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July 20, 2012

Weekly Planner

Week 17

by Paul Sporer

Those in NL-only leagues will see plenty of two-start options to choose from, while AL-only players are quite limited when it comes to trustworthy options for the upcoming week.

NATIONAL LEAGUE
Auto-Starts: Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Roy Halladay, R.A. Dickey, Gio Gonzalez, and Josh Johnson

It’s a big week of stars in the National League, which should lead to some big numbers being posted in NL-only leagues, especially if you have a couple of these guys.

Start
Ian Kennedy (vs. COL; vs. NYM)
Adam Wainwright (vs. LAD; @ CHC)
James McDonald (vs. CHC; @ HOU)
Jordan Zimmermann (@ NYM; @ MIL)
Ryan Vogelsong (vs. SD; vs. LAD)
Jeff Samardzija (@ PIT; vs. STL)
Clayton Richard (@ SF; @ MIA)
Erik Bedard (vs. CHC; @ HOU)
Wandy Rodriguez (vs. CIN; vs. PIT)
Mat Latos (@ HOU; @ COL)

Kennedy had arguably his best start of the season in his most recent outing, going eight while allowing just one run with seven strikeouts and zero walks in Cincinnati. Despite some inconsistency, his base skills are actually better than last year’s with an equal strikeout rate and improved walk rate. He has been a bit too hittable, some of which could be bad luck, but some is his own doing. He needs to get back to commanding the zone the way he did in 2011. His control remains sharp, but he’s leaving too many fat pitches.

Wainwright just doesn’t have the Wainwright-ian consistency in his first year back, something for which he really shouldn’t be blamed. The strikeouts came back right away, but the velocity isn’t 100 percent back yet. I’ve mentioned before that I think he will get better as the season continues, and I remain steadfast in that belief.

A lot of fantasy owners seem to be disappointed in Zimmermann, particularly his lack of strikeouts. It would be nice if he was at a seven-plus K/9, and watching any of his starts would likely leave you with the impression that he could be an overpowering guy. Alas, he has a low-sixes rate, choosing instead to focus on pinpoint control and inducing groundballs. He has been remarkably consistent, going six or seven innings in every single start. His excellent WHIP and penchant for racking up quality starts give him plenty of value.

After a pair of brutal outings to close out June, capping off a poor month altogether, Samardzija has rebounded sharply in June with 24 strikeouts in 19 innings, leading to a great 2.37 ERA across three starts. Obviously his innings will be a concern going forward, but you should play him while you have him.

If you have been reading this column for any amount of time, you know how I feel about guys in Coors. Any marginal guy is an auto sit; studs are still worth starting, but they take a big hit to their normal ranking level. Latos has been strong since the start of May, and while Coors is always worrisome, it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that he gets out alive. Obviously the best case scenario would be a daily league where you can use the Houston start and pass on the Coors Field one.

Consider
Lucas Harrell (vs. CIN; vs. PIT)

Harrell has been up and down in terms of his earned runs allowed pretty much all season but has showed some solid skills to build on over his last 46 innings: an 8.2 K/9 and 3.2 K/BB. The Votto-less Reds represent a nice matchup, while the red-hot Pirates aren’t the no-brainer they used to be, with not only Andrew McCutchen but several other hitters on fire for the club. All that adds up to someone worth considered depending on your particular situation.

Sit
Joe Saunders (vs. COL; vs. NYM)
Drew Pomeranz (@ ARI; vs. CIN)
Chris Young (vs. WAS; @ ARI)
Joe Kelly (vs. LAD; @ CHC)
Randy Wolf (@ PHI; vs. WAS)
Jeremy Guthrie (@ ARI; vs. CIN)

I see Saunders’ 10.2 H/9 rate (which has, of course, led to an ugly 1.38 WHIP) and can’t envision his 3.52 ERA holding firm. From a statistical standpoint, he is the only one who might seem ill-fitting for this “sit” list, but I think he definitely belongs; he has been a bit of mirage this year. He’s a solid back-end real life pitcher but always a risky fantasy option.

AMERICAN LEAGUE
Auto-Starts: Felix Hernandez

He’s been vintage Felix in his last seven starts with a 1.36 ERA with 59 strikeouts in 53 innings.

Start
C.J. Wilson (vs. KC; vs. TB)
Doug Fister (@ CLE; @ TOR)
Hiroki Kuroda (@ SEA; vs. BOS)
Travis Blackley (@ TOR; @ BAL)
Wei-Yin Chen (vs. TB; vs. OAK)
Kevin Millwood (vs. NYY; vs. KC)

Wilson falls out of the “auto-starts” because his issues with walks have resurfaced. He is still going deep in games and preventing runs (save his recent outing in Detroit), though, thanks in large part to a 52 percent groundball rate that allows him to get out of the jams caused by his walks.

The All-Star break has seemingly put Fister back at 100 percent stamina, and he has come out with back-to-back gems against two solid lineups in the Orioles and Angels. The Orioles are more in the middle of the pack, but it was in hitter-friendly Camden Yards. Catching a Bautista- and possibly Lawrie-less Blue Jays lineup is a tremendous amount of good fortune too.

Kuroda has been great in his last eight outings, posting a 3.00 ERA that’s only that high because of rough outings in Boston and against the Angels, so who can really blame him there? He has 53 strikeouts in those 54 innings, and the trip to Seattle is enough to endure the risk against Boston.

It’s all about keeping the ball in the yard for Chen, and when he does that, he is successful (who isn’t?). Neither the Rays nor the A’s are all that power-driven, although Camden isn’t the best park for pitchers.

Whenever Millwood gets ripped in an outing, everyone is ready to say “well that’s it, this run has stopped,” and then he follows it up with two or three gems in a row, so I’m not yet ready to bury him for his seven-earned-run outing in Kansas City. He gets those Royals again, as well as the Yankees, but both are in Safeco, which always leans in the pitcher’s favor.

Consider
Francisco Liriano (@ CHW; vs. CLE)
Roy Oswalt (vs. BOS; vs. CHW)
Jose Quintana (vs. MIN; @ TEX)
Justin Masterson (vs. BAL; @ MIN)
Jeremy Hellickson (@ BAL; @ LAA)

It is hard not to get excited by 25 strikeouts in 14 innings, which is exactly what Liriano has done in his last two outings, but my resolve on him remains firm; I’m not ready to buy in. The numbers for those ready to buy in: 2.84 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 10.9 K/9, and 2.8 K/BB in 63 1/3 innings. He’s had seven solids starts out of 10 since rejoining the rotation, but part of me remains terrified by him.

Two difficult matchups for Oswalt leave me nervous about him, especially since it was the White Sox who smoked him for 11 runs (nine earned) in 4 2/3 innings back on July 3. Making things especially worrisome is that both games are in Arlington, a known hitter’s haven. Tread very cautiously.

Masterson and Hellickson have plenty of name value, but take a look at what they’ve done this year (or haven’t done, as it were) and tell me you are confident in them.

Sit
Felix Doubront (@ TEX; @ NYY)
Ubaldo Jimenez (vs. DET; @ MIN)
Bruce Chen (@ LAA; @ SEA)
Brett Cecil (vs. OAK; vs. DET)
Cole DeVries (@ CHW; vs. CLE)
Will Smith (@ LAA; @ SEA)
Tommy Hunter (@ CLE; vs. OAK)
Nick Blackburn (@ CHW; vs. CLE)

Doubront, someone I’ve gravitated toward since he become a starter, has two treacherous matchups on the road. He has also eclipsed the 100-inning mark after throwing just 87 a year ago, and we don’t if he will hit a wall with an expanded workload. I love his strikeout ability, but not this week.

None of these other names even drew consideration for a start; they simply don’t have the skills or overly favorable matchups that breed trust.

COMPOSITE RANKINGS
Auto-Starts

Kershaw, Felix, Greinke, Halladay, Dickey, Gonzalez, Johnson

Starts
Kennedy, Wainwright, McDonald, Zimmermann, Wilson, Fister, Kuroda, Vogelsong, Samardzija, Richard, Bedard, Wandy, Latos, Blackley, W.Chen, Millwood

Considers
Liriano, Oswalt, Harrell, Quintana, Masterson, Hellickson              

Sits
Doubront, Saunders, Jimenez, Pomeranz, Young, Kelly, Wolf, B.Chen, Cecil, DeVries, Smith, Hunter, Guthrie, a football player, Kate Upton, Blackburn

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

Related Content:  Felix Doubront

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