Flamethrowers: Hot/Not Pitchers Weekly

Bret HoffmanCorrespondent IMay 11, 2009

TORONTO - APRIL 6:  Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers delivers the pitch during the Opening Day game against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre April 6, 2009 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by: Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

"Flamethrowers" is our Monday topic at thesportspa.blogspot.com during the MLB season. In these articles, we attempt to showcase some of the hottest, and not so hot, pitchers at the time.

These players, in no particular order, are Hot/Not in my eyes.


1) Justin Verlander (Tigers)

After a rough start, Verlander has really pulled it together over his past three starts. During that span, he is 3-0 with one ER and 31 K in 23 innings of work.

He has chopped his ERA in half as well, and it now sits at 4.50. Verlander is near the top in K's now too, with 56 in 44 innings.

It looks like he might have finally figured it out again, so roll with him while he's hot. He is owned in 97.9 percent of ESPN leagues, so he's still available in a few.

Verlander gets the Twins on Thursday, and it will be interesting to see if he can keep this going.

2) Johnny Cueto (Reds)

Cueto stayed hot this past week, improving to 3-1 and dropping his ERA to 1.59. He also has a WHIP of 1.03, and 32 K to only 11 BB.

Cueto lost his first start of the year, but since then has only given up three ER in 33.2 innings.

He is owned in 91.1 percent of ESPN leagues, and should be owned in all of them at this point. But remember that he's only 23, and he could struggle from time to time.

He started off last season hot too, but then faded off after the All-Star break. I'm not saying it will happen again this year, but it's just something to be aware of.

3) Erik Bedard (Mariners)

Just like the Mariners, Bedard's success has been a surprise to me.

At 2-1, with an ERA of 2.53, a WHIP of 1.17 and 43 K in 42.2 innings, Bedard has some pretty good numbers across the board.

His last three starts have been no decisions, but he's pitching well enough to win games. He is owned in 98.8 percent of ESPN leagues, and rightfully so.

4) Tim Lincecum (Giants)_

After getting roughed up in his first two starts of the season, Lincecum has turned in five "quality starts" in a row, which are starts of at least six innings and less than three ER allowed.

He ERA is 3.25, he has a WHIP of 1.20 and 58 K in 44.1 innings.

The 24-year-old appears to have figured it out, and is showing that last year was no fluke.

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5) Jered Weaver (Angels)

Weaver has been pitching pretty well for the Angels. In his last outing, he went the distance, gave up one ER and had eight K.

The fact that he did it against the Blue Jays says quite a bit, as they have been one of the hottest offenses so far.

Weaver is now 3-1 with an ERA of 2.66 and has 31 K in 40.2 innings. He has also only allowed nine BB, which makes for a great K:BB ratio.

He is owned in 92 percent of ESPN leagues, and that number is slowly rising. He faces the Red Sox of Tuesday, which should be another good test for him.

6) Mark Buehrle (White Sox)

Buehrle threw eight shutout innings against the Tigers on May 7 to improve to 5-0 on the season.

He has an ERA of 2.61 and a WHIP of 1.08. He only has 24 K in 38 innings, but has also only allowed 11 BB.

He hasn't had a bad outing yet this year, but as we all know it would be pretty hard for him to go an entire season without at least one bad performance.

Buehrle is owned in 95.5 percent of ESPN leagues, and with stats like his, he should be owned in all formats.

7) Tim Wakefield (Red Sox)

Wakefield has been the only consistent Boston pitcher thus far, and that is surprising considering their rotation. Five of his six starts have been "quality starts."

Wakefield is 4-1 with an ERA of 2.93 and a WHIP of 1.13. He has 25 K, which isn't anything special for 40 innings pitched, and he also has 18 BB, which is to be expected with a knuckleballer.

He is owned in only 45.4 percent of ESPN leagues, and should be owned in more in my opinion. He can provide your team with wins, a low WHIP and even a few K's along the way. Again, he won't dazzle you, but he's pretty consistent.

8) Randy Wolf (Dodgers)

Wolf has quietly pitched well this season, as his 1-1 record doesn't exactly scream success.

Wolf has five "quality starts" in seven attempts, but has just been unfortunate when it comes to wins. He has had a no-decision in each of last five starts, despite pitching well enough to win most of the games.

He has an ERA of 2.96, a WHIP of 1.08 and 36 K in 42.2 innings. He is owned in only 23.4 percent of ESPN leagues, which is hard for me to believe.

He has solid numbers across the board, and 36 K is 42.2 innings isn't bad at all. Plus, the Dodgers are one of the better teams, and if he keeps pitching this way he should get his fair share of wins.

9) Edwin Jackson (Tigers)

It's been kind of a rollercoaster season for far for Jackson, as he has either been brilliant or brutal.

After getting roughed up by the Twins last Monday, Jackson responded with seven shutout innings against the Indians on Saturday.

Like I said, Jackson has been either hit or miss this season. If the trend continues, Jackson should implode in his next outing, and my gut is saying to avoid him in his next outing.

His overall numbers are good though, with an ERA of 2.60 and a WHIP of 1.07. He also has 35 K in 45 innings of work, which isn't horrible at all.

He is owned in only 30.1 percent of ESPN leagues, so if you need a start this week you might give him a look. Don't be surprised if he struggles from time to time, but when he's on he can help your team out.

10) Jair Jurrjens (Braves)

Jurrjens has pitched well for the Braves so far.

He is 3-2 with an ERA of 2.01 and a WHIP of 1.19. He only has 20 K in 40.1 innings, but he can certainly help you in the other categories.

He will face the Mets on Tuesday at Shea, which isn't a great match-up for him, but you could certainly do worse.

He is owned in 84.2 percent of ESPN leagues, and is worth a shot if you need some pitching help.

11) Brian Fuentes (Angels)

After blowing the save, and getting the loss, against the Yankees on May 1, Fuentes has converted four consecutive opportunities to tie him for the league lead with nine saves.

He was little shaky in the early going, but hasn't allowed an ER over his last four saves, which covered 3.2 innings. Plus, he's only given up one hit over that same span, s he's definitely coming around.

He is owned in 97.1 percent of ESPN leagues, and I assume that number will continue to rise towards 100 percent owned.

12) Wandy Rodriguez (Astros)

Wandy has been brilliant for the Astros. Six of his seven starts have been "quality starts".

He has an ERA of 1.80, a WHIP of 1.04 and 37 K in 45 innings.

He is owned in 86.3 percent of ESPN leagues now, and that number is slowly climbing. I feel that he should be owned in all formats at this point.

He will face the Rockies, at Coors Field, on Thursday.

13) Jason Motte (Cardinals)

After a horrible start to the 2009 season, Motte and his 36.00 ERA surrendered the closer role to Ryan Franklin. Since then, Motte has been phenomenal, not allowing an ER over his last 9.1 innings of work.

His ERA is now 3.38, and his WHIP is down to 1.38, which are both great considering where is was after that disastrous first outing.

Franklin blew his first save of the season by giving up two HR, so you might keep an eye on the situation, as Motte will eventually replace the 36-year-old reliever as the closer. I can't tell you when it will happen, but only that it will eventually happen.

14) Rafael Soriano (Braves)

Soriano has been great for the Braves. He has an ERA of 1.20, a WHIP of .87 and 20 K in 15 innings.

He also has three saves, but is currently splitting the save opportunities with Mike Gonzalez.

That's his only downside, though, and the other numbers can help you out.

He is owned in only 23 percent of ESPN leagues, and is more valuable than a mediocre starting pitcher. I would recommend him to anybody who has starting pitcher issues. Dump the mediocre guys and pick up solid relief pitchers.

15) Juan Cruz (Royals)

With Joakim Soria going on the DL, Cruz will assume the closer role in KC. That makes him probably the hottest pick-up right now, and you are probably gonna have to scramble to get him.

Cruz has pitched well as the set up man, and should continue to thrive in the closer's role.

KC has some much improved starting pitching, so the save opportunities should continue to be there.

Cruz has an ERA of 1.88, a WHIP of 1.12 and 11 K in 14.1 innings. He also picked up a save earlier in the season when Soria was unavailable, so he can get the job done.

He is owned in only 5.5 percent of ESPN leagues, so he's still available in 94.5 percent of leagues. Hurry and grab him before it's too late.

Honorable Mentions:

Kiko Calero, of the Marlins, is another reliever that I would recommend owning if you have some mediocre starting pitchers. He has an ERA of 1.62, a WHIP of .90 and 23 K in 16.2 innings.

With Matt Lindstrom struggling a bit in the closer role, Calero could eventually get some save opportunities down the road, which would boost his value. He is still valuable with his current stats though.

Carlos Marmol, of the Cubs, lost the closer job to Kevin Gregg, but has been steadily gaining confidence back ever since. If Gregg falters at all, expect Marmol to move back to the closer role. He is currently owned in 68.1 percent of ESPN leagues, so just keep an eye on him.

C.C. Sabathia finally looked like himself, going the distance and getting the shutout, which both became constants for his fantasy owners after he joined the Brewers in 2008. Hopefully he can keep it going, for fantasy owners' sake, that is.

Trevor Hoffman has been perfect for the Brewers since coming of the DL. Too bad almost every one of us thought he was done, huh? I know that I scrambled to pick him up, and I'm glad I did. He is owned in 93.7 percent of ESPN leagues, so he's still available in a few.

LaTroy Hawkins, of the Astros, is another interim closer at the moment. He is filling is for Jose Valverde until late May, maybe longer. He is owned in 22.3 percent of ESPN leagues, and is a cheap source of saves if you need some.

Brandon Morrow, of the Mariners, has been really solid as their closer lately, and he now has six saves on the season. He is owned in 88.4 percent of ESPN leagues, so check on his availability in your league.


1) Felix Hernandez (Mariners)

After a great start, King Felix has been roughed up over his past two starts. He is 0-2, and has given up 16 hits and 11 ER over only 10 innings. He also gave up four HR in those two starts, two a piece to the Rangers and Twins.

I wouldn't press the panic button just yet, because you have to expect a few bad outings from a young pitchers. He is still only 23, and has some learning and improving left to do, but I feel that he will eventually be one of the game's elites.

If you can get him fairly cheap I would recommend doing so.

2) Armando Galarraga (Tigers)

Galarraga started the year off on fire as well, but has fallen back to earth too.

He has been roughed up over his past two starts, giving up 14 hits and 11 ER in 11 innings. He has also given up three HR over that span. His ERA has climbed from 1.85 to 4.08. Ouch.

People are jumping off the boat a bit, as he is now owned in 88.9 percent of ESPN leagues, after a 6 percent decrease over the past week.

He has shown that he can pitch, and might be worth taking a gamble on if someone dropped him in your league.

I would rather pick him up and have him bust than watch him shine for another team, but that's my motto.

3) Kyle Lohse (Cardinals)

Lohse has lost a little of his early-season luster as well. He has been torn apart his last two starts, giving up 16 hits and 13 ER over 10.1 innings. He also gave up three HR.

His ERA jumped from 1.97 to 4.25 over that span. He only has 27 K in 42.1 innings on the year, and his WHIP is on the rise at 1.28.

He is now owned in 72.4 percent of ESPN leagues after a 11.6 percent decrease this past week.

Every pitcher has bad outings, almost anyways, and Lohse has been pretty solid dating back to last season, so a rebound for him is not out of the question in my opinion. You can't give up on a guy just because of a few bad outings.

When those bad outings become more frequent, that's when you jump ship, and Lohse isn't to that point yet to me.

4) Edinson Volquez (Reds)

After stringing together some solid performances, Volquez took a big step back against the Cardinals on Sunday.

He gave up seven ER in 6.2 innings, but still managed to escape with the no-decision, which was the only bright spot for his owners on the day.

He doesn't have horrible overall numbers, but they aren't that great either. Like I've said before, expect mixed results from Volquez for the rest of this year.

5) A.J. Burnett (Yankees)

Burnett's ERA has climbed from 3.20 to 5.26 over his past three outings, which haven't been typical A.J. Burnett outings.

The Yankees signed him and Sabathia to compete for a championship again, and so far both guys have let them down.

Burnett is too good to stay down for too long, so I expect a solid outing from him on Tuesday against his former team, the Blue Jays. Nothing like a little personal rivalry to spark a fire in someone.

That's about all I have for this week. Tune in next Monday for more Flamethrower action.