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August 3, 2012

Weekly Planner

Week 19

by Paul Sporer

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A number of rotations got jumbled this week, so the projections for some two-start guys got shuffled around, creating some repeats in both leagues, starting with the AL “auto-starts”…

Auto-Starts: Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver, and James Shields

Shields is on notice. He hasn’t been 2011 Shields, but he did just unleash an 11-strikeout shutout on Oakland’s face. Their offense is hardly great, but they have been raking of late; plus Shields had been horrible, so I’m not going to discount the feat. If you have him in an AL-only, I just don’t see how you could play matchups with him.

Phil Hughes (@ DET; @ TOR)
Scott Diamond (@ CLE; vs. TB)
Ivan Nova (@ DET; @ TOR)
Jon Lester (vs. TEX; @ CLE)
Jarrod Parker (vs. LAA; @ CHW)
Yu Darvish (@ BOS; vs. DET)
Carlos Villanueva (@ TB; vs. NYY)
Zach McAllister (vs. MIN; vs. BOS)

Since his home run massacre in Yankee Stadium in the fateful afternoon game against the Braves during which he allowed four bombs, Hughes has posted a 2.39 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 49 innings. While his 5.9 K/9 doesn’t jump out, the 2.9 K/BB is strong. The 1.1 HR/9 is a bit misleading since three of the six home runs came in one game against Boston (all solo shots).

Diamond is another guy who isn’t lighting up the strikeout counter, but he simply continues to get it done as a prototypical pitch-to-contact, pinpoint control Twins pitcher. He has a 2.93 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in his 107 innings of work, thanks in large part to a 1.3 BB/9 which has allowed him to post a 3.9 K/BB despite a very meager 4.9 K/9. With the more talented (but maddeningly inconsistent) arms of this week’s two-start slate facing much more difficult matchups, Diamond becomes a pretty safe option to invest in, especially if strikeouts aren’t a prime need.

Perhaps the best example of those talented but inconsistent arms is Darvish, who still boasts a 10.2 K/9 in 127 innings but also a 4.38 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, and 4.9 BB/9. A trip to Fenway and a home start against the Tigers don’t exactly instill one with confidence in him, either. I think you still run him out there in most instances, but he’s not the automatic play he was earlier in the season.

It’s only been six starts, but Villanueva has been excellent as a starter with a 3.15 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 9.3 K/9, and 3.5 K/BB in 34 1/3 innings. His opponents over that stretch have included the Sox in Fenway and home bouts with the Tigers and Angels, so it hasn’t all been easy. And since you can never really predict baseball, of course his worst start of the year came against the Mariners in Safeco.

Jason Vargas (@ BAL; @ LAA)

You know by now how great Vargas is in his home ballpark of Safeco, but he has been really good on the road of late. Back in late June, the Diamondbacks torched him for 10 earned in just 4 1/3 innings in Chase Field, but in his three road starts since then he has a 1.71 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in 21 innings. Mind you, the trips were to Oakland, Kansas City, and Tampa Bay—which yields a mix of solid venues and weaker offenses—but the performance was still notable given his usual struggles outside of Seattle. As our only “consider” of the week, Vargas probably offers the most value by being sat in Baltimore and played in LA, but if you’re desperate, go for it.

Rick Porcello (vs. NYY; @ TEX)
Bruce Chen (@ CHW; @ BAL)
Corey Kluber (vs. MIN; vs. BOS)
Zach Britton (vs. SEA; vs. KC)
Luis Mendoza (@ CHW; @ BAL)
Aaron Cook (vs. TEX; @ CLE)

I’d be wasting your time to explain why any of these are not safe options in any league format. I know there are some head-to-head leagues that overrate the heck out of any two-start guy regardless of talent, but I’m still not totally convinced these guys would be worth the headache.

Auto-Starts: Matt Cain, Johnny Cueto, A.J. Burnett, and Yovani Gallardo

Burnett makes his first appearance in the “auto-starts” category, taking the place of teammate James McDonald, who has been stuck in a funk of late. Meanwhile, Gallardo has just six walks in his last five starts after posting a 4.1 BB/9 in his 102 innings of the season.

Chris Capuano (vs. COL; @ MIA)
Jon Niese (vs. MIA; vs. ATL)
Lance Lynn (vs. SF; @ PHI)
Wade Miley (@ PIT; vs. WAS)
Edwin Jackson (@ HOU; @ ARI)
Ben Sheets (@ PHI; @ NYM)
Matt Garza (@ SD; vs. CIN)
Jeff Karstens (vs. ARI; vs. SD)
Vance Worley (vs. ATL; vs. STL)
Ross Detwiler (@ HOU; @ ARI)
Jake Westbrook (vs. SF; @ PHI)
Bronson Arroyo (@ MIL; @ CHC)
Pat Corbin (@ PIT; vs. WAS)

It was a rough month for Capuano in July; he posted a 5.14 ERA in six starts, but he still fanned 30 batters in his 35 innings and walked just 10, so the skills held up. I think because he has kind of risen to a new level this year, many are worried that the July struggles are the beginning of the end, but I am not as worried.

Speaking of rising to a new level, Niese has been on fire since the start of June, rocking a 3.11 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in 75 1/3 innings across 11 starts. He also has a 7.3 K/9 and 6.1 K/BB in that span. He has been a much better pitcher this year; his stuff has gotten crisper, making it more difficult for hitters to square him up. After a pair of 10-plus H/9 seasons, he is down to 8.1 H/9 this year, helping him shave his WHIP from 1.41 to 1.17.

After some concern that the wheels were coming off for Lynn, he went out and posted a 2.63 ERA in July with 25 strikeouts in 24 innings. In fact, he had only given up one run in the first three outings of the month (spanning 19 innings) but struggled a bit to close out the month in the Wrigley. Meanwhile, he tamed the beast that is Coors Field on Thursday evening, allowing just two runs in six innings of work.

A fully healthy Garza would rate much higher on this list, but he hasn’t pitched since July 21, so we’ll tread a little cautiously here. Hopefully the time off gets him fully rejuvenated for a stretch run more on par with his base skills.

The remaining names on the “start” list aren’t exactly a group of aces, but they all have some favorable matchups and have done enough this year and/or throughout their careers to warrant running them out there for two starts this week.

Wade LeBlanc (@ NYM; vs. LAD)
Drew Pomeranz (@ LAD; @ SF)
Travis Wood (@ SD; vs. CIN)
Barry Zito (@ STL; vs. COL)
Jordan Lyles (vs. WAS; vs. MIL)
Dallas Keuchel (vs. WAS; vs. MIL)
Kip Wells (vs. CHC; @ PIT)
Jonathan Sanchez (@ LAD; @ SF)

LeBlanc was the closest thing to a “consider” for the NL this week, but with just one start on the season (and just 4 1/3 innings at that, since they’re stretching him out), I want to see more from him first. Pomeranz at least gets to avoid Coors Field all week, but he is the rare Rockies starter with a worse ERA on the road (6.23) than at Coors (4.58). His peripheral skills are better, but his 1.44 WHIP isn’t far from his 1.50 mark in Coors. Of the remaining guys, only Wood has done much of anything this year, but he has a 10.45 ERA in his last four starts after a tidy 3.05 in his first 10. I just don’t trust him.


Verlander, Cain, Weaver, Cueto, Burnett, Gallardo, Shields

Capuano, Niese, Lynn, Miley, E-Jax, Sheets, Garza, Hughes, Diamond, Nova, Lester, Parkers, Karstens, Worley, Darvish, Detwiler, Villanueva, McAllister, Westbook, Arroyo, Corbin


Porcello, LeBlanc, Pomeranz, B.Chen, Wood, Kluber, Britton, Zito, Mendoza, Lyles, Keuchel, Wells, Sanchez/Cook

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:  A.J. Burnett,  Fantasy,  Two-start Pitchers

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