Archive for September, 2011

Tuesday: 09.20.2011

Trolling the Wire: The Finish Line

(Ed. note: – That’s embarrassing… this was supposed to go up at 11:30 AM yet it was scheduled for 11:30 PM by accident… sorry for those of you who needed guys today.  However I’ve used Holland and E-Jax so often that you probably could’ve guessed they would be the picks. )

Just about a week left (season ends Wednesday, September 28th) and while there might not be a lot of undecided races in Major League Baseball, there are still plenty of undecided winners in fantasy leagues everywhere.  Just within my own leagues there is one where five teams are split by just 6.0 points and another where three teams split by 6.5 points.  And of course any head-to-head league comes right down to the wire.

Last week’s spot starter picks did quite well if I may shed any modesty for a moment as they posted a 2.01 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 67 innings.  Just one of the 10 pitchers gave up more than three runs (Wade Davis, 4) and six gave up one or none so in a week when getting the best out your last remaining starts is especially crucial, these guys came through.

The Hail Mary picks

In theory every game counts the same, but in April or even August you have time overcome nightmarish starts, but with nine days left in the season it’s do or die.  One implosion can end your chances depending on the league standings.

With precious little time left, I’m focusing only on prime picks.  If you’re in Hail Mary mode just about anyone with a pulse will qualify so I don’t think I need to highlight those guys.  I’m going for the best and best (or best of the rest as it were since these are guys on many waiver wires).

TUESDAY:

Derek Holland (TEX @ OAK) – Holland has been mostly good to us and a start in Oakland is pretty close to a no-brainer with someone of his talent.

Edwin Jackson (STL v. NYM) – He’s been a stalwart for those who stream pitchers because no matter how well he pitched, he couldn’t seem to get any real respect this year.

WEDNESDAY:

No one of noteJavier Vazquez finally had his ownership rate move up significantly and it is now 73% so he is no longer available to us spot start players.  Some marginal guys I considered that would be upper tier Hail Marys include Brad Peacock, Brandon McCarthy and Wade Miley

THURSDAY:

Still no onePhilip Humber and Jeff Niemann are among the few longshot options, but Humber has been very inconsistent since the All-Star break and Niemann has the Yankees. 

FRIDAY:

Josh Collmenter (ARI v. SF) – A favorable matchup against a weak lineup (in a huge game for both teams, of course) and he has walked just three in his last five starts (all in one start against San Diego).

Matt Harrison (TEX v. SEA) – An even better matchup than Collmenter and while his control isn’t as sharp, his propensity for strikeouts is a bit higher.

SATURDAY:

Aaron Harang (SD v. LAD) – I have covered Harang at home on more than one occasion, he’s money at home.

Joe Saunders (ARI v. SF) – I know what you’re thinking, you thought I wasn’t going with risky plays here down the stretch, but Saunders has been money for a nice stretch and I like him against a weak lineup even if the game means a ton for both teams.

SUNDAY:

Mike Minor (ATL @ WAS), Edwin Jackson (STL v. CHC), Bud Norris (HOU v. COL), Derek Holland (TEX v. SEA) – All four have been staples on the Trolling so I don’t feel I really need to sell you on them with commentary.  If you have been streaming for any period of time, chances are you have used one or more of these guys on multiples occasions.

Monday-Wednesday later this week when the spots become official.

Monday: 09.12.2011

Trolling the Wire: Week 24 Tuesday-Friday

I didn’t love anyone for tonight’s games so this week’s Trolling will focus on Tuesday through Friday.  As with Sunday’s picks, I will mention some Hail Mary picks throughout that you can consider if you’re desperately trying to make a move.  I’m not counting these in my actual tally because while they are calculated picks that have enough upside to deliver, they are only being mentioned for the most dire of situations.

I will show you the weekly results with and without them just for fun, but note that the official numbers at year’s end will not include the longshot picks from Sunday and the rest of the season.

 

TUESDAY

Standard:

Mike Minor (ATL v. FLO) – He has gotten some dirty wins and his 3.58 ERA the last month (28 IP) isn’t off-the-charts great, but I love the strikeout potential with 30 in those 28 IP & 8.2 K/9 for the year.

Mike Leake (CIN v. CHC) – He just threw a complete game giving up two runs on three hits against these Cubs and he has a 2.74 ERA and 3.5 K/BB in 23 innings (3 starts) against them this year.

Cory Luebke (SD @ SF) – Up and down lately as the rookie seems to be hitting a bit of a wall (no more than 6 IP in last 6 starts).  Alas he remains a strong strikeout asset.  Despite three straight losses, he is still a worthy option, especially against the Giants.

Guillermo Moscoso  (OAK v. LAA) – Home: 6-2, 2.26 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 2.5 K/BB; road: 2-6, 4.82, 1.43 and 1.2.  Let’s play the numbers here.

Hail Mary:

Dillon Gee (NYM v. WAS) – He has been too inconsistent lately as he too may be suffering from the proverbial rookie wall, but he has three straight outings with six strikeouts and he is markedly better at home with a 3.18 ERA against 5.59 on the road.

 

WEDNESDAY

Standard:

Edwin Jackson (STL @ PIT) – I don’t understand how someone can be as good as he has been this season yet still have ownership rates below 50% at multiple outlets.

Wade Davis (TB @ BAL) – On the heels of a complete game effort with two earned runs against the Red Sox, Davis earns a look against an inferior opponent by comparison.

Derek Holland (TEX v. CLE) – The human rollercoaster.  Someone this inconsistent might be best suited for a Hail Mary, but I believe in his immense talent.  He laid an egg last time out against the Indians, but I think he gets them back.

Hail Mary:

Randall Delgado (ATL v. FLO) – Ultra-talented rookie against a lame Marlins team could end well.  He has been limited innings-wise in his first couple of starts since the recall, but he has also looked strong.

Bud Norris (HOU v. PHI) – Normally a standard pick, but against Roy Halladay his chances at a win are severely limited while the Phillies offense has become more imposing as the season has developed.

Rich Harden (OAK v. LAA) – He has crazy strikeout potential, but I think everyone has had him on their team at one point or another and knows just how maddening it can be.  Tread cautiously.

 

THURSDAY

Anibal Sanchez is still only on 72% of teams at ESPN.  I won’t count him as a pick because he isn’t widely available, but check your league just in case.  He should be back at 100% the way he has been throwing the last month.

Standard:

Brandon McCarthy (OAK v. DET) – Hate to go against my Tigers not only because they are my favorite team, but also because they have been rolling lately.  However, McCarthy has also been rolling and he could stop the locomotive known as the Tigers, especially at home.

Hail Mary:

Homer Bailey (CIN v. CHC) – Strong skills, but gopheritis continues to bite Bailey year after year.  A career-best 3.2 K/BB is worth buying into and it’s been even better the last month with a 5.8 K/BB powered by his 8.2 K/9 in 38 innings.


FRIDAY

Standard:

Javier Vazquez (FLO @ WAS) – I have been rolling him out weekly and it continues this week, though his ownership rate has finally crept above 60%.  Still too low.

Tim Stauffer (SD v. ARI) – Another hometown hero with a 2.76 in PETCO against a 4.95 mark on the road.  The skills are significantly better, too, with 6.5 K/9 and 3.4 K/BB marks at home against 5.7 and 1.7 on the road.  I thought he could be an any venue kind of guy, but it hasn’t played out that way in 2011.

Hail Mary:

Felipe Paulino (KC v. CHW) – A microcosm of his inconsistency can be seen in his last two starts: shuts down the Mariners in Seattle and gets crushed by the A’s in Oakland.  Strikeout potential is significant.

Sunday: 09.11.2011

Sunday Spot Starters

For many teams, Sunday could mark the end of their 2011 season.  Head-to-head leagues are in the playoffs and teams facing elimination will need their team’s best effort to advance on.  Hopefully enough categories are close enough to make winning a possibility as opposed to an unthinkable long-shot.

Since there will be different situations across leagues on Sunday, I will break the picks up between all-in picks and standard picks.  All-in picks are for those who need a miracle and just need to pile up strikeouts, win chances and hope for the best with the rates.  They will want to scoop as many standard picks as they can, but they may also need to dip into the all-in ones depending on availability.

Standard Picks: recommended for anyone employing spot-starting this season.

Javier Vazquez (FLO @ PIT) – He has allowed more than three just once since June 12th, I have no idea how he isn’t on more teams.  He is easily the #1 spot start for Sunday especially with a favorable opponent.

Josh Collmenter (ARI v. SD) – I remain stunned at how little love he has gotten this year even as his sample of quality of work expands.  He is still too available in my opinion.  He has been really sharp since a flameout start to begin August allowing no more than two runs in any of his six subsequent starts.  Throw in a very favorable opponent and he is an easy auto-start.

James McDonald (PIT v. FLO) – Obviously recommending opponents against each other limits the amount of wins you could possibly get, but Vazquez also might be on a team in your league whereas McDonald isn’t as likely to be on one.  He hasn’t quite been as sharp as Vazquez of late, but he hasn’t given up more than three runs since August 5th.

 

All-In Picks: recommending only for team managers desperate to make an impact whether in their final day of their H2H battle or in the waning days of their roto league.

Jake Westbrook (STL v. ATL) – The Braves are reeling having lost 7 of 10 while Westbrook was really sharp his last time out including nine strikeouts.  It was the first time he struck out more than four since July 15th.

Zach Stewart (CHW v. CLE) – After two shellackings, he went & threw a one-hit shutout with nine strikeouts against Minnesota in his last outing.  The odd thing is that one of the shellackings was doled out by the Twins.  He has shown both his upside & downside.  Like the Braves, the Indians are 3-8 in their last 10.

Edinson Volquez (CIN @ COL) – First off he is starting in Coors Field which is enough to make this a Hail Mary pick, but also consider that he is returning from the minors where he was sent for poor performance.  However anyone with any knowledge of Volquez knows just how good he can be so it might worth taking the chance that he returns to the majors with a bang.

Thursday: 09.8.2011

Fight for 15

I mentioned in part one of my top 15 starting pitchers for 2012 that deciding on the 15th guy was a bit of a task.  I had several guys who I felt could have reasonably been slotted there and eventually landed on Johnny Cueto.  There is no denying the fact that he hasn’t really earned his 2.05 ERA this year, as evidenced by his 3.87 xFIP and 3.78 SIERA.

That said, he is far from a shlub at the same time.  He has seen an 11% increase in his groundball rate to 53% with only some deterioration to his strikeout rate (down from 6.7 to 6.2 K/9).  In fact his strikeout rate has been up and down all season, but it was at a very impressive 8.1 per game over the last month.  The great part is that the uptick came without any damage to his groundball (held at 53%).

The 40-inning sample over the last month is small in the grand scheme, but I do believe Cueto can hold the groundball gains while also working his way into a consistent strikeout rate between 6.7 and 7.2.  I wasn’t merely blinded by the shiny ERA when I ranked him 15th, rather I believe in his talent and have been impressed in the starts of his I have seen this year.  That said, I stand by the fact that there were many candidates for the spot and I wanted to address them for those who were wondering.

Here they are in reverse order:

Jaime Garcia (STL) – It was more of a cursory thought to put him in at the 15-spot.  The quickness of the thought has nothing to do with the fact that he had a poor stretch in August.  If I was going to put him there, a bad month wouldn’t have dissuaded me, just as a great month wouldn’t elevate someone undeserving like Mark Buehrle into the discussion.

In the end, Garcia just didn’t stack up against a host of his peers.  He did have some modest gains on his breakout rookie season toting a near-3.0 K/BB while sustaining most of the 56% groundball rate we saw last year.  The WHIP is still problematic at 1.36, but the climb in hit rate might be linked to a worse infield defense for the Cards which they will hopefully address this offseason given their rotation.

Josh Beckett (BOS) – Beckett was easily identifiable as a regression candidate who in turn could be a fantasy star because of how much last year’s 5.78 ERA depressed his value.  He has exceeded even my wildest expectations with a 2.49 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in 174 innings, but a lot of it has been his BABIP, LOB% and HR/FB rates swinging all the way back to the opposite end of the spectrum this year.  For as unlucky as he was last year, he has been equally as lucky this year.

That said, the skills remain strong (8+ K/9 yearly saved 2006’s 7.0; K/BB below 2.6 just once in career) and as a part of the Boston Red Sox he should always have a shot at a nice win total as long as he stays healthy and makes 30+ starts.  But he is also a perpetual risk for at least a spell on the disabled list or a skipped start or two and his wildly inconsistent BABIP, LOB% and HR/FB rates in the face of the solid skills make it hard to put him in the top 15.

C.J. Wilson (TEX) – Who had this one pegged?  Just as he appeared to be coming into his owner as an ace late inning reliever, it was announced that Wilson would shift to the rotation and become a full-time starter.  Few, if any, had high expectations for this experiment yet he put together an impressive 204-inning debut as a starter last year with lone wart being his league-leading 93 walks.  Alas many remained skeptical, myself included calling for a 4.00ish ERA, for various reasons.  Wilson made significant improvements across the board and he is now a strong option atop a fantasy staff, but at 30 he lacks both the skill and upside of top 15ers.  However, that is a more of a commentary on how strong the pitching pool is these days as opposed to a knock on Wilson.

Yovani Gallardo (MIL) – Often when you see a young flamethrower fanning one or more batters per inning, his walk rate is around four or five a game.  While he may have electric stuff that can fool even the best big leaguers, he rarely knows exactly where it is going himself resulting in plenty of free passes, too.  If this type of pitcher is to become a reliable frontline starter and reach his true potential, you will see that strikeout rate tick down yet remain strong, while the walk rate sees major improvement.

This profile explains Gallardo who saw his strikeout rate dip to 8.2 after marks of 9.9 and 9.7 in his first two seasons.  His walk rate has improved drastically year to year, too, starting at 4.6 in 2009 before dropping to 3.7 last year and a much more palatable 2.7 this year.  At 25, Gallardo hasn’t yet reached his ceiling and we could still see him jump another level or two.  He’s getting better, but the best is yet to come.

Shaun Marcum (MIL) – I have nicknamed him “The Anti-Booster” as he has seen his strikeout and walk rates both erode despite leaving the hardest division on the planet for the much cushier NL Central.  The losses have been marginal (0.3 K & 0.5 BB), but it still interesting to someone with his skill get away from the AL Beast and not experience a spike in performance.  Sure, his ERA improved over a half of a run, but that’s clearly artificial when you look at the complete picture.  He strikes me as someone who will chronically be underrated and while he may never have that transcendent season that would bring deserved respect, he will continue to be a strong #2 fantasy asset coming at the price of a #3 or at least at the very end of the #2s.

Ian Kennedy (ARI) – After showing last year why he was so hyped as a Yankee farmhand, Kennedy has shown incremental improvement in his skills, but monumental improvement in his results.  Flyballs and specifically the home runs that result from them were his big issue last year, but he sliced 5% off of his flyball rate this year and with that his HR/9 dropped by 25% to 0.9 per game.  He has no doubt advanced a bit in 2011, but he can’t quite be relied upon for a sub-3.00 ERA going forward just yet.  He might not even be the top choice on his team for 2012.

Daniel Hudson (ARI) – His season is all the more impressive when you consider that he had a 5.30 ERA on May 1st after he allowed three runs in seven innings against the Cubs.  Since then he has gone 157 strong innings with a 3.10 ERA still hitting some bumps in the road which is what you would expect from a 24-year old in his first full season in the majors.  Some fantasy managers might be upset with the loss of a full strikeout down to 6.9, but the savvier manager is happier about the sub-2.0 walk rate.  An 8% dip in flyball, 7% of which went directly to his groundball, is arguably the most impressive development for Hudson this year.  For now he simply doesn’t have the track record to merit a top 15 position just yet, but this is a growth stock that is definitely worth buying into for the immediate future.

Ricky Romero (TOR) – Despite the huge dip in ERA from 3.73 to 3.01, Romero has essentially been the same pitcher in 2010 and 2011.  The main differences in his season have been a 40-point drop in BABIP and a massive 11% jump in LOB%.  That LOB% jump more than covered his 3% in HR/FB resulting in the improved ERA.  I am still a huge fan of the 26-year old lefty and feel that he has plenty of growth potential going forward.

Whether he deserved it or not, the improved results have paid huge dividends especially since he was underrated coming into the season.  I mentioned in my SP Guide that he was being listed behind the likes of Trevor Cahill, Jhoulys Chacin and Jeremy Hellickson at ESPN and he has thoroughly outclassed all three with Hellickson being the only one anywhere near him in results thanks to a wholly undeserved 2.90 ERA (4.24 FIP, 4.51 xFIP & 4.42 SIERA).

Matt Garza (CHC) – I may have reacted like a jilted lover when it came to forecasting Garza for 2011.  After diving headfirst into the front seat of his bandwagon for 2010 and projecting an elite season, I was left cold and unimpressed by essentially a repeat season (0.04 ERA & 0.01 WHIP improvements) replete with a nearly two strikeout dip and a third straight year of declining groundball rate.

I was worried about the new flyball-heavy Garza heading into Wrigley Field, even in light of the inherent National League strikeout boost.  Two straight years of 1.1 or worse HR/9 and a rising flyball rate would spell trouble in the Windy City especially when combined with Garza’s fiery attitude.  But he changed.  He has seen a major uptick in strikeouts with a career high 9.3 mark, but most importantly his groundball rate skyrocketed up 11% to 46%, a career high for a full season, yielding career-best 3.52 ERA that isn’t even as low as it should be given how well he has pitched.

Career worst BABIP and LOB% rates have teamed up to keep his ERA nearly a half run higher than his components suggest (3.16 xFIP & SIERA).  He had displayed little variance in his year-to-year BABIP and LOB% during his first three full seasons which is why this year screams aberration.  If his strikeout and groundball rates aren’t also aberrations, he might finally be in line for that huge season I saw coning in 2010.

Zack Greinke (MIL) – His was the name I heard most when it came to that 15 spot or being included somewhere within the top 15.  I definitely understand it and he was on the list during various iterations.  I made the move to Cueto late leaving Greinke on the outside, but the more I look at it the more I think a change may be in the offing.  I didn’t just look at his ERA and slot him 16th, I am well aware of the fact that he has been much better than his 3.93 ERA.

All of his component skills scream a sub-3.00 ERA, but he has struggled with runners on for a second straight season and his four years of HR/FB fortune seems to have bit back hard all at once this season with a 14% mark.  In the end, 10.4 K/9 and 5.1 K/BB rates are downright nasty and they carry the day as he should definitely improve going forward just as did as the 2011 season wore on.

Wednesday: 09.7.2011

Trolling the Wire: Week 23

The selective approach to last week’s Trolling picks paid off for us as the 10 starters logged a healthy 2.52 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 3.5 K/BB rate.  That isn’t to say I wasn’t aiming for precision with my in-season picks, but the risk threshold has definitely been tightened as we wind the season down because there is less time to come back from implosions.

Monday was the holiday and then I couldn’t get it done before Tuesday & Wednesday day games because of the day job so here are picks for Thursday-Saturday.  Apologies for those of you who needed M-T-W picks.  I’m already working on Week 24 so I have it ready to go right away this weekend along with some Sunday picks on Friday or Saturday of this week.

THURSDAY:

Ivan Nova (NYY @ BAL) – Three straight 7 inning starts in which he allowed just five runs (2.14 ERA) and netted three wins.  In fact, he has won eight straight starts only one of which was anything close to bad (7 ER in 5.3 IP at KC).

Mike Minor (ATL @ NYM) – He carries some risk as he has been a bit inconsistent mixing in a few 4-5 ER starts in with really good ones.  The one constant has been his strikeout rate (8.6 K/9) so if that is a need for your team, he is an auto-start.

Cory Luebke (SD @ ARI) – I have been a fan of his all year, but there may be more risk than you want to take on if you’re protecting ratios.  Two things working against him are that his two starts against Arizona haven’t been very good (7 ER in 11 IP) and his last two starts (one of which was an Arizona start) haven’t been great (8 ER in 10 IP) and some speculate he may be hitting a wall.  I’ll stand firm as the strikeouts remain strong and I think it is more of a bump in the road than something due to fatigue.

 

FRIDAY:

Bud Norris (HOU @ WAS) – He is a perfect spot starter with an ERA nearly a full lower against the bottom feeders (3.44 against sub-.500 teams; 4.37 against better than .500 teams).  His strikeout rate of nearly one per inning remains enticing, too.

 

SATURDAY:

Edwin Jackson (STL v. ATL) – He has a 3.44 ERA with the Cardinals despite the 8 ER beatdown in Milwaukee in his second start with the ballclub.

Anibal Sanchez (FLO @ PIT) – Appears to be improving over his last four and opponent like the Pirates is a great opportunity to stay hot.

 

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