Fantasy Baseball 2011: 10 Free Agent Pickups That Can Help You Win
Picking up strikeout pitchers off the free-agent wire is an effective way to turn a mediocre fantasy team into a good one.
As ESPN's Matthew Berry pointed out, the best way to improve your team midseason is to focus on the counting stats, especially on the pitching side.
A savvy owner will load up on starting pitchers, who contribute to four of the five pitching categories, and minimize his relievers, who really only help with saves.
Since starting pitchers only play once every five games, a team with lots of starters can rotate the players through the starting lineup to maximize production. More starts equals more chances at wins and more strikeouts while not necessarily impacting ERA and WHIP.
The strikeout-to-walk ratio is a stat I'll zero in on—a two- or three-to-one ratio is a sign of good command. Combined with a high ERA, a strong ratio is often an indicator of bad luck that could easily turn around soon.
Here are 10 widely available pitchers than can help your team rise in the standings.
10. Ervin Santana
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Percent Owned (ESPN leagues): 30.9
Strikeout-to-walk ratio: 2.64
Ervin Santana is always a headache for whichever owner decides to draft him.
In 2011, Santana's peripheral numbers suggest his 4.22 ERA could drop He has a 1.30 WHIP—hardly stellar, but not particularly bad—and a 2.64 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Santana has settled down and allowed four earned runs or fewer in each of his past four starts. A strong run could be just around the corner for the Halo hurler.
9. Edwin Jackson
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Percent Owned: 15.1
Strikeout-to-walk ratio: 2.53
Edwin Jackson is best known as the guy who threw 149 pitches and walked eight batters on his way to the ugliest no-hitter of all time.
Jackson has continued his inconsistent ways, alternating between stellar and pedestrian outings.
It is encouraging to see Jackson keep his walk count relatively low, which will help him gain some consistency. He is definitely an option in deeper or AL-only leagues for owners needing some strikeouts.
8. Chris Capuano
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Percent Owned: 6.4
Strikeout-to-walk ratio: 2.96
Chris Capuano has gone 3-1 over his past four starts, striking out 22 to just seven walks. He now has a 3.99 ERA and 1.37 WHIP.
He is somehow only owned in 6.4 percent of leagues.
Capuano is a surefire option in deeper and NL-only leagues, but also deserves some consideration in regular mixed leagues.
7. Tim Stauffer
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Percent Owned: 25.9
Strikeout-to-walk ratio: 2.57
Tim Stauffer has turned it on as of late. He has logged quality starts in six of his last seven outings and has allowed less than two runs in seven innings or more in each of his last four starts.
Even though he plays for San Diego, Stauffer will find his way into the win column if he keeps striking out batters and limiting baserunners.
6. Jonathon Niese
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Percent Owned: 22.4
Strikeout-to-walk ratio: 2.47
Jonathon Niese has been dropped in 22 percent of leagues because of a bad outing last Sunday and subsequent reports that he was suffering from a rapid heartbeat.
Despite his poor showing against the Angels last week, Niese has impressed over his last eight starts, going 5-2 with a 2.36 ERA.
Assuming he checks out healthy, Niese could be a fantastic pickup in nearly four-fifths of all leagues.
5. Scott Baker
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Percent Owned: 71.9
Strikeout-to-walk ratio: 3.29
Scott Baker has been a veritable innings eater of late, going an average nearly seven innings in his past eight starts.
He also has an 8.56 K/9 over that span.
The struggling Twins had a 14-2 run going before they ran into the San Francisco Giants and Milwaukee Brewers, two of the better teams in the National League.
Minnesota may not win the AL Central, but should be able to put together a respectable finish and get their starting pitchers some wins down the stretch.
4. Brandon Morrow
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Percent Owned: 71.6
Strikeout-to-walk ratio: 3.00
Brandon Morrow suffered from a string of seven poor starts in a row, mostly due to wildness. He has begun to right the ship, striking out 15 to just two walks in his past two starts.
Morrow has the stuff to be an ace, but has always suffered through bouts of inconsistency. Last year, he took a no-hitter into the ninth but allowed a two-out knock to Evan Longoria. He had to settle for a 17-strikeout complete-game shutout.
Morrow is a very streaky pitcher who you want to have on your staff when he is on.
3. Bud Norris
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Percent Owned: 80.3
Strikeout-to-walk ratio: 2.77
If Bud Norris is still available in your league, you owe it to yourself to pick him up.
Norris won't get a lot of wins as he plays for the hapless Astros, but he has a fantastic 9.09 K/9 to go along with a solid 3.36 ERA.
If he continues to pitch this well, Norris will eventually get some wins. His main contribution though will be in the strikeout column.
2. Colby Lewis
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Percent Owned: 68.1
Strikeout-to-walk ratio: 2.85
Colby Lewis has gone 6-7 with a 4.44 ERA so far this year. He has been a bit of a disappointment after posting a 3.72 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 2010,
Lewis' 1.26 WHIP and 2.85 strikeout-to-walk ratio suggest he has performed much better than his 4.44 ERA, which should decline some over the next few months.
Even at top form, Lewis will still allow lots of earned runs as he pitches in the hitter-friendly Ballpark at Arlington.
But with the potent Rangers lineup behind him, Lewis is sure to earn more than his fair share of wins.
1. Madison Bumgarner
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Percent Owned: 75.0
Strikeout-to-walk ratio: 3.08
Madison Bumgarner scares away a lot of owners with his 4-9 record.
His disastrous outing last week against the Twins in which he allowed eight runs while retiring just one batter didn't help his cause.
Even with the awful game against the Twins, Bumgarner still has a solid 3.84 ERA and 1.36 WHIP. If you don't consider the Twins game, the 21-year-old southpaw has a 3.07 ERA and 1.26 WHIP.
Madison Bumgarner allowed just one earned run in seven innings against the Tribe on Sunday, showing he has put his poor outing in the past.
Fantasy owners should do the same.