Field of Streams: Fantasy Pitching Options

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Field of Streams: Fantasy Pitching Options

Posted on 20 May 2013 by Will Emerson

Yes, yes, yes, it is that time again! Time to take a look at some fantasy pitching options for the upcoming week. The following pitchers have a great chance of being available in your league and may just be the key to fantasy victory.


Edwin Jackson, CHC- E-Jax has had a bumpy 2013 with the Cubbies so far, but I have always been a fan of his work. Jackson is not an ace, by any means, but should certainly be a solid fantasy option at the SP slot. Well, E-JAx is 1-6 with an ERA over five on the season, but he really has not pitched that poorly. Really, I’m serious! The K/9 is over eight and the xFIP and SIERA are both under four. The struggle has been with men on base, as Jackson’s LOB% is under 60 right now. Jackson will pitch at Pittsburgh this week, which is no gimme match up for him, but I like the odds of him righting his ship so to speak in this one.

Brandon McCarthy, ARI- After a slow start with the D-Backs, McCarthy is really starting to settle in. In McCarthy’s last two starts he has thrown 17 scoreless innings, 17?! Now those innings were against the Phillies and the lowly Marlins, so let’s not go too overboard with these outings. McCarthy should be much better than his early season numbers, and a solid three or maybe four, fantasy starter. But this week McCarthy has the Padres, so you can expect another ace like outing from him this week.

Tom Koehler, MIA- Do I know a ton about Koehler? No. What I do know is he has rattled off back-to-back decent starts for the Fish. On Saturday, against the D-backs, he hurled six strong innings allowing one earned run on three hits, while walking only two and striking out seven. Do I think Koehler is as good as those numbers indicate? Eh, not really. However, TK has had back-to-back solid starts and he draws the White Sox this week. The ChiSox have struggled producing runs this season and while they have cut down on the Ks, they are still striking out with great aplomb. Now the one drawback is the Marlins are not known for providing run support, so this may not be a great chance at a “W”, but you should get some help with your peripherals.

Travis Wood, CHC- Travis Wood, much like life (according to Madonna), is a mystery. I like Travis Wood, always have, but I am still a bit on the fence believing in his early season numbers. Wood is 4-2 with a 2.38 ERA and a WHIP of .92. I can’t imagine Wood can keep these numbers up, and judging by the percent he is owned in most fantasy leagues, I am not alone. Wood is more likely to have an ERA in the high threes. Wood has a LOB% of 80% and a ground ball rate below 40% and is not a strike out pitcher. Some sort of regression should be on its way and I feel like a start against Wood’s former mates in Cincy this week, may be where it begins.

Felix Doubront, BOS- It should be widely known that Doubront is a favorite of mine. I was high on Felix in the preseason. With a solid xFIP and K-rate, Doubront was high on my sleeper list. Now the numbers have not been great for Felix this season, although the xFIP, SIERA and K/9 were not terrible, until a clunker against Texas and a bad relief outing. The biggest issue has been the walks. Doubront has been all over the place, walking almost six batters per nine innings. This is a wild card stream for sure, but you can count on the Ks, especially against the White Sox. The White Sox have struggled to score runs, so while I can’t fully support this stream, I do think there is a 50-50 shot Doubront gets a quality start in the Windy City

Wandy Rodriguez and Francisco Liriano, PIT- I am lumping these two Pirate southpaws together. Both are similar this week in streaming. Both pitchers face the Cubs this week, at home. Liriano has looked sharp in his first two starts since returning from the disabled list. Sure they were against the Mets and Brewers who have not been world beaters at the plate, as both are towards the bottom of the league in runs scored in May. Wandy’s last two starts have been just as good, lacking the strikeouts, also against the Mets and Brewers. Now the Cubs have actually started to score a few runs here and there over the last couple of weeks, but nevertheless I would say roll the dice on both Bucs starters this week.

Jason Vargas, LAA- Jason Vargas is far from a flashy fantasy pitching option, to say the least, and the numbers pretty much back this statement up. Vargas is solid however. and I like him this week, because he is matched up against the Royals. The Royals are in the bottom third of the league in most offensively productive categories, so I think you may see one of Vargas’ best starts of 2013.

Scott Kazmir, CLE- There are still plenty of seats available on the Scott Kazmir bandwagon folks. Sure Kaz was roughed up by the Phils in his last outing, but most of his starts have been excellent. Kazmir’s velocity has been good as has K-rate and he has two starts this week. The first one is a no-brainer start for Kazmir as he faces the punchless Mariners, but the second start is against the BoSox and this one is iffy. I would take the first start against the Ms and hold off against the start against Boston.

Andrew Cashner, SD- The K-rate is lower than I would expect from Cash-money thus far, but the ERA has been solid. Cashner’s xFIP, SIERA and strand rate point to bit of an ERA regression, AC heads out to the desert this week to face the D-backs. This match up is tough to gauge for Cashner, but I think, if I had to, I would say roll the dice on this one.

Hector Santiago, CWS- Santiago has been up and down as a starter in 2013. The up? 12.1 innings pitched against the Mets and Twins, allowing one earned run, striking out 14. The down? 3.1 innings pitched against the Angels on Saturday, in which he allowed four earned runs. Ups, downs, what have yous, bottom line is Santiago starts against the Marlins this week and frankly that is really probably all I had to say because the Marlins offense is not even close to good right now.

Justin Grimm, TEX- Seems like “Reaper” has appeared here quite a bit and with good reason, he is not quite worth rostering year round. Plus Grimm is still outpitching his projections, but his ERA and WHIP thus far are about on par with how he is currently pitching. In other words, Grimm’s ERA and WHIP seem accurate thus far. Love him or hate him, Grimm faces the Mariners this week, and while they are not the Marlins, this is more or less a great match up for Grimm.

Bronson Arroyo, CIN- Arroyo has always been a middle of the road, reliable, innings eating pitcher. You will not get a lot of strikeouts, but Bronson also rarely gets completely rocked when he takes the hill. Arroyo has given up more than four earned runs in only one start this season and has only gone less than six innings in one start this season. In the one start Arroyo did not go six innings, he went five. There is never anything spectacular about Arroyo’s numbers, but he does manage a lot of quality starts, Arroyo faces the Cubs this week and for some reason I like this one. Cubs are putting runs on the board, but I like the chance for a QS and a “W”.

Well, that’s all I got this week, good luck, godspeed and happy streaming!

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The Curious Case of Starling Marte

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The Curious Case of Starling Marte

Posted on 14 May 2013 by Patrick Hayes

Sabermetric Spotlight: The Curious Case of Starling Marte, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

The Reason -

How many times have you taken a look to check Starling Marte’s stats the past few games, waiting for his downfall to start? Shoot, the past two weeks or so I can count at least a dozen for myself. Which is why I decided it’s finally time to return to baseball writing and to dig into Marte’s season thus far.

First of all, before I get to the good stuff, how awesome is his name? I’m automatically including it in my 2013 MLB All-Names team, which I now just decided to create. Be on the look out for that soon, lucky you. Now let’s continue.

Starling Marte

Basic Numbers -

Starling busted into the Majors late last year for the Pittsburgh Pirates and cranked a homer in his first at-bat (Only July 26). In 47 games and 167 ABs, he hit .257 and did his fare share of striking out and not taking many pitches. Because of his less than stellar OBP, he found himself in the later half of the Pirates lineup for the majority of his first go in the bigs.

Heading into the 2013 season, projections seemed to think his first full year would play out much like 2012 did. Frustrating fantasy baseball owners by teasing them of stealing 20+ bases but lacking a high average to make him truly worth an early gamble.

Flash forward to May 13th. Starling is hitting .329 in 36 games with just as many HR (5) RBI (17) and two less steals (10) than he had in 18 more at-bats in all of 2012. The biggest change? His BABIP has skyrocketed from .333 last year to .413 in 2013. Before digging into his stats tonight, I was under the impression that he was/is due for a slump eventually and that this number will recede closer to .350-.375 and his AVG would likely end up around .275. However, looking at it a little more, I believe this isn’t the case. Every year of the his professional baseball career (starting in 2009), Marte has had a BABIP of .389 or higher, except in 2012.

Last year was his first time in both AAA and MLB, was it just part of the expected learning curve? Has he figured it out in 2013? What’s changed?

Sabermetrics -

Looking at Batted Ball data through almost the same amount of at bats in 2012 to 2013, surprisingly, not much has changed. Ground Ball Percent has risen to 57.5 from 57, Line Drive Percent up to 19.8 from 18.4 and Fly Ball Percents down a hair to 22.6 from 24.6. If none of these ratios have changed, his Plate Discipline must be the answer, right?

Bingo. Starling is now swinging is almost half of the pitches he sees (49% from 46.1% in 2012) and is making contact 79.2% of the time, up from 72.3% last year. The biggest jump comes is pitches contacted that are thrown outside of the strike zone as balls. A whooping 63.9% rate from 51.5% last year.

Why are more pitches being connected with you ask? Looking at Pitch Type, Marte is now experiencing an increased dose of Fastballs (56.8% from 52.1%) as well as change-ups (9.4% from 6.8%). The pitch he is seeing less of? Sliders. Now at only 14.2%, down from 18.7%. It seems that batting exclusively in the lead-off spot has led to a more appetizing array of pitches for Starling to hit, and he has taken advantage of the opportunity.

Forward Looking -

It’s only normal to expect his BABIP to take some sort of a dip (especially if pitchers start throwing him more sliders), but not to the depths that experts have predicted. It will stay north of .380 and average will hover just north of .300 to finish the year. Tack on a potential 30 stole base campaign, along with a resurgence of Andrew McCutchen and you have all the makings for one valuable and exciting player.

Fantasy Analysis -

If you are fortunate enough to have Marte on your squad, you most likely picked him up via Free Agency. His ESPN Average Drafted Position saw him being taken around 224. Do you sell high? Well if your team is in trouble, go for it. Starling will easily end up a 20/20 OF and could easily eclipse 100 runs scored. He will go in the top 100 next year.

Did You Know? -

His middle name is Javier and he was born outside of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.

Milwaukee Brewers v Pittsburgh Pirates

Reactions and opinions are always welcomed. Find me on twitter: @pf_hayes

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Field of Streams: Fantasy Baseball Pitching Options

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Field of Streams: Fantasy Baseball Pitching Options

Posted on 14 May 2013 by Will Emerson

Welcome, welcome! Time for another edition of Field of Streams, a weekly look at some viable and some not so viable fantasy baseball streaming options for the upcoming week. Is Wood good? Is there a Grimm pitching option this week? Is Francisco Liriano back? Francisco? That’s fun to say! Anyways, away we go. Please remember all stats are going into Saturday, May 11th’s action. Enjoy!

Francisco Liriano

Travis Wood, CHC- In the words of Cosmo Kramer, “It’s the Wood that makes it good. Not only has every one of Travis Wood’s starts this season been of the quality variety, but he has allowed two or fewer earned runs in all but one start. Wood is readily available in most formats, so clearly most people are overlooking his numbers. Well, maybe they just aren’t buying in just yet. Although Wood is sporting a 2.33 ERA, both his xFIP and SIERA are over four and he is only inducing ground balls at a 40% rate. That ground ball rate, a K/9 which, at best, should hover around seven on a good day and a BABIP of under .200, points to Wood receiving a great deal of good luck. Wood has two starts this week, at home versus the Rockies and the Mets. The Rockies have the second highest slugging percentage in the league and the Mets are well, middle of the pack offensively. I would avoid the Rockies start and I am about 50-50 on the Mets start.

Justin Grimm, TEX- Despite a clunker against the Brew Crew in his last outing, Grimm is still very much in the streaming discussion. Grimm’s overall numbers are still very good, with a K/9 over nine and a SIERA of 3.62 points to him being a very serviceable fantasy pitching option. The pundits still feel like the ERA will be closer to the five range and the K-rate will decline, but for now “Reaper” is still looking good. Although it is a two start week for Grimm, this week, I am not full on board with streaming him as he faces two lineups who have been very good offensively, the Athletics and the Tigers. I would actually take Grimm at Oakland but use him at your own risk against the Tigers.

Roberto Hernandez, TB- On the surface, Roberto’s numbers are nothing spectacular. Hernandez is 1-4, with a 4.66 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP, but his SIERA is 3.25 and his K/9 is over nine. There is nothing pointing to this being the norm for Hernandez, but if he keeps pitching the way he is, he should continue to be a good spot start option. Hernandez throws against the Os at Camden Yards this upcoming week. The Orioles have scored the third most runs in the majors this season and actually do not strike out a ton. I like Hernandez for occasional starts, but would steer clear this week.

Francisco Liriano, PIT- Welcome back Francisco Liriano! Fresh of the DL, Liriano was a bit of alright against the Mets. Liriano pitched 5.1 innings, allowing one earned run on six hits, striking out nine and walking just two. Liriano will lock horns with the Brewers this week, a team that is fifth in the majors in OPS, so I wouldn’t be 100% about this start, but I feel confident in saying Liriano is about a 75-80% shot at a quality start here.

Dan Straily, OAK- Okay, okay, so Straily’s lat outing was, well, awful, sure. Here’s the thing though, ol’ Danny boy is still sporting a SIERA under 3.50 and a K/9 over ten, making him a favorite of mine. While I do like Straily, I would steer clear of this week’s outing against the Rangers and wait for a more favorable outing to spot start him.

John Lackey, BOS- Judging by the ownership percentage in ESPN and Yahoo!, many people are not buying into Slackey’s resurgence. Well, seems like almost every Boston starter is throwing well to start the season and while I do not expect them to keep up this pace, I do think they will continue to provide some quality pitching. Lackey has two starts this week, against the rays and Twinkies and I expect two good starts right there with chance for some “Ws”.

Ubaldo Jimenez, CLE- Yes it is true, Ubaldo’s overall numbers still look bad, but what you may not have noticed is, Ubaldo has actually put together a couple of nice consecutive starts. Now, as I write this Jimenez is pitching against Detroit and that could get messy, sure, but he has a start this upcoming week against the Mariners, which is a favorable start for most SPs. Although I am not completely convinced of Ubaldo’s turnaround just yet, it is the Mariners and I think he can pull off a quality start there.

Hector Santiago, CWS- K/9. enough said. No? Yeah, you’re right. How about a K/9 of 8.44, a sub-two ERA and a 3.24 SIERA? Now, Santiago may not be mainstay in the rotation, but after pretty much dominating the Mets in his last start, it may be worth considering in the future. At the very least, Santiago is slated to start Monday against the Twinkies so I have no problem saying, “stream away!”

Chris Tillman, BAL- Tillman does not have “ace” numbers, but he has put together four straight quality starts. Now, although in those starts the peripherals were not great and show that Tillman may be getting a bit lucky, he does draw the Padres this week and they are not exactly world beaters at the plate, so go ahead and get a start outta Tillman this week.


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Run For The Rawlings

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Run For The Rawlings

Posted on 08 May 2013 by Nick Schaeflein

This weekend marks the annual Run for the Roses. The 139th running of the Kentucky Derby is this weekend with the quest for the first Triple Crown winner since 1978 still out there. Major League Baseball currently has a Triple Crown winner of its own in the Tigers Miguel Cabrera. With the season now a month complete how are the ponies lining up at the one month pole?

Miguel Cabrera

The Atlanta Braves and Justin Upton got out to a fast start. Upton was named National League Player of the Month and appears to be enjoying the new scenery. He hit double digit home runs in the month, but the one negative was not very many guys were on base for the long balls. If his brother and Jason Heyward can start to get on base in front of him, look out National League. At one point the Braves were 13-0 when scoring a run and 0-3 when not. To this day, no team has ever won a ball game without scoring a run.

A surprise start came out of the Boston Gate. After the down year of 2012, Boston raced out to a fast start and the best record in the American League. They are healthier and currently Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are a combined 10-0.

It was a good month for pitchers named Matt as Matt Harvey and Matt Moore raced out to several wins. They are a combined 9-0 with an ERA under 2.

Also strong early runs have to go to the New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates. One horse that has been doing it for years Mariano Rivera had 11 saves along with Jason Grilli of the Buccos.

Currently stuck in the middle of the pack is World Series favorites the Washington Nationals, and CY Young aces Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw. The two work horses are a combined 6-4 which is not quite elite numbers.

Could the Los Angeles Angels start to become the San Diego Chargers of baseball? The Chargers for the last few years on paper are always a team that is built up as a contender and every year they fall from grace and are home for the post season. The Angels with all of that offensive talent are under .500 and off to another slow start. Could a second straight year with an unimpressive April keep them out of the post season?

What could be viewed as an under the radar team in the middle of the pack is the Kansas City Royals. You will not find any Royal stats at the top of the lists, but collectively they currently are division leaders in the Central.

Still stuck in the gates for the 2013 race are a few surprises. The revamped team in Toronto has not quite showed up for their post position. Interestingly, two teams have team batting averages under .200 in the seventh inning on: the Blue Jays and Washington Nationals.

Los Angeles stars Josh Hamilton and Matt Kemp currently have 3 home runs combined and the batting averages are missing as well.

As the season turns into a new month, May will likely bring more moving and positioning for the summer run. And on the track for the run for the roses, have a little Goldencents. Enjoy the Mint Juleps and oversized floppy hats.

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Yovani Gallardo And The No “K” Corral

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Yovani Gallardo And The No “K” Corral

Posted on 08 May 2013 by Will Emerson

Sometimes you may not notice certain things about certain players because you don’t pay attention to their every at bat, inning pitched, or whatever. Even in this wonderful age, where so much information is at our fingertips at virtually all times, things can slip past and go unnoticed to the baseball-loving masses. I mean, sure, if it is a “superstar” that is struggling mightily or a mighty struggler producing like a “superstar” then, yeah, the media and talking heads will notice and sort of force feed this information down our proverbial throats. However, for the majority of players, you know the tweeners or those on the cusp of stardom or, for that matter, mediocrity, certain statistics or information can be widely missed. All of this, as you should have guessed from the title, brings to me to the ever talented, Yovani Gallardo.

Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee Brewers, must frustrating pitcher ever?

First, let me set the scene, even though many of you reading this are probably familiar with YoGa’s tale. Yovanni Gallardo broke into the majors with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2007, with ace-like potential. A young stud ready to become the Brewers’ ace of the future. Well, Yovani has never quite made the jump from very good to superstardom. Gallardo has been very solid in his almost six (he missed almost all of 2008) major league seasons with Milwaukee. Gallardo has not posted an ERA over four since coming onto the scene, however he also has not posted an ERA below 3.52 in the majors. Okay, well, YoGa did have an ERA of 1.88 in ’08, but that was in only four starts, so I am not really going to count that, if you don’t mind. Of course, as you may also know, I don’t hold complete faith in the statistic that is ERA, so to really paint you a picture, his SIERA has fallen between 3.22 and 4.08 in those seasons. Surprisingly, that 4.08 SIERA was during that extremely short ’08 season, so again, I don’t hold much stock in that year’s numbers. Regardless, you can kind of see that Gallardo was decent, solid, or any number of synonyms for decent or solid, but never quite made the leap to stardom. Many probably thought of Yovani as an ace coming into 2013 and, to be fair, he is the Brewer’s ace. Gallardo, definitely was thought of as a guy who was very close to becoming that breakout stud picther. Gallardo has been better than a great deal of starting pitchers in his career, that is for darned sure. Gallardo’s, ERAs, WHIPs, FIPs and K/9s have regularly been a good deal ahead of the league averages each season that he has pitched. Still, Yovani was not quite in that first tier of starting pitchers and there were still folks waiting for a big breakout season from the Brewers’ ace.

The Brewers tried to stack the cards in their favor, by adding Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum to their rotation, which would definitely take some pressure off of young Gallardo, where he would not be expected to carry the rotation on his back. Now those guys are gone and the “ace” label was now, without question, affixed to Gallardo in Milwaukee. So would this be the breakout season? Sure, Yovani does have control issues and little lapses at times, but every picther does, at least every now and then, right? Well, fast forward to today. Gallardo, possibly poised to take the next step, has struggled a bit in this young 2013 season.  Gallardo’s current ERA is 4.25, with a WHIP of 1.47, which of course will not tell us the whole story. The SIERA at 4.48 does give one pause here though. Seems like his ERA is pretty much an accurate depiction of Gallard’s season thus far. Now, it is early in the season, so generally I would not be ready to push the panic button on Yovani just yet. However, here is the thing, regardless of those fluctuating ERAs or WHIPs, bits of wildness here and there, or anything else that could be simply attributed to a slow start, my main concern falls more with Gallardo’s strikeouts, or lack thereof.

See, a lot of mistakes can me covered up/ fixed by a good strikeout picture and this tried and true mantra has certainly applied to YoGa throughout his career. Yovani Gallardo is a strikeout pitcher. Well, perhaps it should be was? Yovani Gallardo, was a strikeout pitcher. Below are YoGa’s K/9 numbers for his career coming into 2013:

2007- 8.24

2008- 7.50*

2009- 9.89

2010- 9.73

2011- 8.99

2012- 9.00

So basically throught his career Gallardo could generally be counted on to strikeout roughly a batter per inning pitched. That, right there, is a good strikeout pitcher, folks! So, what the heck (pardon my French) is happening now?

Gallardo, went into Monday night’s start not only having been very hittable in his first five starts, but posting a K/9 of 5.28. In fact in four of his first five starts, Gallardo struck out three or fewer batters. Could this be a cause for concern? Well, kind of depends on why this is happening, I suppose. First place I look, when I notice a big strikeout drop is  velocity. in 2010, Gallardo’s average fastball was clocked at 92.6. It was the exact same in 2011. In 2012, it dropped almost a mile per hour, to 91.7. This year? Another drop of about a mile per hour on his average fastball, to 90.6. All of his other pitches have also dropped roughly the same amount in velocity. I am not sure this drop should be a huge concern just yet, as it is still early in the season and YoGa may need to still work the arm out a bit. I am not entirely sure, in that regards, but here is another interesting nugget, Gallardo’s four seam fastball percentage thus far in 2013 is 31.9%, which is almost ten precent less than his percentage last year. Gallardo has instead been going to the two seamer much more than he has in the past, 25.4% in ’13 as opposed to 14.5% in ’12.  So, is it possible, that Gallardo is not as confident in the four seamer and or is not fooling many hitters with his two seamers? Or maybe he is just not fooling hitters, much at all? With any of his pitches? Batters are making contact on just about 75% of Yovani’s pitches they chase out of the zone. Now, I don’t have any data with how hard these balls have been hit, but considering this percentage was 65% last year and has only been higher than that once in his previous six seasons, I think we can make the general assumption that Yovani is just not baffling hitters nearly as much as he has been in the past.

Now, again, it is early and maybe this is absolutely something that can be worked on and adjusted. Heck (there’s that potty mouth of mine again), maybe it is just an early season slump that is not indicative of how the season will pan out for Gallardo. The sample size is very small and it is always dangerous to read much into early season numbers, but I think you can see some things that may bear monitoring with Gallardo as the season progresses. Gallardo did put together a very good outing on Monday, against the Pirates, and while I don’t see updated pitch data from that game, it should be pointed out that in his previous start against the Padres, his average fastball was the fastest it has been all season, at 91.4%. Interestingly, in the Padres start, Gallardo threw far more changeups than any other previous 2013 start, but also only struckout two batters, while walking five, so not sure what is really going on with Yoga. Hopefully Monday’s outing, in which he finished by striking out three of the last five batters he faced, will be more indicative of things to come for Gallardo, even if those three batters were Gaby Sanchez, Clint Barmes and Jonathan Sanchez.

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