Cleaning the Fantasy Baseball Litterbox: Pitchers

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Cleaning the Fantasy Baseball Litterbox: Pitchers
(Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

Each week on RotoExperts.com, I write a column called Slumps and Dumps where I scoop the turds from the fantasy baseball litterbox by looking at the players who are tanking and consequently dragging your team down with them.

Part of that process is meant be therapeutic for fantasy owners who just need to get it off their chest and bash a few of their players. Some of you may even opt to plot intricate scenarios by which your paths could cross so you could scream belligerently at them if only for a few glorious seconds. Hey, who am I to judge?

The other (and more important) goal of this column is to examine the possibility that these clowns return to the realm of the useful or whether you should dump them like Robbie Alomar.

Since the season has just begun, the first two columns present a look back at some of last year's biggest busts. With that in mind, I have assembled the rotation and bullpen for a team that I affectionately refer to as "Guys I Wanted to Beat With a Rake From the Grounds Crew."

 

Erik Bedard (SP, SEA)

I am moderately ashamed to admit that I was sucked into the Bedard hype machine after the offseason trade that moved him out of the hitter-heavy AL East and into a great pitcher's park in Seattle. That confidence was rewarded with a 6-4 record in 15 starts before a shoulder injury cut short his season. Bedard's WHIP ballooned from 1.14 in 2007 to 1.32 last year (which is actually right around his career average), and his BB/9 IP also shot up from 2.82 to 4.11. All of this is a statistical way to say that I wanted to run him down with the bullpen car. So what can you expect this year?

Well, one thing you should not expect is 200 innings since Bedard has never hit that mark in his career. His spring numbers seemed decent with just one earned run allowed in first 8.1 innings, but he was lit up for six earned runs in his final start. He ended up with nine walks with a 1.76 WHIP and failed to pitch into the fourth inning in any of his outings. Bedard was also scratched from a start due to sore buttocks, and anyone who owned him last year knows that feeling all too well.

 

Fausto Carmona (SP, CLE)

While I am not fluent in any foreign languages, I did learn last year that Fausto loosely translates to "ball four." Carmona followed up his 19-8 season in 2007 with an injury-shortened campaign where he walked 70 batters while striking out just 58 in 120.2 innings.

Did I mention that his ERA was 5.44 and his WHIP topped 1.60? He somehow managed to go 4-2 with a 3.10 ERA in the first half despite a 23/38 K/BB rate. That is not a typo. Carmona really did walk 15 more batters than he struck out. Surprisingly, walks must be the key to his success because he improved on that rate in the second half and wound up with a 7.61 ERA after the break.

Supposedly he has recovered from hip surgery, but he also pitched 230 total innings in 2007 which could have lingering effects even into 2009. Outside of Carmona's eight spring walks in 27 innings, a number of his stats are encouraging, most notably his 48/19 groundout/flyout ratio and a 2.67 ERA.

The Indians have a solid offense which should help Carmona rack up some wins, but his other numbers won't be too much help to your squad.  That said, you didn't waste a high pick or a bunch of money on him this year so if he starts slow you won't feel obligated to hold onto him for too long.

 

Aaron Harang (SP, CIN)

The Cincinnati right-hander led the NL in strikeouts back in 2006, but last season he topped the majors in a far less glamorous category: losses. He nearly doubled up to lead the league in home runs allowed but was edged out by human batting tee Brandon Backe (SP, HOU).

A forearm injury contributed to Harang's struggles, but the real concern was the fact that he pitched over 230 innings in both 2006 and 2007 only to see the Reds subsequently hire career killer Dusty Baker as their manager. Last season's K/BB rate fell to 3.06 after hitting 4.19 in 2007, but Harang did seem to finally regain his groove over his final eight starts of 2008 with a 2.83 ERA and 38 punchouts in 54 innings.

The bad news is that he still served up seven homers in that span and followed it up with an inconsistent spring. For instance, in one start Harang tossed six no-hit innings (albeit against the Pirates), but in his prior outing he allowed six runs in 3.1 innings. Harang did shed 25 pounds in the offseason which should help his durability and hopefully his fantasy performance.  I think he was worth the draft day gamble based on where his Average Draft Position ended up.

 

Brett Myers (SP, PHI)

Let's focus on the positives for Myers: He made it through his second straight season without punching his wife in public. However, the Ike Turner wannabe did fail to spend the entire season in the majors after allowing an astounding 24 homers in the first half.

Myers did respond well to his stint in the minors by going 7-4 including two complete games after the break with a 3.06 ERA and 75 Ks in 88.1 innings. He was awful away from home as evidenced by his 6.21 road ERA but pitched well in the post season and will look to carry that momentum into 2009.

After being jerked between the rotation and the bullpen the past couple seasons, Myers enters 2009 firmly entrenched as a starter which should help him get off to a better start. I like his chances to rebound as well as anyone on this list in spite of a first outing that saw him give up three homers in two innings on Sunday night.

 

Justin Verlander (SP, DET)

After posting at least 17 wins and a sub-3.70 ERA in each of his first two seasons, Verlander crashed back to Earth in 2008. His velocity was down as he tied the aforementioned Harang with 17 losses along with a 4.84 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. Verlander increased his walks by 20 batters in essentially the same amount of innings pitched as in 2007 and was bad both on the road and at home.

In summary, he pitched like Carl Pavano (SP, CLE) circa every year except 2004. Verlander has posted a 3.90 ERA this spring despite 16 walks compared to 15 strikeouts in 32.1 innings, but he did have a stretch where he allowed just one earned run and five hits over three outings (18 IP). Still, his ADP placed him at the end of round 10 and ahead of guys like Ricky Nolasco (SP, FLA), Adam Wainwright (SP, STL), Javier Vazquez (SP, ATL), and Josh Johnson (SP, FLA) which to me was a stretch.  I would much rather have any of those guys on my team.

 

Manny Corpas (RP, COL)

The ever volatile world of closers strikes again. Corpas finished 2007 with 19 saves, a 2.08 ERA, and a 1.06 WHIP. However, he struggled early and often in 2008 and ended up with just four saves and a reduced strikeout rate to go with Borowski-esque ERA and WHIP numbers. A large culprit was the fact that his groundout-to-flyout rate fell from 2.29 to 1.75, but he ended up pitching better in the second half after being forcibly removed from the pressure of the closer's role.

For reasons unbeknownst to anyone living outside of a mental facility, the Rockies acquired Huston Street (RP, COL) in the offseason, and he ended up winning the closer competition with Corpas this spring. Given that the Rockies want to audition Street for potential trade suitors, I think he keeps the gig for a while even if he struggles early, rendering Corpas a handcuff option at best.

 

Rafael Betancourt (RP, CLE)

In order to draft a set-up man, a few things have to be in place. First, they have to put up absurdly good numbers. In 2007, Betancourt posted a 5-1 record with a 1.47 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, and 80 strikeouts compared to just nine walks in 79.1 innings, so he clearly met that requirement. Second, they need to have a good chance to assume the closer's job. Entering the season behind Joe Borowski definitely qualifies there.

So what went wrong for Betancourt last year? Everything. He nearly tripled his walks in fewer innings pitched, decreased his strikeouts by 20 percent, doubled his WHIP, and nearly quadrupled his ERA. With the oft-injured Kerry Wood (RP, CLE) on board as the Tribe's new closer the potential for saves has returned, but Betancourt continued to struggle this spring and has been passed by fellow set-up man Jensen Lewis (RP, CLE) and a host of others in the late-game pecking order.

 

Whether you loved or hated this, be sure to check out everything that we have going at RotoExperts.com.  I guarantee you'll find something there to help improve your fantasy squads and maybe even your overall quality of life. 

All Average Draft Positions provided by mockdraftcentral.com.

Which hurlers killed your fantasy team last season? E-mail Andy at Bottoms@rotoexperts.com with your fantasy baseball thoughts, rants, and conundrums.

 

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