Starting Pitchers: Take a Shot or Pass?
Ray Flowers decided to review the starting pitchers from Tuesday night. Do guys like Montero, Pomeranz and Liriano deserve a spot on your roster?
What do Josh Beckett, Johnny Cueto, Jason Hammel, Francisco Liriano, Rafael Montero, Drew Pomeranz and Julio Teheran all have in common? They all pitched Tuesday night. Ray Flowers will review all those starting arms and give his thoughts on whether or not you should be interested in roster the arms or whether you should let someone else deal with the headache.
Josh Beckett has a 2.89 ERA and 1.16 WHIP through eight starts. That ERA is a full run lower than his career rate and the WHIP is also better than his 1.23 career rate. Clearly he's pitching very well for the Dodgers, and given his draft day cost he's been terrific. Beckett also has a K/9 rate of 8.87 (career) an a 2.71 GB/FB ratio (career 3.03). His current 1.24 GB/FB ratio would be a four year best as well. Beckett only made 36 starts the past two years, and only once in the last four years has he thrown 175 innings, but right now he's pretty much a must start even in 10 team mixed leagues.
Johnny Cueto had his first down start of 2014 Tuesday (5.1 innings, eight runs, six earned). That outing was his first of the season in which he didn't throw at least seven innings while allowing no more than two earned runs. Cueto has been so amazing this year that even if he were to allow 13 runs in his next start without recording a single out he would still have an ERA of 3.38, two hundredths less than his career mark of 3.40. The last five years his K/9 mark was 6.77 which makes his chances of holding on to his current 9.54 mark remote, and that's a concern. His 14.4 percent line drive rate will go up, the best mark in baseball for a starter was 17.5 percent last year, and his .178 BABIP is .099 points below his career level. He could still be a SP2 in mixed leagues with little issue if he stays healthy, and an SP1 season is possible if improbable, even with his amazing start.
Jason Hammel had a 3.43 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 8.62 K/9 mark in 2012. He then slumped to 4.97 and 1.46 last year, numbers much more in line with his career levels (4.70 and 1.41), and he was an afterthought on draft day. Might that have been a mistake? Through nine starts with the Cubs he's 5-2 with a 2.91 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and though his K/9 rate is “only” 7.52, that's still a full batter clear of his career rate. Concerns abound though. His walk rate is 1.99. The mark is 3.06 for his career and has been 3.10 or higher each of the last three years. His BABIP is .222. His career mark is .306 and the rate has never been under .280 for a season. His current 1.00 GB/FB ratio would be a seven year low. He's also allowed a HR/F ratio of at least 9.7 percent in every one of his eight seasons. Can he hold on to his current 7.5 mark? Unlikely. Hammel is likely to fade from importance in mixed leagues as the season wears on, especially when you consider that he's never thrown 180 innings in a season and has been limited to 118 and 139.1 the last two years.
Francisco Liriano was everyone's darling last season as he won 16 games with a 3.02 ERA and 163 Ks in 161 innings. I kept warning folks all off season. My biggest pet peeve with this guy is that he's never thrown 160-innings in back-to-back seasons. His career began in 2005 folks. The second concern was performance related. Last year's 3.02 ERA was an anomaly. The previous two years his ERA was over five, and three times from 2009-2012 that number was in the five's. Maybe you should be happy with his current 4.86 mark. Facts are facts. Liriano has a big arm and can dominate at times. He also cannot be trusted to take the ball every five days and his career ERA (4.22) and WHIP (1.34) are worse than the league average. Nuff said.
Rafael Montero generated a ton of excitement when he was called up. He's a Met which means he's from New York, and that alone means you're going to be a superstar. There are other cities in the world folks. Montero is probably one of the top-50 pitching prospects in the game, but he's nowhere near an elite prospect. Two starts into his career the results are laughably bad. Montero is 0-2, has a 6.97 ERA, 1.74 WHIP and only one more strikeout than walk. It's two outings so it means nothing, but unless he starts improving soon the Mets are going to have to consider sending him back to the minors. He's nothing more than an NL-only arm.
Drew Pomeranz should be allowed to go 100 pitches in his next start as the Athletics continue to stretch out his arm. The former elite prospect who never found his grove with the Rockies, has murdered the opposition in 2014 for the A's. In 28.2 innings he's got 27 Ks and has posted a 0.94 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. His performance to this point has been priceless and elite. Debbie Downer – it won't continue. He's likely to see his HR/F ratio (7.1 percent) go up a bit, and his .236 BABIP will climb. Ditto his 16.2 percent line drive rate. He's also walking 3.14 batters per nine, a completely league average number. Might want to also be a bit worried, not about him holding on to a rotation spot, by his workload. Here are the innings pitched marks over the years:
2011: 119.1 innings
2012: 147.1 innings
2013: 112.2 innings
How many bullets will the Athletics allow him to throw this year? Seems likely to be a solid AL-only weapon, but long term mixed league relevance might be fleeting.
Julio Teheran has made 10 starts and owns a 1.92 ERA and 0.95 WHIP. The women and children rejoice. Some words of caution however must be typed. First, he's only got three wins which harms his fantasy value. Second, and more importantly, he's failed to strike out seven batters per nine this season. That means his K/9 rate is lower than the league average and that he's well more than a batter off his mark from last season (8.24 vs. 6.91). There's also the fact that his velocity is down about 1.5 mph. He's also almost completely abandoned his curve ball. After throwing it 24 percent of the time in 2012 that marked dipped to 11 percent last season. This year, it's at 6.4 percent. Moreover, he's been pretty fortunately in a couple of respects. His BABIP is .214. The mark has been .278 and .288 the past two years. His career line drive rate is 20.6 percent. This year the mark is 16.5 percent (a percentage point below the league leader in 2013). There's also this. He's actually pitched a bit worse this year than last. Just take a look at his SIERA (3.55 last year, 3.90 this season) and xFIP (3.76 last year, 4.00 this season) marks. Don't panic, but dealing Teheran at full value right now may not be a bad idea.