Oracle Report: Judging Pitchers
Judge, jury and executioner. Ray Flowers fills all three roles as he looks at some starting pitchers.
The day after a holiday is the time to get back to it. Breaking down players is my “it,” so in this piece I'll break down hurlers. Not the elites, not even guys ranked in most folks top-50's, but the guys you're adding, or thinking about adding, off waivers in mixed leagues. Let's face it. We all know Adam Wainwright is a star, but what about guys like Kennedy, Lewis & Vargas?
You can find my review of hitters in the link.
Danny Salazar... oops, sorry, Trevor Bauer couldn't locate his pitches Sunday as he allowed six hits, including two homers, and three walks while recording just 4.1 innings or work. Bauer is still unproven and incredibly raw, and for all the good will he generated with his dominance in the minors this season he's still sitting with a 3.86 ERA and 1.53 WHIP through three starts with the Indians. Could he be a star the rest of the way? Certainly he could (he has 21 Ks in 16.1 innings), but he also has to cut down his walks (4.41 per nine) and the homers (four in three starts).
The Verdict: He's a 6th starter in mixed leagues until further notice. If someone is convinced he's worth more, dealing him wouldn't be the worst idea ever.
Josh Beckett threw a no-hitter, the 283rd ever, as he threw a career-high 128 pitches. Given his track record of ill health, you have to think the Dodgers limit Beckett's pitches the next few outings. Through nine starts he's sporting a 2.43 ERA and 1.02 WHIP, but at the same time the last two years he's only thrown 213.2 innings with a 4.76 ERA and 1.36 WHIP. Is he really going to channel his 28 year old self at 34 years of age? I have a hard time believing he will.
The Verdict: Sell. Don't give him away, he figures to be mixed league worthy as long as he's healthy, but there's no reason to hold on if you get offered a worthy deal – he can't be this good all year long.
Miguel Gonzalez had a 3.25 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 2012. Last year he had a 3.78 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. Slightly better than league average. No one wanted to draft him this year though. At this point the numbers aren't great – he has a 4.35 ERA and 1.41 WHIP – but he's been much better of late. In his last three starts he's allowed two runs in each outing, all being a quality starts. He's actually jacked up his K-rate adding more than a batter an a half this season (8.01 K/9), and that's intriguing, but his walk rate has also spiked too (3.31 per nine). There's a pretty reasonable expectation that both his ERA and WHIP will regress moving forward.
The Verdict: An option in 15 team mixed leagues as a final starter, but more likely a target in AL-only leagues.
Ian Kennedy had a 4.91 ERA last season with a 1.41 WHIP. People moved on. This year he has a 3.59 ERA and 1.14 WHIP and people are taking notice. Kennedy had a K/9 rate from 8.03 and 8.09 the past three years. He's jacked that number up to 9.58 this season. Not a sustainable pace, but he has had 185 Ks in two of the last three years and 160 in 4-straight, so a run to 200 is possible if he stays healthy. He's also returned to being the strike thrower he has long been walking only 2.13 batters per nine (the number inexplicably jumped last year to 3.62). Pitching at Petco certainly helps, especially if he can hold on to what would be a career best ground ball rate (44.5 percent right now, 38.1 for his career).
The Verdict: A solid option, he figures to be mixed league worthy all year long with a strong upside in NL-only leagues. He's not an elite arm, but if the Ks and grounders stay we could be looking at one of the best draft day bargains in the league.
Colby Lewis is 4-3 with a 5.10 ERA over eight starts. His WHIP is ghastly at 1.75. So why mention him at all? Lewis has a 7.87 K/9 mark, right in line with his totals his past two seasons (7.59 and 7.97). Uncharacteristically his walk rate has risen to 3.19 per nine, that is after a mark of 2.40 his previous 80 starts prior to this year. Players coming back from injury often struggle with their control, so this isn't a huge shock. What is a shock is a 25 percent line drive rate an a .399 BABIP. Why are those rates shocking? Take a look at his 20.9 and .300 career marks that are league average stuff. A reduction should be on the horizon.
The Verdict: Worth a look in AL-only leagues. If he locks things in you will be glad you took the plunge. If he doesn't come around, no harm no foul.
Jason Vargas has a 3.55 ERA and 1.20 WHIP and in 11 starts he's tossed eight quality starts. Let's be honest with who we're dealing with here. Vargas has a 4.25 ERA and 1.31 WHIP over the course of 1,050 innings (165 starts and 180 games). That's league average junk. Even with an eight year high right now in his K/9 rate – it's 6.59 – he's still a full batter below the league average. He just doesn’t help you at all in strikeouts. He's also 55-60 for his career. He doesn't win games. He gives up homers – 1.27 this season and 1.16 for his career. When he makes a mistake it gets taken deep. He's the owner of a career 0.86 GB/FB ratio, which is certainly sub par for someone with his skill set.
The Verdict: The last guy on your bench in a mixed league. For me, he's nothing more than a spot starter, that's what I call guys who are under .500 in their career who can't break a plane of glass with their fastball. He's an option in AL-only leagues.