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May 31, 2013

Fantasy Starting Pitcher Planner

Week 10

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 10 slate…

NATIONAL LEAGUE

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

START

Kris Medlen

PIT, at LAD

Trevor Cahill

at STL, SF

Kyle Kendrick

MIA, at MIL

Brandon McCarthy

at STL, SF

Tyler Chatwood

at CIN, SD

Ted Lilly

SD, ATL

Jeremy Hefner

at WAS, MIA

Tom Koehler

at PHI, at NYM

Jonathan Pettibone

MIA, at MIL

Notes:

  • Cahill is doing a lot of things right, which of course you’d expect from someone with a 2.88 ERA, but I do wish the component skills were a bit stronger. His strikeout and walk rates have fallen back to 2011 levels (16% K, 9% BB) and his defense has vacuumed up his 58 percent ground-ball rate into a ton of outs, en route to a .254 BABIP. He might not be quite this good, but he’s still someone I’m starting without worry.
  • Kendrick gets a pair of strong matchups to help keep his magic rolling, because truthfully, I don’t believe he is a 3.27 ERA guy. The Brewers create problems for lefties, but righties generally handle them.
  • I’m not jumping off of the McCarthy comeback trail because of a beating in Texas. If you like a particular pitcher before Texas, you should like him after regardless of the result.
  • Chatwood’s been good home and away against a variety of opponents, so let’s give him a go during the two-start week. I will preach caution against taking a glance his strikeout and walk rates and trusting them too deeply. Before his outing against Houston, he had a 16 percent strikeout rate and eight percent walk rate. They jumped to 21 and seven, respectively, after he threw six strong frames against them.
  • Hefner, Koehler, and Pettibone are all decent arms with quality matchups. Two of them get Miami; Koehler is a Marlin, so he can’t face his own team (but I’d start him if he did). All six of their opponents reside in the bottom seven in team TAv.

CONSIDER

Michael Wacha

ARI, at CIN

Andrew Cashner

at LAD, at COL

Marco Estrada

OAK, PHI

Notes:

  • Wacha was great in his major-league debut, but it was against an anemic Royals offense. Fantasy managers have a tendency to overreact to hot debuts, especially from darling prospects like Wacha. Both of these offenses can do a hell of lot more damage than the Royals, so be careful with the youngster.
  • Cashner hasn’t quite dazzled enough to get the nod in Coors Field, even a muted version of it. I could possibly consider him in some situations, but you mixed leaguers almost certainly have far better options.
  • Estrada has been maddeningly inconsistent this year, so it’s hard to give him a full endorsement, but this isn’t a terrifying slate, especially as the A’s have tumbled from their early-season perch at the plate.

SIT

Tim Lincecum

TOR, at ARI

Bronson Arroyo

COL, STL

Juan Nicasio

at CIN, SD

Eric Stults

at LAD, at COL

Kyle Lohse

OAK, PHI

Notes:

  • Take away the name value—would you really start Lincecum? And, if so, why?
  • The Cardinals bats came alive in May, and I almost fear them more than the Rockies on the road. It’s a tough go for Arroyo this week.
  • Lohse started off so nicely in April, but he has sputtered in May while dealing with an elbow issue. My guess is that he’s nowhere near 100 percent health-wise, so you can’t start him right now.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

AUTO-START: Felix Hernandez, Anibal Sanchez, and Jake Peavy

START

Justin Masterson

at NYY, at DET

A.J. Griffin

at MIL, at CWS

Chris Tillman

at HOU, at TB

Joe Saunders

CWS, NYY

Notes:

  • My two podcast co-hosts, Jason Collette and Doug Thorburn, both discussed Masterson recently, and specifically talked about his newfound success against lefties. Find those pieces here and here. There is some legitimacy to his surge, and I think you have to keep rolling him out right now.
  • Saunders is an entirely different pitcher at home, posting a 2.41 ERA in five starts compared to a 9.00 ERA on the road in six starts. His skills are markedly different, as well, and they favor his performance at Safeco. I caution against just blindly following these home-road split guys, but this pair of matchups sets up well for him, especially since the Yankees have faded massively against righties in May. Safeco is hell on lefties, and the Yankees lineup is riddled with them, from top to bottom.

SIT

David Phelps

CLE, at SEA

Justin Grimm

at BOS, at TOR

Ryan Dempster

TEX, LAA

Tommy Milone

at MIL, at CWS

John Danks

at SEA, OAK

Joe Blanton

HOU, at BOS

Roberto Hernandez

at DET, BAL

Lucas Harrell

at LAA, KC

Luis Mendoza

MIN, HOU

Samuel Deduno

at KC, at WAS

Erik Bedard

at LAA, KC

Notes:

  • Ugly week in the AL, as a lot of the middle-to-bottom tier guys have rough matchups that you should run away from and play it safer with one-start guys. The Indians offense is completely legitimate and they could feast on Yankee Stadium with up to six left-handers (or switch-hitters) in the lineup. The trip to Seattle for Phelps will be damage control for a rough start against the Indians.
  • Grimm allowed at least six hits in each of his five May outings. The White Sox, Tigers, and Mariners couldn’t capitalize; look for the Red Sox and Blue Jays to muscle up and take advantage.
  • The strikeouts from Dempster are great, but they can’t patch up all of his issues this year, specifically the home-run troubles. He’s given up at least one home run in all but three of his starts, and I don’t want to mess with him in a pair of tough matchups.
  • Speaking of home-road split guys (as I did with Saunders), Milone is known for his huge ERA splits. His 2.43 home ERA is supported by a 5.8 K:BB and 1.05 WHIP, but he turns into a hit machine on the road; his 5.55 ERA away from Oakland is less surprising when you see his 1.46 WHIP, which is driven up by 42 hits in 36 innings. Avoid him in two hitter-friendly ballparks, including a matchup against the Brewers, who pound lefties to the tune of the third-highest SLG in the league against them.
  • Danks got a soft landing for his first two starts of the season returning from injury with the Marlins and Cubs, but he’s given up six runs in 10 innings. However, I think he’s working his way into form and should get better as the season progresses.

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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