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Fantasy Baseball: Week 7 Start 'Em or Sit 'Em Breakdown

Andrew GouldFeatured ColumnistMay 13, 2013

Fantasy Baseball: Week 7 Start 'Em or Sit 'Em Breakdown

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    It's time to deal with the most dreaded part of managing a fantasy baseball team: setting your lineup.

    Fantasy baseball is supposed to provide players a fun escape from reality, and decisions are one of life's main nuisances. Well, life is tough, and winning your league takes some sacrifice.

    Have a task due to your boss by the end of the day? That can wait. Need to study for a final exam? Don't be ridiculous.

    Let's get to the things that truly matter. Deciding which starting pitchers to entrust is a tricky process that deserves its due diligence. Should you ride the hot hand? Play the promising matchup even if he is slumping? Bench Matt Harvey after allowing two runs? (No, don't do that).

    Last week was a wacky one, as two pitchers who once looked like future aces turned the clocks back five years to reignite the baseball community. Is it safe to trust them again? Let's take a look.

     

    Note: Statistics, unless otherwise noted, courtesy of FanGraphs.com

    Have any other roster questions? Post them in the comments and I'll try to lend a helping hand. 

Scott Kazmir

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    Scheduled Start: Tuesday at Philadelphia Phillies

    For the first time since 2009, we can actually discuss starting Scott Kazmir with a straight face.

    I know, I’m scared too.

    He only retired five batters in the previous two years, but the 29-year-old has looked revitalized in his last two starts with the Cleveland Indians. In those outings, he has allowed three runs in 12 innings, striking out 17 batters with just one walk.

    Could Kazmir’s return from the dead last? There are some positive signs that at least warrant giving him a chance. His fastball velocity and swinging strike percentages both resemble his rates from 2008, when he posted a 3.49 ERA and 9.81 K/9 ratio.

    Since the Phillies are fueled by two lefty bats (Ryan Howard and Chase Utley), Kazmir’s comeback tour should make at least one more stop.

    Verdict: Start

Brandon Morrow

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    Scheduled Start: Wednesday vs. San Francisco Giants

    The Toronto Blue Jays have scratched Brandon Morrow twice due to neck and back stiffness, but he is scheduled to pitch against the Giants on Wednesday (via Shi Davidi of SportsNet.ca).

    Even if he takes the mound, he should not be in your lineup.

    Morrow’s early struggles cannot be chalked up to bad luck. While he has reverted to old habits with a heightened 3.79 walk rate, his strikeouts continue to evaporate.

    Once an elite source of punchouts, Morrow is posting a career-low 7.59 K/9 ratio. With those marks both trending in the wrong way, he has recorded an ugly 4.69 ERA.

    The Giants are no powerhouse offensively, but only the Dodgers strike out less than them in the National League. Morrow’s new goal of pitching to contact could infuriate owners more if he returns this week.

    Make Morrow prove his health before reinserting him into your rotation.

    Verdict: Sit

Wandy Rodriguez

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    Scheduled Start: Wednesday vs. Milwaukee Brewers

    ESPN analyst Matthew Berry developed the Wandy Line to create a distinction between streamers and starters who earned must-play status.

    Well, where does Wandy Rodriguez fall on the Wandy Line?

    His performance so far has solidified a steady spot on most rosters. Rodriguez will enter this start with a 3.62 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and pinpoint control demonstrated by his 1.93 walk rate.

    But he did have one terrible outing this year, and it came against the Brewers. Rodriguez surrendered seven runs in 3.2 innings against a team that ranks fifth in slugging percentage.

    Expect a few more shaky starts to correct his .229 BABIP and 80.8 percent strand rate, but home-field advantage gives Rodriguez the benefit of the doubt for this game.

    Rodriguez has always pitched significantly better in front of the home fans, recording a 3.41 career ERA at home and a 4.69 ERA on the road. His last beating came at Milwaukee, but they’ll move to Pittsburgh for this matchup.

    Verdict: Start

Francisco Liriano

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    Scheduled Start: Thursday vs. Milwaukee Brewers

    First Kazmir, now Francisco Liriano. Next, Rich Harden? Mark Prior?

    Liriano made his season debut on Saturday, allowing one run with nine strikeouts in 5.1 innings. Lately a disaster zone in terms of control, he surrendered only two walks against the New York Mets.

    Are we all about to get dragged onto the Liriano bandwagon again? It’s a long, bumpy ride taken on a narrow, gravelly road. Yet we take the drive anyway because we have all seen Liriano at his best.

    He struck out 201 batters in 2010, but followed with ERAs above 5.00 in two consecutive seasons. Why must he always tease us?

    The Mets have scored 18 runs over the last seven contests, so make Liriano prove he is a changed man with another strong start against a better offense before giving him his seventh second chance. 

    Verdict: Sit

Andy Pettitte

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    Scheduled Start: Thursday vs. Seattle Mariners

    Does anyone else want to take a crack at analyzing Andy Pettitte’s season thus far? I’m at a loss.

    Pettitte sported a 2.22 ERA through his first four starts, because that’s totally something that formerly retired 40-year-old pitchers recovering from an injury do.

    Just when he earned owners’ trust, he imploded against the Houston Astros. Everyone has a bad day, but against the Astros?

    Another shaky outing against the Oakland Athletics seemed to indicate that his secret anti-aging potion was wearing off. It’s safe to drop him, right?

    Hold up; he hurled a fine outing against the Kansas City Royals, striking out seven batters to one walk in seven superb innings.

    If he can unravel against the Astros, the Mariners could easily get to him as well, but give Pettitte a shot anyway. Just don’t plan to rely on him throughout the year.

    Verdict: Start

Jonathon Niese

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    Scheduled Start: Thursday at St. Louis Cardinals

    Jonathon Niese is not treating his fantasy owners nicely.

    Niese finally broke through last year, posting a 3.40 ERA and 1.17 WHIP to match the underlying skills that always existed. Entering drafts, potential suitors saw his as a steady option with the potential to take another step forward.

    He has instead taken several giant steps back. In addition to a grotesque 5.93 ERA and 1.76 WHIP, Niese has accumulated more walks (22) than strikeouts (21) through 41 innings pitched.

    He has lost nearly one mile per hour on his fastball and is throwing an ineffective changeup far more often. After using the changeup 3.8 percent of the time last year, the pitch’s usage rate has skyrocketed to 13.5 percent.

    For many owners, the real question is keep or drop. While it’s too soon to cut all ties with the southpaw, Niese is too much of a mess to stay in the lineup against a respectable St. Louis offense that ranks 11th in runs scored.

    Verdict: Sit

Roberto Hernandez

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    Scheduled Start: Saturday at Baltimore Orioles

    Do the Tampa Bay Rays have another good starting pitcher?

    Roberto Hernandez first seemed to be keeping the fifth spot warm for Chris Archer or Jake Odorizzi, but the 32-year-old has reinvented himself this season.

    Never one to strike out many with a career 5.52 K/9 rate, Hernandez has fanned 41 batters in 42.2 innings. His ferocity also comes with an impressive 2.70 BB/9 ratio.

    He has hurled two back-to-back quality outings, relinquishing three combined runs in his two prior starts.

    He’s already squared off with Baltimore twice this season, allowing 16 baserunners and seven earned runs through 12.2 innings. The matchup is not entirely alluring, but it’s worth rolling the dice on the hot hand in deeper formats.

    Verdict: Start (in AL only and deeper mixed leagues)

Brandon McCarthy

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    Scheduled Start: Saturday at Miami Marlins

    How do you not root for Brandon McCarthy? Less than a year removed from taking a scorching liner to the head, he is back on the mound. Also, he’s way funnier than most other athletes, as evident by gems like this one from his Twitter account.

    Pretty frustrated with being terrible thus far, so tomorrow I'm going to go scream at pigeons in Central Park if anyone cares to join.

    — Brandon McCarthy (@BMcCarthy32) April 17, 2013

    Likability, however, is not a category in fantasy baseball, and he’s torpedoing the stats we actually use, registering a 5.63 ERA during his first eight starts.

    A supporter of sabermetrics, McCarthy should be able to identify the misfortune in his slow start. He has tallied a sky-high .365 BABIP with a decent 3.74 FIP, and his usual precision around the strike zone remains intact.

    Better days, as seen by his eight shutout innings against the Phillies, are coming, and what easier way to catch fire than by facing the Miami Marlins? They rank last in many meaningful offensive categories (average, runs, home runs, slugging percentage) and continue to play without their one slugger, Giancarlo Stanton.

    Verdict: Start

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