless innings, just like Armando Galarraga earned that perfect game over the Cleveland Indians.

Medlen's popularity is quickly rising in ESPN leagues, nearly doubling over the last week from 3.5 percent to over seven percent. Even with the uglier-than-necessary line against the Dodgers, that number should continue to increase. Despite the great pitching, however, there is a chance that Medlen will lose his spot in the rotation when Jair Jurrjens is put back on the 25-man roster from the disabled list. Jurrjens should start a rehab stint in the Minors next week. That means you can still get a good three or four starts out of Medlen with a decent chance of many more.

May Results

Pitcher On Off W IP ER H BB K HR ERA BB/9 K/9 HR/9 WHIP
Gonzalez 5/7 5/14 0 11.0 7 12 5 10 1 5.73 4.1 8.2 0.8 1.55
Harang 5/9 5/14 0 6.0 4 8 2 5 2 6.00 3.0 7.5 3.0 1.67
Kennedy 4/23 5/21 3 44.0 12 34 10 32 5 2.45 2.0 6.5 1.0 1.00
Vargas 4/23 5/21 1 34.3 10 21 12 19 2 2.62 3.1 5.0 0.5 0.96
Stammen 5/14 5/21 0 6.0 4 6 2 4 0 6.00 3.0 6.0 0.0 1.33
Gorzelanny 4/30 5/28 2 29.7 15 34 13 36 2 4.55 3.9 10.9 0.6 1.58
Masterson 5/14 5/28 0 14.3 13 22 11 7 0 8.16 6.9 4.4 0.0 2.30
Myers 5/8   2 34.0 9 30 15 30 2 2.38 4.0 7.9 0.5 1.32
Westbrook 5/21   1 19.7 10 18 5 6 3 4.58 2.3 2.7 1.4 1.17
Morrow 5/21   1 16.0 10 14 7 12 1 5.63 3.9 6.8 0.6 1.31
Takahashi 5/28   0 4.0 6 8 2 1 1 13.50 4.5 2.3 2.3 2.50
Medlen 5/28   1 13.3 6 15 2 8 1 4.05 1.4 5.4 0.7 1.28
TOTAL 11 232.3 106 222 86 170 20 4.11 3.3 6.6 0.8 1.33

Not quite as successful as last month's sub-3.00 ERA, but at least I'm not entirely to blame if you're in last place!

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

10 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links


I picked up Paulino this morning. He's always a guy that has intrigued me because of his strikeout potential, but my concern is just him playing on a terrible team. Same concern goes for Bud Norris. And I actually plan on picking up Hammel tomorrow to prepare for next week. I saw him pitch a couple of weeks back and I found him to be pretty impressive, despite the lack of results.

Speaking of Jair Jurrjens, he is a free agent in my league right now and I actually plan on picking him up probably sometime next week (assuming no setbacks). What do you expect his impact to be, and how would you compare his return to that of J.A. Happ?

Jun 04, 2010 07:13 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Bill Baer
BP staff

If the Injury Expert sees this, hopefully he can confirm or deny this, but from what I know, Jurrjens' injury (hamstring) is less recurring than Happ's (strained flexor pronator muscle in pitching arm). In other words, once Jurrjens is back, the injury isn't as likely to resurface -- unlike Jimmy Rollins' calf strain, for instance.

Simply for that reason (stability), I'd go with Jurrjens over Happ because they are otherwise very similar pitchers. Jurrjens also induces more ground balls, always a good thing, but both have relied on average strikeout and walk stuff to get by.

Personally, though, there's a good chance you can find better options, even if you play in a deep league. Jurrjens and Happ are very overrated.

Jun 04, 2010 14:33 PM

I'm wary of Happ, but I've kept him on my roster for this long in a DL spot, so I figure I have nothing to lose by kicking the tires on him when he returns.

The big problem that I have is that there are no available pitchers left in my league. The value of pitchers (unintentionally, but nevertheless) is basically so high that even Triple A call-ups get claimed almost immediately, so any legitimate starter is locked down at this point.

I'm going to keep looking for something better, but as of right now I don't know how much better I can find. Bud Norris is available, but I worry about the bad team there, and so is Vicente Padilla, but he's got forearm issues of his own. Any thoughts on those two relative to Happ and Jurrjens?

Jun 04, 2010 17:34 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Bill Baer
BP staff

What categories are you lacking in most? Norris is good if you can negate wins for strikeouts. Happ and Jurrjens are good for wins and WHIP with average K's.

I don't think Padilla is good for anything.

Jun 04, 2010 21:01 PM

Well, average strikeouts is fine. The more the better, obviously, but average strikeout rates and wins will be point generators in my league, at least to the point to justify a roster spot.

The problem I have with Norris (and Paulino) is that if they are going to lose or get a no-decision more often than not (which they will on the Astros), that really puts them walking a fine line. With that, even an average strikeout night is likely going to be a disaster.

I can still shuffle things a bit in the days to come, so I'm going to wait and see a bit. Having Norris and Jurrjens on the DL buys some time, and the guys that I have at the back-end of my rotation are solid players but not necessarily guys I am overly invested in, like Carlos Zambrano, Joe Saunders, Ted Lilly, and Joe Blanton.

The good news is that the top of my rotation is pretty solid. I've got Ubaldo Jimenez, Tommy Hanson, James Shields, Josh Beckett, and Max Scherzer, so if I can round it with solid guys throughout the rest of the staff I can probably have the best pitching rotation in my league. On the flip side, though, I had a weak draft on the hitting side (Sizemore, McLouth, Cust, and Iannetta), so I know I'm going to have to win with pitching, making this aspect all the more important.

Jun 04, 2010 21:51 PM
rating: 0

Would it be foolish to give up on John Lackey?

Jun 04, 2010 09:47 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Bill Baer
BP staff

It depends on the parameters of your league, what you have on your roster, and what is available in the free agent pool. Overall, John Lackey has pitched awfully bad this season. Strikeout rate is significantly down; walk rate is significantly up and he hasn't been unlucky on BABIP or HR/FB%. If you can afford to cut him, absolutely do so but don't replace him with someone like Todd Wellemeyer or Scott Feldman.

Jun 04, 2010 14:40 PM

Great call on Paulino - thanks for the tip.

6/4 W, 8IP 5H 1ER 2BB 7K

Jun 04, 2010 20:25 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Bill Baer
BP staff

Blind squirrel --> Acorn

Jun 04, 2010 20:50 PM

Ditto, great call. Paulino made the Cubs look bad all night.

Jun 04, 2010 21:52 PM
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