June 25, 2010
Weekly Planner #13
The schedule breaks favorably this week as a number of top fantasy starters will draw a pair of starts. Both leagues are loaded with quality, so if you’re looking for someone to fill your rotation, you’ll have to dig deep. That’s not to say there aren’t some gems. There are several quality starters available in less than 50% of all Yahoo and ESPN leagues who can contribute to your upcoming week.
As always the list of two start pitchers is provided by Heater Magazine and subject to change. You can download a color-coded pdf of all the starters listed here.
Our tour begins in the NL...
Matt Cain - vs LAN, @ COL
Chris Carpenter - vs ARI, vs MIL
Johnny Cueto - vs PHI, @ CHN
R.A. Dickey - @ FLA, @ WAS
Yovani Gallardo - vs HOU, @ STL
*Jason Hammel - @ SD, vs SF
Dan Haren - @ STL, vs LAN
Tim Hudson - vs WAS, vs FLA
Ubaldo Jimenez - @ SD, vs SF
ss="playerdef">Ted Lilly - vs PIT, vs CIN
Stephen Strasburg - @ ATL, vs NYN
Adam Wainwright - vs ARI, vs MIL
Since returning from the DL in mid-May, Hammel has posted a 2.58 ERA in eight starts covering 52 innings. Both his opponents this week have has difficulty scoring runs. Haren has shaved almost a full run off his ERA over his last five starts while punching out nearly a batter an inning. Lilly has lacked run support necessary to gain wins. The Cubs have yet to score more than five runs in any of his starts and are averaging just 2.3 runs per game in his starts.
Get your Strasburg starts while you can. They’re here for a limited time only. Then pray the Nationals score at least a run for him.
What’s that? A knuckleballer in the “start” category? If you're a frequent reader, you know about my distrust, but Dickey has a 53% ground ball rate, has allowed two home runs in 46 innings, is walking just 2.7 batters per nine and has a 3.92 SIERA. I’m making an exception for this week.
*Joe Blanton - @ CIN, @ PIT
*John Ely - @ SF, @ ARI
Mike Leake - vs PHI, @ CHN
*Wade LeBlanc - vs COL, vs HOU
*Brett Myers - @ MIL, @ SD
Ricky Nolasco - vs NYN, @ ATL
*Manny Parra - vs HOU, @ STL
*Hisanori Takahashi - @ FLA, @ WAS
Barry Zito - vs LAN, @ COL
Since moving into the rotation, Parra has a 4.15 ERA, but has struck out 31 batters in 26 innings. Overall, he gets a ground ball about half the time the ball is put in play. You would think he could handle the Astros, but Houston has fared better against lefties this year. His inclusion here is lukewarm. No reservations for Takahashi who has been uneven as a starter but faces the lower half of the NL East next week. Zito is narrowing his gap between his ERA and SIERA. Since he owns a 4.59 SIERA, that’s not a good thing. He draws a difficult second assignment this week against Jiminez in Colorado.
LeBlanc is making both his starts are at home, where he owns a 2.25 ERA. His first opponents, the Rockies, have their power neutralized by left-handed pitching and his second opponents, the Astros, have difficulty against all pitching. Buyer beware though as he’s allowed a ton of base runners (1.50 WHIP) but he has kept his overall ERA of 3.16 low due to an 84% strand rate. His 4.76 SIERA sees through his trickery. Myers has allowed fewer base runners in his road starts - he makes both starts away from home this week - but has just one win to show for it.
Nolasco has seen his contact rate jump to 81% and his strikeout rate has fallen to 6.8 SO/9, down from last year’s 9.5 SO/9. He’s still throwing strikes at the same rate and getting the same number of swings, but he’s just missing fewer bats. Troubling. After a strong start, Ely has stumbled of late and owners have been dropping him in both ESPN and Yahoo leagues. His contact rate of 78% is below league average, but he owns a 24% line drive rate against. His start against Arizona will be the third time he’s faced them this year and he’s allowed two runs in 13 innings while striking out 11 against the Diamondbacks. Through his first eight starts, Leake owned a strikeout rate of 6.7 K/9. In his last six, he’s been at 4.7 K/9. He has a 4.40 SIERA which leads me to believe the second half will be a bit more challenging for the rookie.
It’s been a difficult first half for Blanton. While is 4.98 SIERA isn’t all that impressive, it does indicate he’s pitched better than his 6.53 ERA. His strikeouts have returned to a “normal” rate for him at 5.2 SO/9 so he’s back to allowing around 77% of all plate appearances ending with the ball in play, which has led to him allowing too many (11.4 H/9) hits.
*Matt Chico - @ ATL, vs NYN
*Kevin Correia - vs COL, vs HOU
*Jeff Karstens - @ CHN, vs PHI
*Kyle Kendrick - @ CIN, @ PIT
*Paul Maholm - @ CHN, vs PHI
*Wandy Rodriguez - @ MIL, @ SD
*Randy Wells - vs PIT, vs CIN
Karstens has coughed up 11 home runs in 60 innings after surrendering 12 HR in 108 innings last year. Speaking of home runs, Kendrick will allow more than his share (1.2 HR/9), most of which come at home. However, he’s headed to Cincinnati this week which is the only park in the NL that’s more homer-happy than his home field. Correia has been pounded of late (7.50 ERA over his last 24 innings with 10 BB and 15 SO) and has a head to head match-up against the Great Jimenez. Although both his starts this week are at home, he doesn’t enjoy the same home cooking as his fellow Padre starters - he has a 4.53 ERA in eight home starts.
With a 1.65 WHIP, Rodriguez simply allows too many base runners to earn consideration. A 61% strand rate is ridiculously low, but still… that WHIP. Ugh. A pair of difficult head to head match-ups this week won’t help his cause. Wells has been torched of late. Opponents are battering him for a line of .357/.409/.460 in his last six starts. His lone decent start in that stretch was when he allowed just two runs in seven innings against Oakland, yet he threw 129 pitches. Yikes.
Chico owns a 1.43 WHIP in eight Triple-A starts this year and is whiffing just 5.5 hitters per nine. He has also made five Double-A starts, posting a 1.27 WHIP and 5.9 SO/9.
To the AL...
Mark Buehrle - @ KC, @ TEX
Phil Hughes - vs SEA, vs TOR
Cliff Lee - @ NYA, @ DET
Francisco Liriano - vs DET, vs TB
*Brandon Morrow - @ CLE, vs NYA
*Joel Pineiro - vs TEX, vs KC
Ricky Romero - @ CLE, @ NYA
James Shields - @ BOS, @ MIN
Are you on the Morrow bandwagon? The guy is only striking out a quarter of all batters, allowing just 59% of all hitters to put the ball in play and is getting a swing and a miss on 20% of his strikes. His 3.73 SIERA says he’s been pitching much better than his overall ERA of 4.50 would suggest. The one thing holding him back early in the year was his control, but he’s recently improved his walk rate. Over his last eight starts he’s at 2.9 BB/9.
Still loving Pineiro, his 56% ground ball rate and his 3.80 SIERA. And I really love his 2.25 ERA and 1.08 WHIP at home (as opposed to a 6.80 ERA and 1.58 WHIP on the road) where he makes both starts this week.
The match-up of the week finds Lee battling Hughes in New York. As wonderful as Hughes has been, I’ll wager on Lee. Never, ever bet against the starter with a 0.42 BB/9.
*Fausto Carmona - vs TOR, vs OAK
John Lackey - vs TB, vs BAL
*Brian Matusz - vs OAK, @ BOS
It’s difficult to be a fan of the 84% contact rate, but when most of Carmona’s contact ends up with the ball rolling around the infield, we can live with the contact. His 58% ground ball rate should neutralize Toronto’s power in his first start this week. If only Cleveland had a league average defense behind him - they rate 26th (and last in the AL) in Defensive Efficiency. Matusz strung together four quality starts in a row before coughing up six runs against Florida this week. His ratios in 2010 are almost exactly the same from his first eight starts he made last season. He should do well at home against the A’s who struggle against lefties, but there’s reason to be concerned about his start at Fenway. The Red Sox are pounding left-handed starters to a tune of .289/.372/.487.
Lackey punched out a season-high seven batters in his last start. That sounds great, but he was averaging seven strikeouts per start last year. Overall, his strikeout rate has dipped to 5.4 K/9 and his walks are up to 3.5 BB/9. The result is a 1.51 SO/BB ratio, the first time he’s been below 2.1 since his rookie year in 2002. He draws a pair of starts at home where he owns a a 5.03 ERA in eight starts this season. His 4.88 SIERA doesn’t engender confidence, either. He would be a “sit” but draws the Orioles in his second start. He's teetering on the edge.
*Nick Blackburn - vs DET, vs TB
*Jeremy Bonderman - @ MIN, vs SEA
*Dallas Braden - @ BAL, @ CLE
*Anthony Lerew - vs CHA, @ LAA
*Jake Westbrook - vs TOR, vs OAK
Blackburn has endured a brutal stretch where he’s allowed at least five runs in four of his last five starts. He’s been hit hard and early, lasting less than four innings in those four starts. Opponents are hitting .422/.475/.733 against him this month. If you have him on your active roster at this point, you have no one to blame but yourself. Dealing with elbow tendinitis, Braden hasn’t been throwing between starts and has had issues with his off speed pitches. As Will Carroll pointed out, Braden has been eschewing the slider, which isn’t a good sign.
Bonderman had a fine May to pitch himself back into fantasy consciousness. It’s a nice comeback, but he’s no longer the ground ball pitcher he was before his injury. He’s getting worm burners just 39% of the time this year compared to 47% from 2004-2007. Inevitably, the home runs are starting to catch up to him. After allowing two in his first 51 innings this year, he’s surrendered six in his last 29 innings. Plus, he draws a pair of front line starters this week in head to head match-ups.
Craig Brown is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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