Starters: Studs to Spectators in September

Matty SAnalyst IJuly 28, 2008

Every year, there are certain pitchers who are having terrific, healthy seasons, only to be shut down by their teams in September in an attempt to preserve their precious arms for the future. Last year’s notables included right-handers Timmy Lincecum and Jimmy Shields, neither of whom pitched a single inning in the final two weeks of the regular season, providing devastating blows to those owners who were counting on them down the stretch, especially in head-to-head leagues.

So the question is, who are this year’s Timmies and Jimmies?

Here’s a list of pitchers we came up with, all of whom are realistic candidates to get shut down by their respective teams in the final month of the season, for one reason or another.

Keep in mind, most of the guys on this list probably won’t end up getting shut down…but we’ll tell you why there’s a decent enough chance that they will. We’ll start with the most likely guy to go from stud to spectator this September, and work our way down from there…

  1. Edinson Volquez — I apologize to all Edinson-owners in advance, but ya boy is the perfect candidate to be watching the final weeks of the season from the dugout. The 25-year-old officially “arrived” in the Bigs the day he put on that Reds uniform, and you better believe the front office is going to do everything in its power to protect its #1 investment (with the way Josh Hamilton has beasted in Texas this year, there’s even more pressure on the Reds to make sure Edinson remains a stud for years to come). The most innings Volquez has thrown in a single season is 179, and that came last year (counting his innings in various levels of the Minors), meaning 200 innings is unchartered territory for the Reds’ ace. He’s on pace to throw 193 innings this season, but it would be perfectly understandable for Cinci to max him out around 175.
  2. Johnny Cueto — Another guy who fits the mold perfectly is Volquez’s 22-year-old counterpart, Johnny Cueto. He’s young. He’s a rookie. He throws hard. His team stinks. And he’s never thrown more than 162 innings in a single season. Cueto’s on pace to throw 190 innings in 2008, but with the amount of torque he puts on his arm and standing at only 5′10″, why would the Reds look to push the kid? Read the rest of the list after the jump.
  3. Tim Lincecum — They shut him down last September, and nobody can really argue with the results. The 24-year-old Giants’ ace is on pace to throw a career-high 220 innings this year, a number that would be shocking to see him reach, considering the most innings he’s ever thrown in one season was 177 (last year).
  4. Justin Duchscherer (pronounced DUKE-sher, not DOUCHE-ER-ER) — Duchscherer’s switch from reliever to starter was as smooth as a baby’s bottom. He went un-drafted in 99% of fantasy leagues this year, and if you were smart enough to grab him as a free agent in April, you’re probably mortified to see him and his Major League’s second-best ERA (2.37) so high up on this list. The truth is though, he’s a prime candidate to get shut down — consider the following circumstances: A) The Angels are running away with the AL-west and the A’s probably won’t be playing for a playoff spot in September, B) Duchscherer’s on pace to throw 190 innings this year, and he’s never thrown more than 182 innings in a single season (back in 2001, aggregate from Double-A, Triple-A, Majors), C) He missed the last 4.5 months of last season after undergoing hip surgery in July, and D) He has a history of injuries, ranging from back problems to forearm injuries, making every meaningless start he makes in September that much riskier. Package Duchscherer in a deal for Matt Holliday or David Wright now, you won’t regret it.
  5. Jeremy Guthrie — Guthrie is on pace to pitch 212 innings this season, 37 more than his career high of 175 set in 2007. Baltimore is another team stuck in the cellar with no chance of making the playoffs; they’d be wise to rest a valuable young arm. The 29-year-old Guthrie had an excellent rookie season last year (3.70 ERA in 26 starts) and has followed it up with an equally impressive sophomore season so far in 2008 (3.58 ERA right now). He’s one of the only good things the Orioles have going for them, so don’t be surprised if the O’s cut their ace’s season short. Even though Guthrie won’t rack up the wins in Baltimore, he’s still a viable fantasy option and available in 84% of ESPN leagues.
  6. Fausto Carmona — It’s been an injury-plagued season for the Indians 24-year-old right-hander, and after locking Fausto up to a 4-year-extension this spring, the Indians may just tell their filthy fire-baller to take the end of September off when they are officially out of playoff-contention.
  7. Nick Blackburn — Blackburn had a very solid rookie season, but like everyone who plays in Minnesota, has flown under the radar. Blackburn is on pace to throw 190 innings this season, 30 more than he’s ever thrown in a single season. The Twinkies should fall out of playoff-contention come late September and Francisco Liriano should be in the rotation by then, meaning Blackburn may end up on his Blackberry rather than the mound.
  8. Jake Peavy — Peavy has been eating innings for years now, but San Diego isn’t going anywhere this year and would have to be crazy to keep trotting him out in meaningless September games. Also, the Pads will be lining Peavy’s bank account through at least 2011. They may want to protect their ace, especially since he has history of elbow and shoulder injuries.
  9. Zack Greinke — It’s been a pretty solid season for 24-year-old Donald Zackary Greinke so far, but the Royals’ right-hander may not make every scheduled start the final month of the season. Greinke’s never thrown more than 183 innings in one season, and he’s currently on pace to exceed 200. The Royals have nothing to play for, and the last thing they need to do is wear out their ace, kill his confidence, and have him revert back to the social anxiety disorder that robbed him of the entire 2006 season.
  10. Felix Hernandez — If I had to pick any player to go to war with, it would be King Felix (and that’s not just because he’s the only pitcher who can say he hit a grand slam off Johan Santana). In the end though, Seattle won’t be a playoff contender, no matter what Hernandez does. Felix is projected to pitch around the same number of innings as he did the past two seasons, but the Mariners have no need to push their oft-injured 22-year-old stud.

So there it is. There are a few super-studs on this list who you’re probably looking at and thinking to yourself, “how can I possibly package this pimp in a deal and click the ‘Submit Trade’ button? I need to be able to sleep at night!” Well, you might be kicking yourself for the entire month of August when they turn in gem after gem, but you’ll have the last laugh when they get shut down in September and end up rotting on someone else’s bench because they’re on Yahoo!’s completely useless “Can’t Cut List.”

JoseJoseJoseeee contributed to this story, and will be sharing his inner-most fantasy thoughts at the Dish all week long.