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August 31, 2012

Weekly Planner

Week 23

by Paul Sporer

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Back at it again, but a big thanks is in order to Derek Carty for filling in on both of my columns last week.

AMERICAN LEAGUE
Auto-Starts:
CC Sabathia and James Shields

Sabathia looks great since coming off of the disabled list, and Shields has been brilliant the last 30 days (2.01 ERA in 44 and 2/3 innings).

Start
Matt Harrison (@ KC; @ TB)
Yu Darvish (@ KC; @ TB)
Phil Hughes (@ TB; @ BAL)
Jason Vargas (vs. BOS; vs. OAK)
Anibal Sanchez (vs. CLE; @ LAA)
Clay Buchholz (@ SEA; vs. TOR)
Travis Blackley (vs. LAA; @ SEA)
J.A. Happ (vs. BAL; @ BOS)
Jose Quintana (vs. MIN; vs. KC)

I know you can’t really do this, but if you remove Harrison’s two starts against the Tampa Bay Rays in which he allowed 13 runs in 10 1/3 innings, he would be a 2.80 ERA pitcher over 164 innings. What he lacks in strikeouts he makes up for by piling up wins; he is usually money in the bank to go the requisite five and keep the Rangers in it.

How do you think those who paid top dollar for Darvish are feeling right now? Well right now they are probably feeling good, since he is surging during his last three outings (2.61 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and 28 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings), but overall it’s been rough.

It was an up-and-down August for Hughes, who managed a 3.82 ERA in six starts despite outings of four and seven earned runs in a total of eight and a third innings. That gives you an idea of how high the highs were, but home runs remain his biggest issue; he yielded five more this month. I still really like what he offers when he’s on, though.

Well, Vargas isn’t really dispelling that “only good at home” notion with back-to-back road bombs (11 ER in 8 2/3 IP). He too gave up five home runs but one-upped Hughes by giving them all up in those two ugly outings. At least he is in the friendly confines of Safeco Field this week.

Perhaps Sanchez is finally getting into his groove as a Tiger with his first back-to-back quality outings since the trade. The next step will be regaining his strikeouts as an American Leaguer. His K/9 has tumbled from 8.2 to 5.3 since being traded from Miami. While it is a short sample in Detroit, it is still a major drop worth noting.

Have you noticed how similar Blackley’s numbers are to teammate Brandon McCarthy’s? They’re nearly identical.

Outside of perhaps Harrison (though he’s also coming off of a big time dud), isn’t it hard to feel great about any of this week’s “starts”? Buchholz was rolling before back-to-back outings against the Angels—one awful and one shaky—pushed him off course a bit. This week’s matchups should get him right back on track, though.

I mentioned Happ and Quintana yesterday in Value Picks, so I will refer you back to that piece for more on them. And no, Quintana getting knocked around by the O’s on Thursday doesn’t greatly alter my opinion of him. There will be some duds, but profit comes with staying the course on guys like that.

Consider
C.J. Wilson (@ OAK; vs. DET)
Zach Britton (@ TOR; vs. NYY)
Corey Kluber (@ DET; @ MIN)

There’s a case for Wilson to go in with the “sits” given the way he has been pitching over the last two months (5.96 ERA in 71 innings), but I think his history has earned him the right to at least be a “consider,” especially with a trip to the O.co Coliseum on the docket.

With his domination of the White Sox on Thursday, Britton now has three straight quality starts with 21 strikeouts in 22 innings. We have seen him just fall apart without warning before, though, so I’m playing it cautiously with him.

The 5.16 ERA for Kluber probably scares most, if not all, away, but I see that being inflated by a couple rough outings in his limited sample of six starts. The 7.9 K/9 and 2.9 K/BB are far more appealing and make him worth a look, especially if you’re in Hail Mary mode looking to make up ground in the counting categories.

Sit
Jeremy Guthrie (vs. TEX; @ CWS)
Bruce Chen (vs. TEX; @ CWS)
Joe Saunders (@ SEA; vs. TOR)
Samuel Deduno (@ CWS; vs. CLE)

Both Chen and Guthrie have been sharp of late, especially Guthrie, who is surging since returning to the American League. Still, I just can’t envision trusting them in a double-start week against two of the toughest offenses in the league. It’s worth noting that Guthrie has allowed just three earned runs in 21 2/3 innings across three starts against the Rangers and White Sox (twice) during his recent hot stretch, but I’m still not lukewarm on these landmines.

NATIONAL LEAGUE
Auto-Starts:
Johnny Cueto

So good.

Starts
Kris Medlen (vs. COL; @ NYM)
Edwin Jackson (vs. CHC; vs. MIA)
Jeff Samardzija (@ WAS; @ PIT)
Patrick Corbin (@ SF; @ SD)
Mike Fiers (@ MIA; @ STL)
Wandy Rodriguez (vs. HOU; vs. CHC)
Ross Detwiler (vs. CHC; vs. MIA)
Shaun Marcum (@ MIA; @ STL)

I had to temper my Medlen love and resist putting him in the “auto-start” category since he has spent all of 40-something innings as a starter this season, but they have been so good: 0.66 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 8.4 K/9, 7.6 K/BB.

Jackson just keeps plugging away, and he has really added a strikeout element to his arsenal since the All-Star break: 63 strikeouts in 57 innings (10.0 K/9), including 29 in his last 21 innings (12.4 K/9).

Even when Samardzija’s off for a start or two, he still piles up the strikeouts. He is still trying to work down the damage done by the 12.27 ERA he accumulated in 18 innings back in June across four starts. He is finally at the point where one more good start should send him south of 4.00 for the first time since the beginning of the aforementioned stretch of hell.

Corbin gets a great pair of matchups as a follow-up to his strong August, during which he posted a 3.68 ERA and 1.14 WHIP while striking out 34 and walking eight in 36 2/3 innings. With the unexpectedly great seasons the D’Backs have gotten from Corbin and Wade Miley, it is pretty surprising that they are still three under.

Fiers got right back on track after the Coors Field hiccup, posting a 3.79 ERA in his subsequent three starts but, more importantly, adding 21 strikeouts and just seven walks in the 19 innings. He checks in a little lower than you might expect because of that trip to St. Louis, but he is still an easy start.

His skills have fallen off—most notable a major strikeout dip—but Wandy is pitching much better of late, posting back-to-back quality starts in his last two. He gets two excellent matchups in pitchers’ parks this week, so hopefully he can bring back the peripherals we saw in Houston for the rest of the season.

Detwiler has quietly been really strong this year. He isn’t missing a ton of bats with the same 5.6 K/9 we saw last year, but his 2.4 BB/9 makes that more palatable, especially when paired with a 3.32 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 133 innings. I’ve long been a fan of this lefty, and I was pleased to see Washington come to their senses and put him back in the rotation ahead of Chien-Ming Wang.

At least Marcum will get one more tune-up before heading to St. Louis, because his return from the disabled list wasn’t great. Sure, he didn’t give up an earned run in his five innings, but he gave up four unearned and definitely looked rusty. I still like him this week; I just want to see him get some innings under his belt after two-and-a-half months off.

Consider
Joe Blanton (vs. SD; @ SF)
Tommy Hanson (vs. COL; @ NYM)

“Consider” was the best I could do for Blanton; he has just been too hittable as a Dodger. I would fully understand sitting him for a week, even with the plum matchups.

I think it’s time to admit that 2012 is a lost season for Hanson, at least in terms of him performing up to expectations. Of course, the second you sit him he is going to throw a gem, but missing a gem is always better than taking a shellacking.

Sit
Joe Kelly (vs. NYM; vs. MIL)
Ricky Nolasco (vs. MIL; @ WAS)
Jacob Turner (vs. MIL; @ WAS)
Barry Zito (vs. ARI; vs. LAD)
Colorado SPs (@ ATL; @ PHI)

Not buying Nolasco’s shutout against Washington as a harbinger of things to come.

COMPOSITE RANKINGS

Auto Starts

Start

Consider

Sit

Cueto

Medlen

Wilson

Chen

Sabathia

Jackson

Kluber

Guthrie

Shields

Samardzija

Britton

Kelly

 

Harrison

Blanton

Nolasco

 

Corbin

Hanson

Turner

 

Darvish

 

Saunders

 

Hughes

 

Deduno

 

Fiers

 

Zito

 

Vargas

 

Colorado

 

W. Rodriguez

 

 

 

A. Sanchez

 

 

 

Detwiler

 

 

 

Marcum

 

 

 

Blackley

 

 

 

Buchholz

 

 

 

Happ

 

 

 

Quintana

 

 

 

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:  Back,  J.A. Happ,  Hot Starts,  Matchups

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