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May 10, 2013

Fantasy Starting Pitcher Planner

Week Seven

by Paul Sporer

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Welcome to the Weekly Pitching Planner. Each week I will cover the pitchers are who slated to make two starts and help you decide who you should start and who you should sit. Sometimes guys will be in the “consider” where they might have one good start, but a second tough one and then your league settings might determine whether or not you should go forward with him. The pitchers will be split by league then by categories:

Auto-Starts – These are your surefire fantasy aces. You paid a handsome sum for them either with an early draft pick or high dollar auction bid so you’re starting them anywhere, anytime. Guys can emerge onto or fall off of this list as the season evolves. There won’t be many – if any – notes associated with these groupings each week. We are starting them automatically so why do I need to expound on how awesome they are and will be in the coming week?

Starts – These are the guys I’m recommending you put into your lineup this week. Some will be obvious, but not quite auto-start excellent while others will be waiver wire fodder who find themselves with a pair of favorable outings that you can take advantage of in your league. There will be accompanying notes supporting the decisions.

Considers – As mentioned earlier, these guys will be on the fence and your league settings and position in the standings will really be a decider here. If the Minnesota Twins fifth starter is slated to face the Astros at home followed by an interleague trip to San Diego, he will appear on this list because the matchups are great though he isn’t and if you are in a 10-team mixed league you probably don’t need to take the risk, but a 10-team AL-only leaguer might see it as a nice opportunity to log some quality innings from a freely available resource.

Sits – These are the guys I’m getting away from this week. They will range in talent from solid to poor. Rarely will you see a really good pitcher here unless he gets an “at COL, at TOR” slate. Speaking of the fateful “at COL”, any mediocre talent with a trip to Coors Field will be a sit until further notice. If they turn the humidor back on, I’ll reconsider, but after last year there is just no reason to throw any non-stud in that park.

And with that, here is our week seven slate…

AMERICAN LEAGUE

AUTO-START: CC Sabathia, Anibal Sanchez, Matt Moore, and Jake Peavy

START

Doug Fister

HOU, at TEX

Derek Holland

at OAK, DET

Chris Tillman

SD, TB

Hector Santiago

at MIN, at LAA

Jason Vargas

KC, CWS

Notes:
  • I beat the drum pretty strongly against folks always chalking up BABIP outliers to luck one way or another, but if you want to see some bad-luck BABIP, check out some of Fister’s starts. Sometimes it is the mediocre (at best) defense simply not turning his ground balls into outs, but other times it some of the most perfectly placed bleeders and bloopers that even an infield of Andrelton Simmons cloned at every position couldn’t get to consistently. Despite being delivered a handful of misfortune, Fister still has strong numbers on the season.
  • Holland had a strong April, but his last two starts have been his best, as he cooled off a blazing hot Boston Red Sox team with eight shutout innings and then went into Milwaukee, where the Brewers often rake lefties, and threw seven strong allowing just one run with six strikeouts. Some handy defense helped him escape major damage despite 10 hits allowed, but he still was unquestionably strong on the mound. He gets two more huge tests this week, but is definitely someone to trust.
  • So far, so good with Santiago the starter including a trip to Texas so let’s ride the wave with a modest Minnesota lineup and a good, but vastly underperforming Los Angeles lineup.
  • Vargas snapped a run of great starts with a tough one in Houston, as his bullpen failed him a bit to make it even worse. He gets the worst and fourth-worst AL teams against lefties next week to help him get back on track.

CONSIDER

Bud Norris

at DET, at PIT

A.J. Griffin

TEX, KC

Notes:
  • I’m just not sure Norris can tame the Tigers twice in 10 days, so even with the start in PNC Park, he’s only someone to consider depending on your situation. He is on a roll of three straight quality starts against Boston, Detroit, and the Angels.

SIT

Justin Masterson

NYY, SEA

Justin Grimm

at OAK, DET

Joe Blanton

KC, CWS

David Phelps

at CLE, TOR

Aaron Harang

at NYY, at CLE

Luis Mendoza

at LAA, at OAK

Pedro Hernandez

CWS, BOS

Notes:
  • Masterson’s first three starts saw him allow just one run in 22 innings. His numbers were better against lefties, something that has always been a problem, but there wasn’t anything different in his approach, which put the sustainability of the success into question. Lefties have an 843 OPS against him in the five starts since then, which is why he has a 5.91 ERA in those 32 innings. Both the Yanks and Mariners can stack about two-thirds of their lineups with southpaws.
  • Facing the third- and sixth-best offenses against righties is a challenge for anyone, much less a pitcher with only 43 innings under his belt; hence, Grimm should be on your bench.
  • Three straight quality starts doesn’t get Blanton out of the doghouse just yet. The component stats are still a far cry from what they were the last couple of years.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

AUTO-START: Jordan Zimmermann, A.J. Burnett, and Lance Lynn

START

Mike Minor

at ARI, LAD

Homer Bailey

at MIA, at PHI

Wade Miley

ATL, at MIA

Kyle Lohse

at PIT, at STL

Dan Haren

at LAD, at SD

Jeff Locke

MIL, HOU

Notes:
  • The back-to-back rough starts for Bailey were annoying, but he has a great opportunity to erase the damage with baseball’s worst offense and a Phillies lineup that doesn’t really scare anyone.
  • The schedule pits Lohse against his former teammates for the third time this year in just nine starts. He’s been dealt the loss both times despite pitching brilliantly the first time around (7 IP, 2 ER). They got to him for four earned in five innings thanks in large part to 11 hits in the follow-up outing.
  • Haren has been tough to watch this year as he seems to start laboring in the fifth inning of every start, putting even a win qualification in doubt, let alone a quality start. However, he’s been better of late, including two strong outings against the Reds and at the Braves. He wasn’t too bad against the Tigers earlier this week, either. If you don’t feel confident enough to start Haren during this west coast swing against the Dodgers and Padres, then you should just cut him. The Dodgers are baseball’s second-worst team against righties by OPS and the Padres are ninth-worst.

CONSIDER

Travis Wood

COL, NYM

Ricky Nolasco

CIN, ARI

Josh Beckett

WAS, at ATL

Jake Westbrook

NYM, MIL

Notes:
  • As we all wait for the other shoe to drop on Wood, he goes out and has his best start against a real team in the Cardinals only adding to the confusion. There is no discernible difference in his skills from last year with a 0.7 percent better strikeout rate and 0.5 percent better walk rate. His .198 BABIP and 81 percent left-on-base rates are big drivers in his success, and I simply cannot imagine either holding over the long haul. I’m afraid that when it goes, it’s going to be rough and all at once—something along the lines of an eight-earned-run bashing at the hands of the Rockies. I’d be very cautious.
  • The Nats and Braves lead the NL East this year, but neither offense is exactly rolling right now, so this might not be a bad spot for Beckett.
  • Westbrook’s an even-worse version of Wood, as his component skills are markedly worse from last year with a near 1-to-1 K:BB. He doesn’t have the insane BABIP, as his is just .305, but his 85 percent left-on-base rate is quite reliever-esque. He’s managed to allow zero homers in his 39 innings, a trend I don’t see continuing. I buy this even less than Wood and would trade him for just about anything of even the slightest value.

SIT

Jeremy Hefner

at STL, at CHC

Barry Zito

at TOR, at COL

Dillon Gee

at STL, at CHC

Eric Stults

at BAL, WAS

Juan Nicasio

at CHC, SF

Hiram Burgos

at PIT, at STL

Jeff Francis

at CHC, SF

Notes:
  • Hefner hasn’t been too bad in his last three, but his opponents were the three worst lineups against righties by OPS (Marlins, Dodgers, and White Sox), so I’m still skeptical.
  • How confident would you be starting Zito in Coors Field?
  • None of the remaining names have shown enough to make you confident in starting them twice this week. 

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:  The Who,  Bad Start,  Jeremy Hefner

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article On the Beat: No-Hittin... (05/09)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Fantasy Starting Pitch... (05/03)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Starting Pitch... (05/17)
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Fantasy Mailbag: The S... (05/10)

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