Should fantasy baseball managers avoid Corey Kluber after a rough outing last week?
We're at the real half-way point of the 2013 MLB season.
As often as the All-Star break is implemented as the arbitrary end-point to slice off season splits, most teams have played around 80 games this season. Three months down, three more to go.
This could be where I give an uplifting pep-talk to step up your game down the stretch, but I trust that you have been poring your heart and soul into your fantasy squad. With that out of the way, you have a lineup to set, so let's get to business.
Last week's advice succeeded the most when relying on cynicism. As predicted, Jason Marquis punished anyone who forgot he's Jason Marquis, the Boston Red Sox hit Roy Oswalt hard and Corey Kluber failed to tame the scorching Baltimore Orioles.
Matt Moore had to ruin the party by allowing one run with 11 strikeouts against the Toronto Blue Jays despite surrendering six walks. And hopefully none of you heeded my gut call to start Josh Johnson against Boston.
Let's hit the reset button and see what the opening week of July has to offer.
Note: All statistics are courtesy of FanGraphs.com unless otherwise noted.
R.A. Dickey's explosive knuckleball showed up last week.
Scheduled Starts: Monday vs. Detroit Tigers, Saturday vs. Minnesota Twins
I'm setting myself up for failure here.
R.A. Dickey's knuckleball has a mind of its own, and it has caused a slew of wildly variable production from the veteran. Just when you feel comfortable enough to insert him into the lineup, he serves up gophers in a seven-run laugher.
And just when you decide enough is enough, he throws a complete-game shutout against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Dickey resembled the 2012 Cy Young winner last Wednesday afternoon, going the distance in under 100 pitches. After getting embarrassed by Dickey's vivacious knuckleball, even Evan Longoria admitted that Dickey made him look silly.
But let's not just take Longoria's word for it. More encouraging than Dickey's dazzling output was how he obtained them. He collected most of his success last season through his hard knuckler, which averaged 77.1 miles per hour and occasionally clocked up to 80. This season, he has thrown the pitch at an average speed of 74.8 mph.
Last week, however, the pitch clocked in at 76.7 mph, a rate he has not matched this season since Opening Day. If his back issues have subsided and the summer humidity cooperates, Dickey could heat up during the final three months.
Then again, he faces the Detroit Tigers, who are not a good draw for a pitcher who has already yielded 17 homers in 2013. This rough outing provides Dickey with a true test, but I'd rather sit him since he has demonstrated his fickleness frequently.
In a weekly-lineup league the decision is much tougher, as you'll hate yourself for not having him available to face the Minnesota Twins if he conquers the Tigers. Take the plunge and use him to avoid potentially missing two phenomenal starts.
Verdict: Sit vs. Detroit, Start vs. Minnesota (Start in weekly lineup leagues)
David Price returns to action this week after missing six weeks.
Scheduled Start: Tuesday at Houston Astros, Sunday vs. Chicago White Sox
Who would have thought both reigning Cy Young recipients would highlight a start or sit column?
David Price returns this week after a left triceps strain sidelined him during mid-May. The lefty ace was not himself before landing on the disabled list, posting a 5.24 ERA and 1.44 WHIP, so should his fantasy owners wait before heaving him back into their lineups?
None of his earlier struggles should illicit any long-term concerns, as a .345 BABIP and 60.2 percent strand rate exasperated his woes while he maintained solid strikeout (8.02 K/9) and walk (2.29 BB/9) rates. Still, it might not hurt to ease him back into the swing of things.
It usually makes sense to wait a start to ensure the pitcher is healthy and throwing at full velocity, but this situation warrants an exception.
Price is an established ace whom you likely selected to operate as your No. 1 starter. Someone of his track record gives less of a reason to baby him.
More importantly, he will receive two alluring starts this week. Both the Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox rank among the bottom 10 run-scoring teams in baseball, so Price has been dealt a strong hand to flourish immediately upon his return.
It's safe to put Kluber back into your lineup now.
Scheduled Start: Tuesday at Kansas City Royals
Last week, I cautioned to sit Kluber against Baltimore before re-inserting him into the lineup this week against the Kansas City Royals.
Well, here we are.
I could change course and flip-flop after last week's happening. After all, Kluber surrendered 11 hits and six earned runs without surviving through five full innings. That concluded his June with a 3.90 ERA and 1.39 WHIP.
It also does not help that the Royals' bats have caught fire. The rejuvenated Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas led Kansas City to a 20-run weekend against the Twins, so now's not the best time to run into a once meddling offense.
But what good is a man who does not stay true to his word? There was a reason for the advanced warning not to let a rough inning deter the Kluber bandwagon: He's really good.
Despite his 4.16 ERA, he is is still sporting a 3.35 FIP and 2.94 xFIP. His studly 8.68 K/9 ratio and 1.67 BB/9 rate are indicative of a terrific option worth using in most situations. Facing the Orioles happened to be one of the few ill-advised scenarios.
Don't let one bad start against an incredible offense scare you away from trusting Kluber.
Miguel Gonzalez should draw some recognition in more fantasy leagues.
Scheduled Start: Wednesday at Chicago White Sox
He's no Corey Kluber, but Miguel Gonzalez is also stringing together solid numbers with nobody watching.
His full body of work is not too impressive. Neither his 3.77 ERA nor his 6.93 K/9 rate will garner a flock of managers battling for his rights, but he has locked into a groove after a rough April.
During his last nine starts, Gonzalez earned a 3.41 ERA and 1.05 WHIP while striking out 51 batters alongside 13 walks through 58 innings.
Although it remains to be seen if his .260 BABIP will balloon, Gonzalez should keep rolling for one more start against White Sox, who we earlier established possess a poor offense.
It's never a good thing when Alexei Ramirez leads your team with a .280 batting average. The White Sox enter the week ranked 26th in runs scored and on-base percentage, which makes this matchup a streamer's delight.
Having Baltimore's offense on his side also won't hurt Gonzalez, who has won four of his last five starts. He could easily make that five of his last six.
Jacob Turner baffled the San Diego Padres during his last start.
Scheduled Start: Thursday at Atlanta Braves
What better way to celebrate Independence Day than with some baseball?
Fresh off a complete-game gem, Jacob Turner will ride into Georgia on July 4 to take on the Atlanta Braves. The 22-year-old struck out seven and allowed one run against the San Diego Padres on Saturday, which likely will spark many fantasy gamers to scoop him off the waiver wire just in time for this matchup.
Adding a young, blue-chip arm with a 1.76 ERA through 41 innings seems like a no-brainer. Although giving him a home is not the worst idea, rolling with him at Atlanta could end poorly.
Out of Turner's six starts this season, four of them came against the Padres, New York Mets, San Francisco Giants and depleted Philadelphia Phillies. He allowed a combined three runs in those appearances, but how will he fare against a better offense?
Looking at the rest of his numbers, the odds are not stacked in his favor. He's recorded a lukewarm 5.93 K/9 rate with a .264 BABIP and 82.6 percent strand rate helping his cause.
While his 51.3 ground-ball rate and 2.63 BB/9 rate are encouraging stats that make it plausible for him to keep overcoming those deficiencies, facing a team tied for the third-most homers in baseball is not the best time to test his luck.
Turner's an intriguing pitcher to watch, but give him another start before buying the fresh face.
Rick Porcello punished anyone who used him last week.
Scheduled Start: Friday at Cleveland Indians
Rick Porcello must enjoy messing with his fantasy owners.
When everyone jumped on his bandwagon following a rousing spring, Porcello self-destructed in April. After safely distancing himself from any fantasy lineup, he put together a 3.13 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 32:5 strikeout-to-walk ratio during May.
The uptick in strikeouts immersed him back into the conversation, with the 24-year-old quickly becoming a popular waiver-wire add. Despite a rough outing against Baltimore, Porcello appeared to warrant a start em' heading into a two-start week.
Cue a seven-run shellacking, and now we're again left to wonder how to value him going forward.
Not only has Porcello allowed 13 runs over his last three starts, but he only struck out nine batters over 16.1 innings. While that should not make him a permanent afterthought, it greatly hampers any chance he had at blossoming into a regular option.
That makes Porcello dependent on the matchup until he could prove he deserves better treatment. Considering the Cleveland Indians rank fifth in runs scored and sixth in home runs, there's no reason to rush Porcello back into the lineup after a rough slate.
Zack Wheeler has struggled during his initial MLB starts.
Scheduled Start: Friday at Milwaukee Brewers
This is what happens when we let hype blind us.
Zack Wheeler possesses the stuff to morph into a future ace. He seamlessly throws a lively fastball in the mid 90s along with a curveball that's deadly at times. Keeper and dynasty league owners should stash away, but mixed-league managers should not mess with the erratic rookie.
With Jonathon Niese on the disabled list, Wheeler received the highly-anticipated call to the majors. While he struck out 73 batters through 68.2 Triple-A innings, he also registered a 3.93 ERA and 3.54 BB/9 ratio. The need for a healthy arm meshed with the hopelessness of the 2013 New York Mets forced their hand and led them to call him up anyway.
He thrilled everyone by tossing six shutout innings during his major league debut, but it came alongside five walks. That lack of control caught up with him, as he allowed nine earned runs in his subsequent two outings.
His potential looms high enough to stash him and hope he figures everything out soon, but don't start him until he can consistently locate the strike zone.