Fantasy Specialists: Pitchersby Ben Jacobs
August 03, 2004
Last week, I wrote about position players who could help your fantasy team in a particular category, despite not being great fantasy players. This week, I'm doing the same thing with pitchers.
Kenny Rogers, Rangers: Rogers improbably posted an impressive 3.42 ERA over the first three months of the season, and that coincided with an equally impressive 11-2 record. Then, however, he struggled to a 7.52 ERA in July. After yet another subpar start on Tuesday, his sixth in his last seven trips to the mound, Rogers now has a 4.29 ERA and 1.37 WHIP, which is closer to what you might have expected at the start of the season.
He also only has 81 strikeouts in 142.2 innings, so he doesn't really help you there. But he's still 13-4 this year, and the Texas offense could help him win four or five more games even if he keeps pitching poorly. That could be valuable if you need to pass somebody just ahead of you in the wins column.
Matt Morris, Cardinals: Morris' season has gone from disappointing to just plain baffling. He had a run-of-the-mill 4.20 ERA when he went out and got slammed for seven runs in 1.2 innings on July 20. The next time out, he threw a complete-game shutout. Then, in his last start, he surrendered eight runs without escaping the first inning.
For the season, he now has a 4.82 ERA and 1.31 WHIP to go along with just 86 strikeouts in 142 innings. However, he does have 11 wins. Anytime he's able to go at least five or six innings, the Cardinals' offense gives him a chance to win, and he shouldn't keep getting hammered two out of every three starts.
Al Leiter, Mets: It may seem strange to say that the starting pitcher with the best ERA in baseball isn't a great fantasy player, but he's not. After Tuesday's start, Leiter has a sparkling 2.12 ERA. However, he only has a 1.17 WHIP, eight wins and 70 strikeouts.
Leiter used to have a pretty nice strikeout rate, but it's diminished as he's gotten older. His age has also made him less durable and the fact that he's only pitched seven innings or more in six of his 19 starts is the main reason he has so few wins. He should continue to provide a good (though probably not this good) ERA the rest of the year, so go after him if you need particular help there.
Odalis Perez, Dodgers: After an off year, Perez's numbers this season are very similar to his first season in LA. He's giving up a few more hits and a few more walks, but most importantly, he's winning significantly fewer games. Part of the reason is that he's not pitching as deep into games as he did two years ago and part is that the Dodgers scored at least 10 runs in his starts six times in 2002. They've only given him double-digit run support once this year.
Whether he starts getting more run support and more wins or not, you can probably count on the low ERA to continue. If that's what you need most, then don't worry about the lack of wins or strikeouts.
Greg Maddux, Cubs: It's strange thinking of Maddux as just a one-category pitcher, but that's pretty much what he's become. He's been much better the last month or so, but his propensity to give up home runs should make you wary of that continuing all season.
Even with balls flying out of the park, however, Maddux can have a decent WHIP. He strikes out enough hitters that it's not easy to get a ton of hits against him, and he still hardly walks anybody. That's why he's currently 19th in the majors in WHIP (1.20) and just 34th in ERA (3.88).
Brad Radke, Twins: Radke's got a solid 3.77 ERA, but he's not an all-around fantasy pitcher. Minnesota's offense doesn't help him win many games, and he's got about the same strikeout rate as Maddux. He also allows almost as many homers as Maddux, but he issues even fewer walks.
Radke has such good control that even if you got rid of all of his walks, his WHIP would only improve by seven percent. As it is, his WHIP is at 1.16, which can definitely help your team even if he can't do much in most of the other categories.
Kevin Millwood, Phillies: With a 4.80 ERA and 1.41 WHIP, Millwood's been a major disappointment this season. If you're mostly interested in strikeouts, however, he's been even better than advertised. With 116 strikeouts in 135 innings, he's posting his best strikeout rate (7.73 K/9IP) since 1999 (8.09 K/9IP).
With 69 strikeouts in 73.1 innings the last two months, he's even striking out more hitters as the season goes on. If you don't mind that all of the strikeouts don't seem to be making him a better pitcher, then he can at least help you in one category.
Victor Zambrano, Mets: Zambrano supposedly has such powerful stuff that he can't control it well. That's why he has 109 strikeouts, but a 4.43 ERA and 1.59 WHIP. Moving to the NL may not make his ERA and WHIP above average, but it could upgrade him from a good strikeout pitcher to a great one.
With pitchers batting instead of DHs, the National League is easier to strike hitters out in. With stuff like his, it wouldn't surprise me to see Zambrano improve from 7.66 K/9IP to somewhere around 8.50 K/9IP.
Shawn Chacon, Rockies: The only reason to use Chacon is if you're desperate for saves and don't care if you hurt your ERA and WHIP to get them. His 25 saves rank eighth in the NL, but he has a 6.90 ERA and 1.91 WHIP. He has as many walks as strikeouts (34) and he's yielded nine homers in just 45.2 innings.
It's somewhat amazing that he's converted 78 percent of his save opportunities, but you shouldn't argue with it. As long as he keeps his job as Colorado's closer, he should continue to get a decent amount of saves. If you don't mind the ugly numbers, he could help you out in one category.
Ugueth Urbina, Tigers: Urbina's usually a very solid all-around closer, but he's struggling mightily this year. His strikeout rate is fine (although not quite what it was during his best seasons), but his 4.15 ERA and 1.34 WHIP would be the worst he's posted in a full season.
He's been better since an awful May, but I wouldn't expect him to have much better than a 3.50 ERA the rest of the season, if that good. Even so, he'll get almost all the saves available in Detroit and he won't kill you in other categories as badly as Chacon.
Ben Jacobs can be reached via e-mail.