Fantasy Baseball: Week 6 Start 'Em or Sit 'Em Breakdown
Don't let the optimists bring your negativity down. Every prudent fantasy baseball manager needs to express some cynicism every now and then to succeed.
Last week taught me an important lesson: Skepticism is a valuable thing. On the fence with Texas Rangers starter Robbie Ross, I decided to give him the thumbs up.
He promptly surrendered 11 hits and 10 runs (six earned) through 3.1 innings. Oops.
For those who didn't walk away from that ordeal with another lesson of "Don't trust Andrew Gould's judgment," I'll look to redeem myself this week with a fresh batch of starting pitchers on the fence of mixed-league usability. And no, Ross doesn't get a recommendation this time around.
Before doing anything too wild on Cinco de Mayo, get your lineups set this Monday morning. Also, maybe stay away from your team page during the night; you don't want to drunkenly trade Jose Fernandez for Chris Archer in hopes that he's Sterling Archer's long-lost brother.
Note: All advanced statistics are courtesy of FanGraphs.
Deep Streaming Options
These guys don't receive much recognition in standard mixed leagues, but they're worth a look this week for owners who stream starting pitchers.
Henderson Alvarez, Miami Marlins: Tuesday (5/6) vs. New York Mets; Sunday (5/11) at San Diego Padres
Even with his 3.28 ERA, Henderson Alvarez needs more strikeouts to earn his own slide. He has the perfect chance to pad those numbers against the Mets and Padres, two of baseball's coldest offenses prone to striking out in bunches.
Robbie Ray, Detroit Tigers: Tuesday (5/6) vs. Houston Astros; Sunday (5/11) vs. Minnesota Twins
According to MLive.com's Chris Iott, Robbie Ray—acquired from the Washington Nationals in the offseason's Doug Fister trade—will make his major league debut on Tuesday in place of the injured Anibal Sanchez. He posted a 1.53 ERA in 29.2 Triple-A innings and gets to dip his feet in the water against the strikeout-prone Astros.
Phil Hughes, Minnesota Twins: Friday (5/9) at Detroit Tigers
Home runs are Phil Hughes' biggest problem. Luckily for him, the new-look Tigers have only hit 22 long balls this season. He also has a sturdy 4.83 K/BB rate and 3.58 FIP hiding behind his ugly 4.72 ERA.
Jon Niese, New York Mets
Scheduled Starts: Monday (5/5) at Miami Marlins; Sunday (5/11) vs. Philadelphia Phillies
There’s a dash of luck behind Jon Niese’s sizzling start, but managers can milk another strong week out of the southpaw.
Going into 2014, the biggest hope for Niese was that his 6.61 K/9 ratio from the previous season would climb back to his career 7.32 strikeout rate. Through five starts, his K/9 rate stands at 6.61.
His .247 BABIP has also helped him procure a misleading 2.20 ERA and 1.04 WHIP despite his so-so punchout numbers and a 3.59 FIP. Eventually he’ll even out to solid, yet unspectacular production. In the right circumstances, however, he holds value.
This week presents Niese with two starts against National League East foes. The Miami Marlins are no longer a pushover, and only the Colorado Rockies have mounted a higher OPS and run total at home. Still, they also hold baseball’s highest team BABIP while ranking in the bottom 10 in strikeouts.
They’re going to fall down to earth, so don’t let the hot start scare you away. Niese then receives a home outing against the Philadelphia Phillies, who have a lefty-loaded lineup and a .692 OPS on the road.
Put the two together and Niese is worth a look this week.
Mark Buehrle, Toronto Blue Jays
Scheduled Starts: Tuesday (5/6) at Philadelphia Phillies; Sunday (5/11) vs. Los Angeles Angels
When it comes to Mark Buehrle, owners are advised to jump off the ship before it sinks.
His season already crashed into an iceberg on April 25, when the Boston Red Sox crushed him for 12 hits and six earned runs. When a soft-tossing veteran with a 3.82 career ERA posts a 0.64 ERA through four starts, expect that type of blowup outing to restore normalcy to the universe.
Even with that pouncing, Buehrle is still sitting pretty with a 2.25 ERA, but this week will put that number through the wringer.
Like Niese, Buehrle is a lefty facing Philadelphia’s lefty-heavy lineup. Unlike Niese, he takes the mound in Citizens Bank Park, a dangerous terrain for pitchers. A microscopic 2.6 home-run/fly-ball ratio deserves ample credit for the 35-year-old’s fast start, so don’t be surprised when he surrenders a few long balls in bunches to return his rates to the mean.
He then faces the Los Angeles Angels over the weekend. The Angels have Mike Trout. They’re also the third-best offense in terms of runs scored, and getting to swing at the Rogers Centre should only help their cause.
Buehrle’s improbable start is a mirage. Don’t wait until the boat is headed underwater to escape.
Josh Beckett, Los Angeles Dodgers
Scheduled Start: Thursday (5/8) vs. San Francisco Giants
Something about Josh Beckett is prone to extreme outcomes. Either he’s a front-line starter or a disastrous mess, with little wiggle room in between.
Through five starts, the great Beckett has showed up. He’s the proud owner of a 3.14 ERA and 1.01 WHIP, which have come with 30 strikeouts and nine walks during 28.2 innings. Pretty good for a guy who notched a 5.19 ERA in 43.1 innings last season.
His .232 BABIP is reason enough to expect a regression, but the gaudy strikeout and walk numbers should keep owners around for the short-term. Might as well enjoy him while he’s still healthy.
When Beckett faced the San Francisco Giants earlier in 2014, he tossed five scoreless innings despite issuing five walks. That’s a poor recipe for sustained success, but not one he has relied on since he’s handed over four combined free passes in his other four outings.
Michael Morse and Angel Pagan are hitting everything in sight for the Giants, but are you really going to base your roster decisions on one-month sample sizes from Morse and Pagan? That’s what I thought. Give Beckett a taste this week to see if he keeps the party going.
Garrett Richards, Los Angeles Angels
Scheduled Start: Friday (5/9) at Toronto Blue Jays
There’s a lot to like about Garrett Richards. If he’s sitting on the waiver wire, I’d open the door and give him a roof and bed on my fake team.
The electric young hurler throws the second-fastest heater behind Yordano Ventura, a breakout star who frequently hits triple digits. That heater has finally generated strikeouts in higher doses, giving him an 9.47 K/9 rate and a 2.84 ERA.
As he continues to harnesses his secondary pitches, most notably a wicked slider, Richards has the makings of a premier talent. His control, however, must cooperate if he wants to reach the next level,
He has walked 18 batters through 36 innings, giving him a 4.26 BB/9 ratio that is far too high to maintain success under. Walks weren’t a problem in 2012, but they plagued him in 2012, where he recorded a 4.20 BB/9 rate split between the majors and Triple-A.
Although I like what I see so far from the young righty, I haven’t seen enough to vault him into must-start territory. He hasn’t yet earned enough trust to use him on the road against the Toronto Blue Jays’ patient, dangerous power bats.
Jason Vargas, Kansas City Royals
Scheduled Start: Friday (5/9) at Seattle Mariners
Let’s continue my vendetta against veteran inning-eaters who are succeeding with low strikeout rates. How dare they pitch well on my watch?
Much like Buehrle, Jason Vargas is a guy that means more to an MLB staff than a fantasy squad. Depraved of starting pitching depth, the Kansas City Royals will gladly take a 4.00 ERA over 200 innings from the 31-year-old.
From a fantasy standpoint, that won’t cut it. Especially not with a career 5.84 K/9 rate.
Yet some owners let down their guard while he was sporting a 2.40 ERA. That looked great for a second, until his 3.94 FIP and high strand rate caught up to him on Sunday against the Tigers, who torched him for seven runs.
Just like that, he's back to being a below-average fantasy starter with a 3.50 ERA. The process has already started, but Buehrle and Vargas are eventually going down while that annoying Celine Dion song plays in the background.
I was originally going to make a deal with owners in a surprising plot twist, giving everyone my permission to stream him at Safeco Field. Then the Mariners scored 17 runs in the last two games, and I remembered my leading point about the benefit of pessimism.
So now, bench Vargas. Heck, drop Vargas. No pitcher is safe from my wrath any longer. Poor strikeout pitchers don't get any mercy.