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January 7, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Hot Spots: Starting Pitchers

by Bill Baer

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Chris Capuano, New York Mets

Capuano missed the entirety of the 2008 and '09 seasons due to Tommy John surgery. He returned in June last year, tossing a total of 66 innings for the Milwaukee Brewers. Overall, Cap was effective with a 7.4 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9, good numbers for most pitchers let alone one on the long road back from elbow surgery.

The Mets have taken a flier on the lefty, hoping they can reap some benefits from a pitcher on the cheap. Capuano should benefit from the Mets' spacious home ballpark, which is pitcher-friendly to both right- and left-handers in terms of home runs.

There is one issue to keep in mind, and that is Capuano's performance against right-handed hitters:

  • Career vs. LH hitters: 8.3 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 3.28 xFIP
  • Career vs. RH hitters: 7.2 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 4.53 xFIP
  • 2010 vs. LH hitters: 11.3 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 2.61 xFIP
  • 2010 vs. RH hitters: 5.9 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 4.64 xFIP

Obviously, the 2010 numbers constitute a small sample size, but as his career numbers indicate, there is a noticeable platoon split.

Capuano does not have any value yet in mixed leagues, but he will be underappreciated in NL-only leagues as his injury history will scare some prospectors away.

Matt Garza, Tampa Bay Rays

Garza has been the subject of many recent trade rumors. Wherever he lands, his team will be getting an average pitcher who throws a lot of fly balls and relies heavily on BABIP. At 42 percent in 2008, Garza's ground ball rate fell to 36 percent last year. In those three years, his BABIP has ranged from .278 to .284, significantly lower than the .300 average.

Thanks to an increased strikeout rate in '09 that went away last year, Garza's SIERA was lower than his ERA. But overall, he appears to be a risky pitcher to rely on in fantasy baseball. In '08, his K/9 was 6.2 and in '10 it was 6.6, slightly below-average and average rates respectively.

The Cubs appear to be the front-runner for Garza's services according to the latest rumors. If Wrigley Field does become his new home, beware -- the ballpark had a left-handed home run park factor of 119 according to StatCorner.com. The Texas Rangers are also in the running for Garza's arm. The Rangers Ballpark in Arlington had a left-handed home run park factor of 118!

Overall, Garza does not have much of a platoon split, but his new location may depress his fantasy value significantly.

Carl Pavano, free agent (2010: Minnesota Twins)

When Pavano got through the 2010 season unscathed, it marked the first time he had consecutive seasons of 30+ starts since the 2003-04 seasons. He was effective for the Twins, winning 17 games and finishing with a 3.75 ERA. Now a free agent, it appears likely that he will return to Minnesota but MLB Trade Rumors cites the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals as fallback options.

In standard roto leagues, Pavano has some slight value as he possesses great control. He averaged 1.5 walks per nine innings last year and has a career rate of 2.3. However, Pavano finds it tough to miss bats -- his strikeout rate was 4.8 per nine in 2010. As a pitcher who relies on balls in play being converted into outs by his defense, Pavano is more prone to swings of good and bad luck than most pitchers.

Two of the Twins' best defenders -- J.J. Hardy and Orlando Hudson, both of the middle infield -- have moved on to new locations. A third, Nick Punto, is a free agent. Pavano induces plenty of ground balls (51 percent last year), so he needs a good infield defense to be successful. The Twins did add Tsuyoshi Nishioka, but as Nick Nelson advises in his blog entry from December 20, be skeptical of his defense.

Pavano will be overrated in most fantasy baseball circles. He will still be valuable in specific league formats (AL- or NL-only, depending on where he lands), but is risky in all but the deepest of mixed leagues.

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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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Future Shock: Los Ange... (01/06)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Hot Spot... (01/06)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Rankings... (01/10)
Next Article >>
Prospectus Q&A: Billy ... (01/07)

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