Is it time to bench Matt Moore?
It's Week 13 of the fantasy baseball season, but let's try and sidestep bad luck's reach when setting our lineups.
Of course, that's often easier said than done. Two weeks ago, I encouraged you to bench Yovani Gallardo before he shut down the Cincinnati Reds, and that's not even the worst of it. A pair of Pittsburgh hurlers made me look silly, as Gerrit Cole proved more major league ready than I anticipated, while Jeff Locke somehow continues to fend off his looming regression.
This week, we have light-tossing veterans, returning heroes looking to regain their ace status, an overhyped young gun and two underappreciated ones.
Let's break down some intriguing pitching matchups to examine for June's final week.
Note: All Statistics, unless otherwise noted, courtesy of FanGraphs.com.
Two tough opponents should cause Moore's owners to remove him from the starting lineup.
Scheduled Starts: Tuesday vs. Toronto Blue Jays, Sunday vs. Detroit Tigers
Talk about a tough schedule.
The good news is that Matt Moore gets two starts this week. The bad news is that the Toronto Blue Jays and Detroit Tigers will cross his path.
Toronto has tallied the second-highest homer total in baseball, and that’s after overcoming a rough start. The Tigers are tied for third in runs scored, and Miguel Cabrera still plays for them.
Moore has dealt with tough circumstances all season, already pitching in Coors Field, Yankee Stadium and Arlington while dealing with the Baltimore Orioles twice. He also faced Detroit earlier in the month in a game where he allowed 13 baserunners and six runs through two innings.
A month ago, we were discussing Moore’s 8-0 record, 2.21 ERA and ascension into the elite tier of fantasy aces. There were, however, warning signs for a regression that included a high walk rate and unsustainable BABIP. He’s paying for a picturesque April when everything unfolded perfectly with a disastrous June where he’s posting a 3.00 WHIP.
For now, Moore is a considerable step away from emerging as a true ace who can regularly be trusted for anything more than strikeouts and the occasional torrid stretch. Stay away as he faces two offensive juggernauts this week.
Yes, that Kevin Correia.
Scheduled Starts: Tuesday at Miami Marlins, Sunday vs. Kansas City Royals
This is going to sound bizarre, but Kevin Correia has actually pitched well lately.
Am I the only one who needs to take the rest of the day off to recoup from that sentence? OK, fine, let’s keep going then.
Correia, or more accurately the Minnesota Twins, became my personal punching bag during the offseason after the mediocre pitcher received a baffling $10 million deal. However, he’s earning some of that money this month.
Over his past three starts, the 32-year-old righty has relinquished three runs through 18 innings, but that’s not the most shocking part of his recent hot streak. Correia, who sports a career 5.93 K/9 rate, has punched out 19 batters during those three outings while issuing just one walk.
Such a bite-sized sampling is not enough to make him mixed-league relevant, but his mouth-watering itinerary for the week makes it an interesting case in deeper formats.
On Tuesday, Correia faces the Miami Marlins, whose offense ranks last in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and runs scored. To top it off, on Sunday he gets the Kansas City Royals, whose 40 total team home runs are tied with the Marlins for last in baseball.
Don’t expect Correia to keep the strikeouts coming, but he might surprise us a week longer.
Verdict: Start in AL-only leagues
Can Jason Marquis continue to utilize Petco Park to his advantage?
Scheduled Start: Tuesday vs. Philadelphia Phillies
Jason Marquis is 9-2 with a 3.59 ERA. This makes him a reliable pitcher to start, right?
No, not…just no. Not by a long shot.
In fact, the veteran’s season exemplifies everything wrong with weighing those two factors so heavily when evaluating pitchers. His individual performance has not merited nine wins nor a solid ERA.
Not only does the soft-tosser possess a mediocre 5.78 K/9 ratio, but he also yields an inordinate amount of free tickets to first base with a 4.78 BB/9 rate. That’s a recipe for disaster which has led to an unseemly 1.38 WHIP, but how has the ERA survived with limited damage?
Marquis has allowed 77 hits through 90.1 innings, which is remarkably low for a pitcher who has surrendered 9.42 hits per nine innings over his career. For that he can thank a .237 BABIP, far below his career .286 mark.
He’s 3-0 with a 3.04 ERA during June. Great, but I’m still not touching him with a 50-foot pole since his 5.66 FIP and minus-1.3 WAR, via FanGraphs, shows that he is a below-replacement pitcher who should not be trusted.
If an old-school baseball aficionado tries to sell you on Marquis, simply nod politely and move on. Seriously, promise me you’ll stay away from him.
Roy Oswalt made his MLB return last week.
Scheduled Start: Wednesday at Boston Red Sox
Hey Roy, welcome back. Before this gets awkward once Oswalt realizes I completely forgot he was gone, let’s delve into the analysis part.
The veteran made his 2013 debut last Thursday, surrendering four runs through five innings to the Washington Nationals. While those numbers hardly seem appealing, he caught fantasy managers’ attention by striking out 11 batters with no walks.
That outing perfectly personifies his brief stint with the Texas Rangers last season; he registered a ghastly 5.80 ERA during 59 innings despite notching 59 strikeouts and 11 walks.
Despite the gaudy strikeout and walk stats, Oswalt paid the price through the long ball, allotting 11 homers through his short time in Texas. Now owners must decide if he’ll bounce back from poor luck or become another Dan Haren.
The latter scenario is a distinct possibility now that he partnered with the Colorado Rockies. Then again, his propensity to master the aspects of pitching in his power along with his velocity resembling his average speed from 2010, when he posted a 2.76 ERA, offer encouragement that Oswalt could provide sneaky value.
He’s an interesting speculative add, but don’t insert him into your lineup just yet. The Boston Red Sox quietly lead the MLB in runs and rate second in on-base percentage and third in slugging average.
Go pick up Corey Kluber, but wait a week before playing him.
Scheduled Start: Thursday at Baltimore Orioles
People need to take notice of Corey Kluber, but this week is not the ideal time.
Cleveland’s unsung hurler deserves much more looks than he is receiving, as the 27-year-old continues to float unowned in many leagues despite his sizzling 8.75 K/9 rate and 1.65 BB/9 ratio.
Those metrics have resulted in a 3.68 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, so why is he only accounted for in 35.6 percent of ESPN leagues?
Good question, me. The limited recognition probably stems from his lack of a major league track record. While he sported a 5.14 ERA in 63 innings last year, that came with a 4.29 FIP and solid strikeout and walk figures.
Kluber’s clobbering of opposing bats also hit a snag during his last start against the Minnesota Twins, who amassed three runs on eight hits and two homers. That’s no reason to incite panic, but it’s still worth benching Kluber for his next outing.
That recommendation is not a slight aimed at Kluber, but a nod of respect to the Orioles, whose elite offense currently tops in home runs and slugging percentage deserves recognition. With Babe Ruth impersonator Chris Davis leading the way, more than half of Baltimore’s lineup could earn All-Star nods.
But don’t overreact to a potential poor start against a studly offense. You’ll want to slide Kluber back into the lineup next week when he faces the Kansas City Royals.
Can we go back to trusting a healthy Josh Johnson?
Scheduled Start: Friday at Boston Red Sox
We’ve established that Oswalt is a no-go against the rejuvenated Red Sox offensive attack, so does the same hold true for Josh Johnson?
It typically behooves a fantasy owner to reserve a pitcher holding a 1.49 WHIP when he faces a patient yet potent lineup. Others times, well, the old "throw caution to the wind" approach can also work.
The polarizing pitcher usually exclusively frustrates managers with his inability to stay on the mound. When he rarely avoids the disabled list, Johnson is an ace, which makes his 4.60 ERA all the more baffling.
In all fairness, he has also recorded a .326 BABIP and 3.96 FIP while showing signs of resurgence. Since returning from a triceps injury that cost him a month, Johnson has struck out 25 batters in 25.1 innings with a 2.84 ERA.
He nearly escaped Baltimore untouched before deferring four late runs, but he still picked up his first victory of 2013 against a towering offense. Since that start followed a 10-strikeout outing, it’s enough to give Johnson a chance against Boston.
The numbers, albeit not what we expected from Andrew Cashner, have been useful.
Scheduled Start: Saturday at Miami Marlins
Andrew Cashner’s stats resemble more of what you’d expect from a grizzled veteran who has etched a nice living for himself eating innings and pitching to contact.
Despite racking up a so-so 59 strikeouts through 86.1 innings, Cashner has netted a 3.34 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. After taking a few turns to acclimate to his move from the bullpen, Cashner has tossed at least six innings in each of his past eight starts.
Cashner, of course, is no Marquis or Correia. He is a young, premier arm with a heater operating in the mid-90s that landed the Chicago Cubs Anthony Rizzo.
As a reliever, Cashner struck out nearly a batter per inning, but as a starter, he has tightened the belt on his control. In 77 innings since entering the rotation, he has issued 16 base on balls.
While his current contributions are not spectacular, they are certainly usable for a San Diego Padres pitcher with the potential to boost his strikeout rate. He should be employed with caution on the road, but Miami is one venue where owners should happily trot Cashner out.