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August 12, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Weekly Planner #20

by Craig Brown

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This is probably the most interesting week I’ve encountered since beginning this exercise in that there are so many great pitchers making a pair of starts this week.  That means there is a dearth of available two-start talent in the AL, so be careful.  Fortunately, if you're in a mixed league, the NL has plenty to offer.  Start there if you're bargain shopping.

As always, the list of two start pitchers is provided by Heater Magazine and is subject to change.  Starters owned in less than 50% of ESPN or Yahoo! Leagues are noted with an asterisk.  

Brett Anderson - vs TOR, vs TB
Scott Baker - vs CHA, vs LAA
Clay Buchholz - vs LAA, vs TOR
John Danks - @ MIN, @ KC
Matt Garza - vs TEX, @ OAK
Zack Greinke - vs CLE, vs CHA
Cliff Lee - @ TB, @ BAL
Shaun Marcum - @ OAK, @ BOS
David Price - vs TEX, @ OAK
CC Sabathia - vs DET, vs SEA
Max Scherzer - @ NYA, vs CLE
Justin Verlander - @ NYA, vs CLE
Jered Weaver - @ BOS, @ MIN

That's two and a half rotations of quality, right there.  A baker's dozen of no-brainers.

*Dallas Braden - vs TOR, vs TB
Javier Vazquez - vs DET, vs SEA

Since returning from the disabled list with a sore elbow, Braden has made five starts and compiled a 2.83 ERA while limiting the opposition to a line of .250/.302/.391.  Don’t forget, he’s always taken advantage of the spacious Coliseum where he has a career ERA of 4.10 compared to 4.61 on the road.  

After putting together a string of eight strong starts, Vazquez has stumbled once again.  Over his last five starts, he has a 6.43 ERA while striking out 15 and walking 10 in 28 IP.    Overall, hitters are putting the ball in the air against him at the highest rate of his career.  Naturally his 1.6 HR/9 is the worst rate since his rookie season back in 1998.  His 80% contact rate is the highest of his career and will continue to make him a risky starter proposition.  

*Brad Bergesen - vs SEA, vs TEX
*Douglas Fister - @ BAL, @ NYA
*Rich Harden - @ TB, @ BAL
*Kevin Millwood - vs SEA, vs TEX
*Josh Tomlin - @ KC, @ DET

Bergesen allows roughly 11 hits per nine innings but owns a decidedly average .304 BABIP.  Pitch to contact starters aren’t what we’re looking for as opponents are putting the ball in play in 78% of all plate appearances.  They’re making solid contact, too.  Over 12% of all hits he’s allowed have gone for extra bases.  Tomlin posted a 2.68 ERA in 107 Triple-A innings and is off to a good start for the Indians, but comes up against a couple of tough customers this week in Greinke and Verlander.

Harden seems to be on a short leash.  He lasted just 2.1 innings in his last start while walking five batters and had his start originally scheduled for Saturday pushed back to Tuesday, which lands him in two start territory this week and his inclusion in the planner.  I suppose if you’re hell-bent on starting him, a short leash is a good thing because he remains a risk.

On to the NL…

Chad Billingsley - @ ATL, vs CIN
Tommy Hanson - vs LAN, @ CHN
Clayton Kershaw - vs COL, vs CIN
*Jonathon Niese - @ HOU, @ PIT
Ricky Nolasco - @ PIT, vs HOU
Roy Oswalt - vs SF, vs WAS
Wandy Rodriguez - vs NYN, @ FLA
Johan Santana - @ HOU, @ PIT
Adam Wainwright - vs MIL, vs SF

Santana and Nolasco both draw the Astros and the Pirates… In one week?  Is that legal?  Why not throw Niese into this mix, who has made just one bad start in his last eight into this category as well?  He keeps the ball on the ground and should be able to neutralize the minimal power he will face this week.  

Rodriguez has shaved two runs off his ERA since June 24.  In that time, he has limited his opponents to a line of .209/.255/.327 in 60.1 IP.  He owns a 1.79 ERA over that stretch.  The big difference?  Control.  He was walking 4.1 BB/9 over his first 14 starts, but has a 1.6 BB/9 since his turnaround.

Bronson Arroyo - @ ARI, @ LAN
*Kevin Correia - @ CHN, @ MIL
*Jeff Francis - @ LAN, @ ARI
Jon Garland - @ CHN, @ MIL
*Tom Gorzelanny - vs SD, vs ATL
*Chris Volstad - @ PIT, vs HOU
*Randy Wells - vs SD, vs ATL
Barry Zito - @ PHI, @ STL

With a 4.91 SIERA - almost a full run higher than his actual ERA of 3.94 - Arroyo has been the recipient of some good fortune.  His 7.7 H/9 is a full hit higher than his lowest rate of his career and he can point to a career low .237 BABIP as being… Helpful.  Also helpful?  Pitching in the NL Central.  His opponents .696 OPS is the third lowest among National League starters.

The results haven’t been consistent with Francis this year, but his control (1.8 BB/9) has kept him in games.  With a 47% GB rate, he’s throwing more worm burners this season, which helps. Since rejoining the Cubs rotation, Gorzelanny has a 3.94 ERA with 39 strikeouts and 25 walks covering 48 innings.  That works out to a 4.7 BB/9.  He has already worked more innings than any year since 2007, so it’s possible fatigue could be a factor.  

8, 9, 0, 4, 0, 7… My lottery numbers for this week?  Not quite.  How about Correia’s strikeout totals from his last six starts.  Feast or famine.  His teammate Garland doesn’t like pitching away from Petco.  His road ERA is two full runs higher than his home mark this year.  With both starts on the road, he becomes a "consider."

*Zach Duke - vs FLA, vs NYN
*J.A. Happ - vs NYN, @ FLA
*Daniel Hudson - vs CIN, vs COL
*James McDonald - vs FLA, vs NYN
*Scott Olsen - @ ATL, @ PHI

Olsen hasn’t looked good since his return from shoulder stiffness.  He’s such a risk, there’s really no reason to start him.

Hudson is off to a strong start in the NL and bears watching.  However, he faces the two highest scoring offenses in the league this week.  Let’s see how he handles this before moving forward.

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

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