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June 18, 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
Randy Wells RH 3 78.2 95 7 4.92 1.46 7.0 2.4 0.8 6.9 2.3 0.8 14 3.85
Felipe Paulino RH 1 80.0 77 2 4.50 1.48 7.9 4.6 0.2 7.8 4.2 0.8 13 4.36
Jake Arrieta RH 2 13.0 7 1 2.77 1.00 6.2 4.2 0.7 6.7 4.4 1.2 2 4.85
Brett Myers RH 4 94.1 97 7 3.34 1.37 7.2 3.1 0.6 7.0 3.1 0.7 14 4.03
Brandon Morrow RH 4 70.0 65 5 5.14 1.47 10.3 4.9 0.6 8.3 4.8 1.2 13 3.63
Jason Hammel RH 4 59.2 63 5 4.53 1.34 7.2 2.6 0.8 6.8 2.7 0.9 10 3.83
Chris Narveson LH 5 65.1 76 9 5.79 1.62 7.4 4.1 1.2 8.2 3.9 1.2 10 4.33
Jhoulys Chacin RH 3 54.0 46 3 4.00 1.30 9.0 4.0 0.5 7.7 4.3 0.9 9 3.49
Kris Medlen RH 4 61.1 60 8 3.23 1.14 6.5 1.5 1.2 8.8 3.2 1.0 7 3.74
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  

Somewhere, a dog barks in the distance.

Added to the list

Randy Wells: If you looked at Randy Wells' peripherals and did not look at his ERA, you would think Wells was enjoying a fine sophomore campaign. Credited to his name are an above-average strikeout rate, below-average walk rate, nearly three-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio,  and inspiring 46 percent ground ball rate. Alas, on behalf of a .359 BABIP and subsequent 66 percent strand rate, Wells' ERA has crossed into the fives (5.15 to be exact) prior to yesterday's start against the Oakland Athletics. He had failed to reach the sixth inning in three out of his last four starts, including a May 28 start against the St. Louis Cardinals in which he allowed five runs without recording an out.

Every year there are a few pitchers who, for whatever reason, grossly under-perform their peripherals. Cole Hamels was one such pitcher last year; could Wells be that guy in 2010? There is no way to know but the peripherals are indeed inspiring and you may be able to snap him up as ESPN fantasy baseball players have been cutting ties with him. His ownership rate is down to eight percent. Going forward, expect more June 17 performances (7 IP, 2 ER) than May 28 performances (0 IP, 5 ER).

Jake Arrieta: The 24-year-old has burst onto the Major League scene, winning both of his first two starts. In those 13 innings, he had some control issues but they were, most likely, not due to butterflies. At every level of the Minors, Arrieta averaged between 3.5 and 4.1 walks per nine innings. His six walks in 13 Major League innings is a rate of 4.5 per nine which is not too far off and certainly in line with his PECOTA projection.

Obviously, Arrieta does not possess ace-caliber stuff. I am simply echoing what Alex Eisenberg and others had been saying since the Baltimore Orioles drafted him. At The Hardball Times, Eisenberg wrote, "He can be great in spurts, but will have innings where the plate can be anything but found."

For fantasy purposes, Arrieta is not in the same camp as Brandon Morrow and Felipe Paulino -- he is not a high-risk, high-reward kind of player. On the contrary, he is a safe pick so long as you can deal with his occasional control problems.

Removed from the list

Brett Myers: The Brett Myers bandwagon is getting crowded, as he is owned in nearly one out of every four ESPN leagues. "Value Picks" will bid Brett adieu.

Jason Hammel: If you picked up Jason Hammel when he was first listed in "Value Picks" back on June 4, I will wait patiently by my mailbox for my commission. On a serious note, I was bound to get one right after the Justin Masterson debacle, right? Since Hammel's addition to our list, he has pitched 15 and one-third scoreless innings. No wonder why his ownership rate has skyrocketed from 2.2 percent to 14.2 percent in ESPN leagues since his last start on June 12. He will start today against the Milwaukee Brewers and this may be your last chance to nab him.

Chris Narveson: Narveson is not in imminent danger of losing his job, but given that he has misplaced some of his strikeout stuff -- he has only 10 of them over his last three starts spanning 17 and one-third innings -- the more likely scenario is that he loses his spot in the rotation rather than becoming a legitimate fantasy option.

Still on the list

Felipe Paulino: Paulino was BABIP'ed to death in his last start against the Kansas City Royals. In four and two-thirds innings, he allowed eight runs on 11 hits and three walks while only striking out two. Chalk it up to a bad start. Paulino had previously been on an impressive run, tossing eight innings and allowing no more than two runs in three consecutive starts. In those 24 innings, he struck out 19 and walked eight.

Brandon Morrow: As with Myers, expect the Morrow bandwagon to become densely-packed. In three straight starts, he allowed exactly one run while getting through at least six innings. In those 20 innings of work, Morrow struck out 15 and walked six, a great sign from a pitcher who had been dealing with chronic control issues. He is taken in 10.5 percent of ESPN leagues and that figure may balloon after his start against the San Francisco Giants tonight.

Jhoulys Chacin: Chacin could only get through five innings with a meager one strikeout, but he only allowed two runs to the Minnesota Twins.  Somehow, he is being ditched in ESPN leagues as his ownership rate has dropped from 11.6 percent to 7.6 percent. Sure, he is averaging four walks per nine, but he is also averaging a strikeout per inning and inducing groundballs at a 46% clip.

Kris Medlen: On Medlen's place in the Atlanta Braves starting rotation, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote, " All along, I’ve thought Cox’s inclination would be to keep Kenshin Kawakami in the rotation and move Kris Medlen back to the bullpen when Jair Jurrjens returns, but you have to wonder if that thinking is starting to change at this point."

Medlen threw eight strong innings against the Minnesota Twins on June 13. While Kenshin Kawakami has not pitched poorly, he has struggled with control and there is now a non-zero chance that it would be KK who loses his spot in the rotation and not Medlen. However, given Medlen's prior success out of the bullpen and the Braves' wanting to reduce his workload, the most likely scenario is that Medlen loses his spot when Jurrjens returns. Still, Medlen is likely to make at least two more starts so he will remain on the "Value Picks" list. He is available in more than 93 percent of ESPN leagues, making him an attractive stopgap.

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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