Flamethrowers: MLB Week Three

Bret HoffmanCorrespondent IApril 20, 2009

SURPRISE, AZ - MARCH 03:  Pitcher Zack Greinke #23 of the Kansas City Royals warms up before the start of a spring training game against the Cleveland Indians at the Surprise Stadium on March 3, 2009 in Surprise, Arizona.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Flamethrowers is our Monday topic at thesportspa.blogspot.com during the MLB season. In these articles we attempt to showcase the hottest, and also the not so hot, pitchers.

This week focuses on some guys you know, but also some under-the-radar pitchers who are off to a great start so far in 2009.


1) Zack Greinke

Anyone that has been paying attention to baseball at all already knew that this guy would be on the list. Kind of crazy to see a Royal as the cover boy, huh?

Greinke has a 34-inning scoreless streak that dates back to last year. He has thrown 20 scoreless to start 2009 while giving up 16 H, for a WHIP of 1.05, with 26 SO and only five BB.

On Saturday, Greinke threw a complete game shutout, against the Rangers in their home ballpark. The Rangers have quite a potent offense, and to accomplish that against them at Arlington is even more impressive to me.

Zack is only 25, so we may be seeing the emergence of a superstar, and watching him continue this for years to come. He has shown great maturity so far in 2009, which is a good sign, plus the Royals are an improved team overall, which helps as well.

Keeper league owners will of course want to hang on to him. Other owners, just hope he has a few bad games so you can try and steal him away, because this kid is the real deal. He could easily win 15-20 games this year.

2) Johan Santana

Johan has been Johan, big surprise here. He's great, and probably the most consistent pitcher in the league.

Johan has been phenomenal so far in 2009, but he's lost a game already. The problem, and the cause of Santana losing, is that the Mets have only given Santana four runs of offense over his first three starts.

Now, that's some horrible run support, and makes Santana have to be almost perfect to win.

Santana's numbers are great, so it's hard to believe he's 2-1, but if your team can't score runs, it's gonna be hard to win.

Johan has a ERA of .46 or 19.2 innings, with an incredible WHIP of .81. He also has a league leading 27 SO, which is one more than Grienke.

3) Kevin Millwood

Millwood has been good so far for the Rangers, but a lot like Santana, he hasn't been getting enough run support. The Rangers' offense has been all or nothing so far in 2009, and the nothing performances have came when Millwood takes the mound.

Millwood has an ERA of 1.17 over 23 innings, with a better WHIP than Santana at .78. He is only owned in 57.8 percent of ESPN leagues, so if your starters are struggling you might give him a try.

He's a veteran guy, with a usually potent offense, who knows how to pitch. He should get more run support in the future. He's a great pickup in my mind.

4) Armando Galarraga

He is still going strong for the Tigers, with a 2-0 record.

Over 13.1 innings, he has given up 9 H, for a WHIP of .90, with and ERA of .68 and 13 SO. He is owned in 90.1 percent of ESPN leagues, so make sure he's not still available in your league.

Galarraga will take the mound on Tuesday against the struggling Angels, so you might take a look at him if you haven't seen him pitch.

5) Chad Billingsley

Has been great in his first three starts of the season for the Dodgers. He's 3-0 with an ERA of 2.84, a WHIP of .95 and has 21 SO over 19 innings.

He will face the Astros on Thursday, and therefore should see his success continue in my opinion.

6) Derek Lowe

Lowe has been solid so far for the Braves. He is 1-0 with an ERA of 2.81, a WHIP of 1.25 and has 15 SO over 16 innings.

He is scheduled to start twice this upcoming week, including Monday Apr. 20 against the 1-10 Nationals. He is one of the better options for the week, as he will get Cincinnati on Sunday, which is a good match-up for him as well.

7) Paul Maholm

Maholm has been pretty good for the Pirates, and is only owned in 34.9 percent of ESPN leagues.

He's 2-0 with and ERA of .87, and a WHIP of .97 over 20.2 innings of work. The only troubling thing about him is that he only has six SO, which means the other team is putting the ball in play, and sooner or later hits are bound to fall.

Still, he's a 26-year-old kid who might be worth a gamble. What do you have to lose? If he's a fluke you can simply drop him. But, if he's ends up having a great year, and you passed on him, you will be kicking yourself.

My fantasy motto is that I'd rather pick the player up, and have him bust, then watch him kill me from someone else's roster. Don't be afraid to take gambles on players, but also don't expect to win them all.

8) Jarrod Washburn

Washburn and his team, the Mariners, have both been surprisingly good so far in 2009. Washburn is 2-0 with an ERA of 1.29, a WHIP of .71 and eight SO in 14 innings of work.

Washburn is only owned in 14.1 percent of ESPN leagues, so you might give him a look if you need some help at SP. He will take the mound Tuesday against the Rays, and you can bet that if he has another good outing, that 14.1 percent will go up drastically.

You might grab him while you still can and hope the success continues. Again, it's my fantasy motto to pick the guy up and let him prove me wrong instead of beating myself up for not picking him up when I had the chance.

9) Ricky Romero

Ricky is 2-0 for the Blue Jays, thus far, who are playing so really good baseball right now. Over 21 innings of work, Romero has an ERA of 1.71 and a WHIP of 1.10. He has given up 19 H, four ER and has 13 SO.

He has pitched against some pretty decent competition so far and has done really well for an unheralded 24-year-old pitcher.

He has beaten the Tigers and A's, and got a no decision against the Twins after eight solid innings. All three of his starts have been "quality starts", which are those of six innings of more. Not too shabby, eh?

Romero is definitely an under the radar guy at this point, as he is owned in only 6.1 percent of ESPN.

You might check him out against the White Sox on Saturday, April 25, but keep in mind that if he does well you will probably have to scramble to pick him up. The motto, people!

10) Edwin Jackson

The 25-year-old is looking pretty good for the Tigers thus far. All three of his starts have been "quality starts" as well. He's 1-0 with an ERA of 2.14, a WHIP of .81 and 13 SO over 21 innings of work. He has only issued five BB too, which is great for the amount of innings he has pitched.

He threw 7.2 scoreless innings on Saturday at Seattle, and the Mariners have been playing pretty well. He is currently owned in only 12.5 percent of ESPN leagues, so he might be worth a gamble.

Jackson will take the mound on Thursday against the struggling Angels, so if you are needing a solid start mid-week you might look his way. I personally love the match-up.

Not Hot

1) Chien-Ming Wang

23 ER in just six innings, are you kidding me? That's a 34.5 ERA, need I say anything else?

He is still owned in 81 percent of ESPN leagues, but 13 percent of his owners have already dropped him. I personally wouldn't touch him with a 10 foot pole at this point. Plus, there are too many good under the radar guys available, like some of those above, that I would much rather have.

He may turn it around, but I just honestly don't see it happening. It's mental now, which is never a good thing. Maybe he caught Eric Gagne syndrome, you know the one where you go from great to garbage pretty much overnight?

Wang has won 19 games twice for the Yankees, so they will probably give him another shot. The bad news is that his next start will be against the Red Sox on Friday. I expect more boos from the new stadium.

2) Cole Hamels

Hamels has been roughed up in his first two outings of 2009. He has an ERA of 11.17 over nine 9.2 innings. Not what you would expect out of the World Series MVP from just a year ago, huh?

Hamels is still young, and unlike Wang, I think he will turn it around eventually. So don't press the panic button on him yet.

3) Cliff Lee

To his credit, Lee actually threw six strong innings against the Yankees on Thursday to earn his first victory of the season.

After giving up only one ER, he still has an ERA of 6.75. He will face the Royals on Wednesday at Cleveland. It will be interesting to see if he can turn it around.

Lee is probably a better pitcher than he has shown up to this point, but I still think the Cy Young numbers of 2008 were a complete fluke. But, that's just me.

4) Francisco Liriano

He is 0-3 with an ERA of 5.09. His WHIP of 1.25 isn't horrible, and he did pitch better against the Blue Jays on Thursday. He gave up only one ER over six innings, but got zero run support, and therefore got the loss.

This guy has the stuff to be a great pitcher, but the question is will he ever make it back to that status? He's still only 25, with a ton of upside, so I have to believe that he will turn it around at some point.

When he's on, he can be almost unhittable, you have to hang on to him in my opinion. Don't let anybody low-ball you right now for him.

5) Justin Verlander

Verlander has given up 14 ER over 16 innings, but does have 20 SO. He has an ERA of 7.88 and a WHIP of 1.56, which is not that good.

Verlander struggled horribly in 2008, and it doesn't appear that 2009 will be any different. He might be able to turn it around, but I'm just not seeing it at this point.

He is still owned by 95.3 of ESPN owners, so apparently some people still believe in him. I'm just not one of them anymore.

6) Randy Johnson

The Unit has was roughed up in his first two starts, but actually pitched a heck of a game on Sunday against his old team, the Diamondbacks.

That doesn't really say a whole lot though, because Arizona can't score on anyone, and that problem has apparently carried over from 2008.

He would probably already be at 300 career victories if they could have scored for him. Not, that the Giants are much better, but Randy should reach the milestone this year.

He's still a decent option in certain match-ups, and is owned in 88.6 percent of ESPN leagues. I would avoid using him full-time at this point of his career, but would be a great spot starter here and there if you need one.

7) Jon Lester

Lester was roughed up in his first two starts. He rebounded on Sunday by throwing seven scoreless innings against the Orioles. He now has a 5.50 ERA with 19 SO in 18 innings.

This kid is too good to be held down, he will get it going soon and Sunday might have been the start of it. He will have a good test on Friday Apr. 24, when the Red Sox go to New York to battle the Yankees.

Lester is scheduled to face Wang, which is obviously about the best thing you could ask for at this point. I expect a rout if the Yankees let Wang start, which they are saying they will. Just what the doctor ordered to keep a win streak going and build confidence for the young lefty.

8) Brad Penny

Penny has been a big disappointment for Boston so far. They took a gamble on him, and it hasn't paid off yet.

Through two starts, he has an ERA of 11.00 and a WHIP of 2.0. Probably not what they thought $9.5 million would buy them, huh?

Penny was good for the Dodgers a couple of years ago, but that was before the shoulder issues. He has the potential to win some games, and that chance should increase as Boston gets their potent offense rolling.

Penny is only owned in 14.6 percent of ESPN, and after this showing, it easy to see why. But he does have the potential to do better, so don't give up on him just yet.

He takes the mound next against the Twins on Wednesday, so check in and see how he does.

9) Carlos Zambrano

Had an awful outing on Friday against the Cardinals, giving up seven ER in seven innings. He gave up nine H and three HR to Pujols and company.

He looked pretty good in his first two starts, so it's not time to panic yet. But just keep an eye on him. He will start against the Reds on Thursday, which should be a pretty good matchup for him to rebound.

10) Dan Haren

He doesn't deserve to be on this list at all, but at 0-3, I had to put him on it. The only reason he is 0-3 is because the Diamondbacks can't score, as I mentioned earlier when talking about Randy Johnson.

Haren has an ERA of 1.89, a WHIP of .79 and has 17 SO in 19 innings. Those are great numbers, and shows that the losses aren't his fault.

He has done his job with Webb on the DL, but his team isn't giving him any run support. In fact, Arizona has only scored one run in Haren's three starts. That's just plain ridiculous!

The only thing bad about Haren is that he plays for Arizona. Hang on to him for sure and pray that they fall out of contention and trade him. It is seriously an outrage, in my opinion, that a guy with that good of stats is winless.

Tune in next Monday for more Flamethrower action. See ya.


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