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July 30, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Weekly Planner #18

by Craig Brown

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My usual “subject to change” disclaimer goes double this week, as more than a few names discussed here are in trade rumors leading up to the deadline - and one switched leagues just moments before this post went live.  Still, if you’re in a mixed league and hunting for a value starter for your team prior to a roster deadline, there are plenty of decent options available this week, especially in the National League.

As always, this list is provided by Heater Magazine and can be downloaded in a useful, color-coded pdf.

We’ll begin in the American League...

Start
Josh Beckett - vs CLE, @ NYA
A.J. Burnett - vs TOR, vs BOS
Trevor Cahill - vs KC, vs TEX
Colby Lewis - @ SEA, @ OAK
*Brandon Morrow - @ NYA, vs TB
Jeff Niemann - vs MIN, @ TOR
Carl Pavano - @ TB, @ CLE
David Price - vs MIN, @ TOR
C.J. Wilson - @ SEA, @ OAK

Burnett has three wins in five starts to go along with a 2.00 ERA and 1.22 WHIP since the return of Yankee pitching coach Dave Eiland.  Apparently, all it took was a 35 pitch bullpen session to correct a mechanical flaw where his shoulder was “flying open” during his delivery.  You can’t argue with the results. In the five starts prior to the bullpen session, he had walked 17 in 23 IP (and had an 11.35 ERA.)  Since then, he’s walked just nine in 27 IP.

Beckett sure looks healthy now, doesn’t he?  After posting an abysmal 55% strand rate before landing on the DL, he’s back to stranding 71% of all runners, post-injury, which is exactly in line with his career strand rate.  A return to health while shedding some poor luck looks to have done wonders.

Wilson is walking too many batters (4.2 BB/9), but his 2.75 ERA in his last 11 starts and his weak opposition this week keep him in the “start” category.  Ahh, the joys of pitching in the AL West.  His opponent’s OPS is .720 this year, the fourth lowest rate in the league.  His rotation-mate Lewis has the second lowest opponent’s OPS at .718.  Cahill’s ground ball rate has increased each month this season, topping out at his current 63% in July.   That's a really nice development. Why do I have to write this every time Morrow has two starts?  Pick him up already!  He has a 3.21 ERA and 1.29 WHIP to go along with a 9.5 K/9 over his last nine starts.

Consider
*Fausto Carmona - @ BOS, vs MIN
*Brian Duensing - @ TB, @ CLE
John Lackey - vs CLE, @ NYA

Yes, Lackey has thrown five solid starts in his last six outings, but three of those starts have come against the Angels, Mariners and Orioles.  His hit rate has dropped a bit, but his strikeout rate in this stretch remains low - he has punched out 5.6 batters per nine in his last six starts.

Can history repeat itself?  Last year, Duensing posted a 2.73 ERA and 1.25 WHIP as a starter down the stretch for the Twins.  Two starts in this year and he’s allowed just three runs in 11 innings of work. Carmona is coming off his worst start of the season (2.2 IP, 10 H, 7 ER versus the Yankees) and faces the other two of the AL’s top three offenses this week.  His 4.43 SIERA indicates he’s been a bit fortunate to get this far into the season without getting lit up more often.  We’ll see where he stands after running through this brutal gauntlet

Sit
*Brian Bannister - @ OAK, @ SEA
*Jeremy Bonderman - vs CHA, vs LAA
*Jeremy Guthrie - vs LAA, vs CHA
*Edwin Jackson - @ DET, @ BAL
*Mitch Talbot - @ BOS, vs MIN
*Jason Vargas - vs TEX, vs KC

Jackson returns to the American League wondering if he left his mojo in the NL.  Since throwing that no-hitter (you know, the one where he threw 149 pitches) he's surrendered 38 hits in 27 IP while walking 15.  His ERA over that stretch is an unsightly 7.24.  The price you pay for your shot at history...  His starts this week push Mark Buehrle back in the rotation buying him an extra day of rest.

After surrendering four runs in 5.2 IP against the Blue Jays on Sunday, Bonderman had his start pushed back this week and is said to be considering retirement.  Bannister has allowed at least four runs in each of his last six starts, a span where opposing hitters own a .314 batting average against.  Vargas has pitched well at points this season, but his 79% strand rate (against a career rate of 71%) and his 4.42 SIERA don’t bode well going forward.

On to the NL...

Start
Yovani Gallardo - @ CHN, vs HOU
Jaime Garcia - vs HOU, @ FLA
Roy Halladay - @ FLA, vs NYN
Tim Hudson - vs NYN, vs SF
Hiroki Kuroda - vs SD, vs WAS
Mat Latos  @ LAN, @ ARI
*Vicente Padilla - vs SD, vs WAS
*Clayton Richard - @ LAN, @ ARI
Jonathan Sanchez - @ COL, @ ATL
Johan Santana - @ ATL, @ PHI

As you would expect, Richard does better at Petco than on the road.  However, this week he’s on the road facing the Dodgers, whose kryptonite is left-handed pitching and follows that with a trip to Arizona, whose kryptonite is just pitching... No matter the hand that throws the ball. He's certainly worth the start. Garcia’s ground ball rate continues to decline, but it’s still at a healthy 55% on the season.  Some possible warning signs loom - After opening the season with a .220 BABIP against in April, he stands with a .330 BABIP for the month of July.  Plus, he’s doing this while somehow maintaining an 80% strand rate.  While I was early to sing his praises, I’m sounding the alarm now - a correction is coming.  Still, with a 3.78 SIERA and because of his ground ball rates, it won’t be harsh, but his ERA and WHIP will increase. He stays in this category for now because of his opponents this week, but moving forward he would make an ideal trade candidate. The Padres have been vigilant about Latos and his workload, with the young starter throwing between 90 and 105 pitches in each start, save two.  The time spent on the DL earlier this month will help keep him fresh as well.  His 84% strand rate is high and keeping his ERA down, but his 3.26 SIERA remains incredibly attractive.

Padilla
has thrown extremely well since returning from the DL in mid June with a 2.12 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 51 IP.  It’s difficult to believe his SIERA of 3.40 is lower than his actual ERA.  He makes both starts at home and he’s darn near untouchable when he gets the ball at Dodger Stadium with a 2.02 ERA in five home starts.  The Cubs have scored more than five runs in just one of Lilly’s 11 starts.  How exactly does a pitcher make two starts in a row against the Astros, surrender one run in 13 innings while striking out 14 and not get at least one win?  With one start against the Brewers - who really struggle against left-handers - maybe his bats can score a run (or two) and get him a win.  If he doesn’t get traded.

Consider
*R.A. Dickey - @ ATL, @ PHI
*Livan Hernandez - @ ARI, @ LAN
*Derek Lowe - vs NYN, vs SF
*Brett Myers - @ STL, @ MIL
*Scott Olsen - @ ARI, @ LAN
*Travis Wood - @ PIT, @ CHN

Myers has a 1.67 ERA over his last five starts since getting tuned up by the Brewers in a start at the end of June.  A trip to Milwaukee (and St. Louis) is on the docket again this week so it's worth noting he’s been a much better pitcher at home where he has a 2.22 ERA while allowing just three HR in 70.2 IP than on the road where he has a 3.87 ERA and 9 HR against in 74.1 IP.  Speaking of home-road splits, Lowe has pitched slightly better at Turner Field (4.15 ERA and 1.29 WHIP at home against a 4.96 ERA and 1.55 WHIP on the road) and makes both starts at home this week.  Hernandez has a 4.50 ERA in 58 innings covering his last nine starts.  During that stretch, he’s made four starts with Game Scores over 61 and five starts with Game Scores below 45.  Feast or famine.

Olsen looked fine in his return from shoulder inflammation, going six innings against the Braves in picking up a win.  The good news: His velocity was solid.  The bad news: He only struck out one Brave and had just three swinging strikes in 81 pitches.  Here we go again… Dickey has a 1.51 ERA and is limiting opponents to a .216 BA in his last five starts covering 41 innings.  The last time I put the knuckleballer in the “start” category, I was burned.  

Sit
*Aaron Cook - vs SF, @ PIT
*Blake Hawksworth - vs HOU, @ FLA
*Paul Maholm - vs CIN, vs COL
*Ross Ohlendorf - vs CIN, vs COL
*Joe Saunders - vs WAS, vs SD

As you would expect from a reliever converted to a starter, Hawksworth hasn’t pitched deep into ballgames.  He has yet to last past the sixth inning and has topped 100 pitches in a start only once.  At issue is his command - he’s walking 4.5 batters per nine as a starter.  Maholm is rumored to be heading to San Diego, where he'll benefit from the Padres defense scooping up his ground balls.  Still, his command and low strikeout rate keep him a marginal fantasy play.

While I love the 57% GB rate - which matches up with his career rate - Cook has been getting pounded this season.  Opponents are hitting .331/.377/.441 against him with runners in scoring position.  It’s rumored the Cardinals are interested in him at the deadline.  The House of Duncan works wonders with ground ball pitchers, so that’s a move worth monitoring.

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

Related Content:  Brian Duensing

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