Fantasy Baseball: Week 12 Start 'Em or Sit 'Em Breakdown
Fantasy baseball managers are constantly tasked with weighing past success with present-day reality and future expectations. An incorrect calculation can force owners to hang on to an old favorite for too long.
It’s a problem faced all too often in sports. U.S. men's national soccer team manager Jurgen Klinsmann faced some heat for leaving the United States’ all-time goal leader Landon Donovan off the World Cup roster. The Los Angeles Lakers awarded superstar Kobe Bryant a two-year, $48.5 million extension even though the 35-year-old played just six games this season.
Not one, but two former Cy Young winners are put under the hot seat this week. It’s not looking too good for either of the falling aces, who are only owned due to their past production and name recognition.
Those hurlers have piled up the strikeouts and accolades over the years, but it’s time for fantasy managers to take a stand and decide they’ve had enough of watching their ERA and WHIP balloon every week at their expense.
Let’s take a look at some starting pitchers clamoring for spots in starting lineups throughout Fantasyland.
Note: All advanced statistics are courtesy of FanGraphs.
Deep-League Streaming Options
Chris Young, Seattle Mariners: Monday (6/16) at San Diego Padres; Saturday (6/21) at Kansas City Royals
One start at Petco Park and another against baseball's most power-starved offense? This is a golden opportunity for the fly-ball reliant Chris Young to put two decent starts on the ledger, even though his 35-32 strikeouts-to-walks ratio is atrocious.
Carlos Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals: Monday (6/16) vs. New York Mets
Adam Wainwright will miss his next scheduled appearance, and in his place Carlos Martinez will make his second career start. He has underwhelmed in the bullpen with 28 strikeouts and 14 walks through 34.2 innings, but Martinez wields a 97-mile-per-hour fastball and a 12.1 swinging-strike percentage. The Mets, who rank 29th in team slugging percentage, give him a strong chance of success.
Hector Noesi, Chicago White Sox: Friday (6/20) at Minnesota Twins
Don't expect any miracles from the rookie, but a lofted .331 BABIP makes Hector Noesi look worse than he actually is. In a week lacking many intriguing under-the-radar matchups, Noesi could deliver a quality start at Target Field.
Jake Odorizzi, Tampa Bay Rays
Scheduled Starts: Monday (6/16) vs. Baltimore Orioles; Saturday (6/21) vs. Houston Astros
Let’s play the blind taste test game with two vastly different pitchers. One is a highly regarded ace, the other an untouted youngster quietly making his case for widespread fantasy ownership.
Player A: 65 IP, 2-7, 4.85 ERA, 3.24 FIP, 10.52 K/9, 3.60 BB/9, .341 BABIP
Player B: 97.2 IP, 8-3, 3.50 ERA, 3.88 FIP, 7.46 K/9, 2.03 BB/9, .311 BABIP
You should know one of these players is Jake Odorizzi, and it only makes sense that he owns the lesser-appreciated line. If he held eight wins and a 3.50 ERA, I wouldn’t have to sell you on the 24-year-old.
Now that leaves the mystery of this Player B fellow. It’s James Shields, whom the Tampa Bay Rays dealt in order to acquire Odorizzi and Wil Myers last season.
Of course, there’s value in Shield’s endurance and dependability, which allows him to compile more wins and more raw strikeouts at a less dazzling rate. His control also represents a distinct advantage. Still, think the Kansas Royals would have knowingly traded six affordable years of Odorizzi and Myers to garner that egde until Shields hit free agency this offseason?
That’s another discussion for another day, but it shows Odorizzi’s hidden fantasy value. He’s striking out batters in bunches, and he’s harnessing his command recently with three walks combined through his last four outings.
The Baltimore Orioles are a much tougher draw than the Houston Astros, so daily gamers should skip over to his second start of the week. But given his strong peripheral numbers waiting to burst through the surface, his two-start status makes him an interesting risk that could pay off considerably.
Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
Scheduled Starts: Monday (6/16) vs. Kansas City Royals; Saturday (6/21) at Cleveland Indians
Who would have thought Justin Verlander would find his dependability doubted, during a two-start week against two favorable opponents nonetheless?
Over the last five seasons, Verlander has logged an average of 234 innings per year with 238 punchouts per season and a 3.05 ERA. The 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young winner is beginning to languish due to that bulky workload, posting a 4.61 ERA and 1.51 WHIP.
The 31-year-old has surrendered five or more earned runs in five of his last six starts, recording a gargantuan 7.41 ERA over that dreadful stretch. He’s notched 24 strikeouts to 18 walks in those over 37.2 innings, numbers that would relegate a pitcher of any other name to the waiver wire.
But this is Verlander, so his owners don’t dare to act that cruelly. After all, he labored through a horrid stretch last year before registering a 3.41 ERA and 8.97 K/9 ratio after the All-Star break.
Nobody is telling you to drop him; that’s what the bench is for. With him struggling so badly, owners can’t afford to toss him into the lion’s den twice, even against the Kansas City Royals and their 35 home runs.
Tanner Roark, Washington Nationals
Scheduled Starts: Tuesday (6/17) vs. Houston Astros; Sunday (6/22) vs. Atlanta Braves
How’s this for a pair of exploitable matchups?
Tanner Roark’s Washington Nationals will engage in interleague play this week, but they’ll stay home to host the Houston Astros. The former National League Central occupants are more dangerous these days with rookies George Springer and Jon Singleton getting their long-overdue promotions, but only the Chicago White Sox have amassed more strikeouts on the offensive side.
Although Houston no longer boasts MLB’s most destitute lineup, it has a ways to go before elevating into the upper echelon. Playing in an NL stadium will also prompt Chris Carter’s power bat to take a seat.
The Atlanta Braves have clawed their way up to 25th in team on-base percentage and 28th in strikeout percentage. How’s that for progress?
And none of that has spoken for Roark’s emergence as a steady mixed-league option. The 27-year-old righty is sporting a 2.92 ERA and 1.06 WHIP through 13 starts. While not a strikeout extraordinaire, his 7.02 K/9 rate keeps his valuable alongside a 47.3 ground-ball rate and microscopic 1.94 BB/9 mark.
Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs
Scheduled Start: Wednesday (6/18) at Miami Marlins
Patience pays off when it comes to baseball prospects.
Many MLB newcomers need time before automatically meeting their massive potential. Even Mike Trout looked icky during his first 40 major league games. Yet our bite-sized attention spans don’t allow us to wait more than a year or two for these guys to master their crafts and prove their worth in our fictitious game.
Jake Arrieta made his MLB debut in 2010 as a front-line starter in waiting. Four years later, he’s finally displaying that talent in a second chance pitching for the Chicago Cubs.
Through 43 innings, the 28-year-old is the proud owner of a 2.09 ERA and 44 strikeouts. He holds a higher strikeout-minus-walk percentage (16.8) than Michael Wacha, Jeff Samardzija, Julio Teheran and several top-notch starters.
Now, those Skeptical Steves out there will point to his schedule. Five of his eight starts have come against teams ranked in the bottom 10 in runs scored, and he has generated a 1.00 ERA through those appearances.
The one productive offense he subdued? The Miami Marlins, his upcoming opponent. While the Marlins are surprisingly placed sixth in runs scored, they're also one of the league's top strikeout victims who are enjoying the second-highest team BABIP of .321.
Arrieta is pitching over his head, but the Marlins are hitting over their heads. He has a ways to go before proving his worth on a regular basis, but he's a tantalizing streamer this week.
Erasmo Ramirez, Seattle Mariners
Scheduled Start: Thursday (6/19) at San Diego Padres
Oh Erasmo Ramirez, we had such high hopes for you.
After posting a 3.36 ERA in limited work to close out 2012, his exclusion from the Seattle Mariners rotation sparked ire last season. When he ultimately received the call, he disappointed with a 4.98 ERA. This year, he continues to backpedal.
The righty is now brandishing a 5.27 ERA while somehow tallying an even worse 5.71 FIP. When he entered the league, he exhibited fabulous control with 12 walks issued through his first 59 innings. This season, he has already allowed 22 free passes during 42.2 innings.
He pulled off an incredible yet unsustainable feat during his last two outings, allowing nine walks and zero runs. In total, 16 baserunners failed to cross home plate, and he failed to record an out past the fifth inning as a result of his tight-rope act.
Usually "at San Diego Padres" is a saving grace, but don't make the mistake of starting him in a standard mixed league just because of the matchup. Some guys aren't worth using in certain formats, regardless of the opponent.
Of course, I'm not writing an obituary on the 24-year-old's career. That would read rather idiotic immediately after discussing Arrieta's long road to success. But since this is just looking at the short-term picture, Ramirez should not be in the frame.
Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants
Scheduled Start: Friday (6/20) at Arizona Diamondbacks
Big Time Timmy Jim Lincecum has not delivered results worthy of that nickname since 2011, yet fantasy gamers refuse to turn their back on him due to his past two Cy Youngs and healthy strikeout numbers.
I love strikeouts as much—scratch that, more than the next guy or gal, but at what cost to every other category? Lincecum is essentially the same pitcher from the previous two seasons, registering a 4.81 ERA and 1.49 WHIP.
While he holds a respectable 3.59 xFIP, don’t go begging to the sabermetric gods for help. He’s issuing 3.99 free passes per nine innings, and opponents are making hard contact, as evident in his 25.1 percent line-drive rate.
If his 9.7 swinging-strike percentage holds up, it’d mark the first time he donned a whiff rate lower than 10 percent in his career. That means in addition to being a liability everywhere outside of strikeouts, it’s reasonable to expect a modest decline there as well.
This week he’ll square off against the Arizona Diamondbacks, who sullied him with 11 runs through his opening two starts of 2014. Nemesis Paul Goldschmidt has absolutely demolished Lincecum, going 13-of-24 with seven home runs.
Go ahead and give Lincecum a seat this week. I wouldn’t blame you for dropping him either.
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