Archive for ‘Spot Starters’

Monday: 07.30.2012

10 Injured Pitchers on the Way Back

It seems like somebody or somebodies of consequence succumb to injury daily during the dog days and wind up on the disabled list. Subsequently that puts a strain on waiver wire availability as we see fewer and fewer attractive options.  Some leagues will always have someone worthwhile, but others are riddled with retreads and those who are actually getting hurt because roster space becomes too precious to hang onto the disabled.  As Roy Oswalt has proven once again tonight (8 ER on 11 H in 5.3 IP), pitching at anything less than 100% is difficult, even for a former star.

With that in mind, understand that these arms may deliver nothing of value once they return (if they return) to the hill.  However, as we end the final third of the season, taking chances on upside can be the difference between winning a title and not, securing a money spot or waiting for a check in October that isn’t coming.  Here are 10 pitchers in various states of disrepair and of various talent levels who could be had for free in a good number of leagues (or at a discount via trade) and end up delivering some high quality innings for you.  Keep in mind that some of these guys are still quite some time away, so plan accordingly to that end.

Brandon McCarthy

Out Since: June 19th w/shoulder injury

Status: Literally just started his rehab start as I’m typing this

Availability: On 44% of rosters in Yahoo!; 46% in ESPN

He was hoping to avoid a rehab start altogether, but it wasn’t to be so he’s starting for Sacramento tonight (Monday evening) and if all goes well then he should take his turn with Oakland later this week.  If you think the injuries for McCarthy have been frustrating for you as a fantasy manager of him, try actually being him.  I imagine it is especially trying to get in a groove only seemingly every time off the DL only to keep going back on a few weeks later.

When on the field, he has been straight-killin’ it this year with a 2.54 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 78 innings.  He was white-hot before hitting the DL the most recent time with a 1.35 ERA and 0.80 WHIP in 20 innings across three starts.  Strikeouts aren’t really his thing (usually ranging 6-6.5, which is average to slightly below depending on year), but thankfully neither are walks (2.2 BB/9 this year after an amazing 1.3 last year).  Love that park, plus the sweet-swingin’ A’s might line him up for a few more Ws, too.

Brandon Morrow

Out Since: June 11th w/oblique injury

Status: On rehab assignment touching 95 MPH

Availability: On 78% of rosters in Yahoo!; 55% in ESPN

Two things have plagued Morrow as a starter: walks and injuries.  He has been improving yearly with the former including a huge step forward in 2012 (2.8 BB/9; 8% BB rate) and appeared to be ready for a full-fledged breakout season before the oblique sidelined him back in June.  After fanning just 12 in his first four starts (27 innings in all), he fanned a much more Morrow-esque 55 in 51 innings spanning eight starts.  Check your wire if you have roster space as he is out there in some league, but most likely you’ll have to see about netting him at a discount* via trade.

*admittedly that discount is probably shrinking now that he is on rehab

Jaime Garcia

Out Since: June 5th w/shoulder injury

Status: Started his rehab on Monday w/2.3 scoreless

Availability: On 38% of rosters in Yahoo!; 29% in ESPN

Before finally hitting the DL in early June, Garcia labored through a pair of ugly starts, the latter of which he probably never should have made as he had already been skipped in the rotation after the shaky outing against the Phillies on May 26th.  In fairness, it’s pretty easy for me to say that now and the Cardinals were working with a helluva lot more information than I have now or did at the time.

I don’t think Mike Matheny would’ve let his guy go out there if he thought it would eventually put Garcia down for two months.  If you discount the Houston implosion right before the DL, Garcia was essentially having his 2011 season again.   Now is the perfect time to scoop Garcia up on the sly, especially if you have a free DL spot dying to be utilized.

Shaun Marcum

Out Since: June 14th w/elbow injury

Status: Looking to start a rehab this weekend; could be dealt during waivers deadline in Aug.

Availability: On 68% of rosters in Yahoo!; 64% in ESPN

Don’t ask me how/why he is on so many more teams than these other three.  I guess it could be his strong strikeout totals (8.4 K/9, 23% rate) that standout above the other three (especially since Morrow got a late start on his) while his ERA, WHIP and walk rate are in the neighborhood or better than them as well.  But still, I’m surprised so many have held on as there wasn’t much good news throughout July.

Things are looking up now and Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports speculates that he could be a waive trade candidate.  That would surprise me.  There might be around $2.5 mil owed to him depending when he hit waivers, but that’s it as he is set to be a free agent this winter so surely some wildcard contender would claim him to block a trade to their opposition if he came available.  For our purposes, his venue doesn’t much matter, as long as he is back on the field there is bound to be some worthwhile production.

Ted Lilly

Out Since: May 23rd w/shoulder injury

Status: Started his rehab Sunday and will probably need a couple outings (results)

Availability: On 42% of rosters in Yahoo!; 37% in ESPN

Lilly had developed one of the most stable skillsets in the games the last several years, but unfortunately those skills have tumbled significantly in 2012.  Of course, it’s also been a tiny eight game sample and his numbers are heavily influenced by outings of six and five walks in Houston and in Arizona so it’d be a bit premature to bury him.  Meanwhile, he has enjoyed success (3.14 ERA, 1.13 WHIP) in spite of the 5.7 K/9 and 1.6 K/BB in 49 innings. I would still take a shot on a healthy Lilly in 12 team leagues or higher.  I think he is still a spot starter at best in 10-teamers so no need to rush out and get him before he gets back to the Dodgers.

Brett Anderson

Out Since: June 5th, 2011 w/Tommy John Surgery

Status: Has made 2 rehab starts has a few more slated in AAA before heading to Oak.

Availability: On 4% of rosters in Yahoo!; 0% in ESPN

One of the brighter young pitchers in the game, Anderson fell victim to the Slider Monster who ate his elbow up after he threw the pitch a career-high 40% of the time in his 83 innings last year.  He is working his way back from Tommy John and could be this year’s Tim Hudson, who put together seven strong starts down the stretch in 2009 in his return from TJS.  Jordan Zimmermann was OK in his seven starts in 2010, but better in a real-life aspect than a fantasy one.  Stephen Strasburg was unreal in five outings a year ago, but he’s on a different level than those other guys.

The issue for Anderson is where he fits into the rotation, especially with McCarthy on the way back.  Of course neither McCarthy nor Bartolo Colon are models of health so I’m sure the situation will work itself out by the time Anderson is officially back.

This next group of guys are a good further away, so I’m just putting them on your radar to either make a note about or stash in deep leagues if they’re available and you desperately need pitching.

Jeff Niemann

Out Since: May 14th w/broken leg

Status: Threw a bullpen, simulated gm on tap followed by rehab; looking at late-Aug. return

Availability: On 3% of rosters in Yahoo!; 0% in ESPN

Coming back from a non-arm injury gives Niemann a leg up on the others listed, but he is still looking at a late-August return so there won’t be much time for him to contribute once he is back.  He was in the midst of following up his strong second half from 2011, too, before the freak accident with the broken leg derailed his 2012.

Tim Stauffer

Out Since: May 14th w/elbow injury

Status: Threw a bullpen last week, rehab forthcoming & return slated for late-Aug.

Availability: On 8% of rosters in Yahoo!; 19% in ESPN

Stauffer appeared to be getting his career, one plagued with injuries, back on track after a breakout season at age 29 in 2011 that saw him throw 186 strong innings with a 3.73 ERA and 1.26 WHIP.  Injuries limited him to just 14 innings from 2006-2008, including a completely missed season in 2008, so even working his way back into effective relief was a win for Stauffer.  Hopefully he gets back in time to make 6 or 7 starts to close out the season especially since 15 of their 26 September games are in Petco Park.

Jhoulys Chacin

Out Since: May 1st w/pectoral muscle injury

Status: Made it through his first rehab pain-free; slate back mid-Aug.

Availability: On 16% of rosters in Yahoo!; 5% in ESPN

Even when he makes it back, how much can he be trusted in that park the way it’s playing this year?  With the margin for error virtually non-existent in Coors Field these days, his elevated walk rate is especially treacherous (4.3 BB/8 career; 5.5 this year).  When he’s on, he can be a big strikeout guy, but at 24 he is still very much a work in progress.  This is more for keeper leaguers who are playing with an eye on 2013 as I wouldn’t trust my contending ratios to Chacin in Denver coming off of injury.

Rubby de la Rosa

Out Since: July 31st, 2011 w/Tommy John Surgery

Status: Slated for rehab in return from Tommy John

Availability: On 0% of rosters in Yahoo!; 0% in ESPN

It remains to be seen whether or not he will pitch in the majors at all in 2012 and then if he does, his role is undecided.  He could just get his feet wet as a reliever, though his long-term outlook remains in the rotation so this would be another one for keeper leaguers with an available spot for a highly talented youngster.  I am a huge fan of this 23-year old going forward, but he might not pay major dividends until 2014.

Monday: 05.28.2012

Trolling the Wire Notes: Week 10

Early games made it difficult to get any Monday picks in with the holiday, but the rest are updated in the sidebar.  Some of the picks are thinning out, but the TTW All-Stars include Felipe PaulinoAJ BurnettErik Bedard and of course, Edwin Jackson.  Jackson’s becoming less available, but he is still on enough wires to fit into the threshold.  I still like Anthony Bass despite a hiccup last week.  Meanwhile, JA Happ looks like he might be emerging as a solid option to rely on going forward for those who stream starters.  I was surprised to see Trevor Cahill down at 15% at ESPN, but I guess his peripherals have been pretty weak thanks in large part to his elevated walk rate after walking 3 in each of his last three starts.

Last week saw 12 of the 23 recommendations pick up a win.  That has to be an all-time high for TTW.  The ERA was nice at 3.53, but the WHIP was high at 1.40 thanks in large part to the aforementioned Bass as well as Ross Detwiler and Juan Nicasio getting smoked.  Detwiler lost his rotation spot to Chien-Ming Wang.  Not sure how I missed RA Dickey‘s second start against San Diego on Sunday.  I feel like that wasn’t listed when I checked the list last week because I had him for his May 22nd start in Pittsburgh.  Maybe it was an oversight on my part or a schedule change later on.  He was amazing in both, but now he’s on too many rosters too qualify.  And finally, Mike Minor has a lot to prove before reappearing on a TTW slate.

Last Wk: 12 W in 23 starts, 3.53 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 7.2 K/9 in 133 IP

Monday: 05.21.2012

Trolling the Wire Notes: Week 9

Lost some guys this past week as their availability rates shrunk taking them out of consideration for Trolling.  The causalities include:

Max Scherzer – knew that wouldn’t last long and 15 Ks will accelerate the process.

Ervin Santana – another one I knew wouldn’t last and a strong 2-start week sopped up his remaining availability.

Jeff Samardzija – he has really transformed himself this season as he has K’d just fewer than 6 twice in his 8 starts.

Chris Capuano – took his first loss in San Diego last week, but that hasn’t stopped him from being on 100% of ESPN league rosters.

Bud Norris – surprised and bummed about this one as he usually floats under the radar because of the Astros, but impossible to ignore his three win stretch during which he has a 0.47 ERA in 19 innings.

Check the sidebar for this week’s picks.

Last Wk: 8 W in 29 starts, 4.23 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 9.5 K/9 in 164 IP

Monday: 05.14.2012

Trolling the Wire Notes

I just wanted to post a quick message letting you know that you can now find the Trolling the Wire picks in the sidebar before an accompanying post is put out.  In fact, there won’t always be an accompanying article outlining the reasoning behind the picks (like these two last week), but  I will at the very least post the picks in list form similar to how it appears in the sidebar since the sidebar isn’t always easily accessible in mobile formats.

If you have questions about someone I would urge you to comment on that post, tweet me @sporer or email me.  The reason that there won’t usually be an article anymore is because I want to dedicate more time to the other content like the pitcher breakdowns or “best pitches of the month” stuff you have seen this year.  By no means did I want to sacrifice Trolling as it is very popular and I think very useful, too, so this is the best way to still distribute it in my opinion.  Not to mention, I utilize a lot of the same guys and it gets a bit repetitive finding ways to tell you that Edwin Jackson should be on your team.

The picks are listed in order of confidence so if you have a choice between the 1st and 4th listed on your waiver wire, I like the 1st listed more.  I’ll include a guy if he’s 30% or more available at a primary outlet (ESPN, Y!, CBS) when I post.  For example, Max Scherzer might seem crazy, but he’s only 70% owned at ESPN and 65% at Yahoo! so he makes the cut.  I don’t suspect we’ll see him available too much longer, but for now he should be plucked.

Friday: 05.11.2012

Trolling the Wire – Weekend Edition

Here are the weekend selections:




Jeff Samardzija (CHC) – He’s been excellent this year without question.  I was skeptical when he debuted with a gem, felt justified for that skepticism when he followed it up with a pair of 5 ER outings, but now can’t help but be impressed by his last three outings during which he has yielded just 2 ER in 21 innings.  He also has 23 strikeouts in those three starts with a pair of wins.  (@ MIL)

A.J. Burnett (PIT) – He followed up his disastrous outing against the Cardinals with eight strong (2 ER) striking out 10 and walking just one.  He was left out to dry in that meltdown, but I don’t think it completely ruins his season.  Not only can be useful for your fantasy team the rest of the way, but it isn’t a stretch to suggest he finishes the season with a sub-4.00 ERA.  Let’s say he’ll go about 175 innings this season after missing a pair starts at the outset.  He’d only need to be a 3.64 ERA pitcher in his remaining 151 innings to finish with a 3.96 ERA for the season.  He’ll be fine.  (vs. HOU)

Edwin Jackson (WAS) – If you participated in Trolling last year, then you aren’t surprised to see Jackson here.  He was the most often recommended spot starter here last year.  To read/hear some write/speak about him, I can’t help but find him underrated.  You would think he has had a 4.50 ERA in the last three years as opposed to two sub-3.80 seasons along with a 4.47 one.  And in that latter one, he surged late posting a 3.24 ERA in 11 starts with the White Sox.  This year he has his best peripherals ever with a 7.9 K/9 and a 2.1 BB/9 which is a major improvement over anything he has ever done.  (@ CIN)

Jonathon Niese (NYM) – A pair of 4 BB starts bookend his 6 outings thus far raising his walk rate, but otherwise his peripherals are still sharp while his xFIP continues to suggest his ERA should be lower.  A trip into the cavernous Marlins Stadium seems like a nice remedy to get back on track after an OK start in Philly.


Tuesday: 05.8.2012

Trolling the Wire: Week 7

I spent of the first month of the season debating a different distribution method for the Trolling the Wire column that appeared weekly last year.  After deliberation, I’m just going to continue distributing as I did last year, through this site.  Some leagues allow same-day pickups so I’ll cover some guys for tonight along with the rest of the week.

(pitchers are ranked in order of confidence on a given day)


Joe Blanton (PHI) – Those dismissing his complete game shutout against the Braves because it came after the marathon barn-burner the night before are missing out with Blanton.  He looked great before that start.  His strikeout rate is down to 5.4 which I don’t love, but his walk rate is on a five-year decline down to 0.8 BB/9.  (vs. NYM)

Edwin Jackson (WAS) – Last year’s TTW most used arm, Jackson is least available of the four listed (41% available at ESPN), but he is still underutilized.  Both his strikeouts and groundballs are at career-best marks (8.2 and 52%, respectively) while his walk rate is down to a career-low 2.3 BB/9.  Some people refuse to believe in E-Jax, but I remain steadfastly loyal.  (@ PIT)

Danny Duffy (KC) – I expected to see Duffy’s profile raise after a five-plus strong innings against the Yankees, but he remains widely available.  He needs to exhibit more control (4.8 BB/9), but he has built himself a solid margin for error with a 10.3 K/9 in his 23 innings.  (vs. BOS)

AJ Burnett (PIT) – Yes, St. Louis absolutely obliterated him and your fantasy team’s ERA, but you already sustained the worst of him so why jump off the train now?  He was excellent in his two starts prior to that massacre (btw, why the hell did Clint Hurdle leave him out there for that long?) and he has the stuff to get back on track again.  (vs. WAS)

Jarrod Parker (OAK) – The heralded rookie who was acquired in the Trevor Cahill deal has looked sharp in his first two outings in the American League including great work last week in Fenway.  He has a passable 6.2 K/9 rate in his first two starts, but I think we can expect to see that number rise as the season progresses.  Pitching in Oakland always helps, especially with mega-talented arms like Parker.  (vs. TOR)  — Parker was originally scheduled for Tuesday, then flipped with McCarthy for Wednesday and then flipped BACK again to Tuesday.  Thanks for the heads up from commenter Brad.


Erik Bedard (PIT) – I’m going right back to the Pitt-Wash series well for Wednesday.  I guess the history of these two teams makes it difficult for fantasy managers to buy in on their starters and the early season success they are enjoying.  As I’ve said repeatedly, it’s never been about talent with Bedard, just health, so get everything you can out of him while he is whole.  He’s been great this year, though I’d like to see some more pitch efficiency.  Even in his last two starts where he only walked a pair in each, he has been able to go just five innings both times.  (vs. WAS)

Drew Smyly (DET) – What more does Smyly need to do for fantasy folks to buy in?  He has deftly handled Tamp Bay, Texas and the Yankees in New York yet his ownership rate is 45% at ESPN and somehow 32% at Yahoo!.  The added bonus is that he has shown some great strikeout potential, too, with 7 Ks in each of his last three outings (TEX, @ NYY, CHW).  He will have some ups and downs, but I’m buying in on the big picture.  (@ SEA)

Anthony Bass (SD) – Bass is an even more unheralded version of Smyly.  He started 2012 in the bullpen and after a pair of appearances in relief, he has moved into the rotation and looked fantastic.  Of course pitching in San Diego always enhances a pitcher’s value, but his two starts out of PETCO Park have been just fine, too.  He is missing bats (10.6 K/9 in his 5 starts) and getting tons of groundballs (55%).  His BABIP is a bit low (.247), but his 3.19 xFIP says he should be even better than his 3.51 ERA.  (vs. COL)

Ross Detwiler (WAS) – I have been a fan of Detwiler for a while and I’m glad that he is starting to display his talents at the major league level.  In limited time the last three years, he showed incremental improvements, but this year at age 26 he has taken a major step forward.  His secondary pitches are yielding both more strikeouts (career-high 6.7 K/9) and groundballs (career-high 58%) which has driven his success.  His .215 BABIP will certainly regress at some point, but there is enough to believe in with Detwiler and he shouldn’t be available in 52% of ESPN leagues.  (@ PIT)


Henderson Alvarez (TOR) – Limited options with six games on Thursday and a handful of aces going, but Alvarez is coming off of a complete game shutout yet remains on the wire in many, many leagues.  The problem is that he couldn’t strike me out.  His 2.6 K/9 is frighteningly bad.  His game is to induce weak contact and let his fielders do the work (57% groundball rate), but you have to strikeout SOME batters.  He is going to have a game where several balls find the holes and he gets BABIP’d to death, but I think he will best Minnesota here.  (@ MIN)


James McDonald (PIT) – Yes, another Pirates starter.  Unlike last year when their starters were drastically outperforming their peripherals, this year’s rotation actually has some strikeout arms doing pretty well yet not getting the love for it.  McDonald wasn’t missing bats early on (6 Ks through his first 3 starts) and I was concerned, but he has 25 Ks in 21 IP across three starts since without giving back the walk rate gains we saw at the start of the season.  A longtime favorite of mine, don’t be surprised if McDonald appears repeatedly on TTW as long as he remains available in many leagues.

Felipe Paulino (KC) – He’s back!  Unfortunately, Paulino started the season on the DL, but he returned last week with six shutout innings against the Yankees as he picked up where 2011 left off.  I really liked Paulino last year and I like him even more this year.  As with the Pirates starter, he is unlikely to get much love even with sustained success so jump in now.  (@ CHW)

Chris Capuano (LAD) – Fantasy managers are catching on with each passing start, but Capuano is still out there in 30% of ESPN leagues and 44% of Y! leagues so I thought he was worth mentioning.  That 2.21 ERA is going to regress a bit as home run issues have always been there with Capuano, but the strikeouts and mid-3.00s ERA by season’s end are well worth it.

Weekend picks on Friday

Thursday: 12.22.2011

Trolling the Wire: Final Season Rundown

If you came to this site with any regularity during the baseball season, you likely saw plenty written about my weekly spot starter choices.  Every week throughout the season, I scanned the free agent pool of standard mixed leagues for the best starting pitcher matchups available.  Not every starter was going to be available in every league so I tried to provide as many quality options as possible.

Every Sunday I reviewed the previous week’s selections to see how they turned out.  Some crashed and burned horribly, but many others soared and offered above average performances that would have no doubted aided your team.  Week 18 was especially disastrous as my 16 picks posted an abysmal 6.27 ERA  and 1.50 WHIP in 93 innings notching just four wins.  That is pretty awful.

First off, the 16 picks were easily a single week high as I averaged 11 over the season and for that many picks to result in such poor numbers means more than one imploded.  In fact, just one of the 16 had an ERA below 4.03 (Cory Luebke in his second start of the week) while four starters had an ERA of 10.29 or worse with the biggest offenders being Gavin Floyd (10 ER in 2.7 IP) and Derek Holland (4 ER in 1.7 IP).  Oddly enough, the group still produced 6.4 K/9 and a 2.8 strikeout-to-walk ratio, but the 1.7 HR/9 probably did them in.

Thankfully the picks closed out the season with great strength.  Three of the last four weeks saw the pick set post an ERA of 2.86 or lower and in the “off” week, the picks still yielded a plenty usable 3.93 ERA and 1.27 WHIP.  So let’s take a deeper look at how everything shook out in the season of spot starters.

I made a total of 264 picks over 23 weeks with 254 of them actually pitching.  The other 10 were either skipped, rained out or injured.  The entire group managed a 3.65 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 1561 innings of work while striking out 1182 (6.8 K/9) and walking 463 (2.7 BB/9) yielding a 2.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio.  With 85 wins, the group won 33% of their starts.  I didn’t keep an exact win-loss record and I’m sure a large percentage of the remaining 169 starts were no decisions.  They also allowed 0.8 home runs per nine innings.

With their body of work, the group essentially splits up into eight 195-inning pitchers from which you would have gotten the same 3.65 ERA and 1.26 WHIP, but also 11 wins and 148 strikeouts.  In other words, they were a group of Jhoulys Chacins.  Chacin was 11-14 in 194 innings with a 3.62 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 150 strikeouts.  Other strong comps include Jaime Garcia (195 IP, 13 W, 3.56 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 156 K) and Ted Lilly (193 IP, 12 W, 3.97 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 158 K).

So the average sampling of the 254 spot start selections yielded you a Chacin, Garcia or Lilly.  A random sampling of the 33 starts (1561 IP ÷ 254 starts x 33 = 195 IP) could obviously return a performance better or worse than those comps, but as an average that is pretty solid.

Let’s look now at the pitchers most frequently picked and how they did when selected.  Edwin Jackson was the Spot Starter of the Year having been picked 12 times.  I have long been a fan of his and after watching him for an entire year in Detroit, I liked him even more.  I was happy to see him breakout with the Tigers not only because that is my team, but also because I knew he had it in him.

His skills have improved in the years since, but the results haven’t always been there to match.  The same went for me when I picked him as a spot starter.  Despite finishing the year with a 3.79 ERA and 1.44 WHIP, I picked him for 76 innings during which he posted a 4.52 ERA and 1.49 WHIP with five wins.  His 6.8 K/9 and 2.6 K/BB during the 76 innings are right in line with his season-long 6.7 and 2.4 rates.

Two other pitchers surpassed double digits in terms of times picked: Tim Stauffer (11) and James McDonald (10).  Stauffer offered 71 strong innings with a 2.41 ERA and 1.13 WHIP while McDonald was similar to Jackson in his 56 innings with a 4.17 ERA and 1.48 WHIP.  Stauffer matched Jackson’s five wins, but McDonald netted just a pair.  It was another Padre who stood alone with nine starts.  Cory Luebke needed one fewer start to match McDonald’s 56 innings while his 3.21 ERA and 1.07 WHIP were among the best numbers for any pitcher.  Despite the strong numbers, he won just three of his nine starts.

Of the 86 pitchers who were picked in all, 17 were picked five or more times including the four covered above.  Those 17 pitchers threw 786 innings (50% of the total) pitching to a 3.37 ERA and 1.25 WHIP with 44 of the 85 wins.  The king of that bunch was Javier Vazquez, who posted a 2.16 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in five starts.  He would have made more appearances in the recommendations, but his availability surged at points during the season and he just wasn’t on the wire in enough leagues.

The worst of the five-plus start bunch was Derek Holland.  Despite his breakout season, I had horrible luck when picking him as he was totally boom or bust.  I mentioned his four earned runs in less than two innings (21.18 ERA) earlier, but he also had outings of 7 ER in 5.3 IP and 5 ER in 5 IP which contributed to his 5.45 ERA and 1.63 WHIP in 38 innings across seven starts.  He did give us three gems, though, including two 7 IP/1 ER starts down the stretch (September 14th and 20th).  I would be surprised if he found on the waiver wire of too many leagues from the start of 2012.

Here is the five-plus start bunch sorted by innings:

Poor Doug Fister.  He throws 45 excellent innings with a 2.58 ERA and 1.01 WHIP yet didn’t have a single win to show for it.  Despite how horrid the Seattle Mariners were for the year, they had three starters on this list and all three delivered fantastic numbers despite netting just three wins in 17 combined starts.

There were 17 other starters who were selected at least three times this year.  Here they are with just their times selected:

The rest of the breakdown saw 16 pitchers picked twice and 36 picked just once.

Obviously this strategy requires a specific set of league rules to pull off, but assuming your league doesn’t have stringent transaction or innings limits and allows daily moves, then this is a strategy that can be of significant value.  The upshot is that instead of spending early picks of the stud aces like Justin Verlander, Tim Lincecum or Cole Hamels, you continue to build your offense into a juggernaut.  There will still be plenty of pitching in the middle rounds to start your rotation, but then you leave your last pick or two to fill out the rotation and those will be your stream slots for spot starters.

I will run this again in 2012, so for those of who you enjoyed it this year, it will be back.  For those of you who want to try it out, you will have a shot to use my picks if you’d like.

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.




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.




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.



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.


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.



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.

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.


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.



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.



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.


Monday: 08.29.2011

Trolling the Wire: Week 22

Despite just four wins in 11 starts, the picks from last week went well.  All but three went 6+ innings and of the ones who didn’t, two didn’t allow any runs and the third won his game and struck out six batters.  In case you missed last week’s picks, I mentioned that as we approach starts and innings limits in leagues these picks will become more selective.

Obviously some teams are protecting ERA and WHIP and while it is hard to move them much this late in the year, one risky blowup can be costly.  Sure it is costly to have an 8 ER, 2 IP outing in June, too, but you have three-plus months to fix it.  Not only are we running out of time, but moving the needle on these rate stats is tough unless your league’s standings are incredibly tight.

If I do make any riskier than usual picks, I will make sure they are denoted so you can assess it based on your league and your standings.  I have one in mind which is why I even make this point in the first place.


Doug Fister (DET v. KC) – If you are in a fierce strikeouts race, I would pass on this one, but otherwise he has been golden since joining the Tigers.  Or maybe not.  He has notched 17 strikeouts in his last three starts (19.7 innings).  I still wouldn’t blindly trust a three start stretch over the rest of his career which shows him as a pitch to contact, control artist.  If you are looking for solid rates and a solid win potential, then make the move for Fister.

Javier Vazquez (FLO @ NYM) – If you are in a fierce strikeouts race, I would pounce on this one, but otherwise Vazquez has been an ERA and WHIP asset with wins in short supply as a part of the pathetic Marlins.  He has a 3.00 ERA and an 0.94 WHIP in 33 August innings.


Programming Note: This has nothing to do with spot starter picks, but Felix Hernandez and Dan Haren are going toe-to-toe in Seattle on Wednesday and it should be a great watch.

Ted Lilly (LAD v. SD) – He’s been on fire of late, especially in August (2.20 ERA, 0.80 WHIP in 33 IP) so let’s ride the hot hand against a weak team.

Josh Collmenter (ARI v. COL) – I didn’t believe at first, but then he started missing some bats and the success was a lot more believable.  He has had some misses just as any pitcher will, but otherwise he has become a reliable mid-rotation arm.


Jacob Turner (DET v. KC) – This would be the risky selection for the week.  It’s a boom or bust pick, but the boom would include everything: strikeouts, 6-7 innings and a chance at a win.  It is merely his second MLB start so this pick isn’t for the faint of heart or the teams with tenuous holds on their ERA & WHIP spots.

Chien-Ming Wang (WAS @ ATL) – Some may find this one risky, but I think it’s a WYSIWYG type of pick.  He won’t strike many batters out, but he can help your ratios.


PASS – some potentials like Ivan Nova, Ross Detwiler & Aaron Harang, but all too risky for September


Mike Minor (ATL v. LAD) – I’m riding this train the rest of the way out.  The win and strikeout potential combined with the ratio floor not being too low is worth rolling out throughout September.  The only downside in this particular start is that it is against Clayton Kershaw which limits the win potential a bit.

Brandon McCarthy (OAK v. SEA) – Solid arm with a few bumps in the road, but up against a weak opponent at a friendly home park.

Anibal Sanchez (FLO v. PHI) – Another risk pick in addition to Turner.  His talent is immense, but he has struggled mightily since the break (5.05 ERA) despite a strikeout per inning and a 4.6 K/BB in 46 innings.


Kevin Slowey (MIN @ LAA) – Close out the week with one more riskbox.  I am a huge Slowey fan, but he has slowly (no pun intended… OK, it kinda was) worked his way back having only returned on August 19th.  The Yankees and Orioles knocked him around, but he dominated the White Sox.  The Angels don’t really scare me as an opponent, but with Slowey working out the kinks there is inherent risk with this start.  If you’re desperate in the final day of your H2H league, go for it.

Other Sunday Hail Marys for H2H Only – Randy Wells, Erik Bedard, Edwin Jackson and Freddy Garcia.  I would only recommend these guys if you need to make up ground in the last day of your H2H match.  Bedard and Jackson are Trolling regulars, but they have tough matchups which is why they are listed here instead of regular recommendations. 

I’ve got the top 10 pitchers of the 2012 top 15 left and another piece on starting pitchers near completion for later this week.