Pitching Planner: When the Lady is a Tramp
If you believe in luck at all, I’m the last person who should be writing this week’s Pitching Planner. Given my plug and play results over the last few weeks across several teams, that lady is a tramp. Make that a mean tramp with hairy legs, a mullet, and a handlebar mustache. I’m pretty sure that’s the correct personification of Scott Kazmir’s last seven starts.
It’s not like I’ve been letting an actual baby pick my stocks, playing Russian Roulette with live bullets, or tossing horseshoes blindfolded. Kazmir’s recovered velocity was more than enough to make his nasty stuff work again, as long as he could command it and remember how to pitch again. Dan Straily was coming off a string of five good starts before giving me six runs on eight hits and just one strikeout. Chris Archer flashed great stuff and piled up strikeouts before his pitch count battles WHIPped me to death. Zach McAllister hadn’t given up more than three runs all season; when I picked him up, he promptly allowed seven runs on 17 hits and five walks in just nine innings before crash landing on the DL. I’d add Kevin Gausman, but A) that wasn’t a money league, and B) I’ve forbidden my fingers to type that name. Any time you make moves on the fringes of your fantasy roster, you expect to whiff on some of the results. But you also expect them depend on them to pay off more often than not.
I’m not actually blaming luck for any of those disasters. If you’ve been reading my columns, you know that I don’t believe in luck. I believe that you make your own luck with a sound approach and sound analysis. If you believe in your approach, you have to trust it (maybe tweak it) and wait for the results. If you believe in my approach, fasten your seat belt for this week’s picks.
TAKE A SEAT
Matt Moore, Rays
Michael Caron said to sell high on Moore for reasons that included a diminishing swinging strike %, lapses in command, high walk rate, and natural regression. Prescient as that was, it may not be enough to explain his horrendous June. Counting his rain-shortened single-inning outing on May 31 and excluding Thursday’s start against the Yankees, Moore posted a WHIP just under 3.00 and a 12.83 ERA in 13.1 IP during that stretch. All I can dig up is that he might be dealing with a dead arm and a drop in velocity, but no hint of an injury. Whether this is a gigantic hiccup or a return of the demons from the entire first half of 2012, don’t insert Moore into your lineup lightly. And don’t be fooled by the respectable outing against the battered Yankees. Their Thursday night lineup featured two lefty platoon bats (Hafner, Overbay), a lefty utility man with a .228 career average (Brignac), and perhaps the worst-hitting catcher in baseball (Stewart). He still allowed them to score three times.
Shelby Miller, Cardinals
Miller is Matt Harvey’s chief competitor for most valuable fantasy pitcher relative to draft position. Like Harvey two weeks ago, he just exited a start early with a non-arm injury. The calf cramp has been blamed on insufficient hydration and he will make his next start today (Saturday). Monitor that start closely before you plug him in to next week’s lineup.
We know what’s wrong with R.A. Dickey. He’s pitching hurt, which means he can’t throw the fabulous hard knuckler that took the sport by storm last summer, with its movement so chaotic and severe. For a guy who admits his slow knuckler is not as good as Wakefield, Hough, or Niekro and that it’s most effective when he uses it as a changeup, that’s bad news. Unless the back injury clears up on its own, Dickey will still have some successful starts, but he’s essentially 38 year old Tim Wakefield. I’m not even sure that’s a rosterable pitcher in shallow leagues (though 87% of ESPN owners disagree). I am absolutely sure that’s not a pitcher you want facing the Red Sox this week at Fenway.
Justin Masterson, Indians
Masterson considers to defy my expectations, mostly because I still think he doesn’t have the arsenal or approach to consistently get lefties out. I should have put him in my Trading Desk column as a sell high. Myth, mirage, or new man, hitters’ paradise Camden Yards seems like a time and place for regression. A second start next weekend against the offensively overdue White Sox seems like a time and place it might continue. Sell high Take a seat!
TAKE A CHANCE
Ervin Santana, Royals
He looked finished with the Angels last year, posting a 5.16 ERA and allowing 39 HR in just 178 IP, prompting this reaction from a well-known Royals blogger after the offseason trade. This year, he’s been brilliant (2.64 ERA, 0.98 WHIP) beyond anything his career numbers could suggest. There are plenty of reasons to expect regression, starting with a HR/FB rate that has only stabilized to 14% this year (from 18% last year). This week, you should stick with him and start him, with one start against dangerous but strikeout prone Atlanta and the other against the anemic Twins at pitcher-friendly Target Field.
Jose Fernandez, Marlins
If you have trust issues that extend to this young phenom, may I remind you that the Marlins have just five games next week? If they skip the fifth starter, Fernandez gets two starts, both at his pitcher-friendly home park, against a pair of weak offensive teams (Minnesota, San Diego).
Andrew Cashner, Padres
Had you asked me about Cashner three months ago, I would have predicted lots of walks, lots of strikeouts, and that the conversion to starter would be aborted by either pitch counts or injuries no later than June 1, with a decent chance he’d resurface as a middle reliever. Instead, Cashner looks like a different pitcher. He’s missing his hard slider, down on average five mph at one point last month, and that might be why his K/9 is a paltry 6.55. But he’s also averaging 6.27 IP per start, with a respectable 3.56 ERA that’s close to his FIP and xFIP, and a solid 1.23 WHIP. This week, he faces the Giancarlo Stantons Miami Marlins. And that’s why you take a chance on Andrew Cashner.
TAKE A DEUCE (Two-Start Pitchers)
Eric Stults, Padres
A soft tosser from the sinister side, Stults really likes it in San Diego. In his last 196 IP going back to 2012 (6.2 of which came with the White Sox), he’s posted a 3.05 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP despite a ghastly 5.4 K/9. His home/road splits show that he prefers home cooking, but he’s been successful this season with just six of his 15 starts in that park. If your league uses K/9 instead of total strikeouts, you should think twice before letting Stults ruin your numbers in that category. In standard leagues, his home start against the not mighty Phillies and road start against Miami make this the perfect week to pick him up. Just watch for some long term regression in BABIP against him.
Chris Tillman, Orioles
It seems like I’m forever writing about Tillman, probably because his ownership has held steady in the 25-35% range and he’s as unsexy as they come. But sex appeal is not required when you take a deuce at LeagueSafe Post, especially when your opponents are the lukewarm Indians and the floundering Yankees. Tillman’s skill set, his 7.11 K/9, and 4.25 xFIP look pretty good when you put your streaming goggles on.
Jeremy Hellickson, Rays
Warning: though available on waivers in 62% of ESPN leagues, this option is not for the faint of heart. You can take a pair of chances that Hellickson has finally appeased the luck dragons who treated him so well in his previous 366 IP. If you’re right, you’ve got someone with slightly more sex appeal than Chris Tillman. And while the park factors say Tampa is a great place to pitch, the resurgent Jays and the Detroit Bengal-like Juggernauts are not the best of partners for slump-busting.
Kevin Correia, Twins
Kevin Correia is a sorry excuse for a major league starting pitcher in the same way that an ’88 Ford Pinto is a sorry excuse for a mode of transportation. You might reasonably compare one’s top fastball velocity to the other top highway speed, except nobody would care about either one. Correia’s only statistical claim to fame this season is an 82% strand rate. That’s 13 points better than any of his prior three years. He simply doesn’t have the stuff to get out of jams on a regular basis. But if you’re in a deeper league or just desperate for a dozen IP in your weekly matchup, it’s not a terrible idea to get those innings in favorable parks against the Marlins and Royals.
Chris Capuano, Dodgers
Unlike several of the guys above him, Capuano can be a highly effective big league starter when healthy, with a change you can believe in and good career ratios (7.5 K/9, 2.8 BB/9). While he gives up far too many hits (1.33 career WHIP) despite a career BABIP under .300, he is not especially home run prone and has posted xFIP marks well under 4.00 for three years running. Like most Dodger pitchers this year, he can’t stay healthy, but he’s back now with a pair of starts against the Giants and Phillies. Unfortunately for streamers, he’ll be opposed by a pair of aces (Bumgarner and Lee) who will be feasting on the anemic Dodger offense, reducing your chances to pick up cheap wins.