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.
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.
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!