A quick question for all you keeper league owners out there who love to protect starting pitching – why? With a position as deep as starting pitching is and with the ease of which pitchers get hurt, why is there such a need to protect any starters outside of the super-elite like Justin Verlander. Wednesday actually presents you with just a slice out of the “why you don’t protect starting pitching” pie. On a day when CC Sabathia was put on the DL with a strained groin, Andy Pettitte was lost to a broken ankle on a comebacker to the mound and Daniel Hudson headed to Dr. James Andrews to confirm his torn UCL and need for Tommy John surgery, you saw some unbelievable pitching performances from some rather unassuming names like Lucas Harrell, Jarrod Parker, Jonathon Niese, Clayton Richard and Jordan Zimmermann. And like I said, Wednesday was just a slice of the pie. The rest can be seen throughout the year just by running down some of the names on the stats page of your league’s web site.
Obviously, you’re going to see some top names on the current 2012 leaderboard. Verlander, Cole Hamels, Stephen Strasburg, Zack Greinke are all representing that top tier of pitching. But then you see names like Chris Capuano, Lance Lynn, R.A. Dickey, Jake Peavy and Wade Miley. Not only are they surpassing such top picks as Tim Lincecum, Roy Halladay and Felix Hernandez, but none of them cost you anything more than a 15th or 16th round pick. Now, of course, some guys are more reliable and it takes a lot more research and scouting to build a quality staff without an ace, but even the most reliable can throw in a stinker year without warning. The problem is, if you’re investing high picks in pitching, you’re running a substantial risk here, sacrificing offense. If your pitching fails, then the work it takes to fix your team is magnified because you’re likely also tinkering with your offense which, undoubtedly, has a few holes as well now.
And that’s just the higher ranked guys. How about those of you that invest in and protect some of the top youngsters out there hoping that you’re going to land the next big thing? For every can’t-miss sleeper like Brandon Beachy and Cory Luebke who are both out with Tommy John surgery, there’s a Kyle Lohse and Edwin Jackson out there just begging to be picked up for cheap. Sure, some of the guys have legitimate upside, but for every Chris Sale who is healthy (for now), you’ve got dozens of youngsters that miss.
And yes, I’m well aware that the injury big can turn around and bite any player at any moment, but pitchers are traditionally at a greater risk due to the strain they put on their arms; probably a greater risk than even catchers who play a ridiculously taxing position as well. So just do yourself a favor when you’re setting up shop for next season. If your decision comes down to protecting or investing heavily in a pitcher or a hitter, you’re likely better off keeping the hitter. Exceptions to the rule? Sure, but not many.
Now let’s hit the highlights…
|David Murphy, OF TEX||4-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI|
While David Murphy is technically a part-timer, he still does a great job as a fifth or sixth outfielder in deeper leagues. Aside from the fact that, when he plays, he is usually in a favorable hitter’s park in a ridiculously productive lineup, he can flash the power as he did here and can even throw in a little bit of speed. He’s fantastic in OBP leagues right now with a 12.5% walk rate and even with a little bit of regression, should still prove to be a capable option. If you’re in a shallow league but have some bench space available, then he definitely works as a plug-and-play option for when you have guys that are off or banged up. He’s certainly not winning your league for you, but he makes for a great cog in a championship machine.
|Torii Hunter, OF LAA||3-5, 4 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB|
|Daniel Murphy, 2B NYM||3-5, 2 R, 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI|
|Ike Davis, 1B NYM||3-5, 3 R, 2 2B, HR, 4 RBI|
|Lucas Harrell, SP HOU||W, CG, 0.00 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 7 K|
|Tim Lincecum, SP SF||W, 0.00 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 8 K|
When any team puts up 17 runs, it’s hard not to have multiple representatives on the fantasy leaderboard. Daniel Murphy hits his first home run in 324 at-bats and then follows it up with a second? Fantastic for the day, but reliable for the future? Not so much. I like him for his versatility and multi-position eligibility, but I’m certainly not relying on his for top-flight production. And as for Ike Davis, well, I need to see more consistency before I can endorse again. I liked him in the off-season….before that whole Valley Fever thing….but with a .201 average here at the end of June, he’s got a ways to go before I can start showering him with compliments.
Torii Hunter, on the other hand, deserves some accolades here. Originally believed to be on the outs due to age and declining production, Hunter has produced well with a .279 average and 10 home runs at this point. So long as he stays healthy, I see no reason to doubt that he will post his seventh straight 20-plus home run season and do it with a solid .280-ish average. Considering that he probably didn’t cost you much to draft, he’s giving you another year of solid return value.
Congratulations to Lucas Harrell for his first career complete game. That’s actually back-to-back great outings for the young right-hander, and while he’s still a little too inconsistent, he makes for a good fifth or sixth pitcher in deeper leagues and a solid streaming option in leagues with daily moves.
As for Tim Lincecum….yes, a great outing for him on Wednesday. But am I sold on the rebound yet? No. There’s definite promise, but it’s going to take more than just five quality innings against the A’s and a solid outing against a Dodgers team that was missing Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier before I’m a believer again. Let’s see how he fares against the Nationals his next time out and then the Pirates before the All Star break. He’s got a ways to go before earning some trust back.
Honorable mention to Chase Utley for his first game back on Wednesday. 3-for-5 with a home run? Not too shabby, Chase. Not too shabby.
|Josh Hamilton, OF TEX||0-4, 4 K|
|Elliot Johnson, SS TB||0-4, 3 K|
|Jose Lopez, 3B CLE||0-4, 3 K|
|Ricky Romero, SP TOR||L, 24.00 ERA, 4.33 WHIP, K|
|Jason Hammel, SP BAL||L, 21.60 ERA, 3.30 WHIP, 2 K|
As always, everyone experiences the bad day. The only one that brings me any real concern is Jason Hammel. How he rebounds from this outing ill tell you a lot about his make-up and where he could end up the rest of the way. Fortunately for him, his next start is in Seattle.
Nick Johnson, DH BAL – wrist (questionable)
Brandon Phillips, 2B CIN – head (questionable)
Carlos Santana, C CLE – back (questionable)
Jose Altuve, 2B HOU – hamstring (questionable)
Andre Ethier, OF LAD – oblique (questionable)
Ryan Braun, OF MIL – elbow (questionable)
CC Sabathia, SP NYY – groin (15-day DL)
Andy Pettitte, SP NYY – ankle (15-day DL)
Rod Barajas, C PIT – knee (questionable)
Kevin Millwood, SP SEA – groin (questionable)
Colby Lewis, SP TEX – forearm (15-day DL)
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over ten years on a variety of web sites including his own, The Fantasy Baseball Buzz. You can follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or email him at email@example.com.
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