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May 25, 2012

Weekly Planner

Week Nine

by Paul Sporer

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I have no idea what Gavin Floyd’s problem is, but I thought the Minnesota matchup would be the easier of his two this week.  Hopefully he doesn’t make things worse in his start against Cleveland.  Meanwhile, Felipe Paulino remains excellent and started the week off with a gem in New York.  Looks like I had last week’s AL “starts” in reverse order; it should have been Paulino, Jerome Williams, Floyd, Hiroki Kuroda

Mike Minor has a long way to go before earning another “consider” recommendation, let alone a “start.”  His home run issues are just painful at this point.  At least Chris Capuano rewarded my confidence in him over guys like Bud Norris and Mat Latos (both of whom I like immensely) by pitching a gem to start the week in Arizona. 

This week is a bit light on options, so don’t force it. 

(All categories are ranked in order of confidence)

AMERICAN LEAGUE
Auto-Starts: Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver, Chris Sale, and Doug Fister

These auto-starts run the gamut from the very best to those right on the borderline of “auto start” and “start.”  Sale has been unquestionably excellent, and while he had some injury concerns that put his role in flux, he is a starter now and cannot be ignored.  He may have an innings cap later this summer, so make sure you get every start you can while he is still going every fifth day. 

Fister has been excellent since returning from the disabled list, but he has gotten no help from either his offense or defense.  The Tigers have scored a whopping four runs in his four starts this month, and he has given up a mere six.  At 6.8 K/9, he is showing that last year’s surge wasn’t a fluke too.

Start
Matt Harrison (vs. SEA; @ LAA)
Scott Diamond (vs. OAK; @ CLE)
Felix Doubront (vs. DET; @ TOR)
Phil Hughes (@ LAA; @ DET)
Matt Moore (vs. CHW; vs. BAL)

Harrison is essentially who he was last year with a 3.87 xFIP (3.85 in 2011), so if you believed in him last year, then you should feel confident that he is in for some positive regression going forward in 2012.

If I were cheesier, I’d call him a diamond in the rough, but I’m not, so I’ll just say that Diamond has definitely surprised.  He is due for some regression of his own, albeit in the reverse of what Harrison has coming, but his 5.7 K/BB (built mostly on his 1.1 BB/9) and 61 percent groundball rate suggest there is some legitimacy to his hot start too.

I never thought I’d rate Diamond ahead of Moore in anything this year except on a list of who to cut, but Moore has been a bit of a mess.  I’m sticking by him, especially in two matchups that he can exploit with a pair of free-swinging teams, but he isn’t the leaps and bounds ahead of this group you’d have expected him to be before the season.  This just in: the major leagues are hard.   

Consider
Jake Arrieta (@ TOR; @ TB)
Zach McAllister (vs. KC; vs. MIN)

We are seeing some nice skills from Arrieta this year, but the results haven’t quite followed just yet as home runs have bitten him.  That should normalize, but he has two tough matchups this week, so he is just a “consider” right now.  Tampa Bay ripped him earlier this year, and Toronto can be a scary offense to a home run-susceptible pitcher.

McAllister has been a bit of a surprise.  His skills have actually been solid with 7.9 K/9 and a 3.7 K/BB in his 25 innings.  Imagine if he could do anything with runners on?  He has a 57 percent Left On Base Percentage that is elevating his 3.96 ERA.  Even if that regresses in his favor, opposite regression in his 3 percent HR/FB will likely cancel out the gains. This should result in an ERA that stabilizes in the 3.85-4.00 range, at his peak.  He faces the two toughest AL teams to strikeout this week, which adds up to him being a mere “consider.”

Sit
Kevin Millwood (@ TEX; @ CHW)
Daniel Bard (vs. DET; @ TOR)
Nathan Adcock (@ CLE; vs. OAK)

A rousing round of applause is in order for Millwood, who went into New York and allowed one run in just seven innings, then went into Colorado and threw a shutout, then followed it up with six scoreless against Texas.  And yet, I’m still not buying.  Do so at your own risk. 

Bard has decided that striking out batters hurt their feelings too much, so he is just doing it a couple times a game now.  He has a 2.8 K/9 in 29 innings this month while his walk rate is at 5.9 BB/9; he is completely falling apart.  This hasn’t worked, Boston.  Is Daisuke ready yet?

NATIONAL LEAGUE
Auto-Starts: Cole Hamels, Jordan Zimmermann, and Tommy Hanson

Since getting knocked around in that slugfest with Roy Halladay at the beginning of the month, Hanson has had four straight road starts, including ones in St. Louis, Tampa Bay, and Cincinnati, yet he has come out of it having not allowed more than two runs in any appearance en route to a 2.25 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 7.5 K/9, and 2.2 K/BB.  Hanson’s second start of the week is in Washington; it will be his eighth road start out of 12 this season.

Hamels is Philly’s best pitcher.  You read that right. 

Start
James McDonald (vs. CIN; @ MIL)
Lance Lynn (@ ATL; @ NYM)
Shaun Marcum (@ LAD; vs. PIT)
Trevor Cahill (@ SF; @ SD)
Wandy Rodriguez (@ COL; @ OAK)

McDonald is pushing toward auto-start status and fast.  A longtime favorite of mine, he has really taken a step forward this year, but I will temper my excitement and leave him in the “starts” for now.  The former top prospect is certainly paying dividends for Pittsburgh. 

Lynn has wobbled a bit in his last three games, but it appears to just be settling into his numbers as opposed to an undoing.  Plus, the “wobbliness” has been a pair of baseline quality starts and a six-inning outing during which he allowed four against the Dodgers.  I remain firmly entrenched in the Lynn camp. 

Cahill gets the NL version of @OAK/@SEA with his California combo.  The Giants offense has improved this year, but improving from the 28th-best offense isn’t especially difficult.  They are still in the mid-20s by most of the big offensive categories.

Starting anyone in Colorado these days is risky (except Kevin Millwood, apparently), but Wandy’s 49 percent groundball rate eases my fears a bit.  He has been great this year, plus he gets a shot at the weak offense of Cincinnati later in the week.  I vacillated between “start” and “consider” but ended up giving him credit for his passable 3.99 ERA in Coors Field over his career.

Consider
Jon Niese (vs. PHI; vs. STL)
Ted Lilly (vs. MIL; @ COL)
Bronson Arroyo (@ PIT; @ HOU)
Carlos Zambrano (vs. WAS; @ PHI)
Alex White (vs. HOU; vs. LAD)

Niese is always better in theory (i.e. xFIP) than real life (i.e. ERA), and I can’t take that chance against St. Louis. Zambrano didn’t take long to get back to his sub-2.0 K/BB ways, did he?  It only gets worse from here.  I’d have given him a full on sit if he didn’t have solid matchups.

Lilly is usually a fly ball machine with a career 46 percent fly ball rate, but this year he has cut it to 38 percent.  I’m leery it’ll stay so low, and Colorado isn’t the best place to test it. Meanwhile his skills, which are usually rock solid, have been awful. Give me the old fly ball Lilly with good skills.  But not in Colorado… ever.

Sit
Juan Nicasio (vs. HOU; vs. LAD)
Aaron Harang (vs. MIL; @ COL)
Travis Wood (vs. SD; @ SF)
Barry Zito (vs. ARI; vs. CHC)
Manny Parra (@ LAD; vs. PIT)
Jeff Suppan (@ CHC; vs. ARI)

While Nicasio and Harang each have an appealing skill or two, their results are garbage. Plus, they have a combined three starts in Colorado.  If they have appealing results (Wood, Zito), then their skills are garbage.  There just isn’t anything worth risking your ERA and WHIP for, even if you could luck your way into a handful of strikeouts or a win. 

Suppan has a 1.8 K/9… and a 0.4 K/BB.  How is that even possible?  His 4.21 ERA is the Eighth Wonder of the World.

COMPOSITE RANKINGS
Auto-Starts
Verlander
Hamels
Weaver
Zimmermann
Sale
Fister
Hanson

Starts
McDonald
Lynn
Marcum
Cahill
Harrison
Wandy
Diamond
Doubront
Moore

Consider
Arrieta
McAllister
Niese
Lilly
Zambrano
White

Sit
Nicasio
Millwood
Harang
Wood
Zito
Bard
Parra
Adcock
Curtis, my Beagle
Suppan

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

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