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May 6, 2011
Value Picks in the Rotation
Homer Bailey, Cincinnati Reds (2 percent ESPN; 10 percent Yahoo!)
Bailey struck out seven and walked just one, while inducing whiffs on 11 of his 95 pitches. He went heavy on a fastball-slider mix—the two pitches accounted for 82 percent of his pitch selection. Looking at the NL Central, the only worry is the St. Louis Cardinals, so Bailey is looking solid in all formats right now.
Jake Arrieta, Baltimore Orioles (2 percent ESPN; 3 percent Yahoo!)
Arrieta's strikeout and walk rates (7.6 and 3.4 per nine innings, respectively) match up with those he posted in the minors. He does not have any interesting batted-ball skills, so as long as he is inducing whiffs and is stingy with the walks, he should be a fine play in mixed leagues. Do be mindful of the match-ups, though, as the AL East is a veritable minefield. The Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and Toronto Blue Jays each have above-average offenses and the Tampa Bay Rays are not far behind.
Doug Fister, Seattle Mariners (2 percent ESPN; 3 percent Yahoo!)
Fister tends to induce a lot of ground balls, though his 47 percent rate is not quite at Derek Lowe-esque levels. In the odd circumstance he does leave a ball up in the strike zone, pitching half his games at Safeco Field is a nice contingency plan. Unfortunately, the Mariners will not be able to afford him ample run support, making wins all the more rare for the right-hander. Fister is good for deep mixed leagues, especially if you are looking to stamp down your WHIP.
Jason Hammel, Colorado Rockies (13 percent ESPN; 7 percent Yahoo!)
There is nothing noticeably different about Hammel. He is using his change-up seven percent more often, but he is still generating ground balls and has not benefited from a fluky BABIP (currently .295). The decline in strikeouts worries me, as ground balls plus a propensity to allow hits—his .career .323 BABIP in 592 innings is probably not random—makes me a bit skeptical going forward.
Hammel seems fine for deep (14-plus teams) mixed leagues, but the safer play is NL-only until his strikeouts return.
Brandon McCarthy, Oakland Athletics (15 percent ESPN; 15 percent Yahoo!)
If you pay no mind to the lack of run support McCarthy will get throughout the year, he is a good pick-up in mixed leagues. Considering his .338 BABIP, an argument can be made that McCarthy will get better as the season progresses. He has only allowed one home run thus far, but considering his home ballpark in Oakland, it is unlikely that he becomes a home run magnet.
Jason Marquis, Washington Nationals (14 percent ESPN; 11 percent Yahoo!)
If you missed out on McCarthy, or if you play in an NL-only league, give Marquis a shot. His strikeout and walk rates are nearly identical, and Marquis gets even more ground balls (56 percent, to be exact). Like McCarthy, an argument can be made that Marquis has room for improvement since he has been BABIP-unlucky thus far (currently .326 compared to his .285 career average).
Livan Hernandez, Washington Nationals (5 percent ESPN; 7 percent Yahoo!)
Joel Pineiro, Los Angeles Angels (14 percent ESPN; 6 percent Yahoo!)
Because he is not a pitcher that gets a bunch of whiffs, Pineiro is less helpful in shallower leagues. In AL-only and very deep mixed leagues, go snag him. Otherwise, hold out for someone with a better strikeout rate unless you desperately need to deflate your WHIP.
Packing Up the Bags
Jeff Francis, Kansas City Royals (2 percent ESPN; 4 percent Yahoo!)
Francis will improve, but he is risky nonetheless. He is AL-only and should remain as such even if he rebounds since the strikeouts are not a frequent occurrence.
For Your NL-Only...
Dustin Moseley, San Diego Padres (8 percent ESPN; 9 percent Yahoo!)
Yes, that 3.7 K/9 is not quite enough and the 2.1 BB/9 is nice but not mind-shatteringly amazing, but he is Derek Lowe-ian—unlike Fister—with the ground balls. He also pitches for the Padres, who lay claim to the most pitcher-friendly ballpark in baseball—quite a nice partnership. And then figure in that the National League does not have a designated hitter.
Moseley's 1.63 ERA will go up rather abruptly, but is he a 4.76 ERA pitcher as his career average indicates? I am not buying it. If you are not worried about racking up strikeouts, Moseley is an under-the-radar option for NL-only leagues.
For Your AL-Only...
I scoured a list of some of the most freely-available arms in the American League (10 percent owned or under), but I do not feel comfortable recommending any of them. Rather than force a name here, I will leave this spot absent until next week. Or, if you prefer, refer to Arrieta and Fister, mentioned at the beginning of the column.