This week’s Weekly Planner, more than ever, is rife with uncertainty as teams still haven’t put their rotations in stone, so this is definitely subject to change. I did my best cobbling a few sources together as well as my own leg/guess work.
There is a wide chasm between these two, obviously, but Lester isn’t killing you like some would-be aces (I’m looking at you, Timmy), so you have to keep him in there despite sub-optimal performance. He actually is sporting a three-year high in strikeout-to-walk ratio at 3.1 thanks to a career-best 2.4 BB/9, so even though it has felt like a completely awful season from him, it hasn’t been one.
Phil Hughes (vs. TOR; @ OAK)
Matt Moore (vs. CLE; vs. SEA)
Jason Vargas (@ KC; @ TB)
Roy Oswalt (@ OAK; @ LAA)
Drew Smyly (vs. LAA; vs. CWS)
Gavin Floyd (@ BOS; @ DET)
Bartolo Colon (vs. TEX; vs. NYY)
Plenty of names I like here, but many are facing less than ideal matchups.
Hughes has been really good since that four-homer shelling against Atlanta back on June 20, and he was quiet excellent for a stretch before that too. Despite a tough lineup coming to the homer haven that is Yankee Stadium, I think he is a clear start for the week.
Moore has inexplicably been wretched against lefties this year, yet I can’t help but think this is something the Rays can help him figure out. Jason Collette and I discuss this seemingly weekly and did so again on the July 13 episode with Cory Schwartz (which may be out by the time you read this), and Jason posits that it is Moore’s position on the third base side of the rubber that contributes to the woes. Cleveland, terrible against lefties on their own, ripped Moore the last time, but I’m still betting on the odds; the Indians and Mariners rate 24th and 29th, respectively, against lefties in terms of OPS this year.
A quick look at the splits suggests Vargas is purely a home/road play in the vein of Tommy Milone, but further investigation tells a bit of a different story. Yes, he is an auto-start at home, where that stadium plays perfect to his (and really any pitcher’s) style, but his road numbers are inflated by a couple of rough outings away from Safeco (aptly named for pitchers). One in particular was a 10-earned-run smashing at the hands of the Diamondbacks. He’s not a star on the road, but the Royals and Rays check in at 22nd and 23rd on those OPS vs. lefties rankings, so I like him even in their venues.
I look at Floyd’s skills and wonder how he has a 4.54 ERA. He is posting a career-high strikeout rate (8.0 K/9) and a 2.7 BB/9 that is better than his 2.9 career mark, yet the home run woes from his early days have crept up to bite him again with a 1.5 HR/9. I’m quite bullish on him going forward but am a little skittish this week with a trip to Fenway and a faceoff against the hot-hitting Tigers. He showed for three straight years that he can quell the gopheritis (1.0 or lower HR/9), so I’m betting on this year’s rate trickling down as the season wears on.
Blackley has been nothing short of excellent this year, and his Ryan Vogelsong-esque story is great, but we made Vogelsong prove it for a while before buying in, so Blackley gets the same treatment. I love the venue, but those are a couple of beastly matchups. This is an incredible test, and if he passes it, then I will be more apt to trust him going forward. Your mileage may vary.
Pitching machines set on level one have yielded fewer home runs than Santana and Humber this year. A pair of outings in Detroit, a trip to Fenway, and the Texas lineup is on their slate this week. No thanks.
Auto-Starts: Anibal Sanchez
Sanchez has been rollercoastery of late, so hopefully the time off did him some good and allowed him to get his head in order and find out what is causing his inconsistency. The average ERA (yes, that essentially says average earned run average) aside, his skills have been nearly equal to last year’s sharp marks. He gave back some strikeouts but also shaved the walk rate, a trade I’ll make if you are still fanning eight per game.
There is a chance Roy Halladay will get a two-start week, which would obviously qualify him for this arena as well, but at press time nothing concrete was available.
Niese has auto-start potential, but he is still a bit away from that ceiling thanks to a home run issue that has crept up and inflated his ERA this year. At least he finally has the sub-4.00 ERA he has seemingly deserved each of the last two seasons, though.
Those of you waiting for/expecting Capuano to fall off will likely be disappointed. He may not track with a sub-3.00 ERA all year long, but he is definitely a sub-3.50 guy, and he continues to miss bats at a better-than-eight-per-game clip, making him a real fantasy asset across all formats.
Bauer finally had his coming out party, but it was against the neutered Dodgers lineup, so it is hard to fully count it. I still want to see something against a more formidable lineup. Even the Dodgers lineup with Matt Kemp would be enough for me, but not the current lineup that Tim Lincecum even worked over recently. Until then, I have to lean on the more trustworthy assets like Jackson, Lohse, and even teammate Miley. No doubt they all carry less upside, but part of two-start weeks is not getting smashed either.
I like both Reds, but they have home run issues that scare me, especially with a date against the Brewers on the docket. The Brew Crew rip righties with the second-most homers in baseball at 81. The D’Backs don’t fare quite as well power-wise, but they are smack dab in the middle for OPS against righties, and Cincy’s ballpark can turn well-struck balls into homers in a hurry.
Karstens is pitching pretty well this year, but a trip to Coors nixes him. Meanwhile, Friedrich might have had a shot this week had he been facing the early-season Pirates, even in Coors, but the new and improved Pirates are mashing the hell outta the ball, so even a trip to Petco can’t sway me. If you can make daily moves, then I would use both Karstens and Friedrich in their non-Coors starts.
Sabathia, Sanchez, Lester
Niese, Capuano, Moore, Vargas, Oswalt, Smyly, E-Jax, Miley, Lohse, Floyd, Bauer, Colon
Blackley, Cobb, Bailey, Arroyo, Happ, Detwiler
Karstens, Friedrich, Santana, Humber, Porcello, Cook, Alvarez, Lyles, Zambrano, Gonzalez, Francis