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July 16, 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 4 105.1 119 8 4.61 1.40 7.1 2.4 0.7 6.9 2.3 0.8 18 3.86
J.D. Martin RH 1 40.1 47 6 3.35 1.29 5.8 1.1 1.3 5.3 2.4 1.1 7 4.13
Tom Gorzelanny LH 4 74.0 68 4 3.16 1.41 9.2 4.4 0.5 8.1 4.0 0.8 12 3.81
Bud Norris RH 2 63.1 70 7 5.97 1.60 9.8 4.4 1.0 8.9 4.5 1.1 12 3.72
Mark Rzepczynski LH 0 6.1 8 2 5.68 1.42 12.8 1.4 2.8 7.6 4.1 1.1 1 1.82
Vicente Padilla RH 4 55.2 47 10 4.04 1.02 8.7 1.6 1.6 7.0 3.1 1.4 9 3.07
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  

"Value Picks" is going to stay steady going into the second-half with the exception of the removal of Vicente Padilla, whose popularity has increased exponentially over the last week. Today's column will focus on some well-known but undervalued pitchers who you may be able to pick up relatively cheaply via trade. Use your knowledge as an advantage!

Dan Haren

I am going to list some numbers below. Try to match them up with the correct ERA (4.36, 3.14, 3.33).

  • 2010: 8.7 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, 41% ground balls
  • 2009: 8.8 K/9, 1.5 BB/9, 43% ground balls
  • 2008: 8.6 K/9, 1.7 BB/9, 44% ground balls

Tough, right? Over the last three years, Dan Haren has been essentially the same pitcher. In 2008, his ERA was 3.33 and in '09 it was 3.14. This year, despite similar performances, his ERA has ballooned to 4.36 in large part due to a .346 BABIP. He ranks fifth in the National League in SIERA, however. If Haren stays the course, he should enjoy much more success in the second half.

If you happen to play in a league with players who still go by won-lost records and ERA, you should see if you can pick up Haren on the cheap. He is owned in 100 percent of ESPN leagues but you may be able to put your knowledge of Sabermetrics to use. If you have a pitcher like Tim Hudson or R.A. Dickey, you ought to sell high on them and buy low on Haren.

James Shields

Shields has a case of what I like to call "Cole Hamels Syndrome" -- he simply cannot shake his high BABIP no matter how well he pitches. Hamels last year (and to a lesser extent, the first half of 2010) pitched very effectively with a strikeout-to-walk ratio approaching four-to-one. Unfortunately, he was victimized by a barrage of seeing-eye singles and bloop hits that landed between the infielders and outfielders.

Similarly, Shields currently has a career-high 8.4 K/9 and a low 2.0 BB/9. SIERA puts him at 3.41 but based on his 4.87 ERA you never would have guessed that. His popularity is dwindling in fantasy baseball leagues as he is owned in only 96.6 percent of ESPN leagues. He has not compiled a quality start since June 5 on the road against the Texas Rangers.

If you play in a league with Baseball Prospectus subscribers, it is unlikely that you will strike a good deal for Shields. Most people, though, are very unhappy with his performance thus far and may be itching to clear up his roster spot.

Ricky Nolasco

The window of opportunity for Nolasco may have already passed, but I still think he deserves a mention here. In three starts from June 23 to July 4, Nolasco struck out 28 and walked two in 21 innings of work (he also racked up three wins). He is clearly much better than his 4.55 ERA indicates.

His popularity was on the decline but he is back in the good graces of fantasy baseball players nationwide. Nolasco's ownership rate went down to about 90 percent just a week ago, but is back up to 98 percent.

Most fantasy baseball players are very cognizant of hot and cold streaks. As such, you will be hard-pressed to strike a deal until Nolasco hits another bump in the road. Still, keep him on your radar. His SIERA is still a full run lower than his ERA.

Tommy Hanson

Hanson's 4.16 ERA is not bad enough to make fantasy owners throw him overboard but for a pitcher who was drafted 78th overall on average, the expectations have not been met. He has good performance numbers -- 9.2 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 3.1 K/BB -- but a .349 BABIP has contributed to his high ERA. It would be worse if not for a suppressed HR/FB rate.

Of the pitchers on this list, you will be least likely to get Hanson at a bargain price, but it never hurts to try.

Scott Baker

Now may be the perfect time to try and acquire Baker on the cheap. He just received a cortisone shot and his most recent start against the Toronto Blue Jays left a lot to be desired. As a result, many fantasy owners are discarding him. In fact, he has been dropped in 11 percent of ESPN fantasy baseball leagues and his overall ownership rate has plummeted to 72 percent.

There is a lot to like about Baker: his walk rate is currently at a career-low 1.6 per nine innings and his strikeout rate is at a career high 7.8 per nine. The culprits, as usual, are a .335 BABIP and a 12% HR/FB rate. His ground ball rate leaves a lot to be desired and as such will be victimized by the home run more than you would like, but his 3.44 ERA compared to his 4.87 ERA should give you more than enough incentive to attempt to acquire him.

Catalog

Last week, commenter jorodrig asked for a compilation of all of the "Value Picks" articles. Here it is:

If you would like to find these articles very quickly for other authors, simply go to Google and type in the search bar:

  • site:baseballprospectus.com "author name"

You can find articles in specific months by adding the month in quotations to the search, i.e. site:baseballprospectus.com "author name" "June".

Feel free to leave comments and questions below, or contact me via Twitter.

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

8 comments have been left for this article.

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