NL Waiver Wire: Week 11by Jeffrey Gross
June 18, 2011
All stats current through June 15
Javier Vazquez | Marlins | SP | 24 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 7.05 ERA, 1.65 K/9, 6.85 K/9, 1.54 K/BB, 32.1% GB%
Oliver ROS: 4.20 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 7.8 K/9, 2.72 K/BB
What a fall from grace Javier Vazquez has experienced over the past season and a half. Once one of baseball's perpetually underrated aces, Javier Vazquez has lost several ticks off his fastball and seen his K/BB ratio fall from elite to mediocre. Now barely able to throw 90 mph, Vazquez has had hardly the rebound many predicted following his second stint on the Yankees, posting an ERA over 7.00 and WHIP above 1.60 over 66 innings. The owner of a career 3.33 K/BB ratio just two years ago, Vazquez's K/BB ratio over the past two seasons has not been able to crack the league-average 2.00 mark. Vazquez has not been particularly unlucky, either. His 4.69 xFIP last season (5.56 FIP) and 4.82 xFIP this season (5.11 FIP) have been substantially below the league average. You can largely blame a walk rate (3.72 BB/9 last season, 4.23 mark this year, 2.47 career rate) that's exploded out of the blue
In light of this, Vazquez hardly looks like an ownable commodity. But brighter skies may lie ahead. Over his past six starts (ot counting his June 16 start), Vazquez has averaged around 90 mph on his fastball, up from the 88 mark he's been routinely averaging over the past two seasons. Furthermore, and more important, check out the xWHIP Calculator's quantification of those outings:
I will not try to convince you that Vazquez is back to form—his average fastball velocity is still two miles an hour under what it was two years ago—but what Vazquez's last month of outings shows is that he has not been nearly as bad as his results would seem. Vazquez's K/BB ratio, strikeouts per nine rate, and groundabll rate have been in line with his career rates. If you are hurting for pitching, you'll have to take a risk here or there. Vazquez may be worth a look.
Recommendation: Vazquez should be owned in 14+ mixed league and NL-only formats, while monitored closely in 12-team leagues. Ten-team leagues can ignore Vazquez for now.
Carlos Pena | Cubs | 1B | 48 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .223/.352/.437
Because he's batting only .221 on the year, it is understandable why many owners have steered clear of Pena. Low batting averages can be truly toxic, outbalancing batting average benefits of players like Miguel Cabrera. But hey, that's why they call it cheap power in fantasy, and Pena and Mark Reynolds are the modern poster boys of cheap power.
Only, Pena isn't as bad as his full season numbers indicate. Pena had an atrocious April (.159/.217/.122, 29.9 percent strikeout rate, no homers, only one extra base hit, but has been vintage Adam Dunn ever since. In May, Pena batted .258 with seven home runs and 19 runs/RBI. So far in June, he's been just as good, batting a slightly lower .234, but with three home runs over just 47 plate appearances. More encouraging, though, Pena has struck out 40 times in May and June combined (136 plate appearances). He has also walked 30 times for a robust 0.75 BB/K ratio. If you need power, and you like Dunn, you should consider Pena in home run-friendly Wrigley Field.
Recommendation: Pena should be owned in any league that employs corner infielders. Pena should be universally owned in leagues that use OBP over AVG (17.1 percent walk rate).
Sergio Romo | Giants | RP | 13 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 2.18 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 14.37 K/9, 8.25 K/BB, 43.9% GB%
Oliver ROS: 2.94 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 9.8 K/9, 4.57 K/BB
Elite, non-closing middle relievers are an underrated fantasy asset. Though get very few saves unless they steal the closing gig, they tend to rack up great numbers elsewhere. They help balance and anchor your staff's ERA/WHIP, allowing you to safely take starting pitcher risks via matchups stream (e.g., whoever is pitching against the Padres at Petco) or speculation (e.g., Danny Duffy). In recent years, these pitchers have caught on. Mike Adams is owned in one third of leagues, Johnny Venters is owned in more than 70 percent of leagues, and even the injured Luke Gregerson is owned in a quarter of fantasy leagues.
Romo has 33 strikeouts (to only three unintentional walks) over 20.2 innings pitched. Though he has no saves, he does boast three wins and a superior 2.18 ERA and 0.82 WHIP. Romo's numbers are so good, in fact, that despite the relatively low number of saves or wins to his name in comparison with all other pitchers in baseball, Romo is almost a top 150 overall player (No. 158), and top 75 pitcher this season.
So why is Romo owned in only half as many leagues as the injured Gregerson who, while undeniably elite last year, has been far from his old self in 2011? You've got me.
Recommendation: Sergio Romo should be owned in all fantasy leagues; even shallow mixed.
Bud Norris | Astros | SP | 49 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 3.48 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 9.20 K/9, 2.65 K/BB, 38.6% GB%
Oliver ROS: 4.51 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 8.3 K/9, 1.95 K/BB
What more is it going to take to get fantasy players on the Bud Norris bandwagon? Over his past five starts, Norris has remained as elite as I touted him in early May. Over 33 innings, hes has allowed only 10 earned runs, struck out 26, and unintentionally walked only 11. That's been good for a 2.73 ERA, a 1.21 WHIP, and a 7.1 K/9 that is so low only because he struck out just two batters over eight innings in his one-hitter against the Cardinals on June 8.
Though his value is deflated because he has accrued only four wins this year (blame the Astros' anemic offense), Norris has been just as valuable as Romo according to Yahoo's player rater. Norris has proven himself a top 30 pitcher at this point, a No. 3 starting pitcher at worst, and needs to be owned in at least 50 percent of leagues. Particularly with Norris' ownership rate lt 49 percent, there is no reason that Brandon Morrow should be owned in 74 percent of leagues.
Recommendation: Bud Norris is a must-own pitching commodity, even if you decide not to start him for each outing.
Jeffrey Gross is an attorney (and die-hard Cubs fan) who currently resides in the suburbs of Chicago. In addition to writing for The Hardball Times, he also writes about craft beer as part of a side project blog titled "saBEERmetrics." He previously worked for The Daily Illini and Northern Star newspapers as a film critic and sportswriter (respectively). You can reach him by email at saBEERmetrics AT gmail DOT com.
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