Hitch, ditch, or pitch – week 7

Quickly name the top five pitchers in the game through the first month and a half of 2011. You are probably rushing names like Roy Halladay, Jered Weaver, Tim Lincecum, and Dan Haren, and you’d be right all four of these names are ranked in the top five according to WAR data. Who is the missing name? I would guarantee that without research, name number four will escape you. The name of our myster top pitcher is Matt Garza. Underlying his less than stellar 4.17 ERA is a an amazing wealth of off the chart sabrmetric stats that show why Garza is headlining this week’s ‘Pitch For’ list.

Pitch for

Matt Garza SP CHC: Garza’s wins-above-replacement is a third-best 2.2 so far in 2011. His k/9 is the best in baseball among starting pitchers at 11.78. His FIP and xFIP are both top two in the majors at 1.61 and 2.14 respectively. Let’s talk about how unlucky Garza has been in his first season as a Cubbie. He leads baseball with a BABIP against of .382. His strand rate is down in the slums of starters at 61.6 percent. If Garza is able to overcome his misfortune and continue the skill gains that appear to be manifesting, we could be talking about the best bargain starter available. At an ownership rating of 83 percent on Yahoo!, he could possibly be had for the like of a Colby Lewis.

Daniel Hudson SP ARI: Hudson is another one of these pitchers who has been pitching well, but his stats aren’t yet showing it. His pedestrian ERA of 4.41 may be overshadowing his k/9 and velocity gains he has been exhibiting so far in 2011. According to Fangraphs, all of his three-pitch arsenal are showing a speed gain of almost one mile-per-hour each, that is his fastball (+0.9 mph), slider (+1.1), and change up (+0.4). As a power, flyball pitcher, Hudson must not have a BABIP against of .324. That .324 will assuredly correct itself in the coming months. Reiterating what I said about Garza, it is the time to take advantage of another owner’s frustration on guys like Hudson and Garza and use your sabr-eye to cash in on high dollar pitchers at a discount price, maybe Justin Masterson.

Jordan Zimmermann SP WAS: Zim will follow the same sort of pedigree as the two guys above him. He’s a guy with a high ERA, a good WAR, and a low FIP. Jordan goes one step further with his strand rate of 58.7 percent which is only behind Clayton Richard as the worst in baseball. Anybody who has actually gotten to sit down and watch Zimmermann so far this season must admit that he is pitching like an ace. Personally I watched him go toe-to-toe with Cliff Lee on April 14 and dominate the Braves for 11 strikeouts in his last start. I’m not saying it will be all rainbows and sunsets with Zim, I mean he still plays for the Nationals. Have faith; he’s a top-notch pitcher who will show profit for an owner that can grab him now.

Pitch Away

Bartolo Colón SP NYY: We learned this week that Colón has had “injections” during his year long sabbatical from baseball. Whether it was stem-cells, HGH, or other, is not important to me. What is important is his health risk. Colón is not ready for the rigors that the 2011 baseball season has in store for him. Granted his two-seam fastball is back to being one of the best in baseball. I have not a doubt in my mind that he will continue to show flashes of success. Furthermore, I don’t believe he’s back to pre-2005 Bartolo. If you are willing to gamble on his health, then I don’t think his actual skill set is saying to trade him. If you are like me and think it’s only a matter of time before he gets injured and Manuel Banuelos or Andrew Brackman takes his spot in the rotation then I would move him while his value is still decent.

Kyle Drabek SP TOR: Drabek isn’t ready for the majors. I felt that way when he first got the call with the Blue Jays, and I still feel that way today. I believe he has the arm of a front-end starter but still lacks the experience it takes to be successful on a nightly basis. Fortunately, for you as a Kyle owner, I believe that Drabek’s name is still held in high regard in the fantasy community, and if you are in a keeper/dynasty league I’m obviously not advocating moving Drabek right now. I think if you look at 2011 in a vacuum then Drabek is worth more off your team than on it.

Kyle McClellan SP STL: Hurry before everyone else realizes the McClellan is not Adam Wainwright. His underwhelming fastball sits at 88 mph so far in 2011, which makes sense since it was only a shade over 91 as a reliever. What alarms me about McClellan is his severe drop in K/9 from 7.17 down to 4.17. His command has also taken a hit as he has transitioned to a starter. His ERA of 3.62 is still decent enough on the surface that you might be able to package him with the likes of another pitcher or hitter and get an upgrade. Make haste because McClellan’s value is the most volatile of all the guys on this list. By the next time the ditch list comes out, I fully expect his name to be on it.

Colby Lewis SP TEX: As much as it pains to say, I am worried about Colby Lewis. I’m so worried in fact that I am now willing to let him go at under 50 cents on the dollar of what I paid for him. He has been so bad in 2011 that it makes you wonder if 2010 may have been more of an outlier than what he is actually capable of producing. I’m also concerned that his split-finger has lost 1.6 mph and has, in turn, greatly affected its performance. Lewis has actually been pretty lucky so far in 2011, and that’s what worries me the most. Maybe it’s an injury, maybe it’s still early, but if I’m an owner of Lewis then my patience has worn out. Deal him for whatever you can get. Jordan Zimmermann would be the perfect target, but at this point I would take Alexi Ogando, Brandon Beachy, and maybe even Tyson Ross. Are you brave enough?


Travis Wood SP CIN: Don’t give up on him yet folks. As I am writing this article, Wood is pitching a gem against the Cardinals. Derek Carty and I were just talking the other day about how unbelievable it was to see Wood’s name hit our waiver wire in our NL Only expert league. If there’s that much disrespect amongst “experts” I wondered how much more there possible could be in the fantasy kingdom. Always look deeper people. Just because Travis is sporting one of the worst ERA of all starters doesn’t necessarily mean he’s pitching poorly. His BABIP against is in the .356 range which like the “pitch-for guys” shows misfortune, so too, does his sub 3.00 FIP. Travis Wood should also be considered a lower-notch “pitch for” guy. I absolutely loved his skill set before 2011, and I still do. You should still love him too. Let’s all say it together, “Travis Wood is still a stud pitcher.” Thank you all. I feel much better now.

Madison Bumgarner SP SF: I don’t think Bumgarner has been hitting the chopping blocks in many leagues yet, but I feel like one or two more winless starts and he could. Truth is, sans an increase in walks, Madison is pitching better this year than last. His dominance is up and he’s actually seeing the fastest fastball he’s thrown since high school (92.5 mph). I love the fact that he’s turned in four straight quality starts. I was high on Bumgarner going into this season because I felt he wasn’t being respected the way that he deserved. Bumgarner is now 0-6 with a 4.25 ERA. Like Wood and most of these “hitch” guys, Bumgarner should also be considered a solid trade target.

Ryan Dempster SP CHC: I loved when he added the glove-flip and took his game to the next level. After a 15 win, 208 strikeout 2010, that saw Dempster take his career to the next level, borderline ace status. While I don’t think 2010 was what we were going to see this year, I don’t think what we are seeing this year is what we’ll see for the remainder of the season, if that makes any sense. His command, control, and dominance are all in line with his 2010 performance. Where is the discrepancy, you may say. With Dempster that’s a relatively easy answer. He’s not keeping runners from scoring 61 percent as compared to a 71 percent strand rate in 2010. Most notably is his league-leading 20.8 percent hr/fb rate, over 9 percent greater than 2010. As we have seen with James Shields performance this year, hr/fb can actually be a indicator of bad luck. You can expect a regression moving forward. If these rates regress (which I believe they will), a nice rebound is in store for Dempster moving forward.


John Lackey SP BOS: Lackey is a tough one. He’s going to be one of those drops that you’ll probably shed a tear as you strike the button. It’s just time to cut ties with Lackey. I understand his ownership in AL-only leagues, but I think that his ship has sailed as viable mixed league starter. I was one of those guys who put out a late round flier that Lackey could regain some of his former stuff, but I actually let him go two weeks ago. You may be too late some of the early studs like Ogando, Zach Britton, and the like, but I believe there are better options on a shallow free agent list than Lackey right now. If you can’t bring yourself to cut Lackey then you must bench him for every start until he string together at least two quality starts in a row.

Mike Pelfrey SP NYM: Tell me nobody still believes that 2010 was anything more than a luck-infused aberration. I don’t know many competitive fantasy gamers that thought Pelfrey was going to be anything special in 2011. Pelfrey is the one guy that I feel vindicated that he has been this bad. To be fair, I hated Cahill for the same reasons that I don’t like Pelfrey. What separates Trevor Cahill from Pelfrey has been in the dominance gains and Cahill’s thirst to be a pitcher first. Pelfrey isn’t even a good enough thrower to make up for being a bad pitcher. In a time when pitching is plentiful, I’m done with unimpressive mediocrity from my pitching staff. I can’t think of a better example of unimpressive mediocrity than Mike Pelfrey.

Clayton Richard SP SD and Matt Harrison SP TEX: I am not going to waste my time lamenting my hatred for these two players. I own Harrison in an AL-only league and Richard in a deep NL-only league. You can’t trade either of them. When some minor league talent becomes available to me, I will be issuing them both walking papers. If you still own either of these guys in a shallow, mixed league then you are dumb.

Lastly, I am sure there are concerns being raised about Ubaldo Jimenez and how to handle moving forward. I totally understand the frustration he has caused his owners over the early part of 2011. Many experts including some here at THT have foretold of the Ubaldo’s demise. I wasn’t one of them, and I’m not ready to make a judgment yet. I promise to you Ubaldo owners out there that in two weeks I will have an opinion on the matter.

Pritch slap for week seven, “Aimlessly follow experts and live without Bautista.”
I put my “expert” neck out on the line for Jose Bautista. I gambled that Jose’s sabrmetric success in 2010 was real, and now I get to gloat.. I am continuously rejecting offer after offer and give evil, Mugatu laughs while I do it. Yes I just used a Zoolander movie reference. What are you going to do about it? Long live Jose Bautista!

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  1. Mark said...

    I asked this in the last one without realizing it was hitters only:  What would you do with Liriano?  I’ve already dropped him in a couple shallower leagues where some of these guys were cut loose or I could deal a mid-lower level hitter for Garza. I still own him in a deeper league though (I’ve had him benched for a couple weeks now), I’m planning to hold him at least through this week to see if two weak offenses can help correct him (@SEA, @ARI), then reevaluate.  I might even put him in my lineup for the first time in a while in the SEA start, figuring that ballpark/lineup combo can’t kill me….right???  Depending on how he does there, maybe I’ll start him against Arizona, but either way I’ll probably be able to come up with a new plan for him after that start.

  2. Ben Pritchett said...

    @Mark- Sorry I didn’t address Liriano here. I remember your question, and it totally slipped my mind.

    If you could grab Garza for relatively cheap I would do that. You could actually unload Liriano in the process. Like a hitter and Liriano for Garza. If I had to categorize Liriano I’d probably put him in my “Pitch Away” category. I don’t know if I’d drop him just yet, but I’d for sure be offering him to everybody in the league for a discount.

    I’ve watched him a couple of times, and he’s just looked very hittable and un-Liriano like. He’s walking a ton of hitters. His BABIP has actually been pretty lucky. So it could honestly be worse. I think he’s having some genuine control problems, and that has me concerned. It’s definitely something he could come back from. But what you are doing by spot-starting/benching is the right plan of action while you shop him around.

  3. Derek Ambrosino said...

    Adding my anecdotes about Bautista’s draft position – I own Bautista in 1 league; I took him at 35 in a league that uses OBP and TB. I took Youkilis ahead of him in another(at 31, Bautista went at 37), and he was kept in my other leagues.

  4. Hunter said...

    Forgive me if this has been covered in previous installments, but what is your opinion of John Danks right now?

  5. Mark said...

    Thanks Ben.  Yeah that’s basically my plan.  Fortunately/unfortunately I already dealt BJ Upton for Garza.  I’ve gotten him cheaper in other leagues (I literally put an offer in for him in on every team I own, being that I shied away from him on draft day thanks to his FB tendencies and the Wrigley wind, but even his GB% is way up so I’ve been converted to an ardent believer), but in this one I was hurting in AVG and pitching cats, while strong R/SB/HR/RBI, particularly R and SB, and I still think its a good straight value deal anyway. 

    Every owner in this one is sharp though, no one wants any part of Liriano, so I’m just hoping he can show some signs of life this week in one of the best AL matchups you can have and a good NL matchup.  There’s literally nothing encouraging in his numbers, but he had the no hitter and then he was sick, so I’m hoping he pitches well and can find some more confidence, maybe a mechanical hitch, and that the warmer weather brings better results.

  6. Paul said...

    Kudos on Jose B, you did tout him, and you did actually draft him in the Hardball Times league (R5, 55overall) in Jan.

    Did his stock improve much in the run-up to the season?  Gotta think that he was a top 30 by March, though I don’t use MDC and the like.

  7. Larry said...

    I am in a 14-team mixed points league and hopelessly out of the running.
    I drafted Adam Wainwright in the 20th round of 22 this year as a possible keeper for 2012. My last two picks were used on Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.
    With each team getting 5 keepers (so, technically, the top 70 players) am I wasting bench space on Wainwright? Trout or Harper?

  8. Drew said...

    Good overview here.

    I have two questions:

    1) What’s your take on Homer Bailey? He seems to be off to a good start…

    2) Would you drop any of these guys for Bumgarner (or Bailey (or both))?

    SP: Dan Haren
    SP: Daniel Hudson
    SP: Huroki Kuroda
    SP: Ian Kennedy
    P: Gavin Floyd
    P: Ryan Dempster
    P: Yovani Gallardo
    BN: Travis Wood
    BN: Bud Norris

    P.S. I’m also looking to stash Beachy with a DL slot, then drop one of these guys eventually. Good idea?

  9. Ben Pritchett said...

    @Paul- I don’t know if his stock actually soared, but it was trending upwards. BTW I have a good team in The Hardball Times draft, but I’d have a better one if I would have gotten to keep my THT mock draft team.
    Position   Player           Team
    C       Joe Mauer         Twins
    1B       Joey Votto       Reds
    2B       Howie Kendrick     Angels
    SS       Stephen Drew       Diamondbacks
    3B       Jose Bautista     Blue Jays
    MI       Juan Uribe       Dodgers
    CI       Adam Lind         Blue Jays
    OF1     Andre Ethier       Dodgers
    OF2     Jayson Werth       Nationals
    OF3     Michael Bourn     Astros
    OF4     Adam Jones       Orioles
    OF5     Alfonso Soriano     Cubs
    UTIL     Hideki Matsui     Athletics
    SP1     Tim Lincecum       Giants
    SP2     Zack Greinke       Brewers
    SP3     Jered Weaver       Angels
    RP       Carlos Marmol     Cubs
    RP       Francisco Cordero   Reds
    P       John Danks       White Sox
    P       Ian Kennedy       Diamondbacks
    P       Brian Matusz       Orioles
    P       Kevin Gregg       Orioles
    BN       Chris Sale       White Sox
    BN       Edwin Jackson     White Sox
    BN       Kurt Suzuki       Athletics

    Sprinkle in some smart pickups and this team could have been awesome. I’m 3 of 12 right now in the real THT league.

    Anyways back to your point about Bautista, I spent $30 dollars for him at the real THT League draft in March which was the 26th highest amount for a player so you could say he made it in the top 30.

    Additionally, one thing I will say about mock draft central is that the people that draft there seem to be of a much better breed than those that mock draft at ESPN and CBS.

  10. Ben Pritchett said...

    Drew, thanks for the kind words.

    Answers to questions:

    1. I do like Homer Bailey, but he’s only pitched 14 innings. In those 14 IPs, he’s only walked one batter and seems to be throwing his slider alot (25% of the time) seeing as he has normally only thrown it a rate of 11 percent. It’s really too small a sample size to really dive into his stats on a deeper level.

    I will say that he should be owned in all leagues. You just don’t find a guy in Homer’s stage of development on the waiver wire too often. After he came back last year he showed great command gains and seems to have carried that through his first two starts.

    2. In your situation, I’d drop Dempster for Beachy then stash him. I would then pick up Bumgarner. I do not totally believe in Bud Norris or Gavin Floyd, but I think they both carry less risk than Homer Bailey. I don’t think I can advocate dropping either of those guys, but if you want to I could totally understand. Bailey has better upside than both Gavin Floyd and Bud Norris combined.

  11. Ben Pritchett said...

    @Hunter- Honestly, I haven’t gotten the chance to really research Danks. I generally avoid White Sox pitchers in general. I do like Danks more than Gavin Floyd and his stats seem more consistent with previous years. His ERA should correct and he’ll get more wins. But who really knows with all the problems in the Pen. If there aren’t any other options out there, I wouldn’t hurry to drop him.

  12. Ben Pritchett said...

    @Brandon- I should have know somebody was going to present this question to me after I stamped both Bumgarner and Travis Wood with my approval. Actually, I absolutely love Bumgarner’s makeup. He’d be my personal preference. Travis Wood has great raw skills, but Madison has no worries out in San Fran. I feel that Travis may still be pitching for his job. Travis could prove to be the better strikeout pitcher, but Bumgarner should be a better all around guy.

  13. Ben Pritchett said...

    @Larry- I would keep Wainwright rostered. He was a stud going into this year, and I have little doubt he will bounce back. He’s worth it.

    Now with Trout and Harper, those guys are a little different. I would have to see your other keeper options to give you sound advice here. I think Bryce Harper is amazing. Trout is ready now to hit double digit homers and steal as many bases as they’ll let him. But I can’t recommend rostering either, both, or none unless I know your other options.

    For example, if you grabbed Jered Weaver in the 5th round or something similar to that then I would obviously advise targeting Jered as your keeper and using your bench as resrves to your team for this year.

  14. Larry said...

    Well, the first round of our draft is like the 6th round of a non-keeper league because you could draft a guy and keep him his whole career if you wanted. We all have five keepers.
    Other keeper options I have are:
    Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw, Jay Bruce, Matt Kemp, Jason Heyward.

  15. Kevin said...

    I’m a big fan of the site and value the content but shed a tear cutting Lackey? His own team put him on the DL with a severe case of whiplash. Was it the near 1.00 K/BB ratio that was giving people hope?

  16. Ben Pritchett said...

    @Larry- I’m keeping Heyward, Wainwright, Kershaw, Bruce, and Kemp if I am you. You have my permission to release Harper first then Trout. Trout could be up by the end of the year, mind you.

  17. Ben Pritchett said...

    @Kevin- In all fairness, I wrote this before Lackey hit the DL. I think the tears don’t need to be shed as much now. I think people value him for his track record of success and the greatness of the team he plays for. They hope for wins and Ks with a sub 4.00 ERA. I don’t think there’s anything else that has people holding on other than the past.

    Lackey is like that shirt you wore in college that got you all the ladies, but you no longer fit in it anymore. When you put it on, you now look you were stung by a bee. It’s time you donate that shirt to Goodwill.

    That John Lackey is dead, I’m afraid.

  18. Jeff M. said...

    Nice articles on this site, good stuff.  I of course benched Colby Lewis this week with two starts in homerun havens, and he goes and pitches a 5-hitter.  Unbelievable.  I was scared with the lack of strikeouts in his start prior to this…but could he be back on track?

  19. Will Hatheway said...

    I hope you are right, Ben: I’ve got Garza, Zimmerman(n), D. Hudson all on that one team in the sabr league. (I also hope you continue to be wrong on Cahill … I’ve got him too!) I can keep all four between rounds 17-20 next year, to boot (though I’ll probably opt for Cruz as a 6th rounder for one of my four picks, injuries and all).

    Unfortunately, I also have Lilly and Latos, neither of whom seem to be overly unlucky.

    I’ve killed myself on offense, though: Pedroia, Dunn, Werth, Swish, etc., etc…

    Congrats on Bautista, I was one of the skeptics.

    And hey, Jeffrey, you were right and I was wrong on Storen (I still stay away from Espinosa, though, but good pick on their closer)!

  20. Jeffrey Gross said...

    No way you get Beachy for Lewis! Not even an injured Beachy. I’ve just flat out cut Lewis, and I’m borderline at that point with Liriano.

  21. Jeffrey Gross said...

    And Ben’s gonna make me eat dirt over Bautista. I thought I was a bullish fan pegging him as the #7 3B, #27 OF, and calling him for .270/35 HR but you gotta give credit where its due, and Ben totally called him.

  22. Jeffrey Gross said...

    Some of the medians “match” last year, but the range of velocity is smaller, doesnt reach as high as last

  23. Paul said...

    Re. JoseB

    yeah thats the thing about being right, it’s good to be right, but you gotta do it at the right point too.

    You/me may have been utterly conviced that JoseB was going to be even better this year, and gone for him in the 1st round – you’d be right, but you would’ve also been wrong – cos you could’ve gone for say Tulo or Braun etc. and picked JoseB up in r2/3/4 etc… but at some point he goes as that is where his ORank/player rater says he goes.

    I guess that is why auctions are better, as it doesn’t force you into spending discrete items of value, when you don’t like what is on offer at the time – though I don’t think he went for massive amounts in the expert auctions (though who knows what the winner would’ve paid)

    Anyway, loving his story, long may it continue

  24. Ben Pritchett said...

    Ah yes, eat dirt Jeffrey Gross!

    Actually, I think all of us at THT were giving more credit than all the other main sites (ESPN, CBS, Yahoo!). I think they were scared to be wrong.

    @Paul- I agree. If you would have spent a first round pick on Jose, you would have been smart and dumb. Grabbing in the second or third made you a genius. Truthfully, I had Bautista and Josh Hamilton as targets in all my auctions as guys I was willing to write blank checks for. So I was right about one so far and wrong about the other. Although, I think Joshie will be fine when he returns in a week.

  25. Ben Pritchett said...

    @Jeff M.- Thanks. I’m not just saying this because I’m biased, but I know our fantasy section includes some of the brightest, SABRmetrically-minded fantasy guys in the biz. I’d put our guys against anybody.

    We have our big name, heavyweights in Derek Carty and Paul Singman. Jeffrey Gross is the push-the-envelope guy who you love-to-love or love-to-hate. There’s Kevin Cearnal who can hold his own against anybody in daily H2H gaming. Of course, Josh and Brad bring the great content every week. We’ve got a “judge” in Michael Stein and a “doctor” in Jonathan Halket. Then there’s the best actual writer of us all in Derek Ambrosino. I’m honored to write amongst these guys. I’m stepping off my soapbox now.

    To answer your question, I tend to agree with Gross on this one. Colby Lewis has had too many alarming starts to make up for one good one. I’d keep him benched and see what he does in his next start.

  26. Jeffrey Gross said...

    I totally concur with your statement. You love me if you’re not in a league with me. People hate my trade offers, but every so often, they click.

  27. Paul Singman said...

    Don’t put me in the same category as Derek Carty, at least not yet wink. I’m not one for PDAs but I hope you guys stick around a while.

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