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September 13, 2013

Fantasy Starting Pitcher Planner

Week 25

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 25...

AMERICAN LEAGUE

AUTO-START: Cliff Lee, Zack Greinke, Mike Minor, Patrick Corbin, A.J. Burnett, and Hyun-Jin Ryu

START

Mike Leake

at HOU, at PIT

Andrew Cashner

at PIT, LAD

Jorge De La Rosa

STL, ARI

Tanner Roark

ATL, MIA

Joe Kelly

at COL, at MIL

Yusmeiro Petit

at NYM, at NYY

Jeff Locke

SD, CIN

Trevor Cahill

LAD, at COL

Notes:
  • Leake had a brutal month from August 4 through September 1, posting a 7.22 ERA in six starts and giving up fewer than four just once in that span. That run included two outings against St. Louis and one in Coors Field, which explains some of the trouble, but he’d been matchup-proof to that point so it’s still quite notable. He’s rebounded in his last two starts with a 1.35 ERA in a pair of wins against the Dodgers and Cubs. He has a great opportunity to stay hot with two weak-hitting teams on the road—where he fares better, with a 3.05 ERA in 94 1/3 innings.
  • Even with two worthwhile offenses coming in, I still like DLR for a pair in Coors as he fares much better there this season with a 2.76 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, and 2.4 K:BB ratio in 81 2/3 innings of work, compared to 4.19, 1.42, and 1.4, respectively, on the road in 86 innings. And since most of our leagues count wins, it’s worth noting that he’s also 10-1 at home.
  • Roark was tremendous out of the pen throughout August (1.19 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 4-0 record in nine outings, all but two of which were at least two innings long) before shifting to the rotation, where he has stayed hot through two starts. He has a pair of six-inning gems holding the Marlins scoreless and allowing just two to the Mets. The Braves will be his toughest opponent to date, at least on paper, but they have a .293 wOBA against righties in the last calendar month. That ranks 28th in all of baseball, topping only Seattle and Miami.
  • Locke hasn’t been too bad in first two starts back since rejoining the rotation after a short respite and he gets a pair of favorable matchups in his pitcher-friendly home ballpark.
  • Cahill has quietly run up a 2.97 ERA in six appearances (five starts and a four-inning relief appearance) totaling 33 1/3 innings. That includes a recent trip to Chavez Ravine where he held the Dodgers to three runs—only one earned—in six innings in solid no-decision. This is a rough pair of matchups so he just barely makes the start list.

CONSIDER

Dan Haren

ATL, MIA

Edwin Jackson

at MIL, ATL

Wily Peralta

CHC, STL

Notes:
  • Three of the more infuriating starters this year, who have all done just enough to tantalize, but also inflicted enough damage on our ERAs to make us gun-shy even in their most favorable matchups. If you’ve been following my work for any amount of time, you know how much I like Haren and Jackson, but my personal favor won’t cloud my judgment. I cannot condone starting them if you’re protecting crucial points in ERA and/or WHIP. If you’re the chaser in those races or better yet, in a strikeouts race, then my advocacy for all three increases quite a bit. Only Haren has an impressive strikeout percentage, but with such little time left, it’s a volume game at this point, too.

SIT

Lance Lynn

at COL, at MIL

Juan Nicasio

STL, ARI

Tom Koehler

at PHI, at WAS

Notes:
  • Lynn is really closer to a consider for the week, but that start in Coors Field put me on the side of caution with him, since I don’t have a tier in between Consider and Sit. Ideally you are in a daily moves league and you can skip the Colorado start and pounce on the Milwaukee one. He held them to an unearned run in six innings with 10 strikeouts on Wednesday.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

AUTO-START: Anibal Sanchez, James Shields, and C.J. Wilson

START

Sonny Gray

LAA, MIN

Alex Cobb

TEX, BAL

Corey Kluber

at KC, HOU

Scott Kazmir

at KC, HOU

Andy Pettitte

at TOR, SF

Rick Porcello

SEA, CWS

A.J. Griffin

LAA, MIN

Notes:

  • Gray has been tremendous in his first 48 innings as a major leaguer with a 2.63 ERA and 1.04 WHIP, but perhaps most impressive is his 27 percent strikeout rate, considering it is a good bit higher than anything he did in the minors. His 24 percent in Triple-A this year was a professional best before the promotion.
  • How many tough opponents do you see for Cobb this week? Most of you are answering two, but you might not realize that the Rangers have been quite pedestrian against righties during the second half with a .695 OPS and .303 wOBA, both below league average.
  • He wasn’t particularly sharp his last time out, but Kazmir still has a 3.18 ERA over his last 15 starts with 80 strikeouts in 85 innings. His six percent walk rate in that span is no doubt a key driver in his success.
  • Porcello gets his 20th start of the season against the White Sox this week. Actually, it’s just the sixth, but it certainly feels like more given that they’ve all come from July 10 on. He has a 2.02 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 4-0 record against them so far, including a complete game on Tuesday.

CONSIDER

Matt Garza

at TB, at KC

R.A. Dickey

NYY, at BOS

Notes:

  • “Oh sweet, Garza is on Texas! His ERA and WHIP might go up a little, but he will be in a much better position for wins!!”—idiots… including me. Garza left Chicago at 6-1, and now he’s a whopping 9-5. No, you can’t predict wins, but you certainly expect a good starter moving from a last-place team to a first-place one to get a few more. Where’s Brian Kenny?
  • Dickey hasn’t too bad since the break, believe it or not. He has a 3.79 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and a 3.2 K:BB ratio. It’s a far cry from the Cy Young winner from 2012, but also markedly better than the 4.69 ERA guy from the first half. So why is he just someone to consider? Because he’s got Boston. They are on fire and not to be trifled with if you can avoid it. The Yankees have been hitting well of late, too, but he fared well against them in back-to-back starts in late-August, allowing five runs in 14 1/3 innings with 15 strikeouts.

SIT

Scott Feldman

at BOS, at TB

Jeremy Hellickson

TEX, BAL

Joe Saunders

at DET, at LAA

Nick Tepesch

at TB, at KC

Brandon Maurer

at DET, at LAA

Liam Hendriks

at CWS, at OAK

Notes:
  • Feldman sees his ERA rise nearly two runs against the better teams in the league, with a 4.52 mark against teams at or above .500 compared to a sparkling 2.69 against the sub-.500 crew. The Rays aren’t exactly striking fear in pitchers right now, but the Fenway outing is enough to scare me off here.
  • Nothing of note with the remainder of this crew, which is still a little odd to say about a group that includes Hellickson, but he’s been that bad.

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:  Fantasy,  Two-start Pitchers

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Premium Article What Scouts Are Saying... (09/12)
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