Archive for September, 2009

Thursday’s Free Agent Pitchers

Here on Wednesday in the final week of the season most leagues have already passed their deadline for waivers. But for those of you in daily transaction leagues with moves still available and innings left to play with, there are no shortage of pitchers to consider. Here are the pitchers going Thursday owned in fewer than 50 percent of CBS Sports leagues. Matchups come from

Kip Wells (1%) – Has a home start against Carpenter and St. Louis. After being designated for assignment earlier this year by the Nationals, Wells hooked up with the Reds. He pitched three games out of the bullpen and then moved into the rotation for his last six outings. Wells is 2-1 with a 3.79 ERA and a 1.178 WHIP in that span. He’s appeared in four games this year in Great American Ball Park, where he is 1-0 with a 3.80 ERA. Wells has made two relief appearances versus the Cardinals and has allowed 1 ER in 3.2 IP.

Nate Robertson (4%) – Has a home start against Baker and the Twins. After spending most of the season in the bullpen, Robertson has made three straight starts for the Tigers. He is 1-1 with a 6.00 ERA in that span, with 11 BB and 8 Ks in 12 IP. Robertson has a 3.70 home ERA this season and has 6 IP and 2 ER against the Twins with one win this year.

Manny Parra (28%) – Has a road start in Colorado versus Cook. After starting the season 3-8, Parra is 8-2 with a 4.95 ERA in his last 13 starts. This year he is 6-7 with a 6.87 ERA in road starts. Parra has yet to pitch this season in Coors Field.

Garrett Mock (5%) – Has a road start in Atlanta versus Hanson. Mock has dropped his last five decisions and has a 7.03 ERA and has a 1.656 WHIP in his last six games. He gave up 4 ER in 5 IP 9/26 versus the Braves and is 0-2 with a 6.31 ERA versus them this season. Overall, Mock is 2-3 with a 4.87 ERA in road games this season.

Felipe Paulino (3%) – Has a road start in Philadelphia versus Lee. Paulino has lost seven consecutive decisions and has a 7.71 ERA in his last 10 games. He is 1-6 with an 8.37 ERA in road games this year and has yet to face the Phillies this season.

Chris Waters (0%) – Has a road start in Tampa versus Garza. Waters was 9-7 in Triple-A this season before getting the call to Baltimore. He has made four relief appearances for the Orioles and this will be the 28-year old’s first start of the season after making 11 in 2008. The lefty is a fastball/slider pitcher.

Carlos Carrasco (11%) – Has a road start in Boston versus Lester. Carrasco was part of the package received from Philadelphia in the Lee trade. He was 5-1 in Triple-A for Columbus after the deal with a 3.19 ERA. Carrasco has made four starts for Cleveland and has given up four or more earned runs in each of them. On the plus side, Carrasco has a 2.19 GB/FB mark. However, when batters get the ball in the air, they hit it out of the park 37.5 percent of the time.

Paul Maholm (43%) – Has a road start in Chicago versus Samardzija. In his last seven starts, Maholm is 2-2 with a 2.89 ERA and he has allowed just 2 HR in 46.2 IP. Maholm is 4-6 with a 5.54 ERA in road games this season. In his only game against the Cubs, he allowed 7 ER in 4 IP but came away with a no-decision.

Jeff Samardzija (6%) – Has a home start against Maholm and the Pirates. A candidate for the rotation in Spring Training, Samardzija made his second start of the season in his last outing, in which he gave up 3 ER (on 2 HR) in 5 IP and took the loss. The gopher ball has been a problem for Samardzija this season but it has been more pronounced on the road. He has allowed 2 HR in 15.2 IP at Wrigley but 5 HR in 19 IP on the road.

Doug Fister (10%) – Has a home start against Anderson and the A’s. After a strong showing at the start of his major league career, Fister is 0-3 with an 8.80 ERA in his last three starts. He is 2-2 with a 4.31 ERA in home starts this season. Fister has faced Oakland once this season and allowed 1 ER in 5 IP and got a no-decision.

Wednesday’s Free Agent Pitchers

Here on Wednesday in the final week of the season most leagues have already passed their deadline for waivers. But for those of you in daily transaction leagues with moves still available and innings left to play with, there are no shortage of pitchers to consider. Here are the pitchers going Tuesday owned in fewer than 50 percent of CBS Sports leagues. Matchups come from

Charlie Morton (5%) – Has a road start in Chicago versus Lilly. Morton has lost three of his last four decisions and has a 5.04 ERA in that stretch. This year on the road he is 1-5 with a 7.45 ERA in 38.2 IP. Morton is 0-1 against the Cubs this year and he allowed 10 runs in 1 IP in his only start against Chicago.

Carlos Torres (2%) – Has a road start in Cleveland versus Carmona in a makeup of yesterday’s rainout. See Tuesday’s free agent column for more on Torres.

Tim Redding (4%) – Has road start in Washington versus Lannan. In his last seven starts Redding has a 3.19 ERA and a 1.157 WHIP over 42.1 IP. He is 1-3 with a 4.85 ERA in road starts this year and in two starts against the Nationals is 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA.

John Lannan (36%) – Has home start versus Redding and the Mets. In his last nine starts, Lannan is 1-5 with a 5.51 ERA. He is 5-3 with a 2.62 ERA in home starts this season and is 2-2 with a 2.40 ERA in four games against New York.

Eddie Bonine (1%) – Has a home start against Pavano and the Twins. The 28-year old has appeared in nine games for Detroit this season and made three starts. His last outing he allowed two unearned runs in 6.2 IP versus the White Sox. Bonine throws a fastball, slider and change and rounds out his repertoire with an occasional knuckleball.

Robinson Tejeda (25%) – Has a road start in New York versus Chamberlain. Had been pitching brilliantly since move to the rotation until allowing 5 ER in 4.1 IP in his last start. Still, he is 3-1 with a 2.36 ERA in five games as a starter. Tejeda has a great fastball, which has led to a 10.75 K/9 mark. However, he has been done in by lousy control. Tejeda has a 6.16 BB/9 ratio and he allowed seven walks in his last outing.

Brian Moehler (6%) – Has a road start in Philadelphia versus Martinez. Despite a 4.88 ERA in his last six starts, Moehler has pitched well in that span. Only a seven-run outing in less than three innings in his last start has dragged down his numbers in that span. Moehler is 5-4 with a 3.93 ERA in road games this season. He came away with a no-decision in his only outing against the Phillies this year after allowing 3 ER in 5.2 IP.

David Hernandez (5%) – Has a road start in Tampa Bay versus Shields. In his last eight games, Hernandez is 0-5 with a 7.34 ERA. This year he is 2-5 with a 5.11 ERA in road games. In his only game against the Rays, Hernandez allowed 5 ER in 3 IP and took the loss.

Justin Masterson (34%) – Has a home start against Buehrle and the White Sox after getting rained out yesterday. See Tuesday’s free agent pitchers for more on Masterson.

Jeff Karstens (1%) – Has a road start in Chicago versus Zambrano. After starting the season in the rotation, Karstens moved to the bullpen for 26 games before making a start in his last outing on 9/25. Overall, he is 2-3 with a 5.19 ERA in 11 starts. Karstens has pitched two innings versus the Cubs this season and has allowed two earned runs.

Jeff Suppan (9%) – Has a road start in Colorado versus Hammel. In his last four starts, Suppan is 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA and has allowed 4 HR in 23.1 IP. He is 4-3 with a 3.56 ERA in road starts this year. This will be Suppan’s first start against the Rockies this season.

Jason Hammel (41%) – Has a home start versus Suppan and the Brewers. In his last 11 starts, Hammel is 4-2 with a 3.74 ERA with 52 Ks in 67.1 IP. Early in the year Hammel had trouble in Coors Field, but he has notched a Quality Start in three of his last four home games. Overall, Hammel is 2-3 with a 5.63 ERA in home games. He is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA this year versus Milwaukee.

Derek Holland (37%) – Has a road start in Anaheim versus Weaver. Holland snapped a five-start losing streak in his last outing, when he allowed three runs in five innings and picked up a win versus the Rays. He is 2-5 with a 4.91 ERA in road games this year. In four games against the Angels, Holland is 2-1 with a 5.12 ERA. Keep in mind that the Angels have clinched and they may not have all of their regulars in the lineup.

Clayton Richard (29%) – Has a home game versus Garland and the Dodgers. In his last five games, Richard has a 3.90 ERA and a 1-1 record. Since being acquired in a trade from the White Sox, Richard is 3-0 with a 2.48 ERA in Petco Park. He has faced the Dodgers once this year and allowed 4 ER in 4.1 IP.

Clayton Mortensen (1%) – Has a road start in Seattle versus Morrow. Acquired from the Cardinals in the Holliday deal, Mortensen has one Quality Start in five games for Oakland. He has a nice 1.93 GB/FB ratio but has been unable to get many strikeouts (3.94 K/9) and has struggled with the gopher ball, as he has allowed 5 HR in 29.2 IP.

Brandon Morrow (28%) – Has a home game versus Mortensen and the A’s. Morrow has made three starts since being recalled from the minors and is 1-0 with a 4.02 ERA. However, he has allowed 11 BB in 15.2 innings over those three outings.

Kevin Mulvey (1%) – Has a road start in San Francisco against Penny. Mulvey has appeared in five games since being acquired on waivers from Minnesota, and has made three starts. In his last outing, he notched a Quality Start, as he allowed 3 ER in 6 IP in a home loss against the Giants.

Tuesday’s Free Agent Pitchers

Here on Tuesday in the final week of the season most leagues have already passed their deadline for waivers. But for those of you in daily transaction leagues with moves still available and innings left to play with, there are no shortage of pitchers to consider. Here are the pitchers going Tuesday owned in fewer than 50 percent of CBS Sports leagues. Matchups come from

Carlos Torres (2%) – Has road start in Cleveland against Masterson. Torres has pitched in six games for the White Sox and made four starts this year. Had a home start 8/8 versus the Indians and allowed 4 ER in 3.1 IP. His repertoire includes a fastball, cutter and curve. Torres offers some strikeouts possibilities with a 7.59 K/9 in the majors following a 9.14 mark this year in Triple-A.

Justin Masterson (34%) – Home against Torres and the White Sox. Has made nine starts for the Indians and allowed four or more earned runs in five of them. Masterson’s longest outing of the season is 6.1 innings. Has one appearance versus Chicago this season, his first start for Cleveland, in which he went four innings, gave up one run and fanned four on 8/8.

Anthony Lerew (0%) – Has road start in New York versus Burnett. Lerew was 10-6 with a 4.09 ERA in the Double-A Texas League this year with 101 Ks in 152 IP. In his only start in the majors, he gave up four runs (two earned) in 4.2 IP versus the Red Sox. Lerew had a 30.7 percent fly ball rate in the minors but gave up four ground balls and 11 fly balls in his start against Boston.

J.D. Martin (3%) – Has a home start against Pelfrey and the Mets. Is 1-1 versus New York this season, including a win on 9/18 when he gave up two runs and fanned three in 5.1 IP. Martin is 1-2 with a 5.68 ERA and a 1.611 WHIP in seven home games this season.

Wilton Lopez (0%) – Has a road start in Philadelphia against Happ. See Sunday’s two-start pitcher update for more on Lopez.

Brian Duensing (38%) – Has a road start versus Verlander in Detroit. Duensing has won five straight decisions since moving into the rotation, posting a 1.88 ERA in the seven-game stretch. He is 2-1 with a 4.11 ERA in 30.2 road innings this season. In three games (one start) against the Tigers, Duensing is 1-0 with a 0.61 ERA and has 8 Ks in 14.2 IP.

Jeremy Guthrie (27%) – Has a road start versus Davis and the Rays. Guthrie has lost three straight decisions and has a 6.38 ERA in that span. He is 5-8 with a 5.48 ERA in road games this year. Guthrie is 1-0 versus the Rays this season. He pitched six scoreless innings against Tampa in a home start on 4/11.

Wade Davis (35%) – Faces Guthrie and the Orioles at home. See Friday’s two-start pitcher article for more on Guthrie.

Homer Bailey (47%) – Has a home start versus Pineiro and the Cardinals. In his last seven starts, Bailey is 4-1 with a 1.99 ERA. He has a 1.288 WHIP and a 7.3 K/9 mark in home games this year. Bailey is 0-1 with a 4.99 ERA in two games against St. Louis this year.

Kevin Hart (3%) – Has a road start versus Dempster and the Cubs. Hart has picked up a loss in six straight games. He has a 7.31 ERA in that stretch, with 18 BB and 21 Ks in 32 IP. Hart started the year with Chicago and went to Pittsburgh in the Gorzellany/Grabow deal.

Chris Narveson (5%) – Has a road start in Colorado against Marquis. Narveson has appeared in 19 games for the Brewers and moved into the rotation three games ago. In his last outing he picked up the win, as he allowed one run in 5.2 IP and notched 10 Ks in a home game against the Cubs.

Cesar Ramos (0%) – Has a home start against Billingsley and the Dodgers. Ramos went a combined 6-7 with a 3.56 ERA among three stops in the minors this season. In three games in relief with the Padres, Ramos has 5 Ks in 5.1 IP. The lefty averages 91.8 with his fastball and also throws a slider, curve and change.

Trevor Cahill (39%) – Has a road game versus Hernandez and the Mariners. Cahill has won four straight decisions and in his last seven games he has a 2.43 ERA and a 1.131 WHIP. He is 3-5 with a 4.66 ERA in road games this season. Cahill is 0-2 with a 1.99 ERA in three games against Seattle this year.

Doug Davis (49%) – Has a road start against Sanchez and the Giants. Since the All-Star break, Davis is 4-4 with a 5.14 ERA and a 1.580 WHIP. He is 3-6 with a 4.39 ERA in road starts this season. Against the Giants, Davis is 2-2 with a 4.64 ERA and a 1.545 WHIP.

Week 26 Two-Start Pitchers Update

Here is the latest update to Week 26 two-start pitchers. Again this list is subject to change going forward.

Pitchers not listed on last update

LAA – Kazmir
PHI – Happ
SFG – Sanchez
ATL – Hudson
WAS – Martin
HOU – Lopez

Pitchers from Friday no longer scheduled for two starts

CHC – Wells
HOU – Norris
PHI – Moyer
FLA – VandenHurk
HOU – Bazardo

Kazmir has a 2.01 ERA in five games with the Angels but just a 1-2 record to show for it. In his last start against the Yankees, Kazmir averaged 93.77 with his four-seam fastball and hit 95.8 in a game in which he notched a Quality Start but came away with a loss. What has not changed since his move to Anaheim is his fly ball tendencies. In those five starts, Kazmir has 23 ground balls compared to 70 fly balls.

Happ sits atop the FanGraphs leaderboard with an 86 percent LOB%. He also comes in first place with a minus 1.49 in ERA-FIP. And his .261 BABIP places third. Even his homer rate is a bit fortunate with a 9.0 percent HR/FB mark.

Sanchez has 91 Ks in 73.2 IP since his no-hitter earlier this year but has a 3.79 ERA and a 4-4 record in 13 starts in that span. He has allowed 37 walks in that stretch and also nine HR. Sanchez faces Arizona and San Diego this week, two of the four teams he has an ERA under four against this season.

Hudson has a 4.13 GB/FB ratio in five starts since being activated from the disabled list. Joel Pineiro leads all qualified pitchers with a 2.67 GB/FB mark. And unlike Pineiro, Hudson has maintained his strikeout rate with the extreme ground ball tendency this season. He has a 5.34 K/9 compared to a 5.39 K/p in 2008.

Martin is 4-2 with a 3.78 ERA in six road starts this season. This week he gets the Mets at home and the Braves on the road. The rookie is 1-1 versus New York in two starts but has yet to face Atlanta.

Lopez is slated to make his first start in the majors after six relief appearances for Houston this season. At Double-A this season, Lopez appeared in 29 games, made 15 starts, and had a 4-5 record with a 4.73 ERA. The 26-year old is a fastball/slider pitcher and was acquired on waivers by the Astros early this season after being released by San Diego.

Granderson’s Just Fine

Plucked out of the University of Illinois at Chicago in the 3rd round of the 2002 draft, Tigers center fielder Curtis Granderson has surpassed all expectations.

Since reaching the big leagues for good in 2006, Granderson has blended a keen batting eye, surprising pop and fleet feet to become one of the most productive players patrolling the middle garden. The lefty batter posted 3.9 Wins Above Replacement in 2006, +7.4 in 2007, +3.8 in 2008, and +2.9 in 2009 with a few games yet to be played.

Granderson enjoyed a banner year in 2007, compiling a .395 wOBA which lead all center fielders. That performance came with a .362 BABIP and a stunning 23 triples, though, so it wouldn’t have been reasonable to expect a repeat performance the following season. Curtis was still highly productive in 2008, however. With his BABIP down to .317, Granderson posted a .374 wOBA. Only Josh Hamilton, Grady Sizemore and Carlos Beltran boasted better offensive numbers.

In 2009, though? Granderson appears to be in the midst of a disappointing campaign. Curtis batted .280/.365/.494 in ’08, but he’s down to .246/.326/.445 this year, with a .337 wOBA. What gives? What’s different in 2009?

Evidently, not much. Take a look at some of Granderson’s key offensive barometers from 2008 and 2009:

Walk rate: 11.4 BB% in ’08, 10.4 BB% in ’09
K rate: 20.1 K% in ’08, 22.8 K% in ’09
Isolated Power (SLG%-BAVG): .213 in ’08, .199 in ’09
Outside Swing% (MLB avg. is about 25%): 19.8% in ’08, 20.1% in ’09
Contact% (MLB avg. is about 81%): 79.6% in ’08, 80.1% in ’09

Granderson has walked slightly less while punching out a little more, popping a couple fewer extra base hits as well. But there’s nothing here that would portend to a 37-point dip in wOBA.

What’s the problem, then? Granderson’s BABIP, as mentioned before, was .317 in 2008. In 2009, that figure has fallen all the way to .276.

It would be easy to simply declare, “he’s been unlucky” and move on. But thanks to some outstanding work done by Chris Dutton and Peter Bendix on what factors influence BABIP for hitters, we can go beyond such a cursory statement.

For a while, most analysts attempting to find a batter’s expected BABIP would used a formula like “line drive percentage + .120.” The premise makes some sense, as line drives fall for a hit about 74 percent of the time.

However, Dutton and Bendix included many more variables in their XBABIP study. Taking items such as line drive rate, batting eye (BB/K ratio), speed score and pitches per PA into consideration, Dutton and Bendix’s XBABIP model yielded very promising results. Their study indicated a 59 percent correlation between actual and predicted BABIP, compared to just 18 percent for the “LD + .120” concept.

Luckily, Derek Carty of The Hardball Times came out with a simple XBABIP tool based on Dutton and Bendix’s work. The tool takes a hitter’s AB’s, HR’s, K’s, SB’s, LD%, flyballs, pop ups and grounders and spits out an expected BABIP.

According to the XBABIP tool, Granderson’s BABIP should be around .303. That’s somewhat lower than his 2008 figure, because Curtis has hit more flyballs (which have a lower BABIP) and he has popped out more often (pop ups are near automatic outs):

2008: 40.7 FB%, 5.0 infield/fly ball%
2009: 48.8 FB%, 12.2 infield/fly ball%

Even so, Granderson’s line would be .273/.353/.472 in 2009 if his BABIP were .303 instead of .276 (and that’s assuming all additional hits were singles). That equates to a wOBA of about .369. Not quite at his 2008 level, but pretty close. As an additional bonus, Granderson has swiped 20 bags in 26 attempts this season, after limiting his running in ’08 (12 SB, 4 CS).

Granderson’s 2009 line is misleading. He had a career year in 2007, and has settled in as a .370 wOBA-type hitter over the past two seasons. Odds are, he’ll be undervalued on draft day heading into the 2010 season. Granderson is still the same all-around threat.

Howell Out, Wheeler In?

J.P. Howell is out for the rest of the year, Tampa Bay beat writer Marc Lancaster announced on Twitter late Friday night. The rationale he cited was that Howell has been pushed, innings-wise, the last couple of years and there’s no reason to push him now that the Rays are officially out of the hunt.

Of course, it’s probably not the 66+ innings he’s put up this year that would have anyone worried, it’s the 89+ innings he put up last year that would be troublesome for a reliever. But it would make sense to take a look at Howell’s year to reflect on the creation of a closer.

Coming into the year, he had shown that he could strike people out (9.27 K/9 in 2008) and that he sometimes had trouble corralling his stuff (4+ BB/9 career). He’s not your typical closer, as his fastball tops out at 86 MPH, and he only uses it around half the time. No, he makes his bread and butter with his curveball, which he throws the second-most in baseball among relievers (36.6%). Throwing a curveball around a third of the time is very Jeremy Affeldt-like, but hey, it’s worked for both of them.

Because of Howell’s unconventional arsenal, the Rays may have been forgiven for thinking that it would instead be fireballing Grant Balfour that would step to the fore to take the job this year. Yes, Troy Percival was the closer in name, but it didn’t seem likely that the forty-year-old would make it through the year. Despite his mid-90s gas, Balfour was already out of the question by the time Percival proved unable to contribute. After a 2008 that saw him pair huge strikeouts (12.65 K/9) with a passable walk total (3.7 BB/9), Balfour dropped off on both accounts this year (9.19 K/9 and 4.59 BB/9) and has had an ERA over five all year.

There was Howell, lying in the weeds. Though his control has been a problem all year (4.46 BB/9), as well as more recently, as David pointed out in the closer report this week, Howell’s performance was the steadiest at the time of Percival’s demise, and he was awarded the title of Closer.

It seems that opportunity and timing are the most important ingredients to creating a closer. Earlier in the season, Dan Wheeler didn’t seem like a good candidate because he was being knocked around the park a little (8.59 ERA in April), but the Rays’ steadiest reliever smoothed out the wrinkles and put in another classic season so far (though perhaps again benefiting from the luck of the bounce with his .203 BABIP over the past two years). He’s whittled his walk rate to the lowest in his career (1.47 BB/9) and is getting people out again despite the ugly FIP. Considering how steady he’s been in Tampa, you might argue that he should have been the closer all along, but with a K/9 under seven over the past two years, you can forgive management for looking for better strikeout totals from their closer.

At least now it seems that Wheeler is the nominal closer for the final two weeks. Whether he’ll ever get the title officially in his career is debatable. But put him on the right team at the right time and he could, as we’ve learned from Howell.

Interesting Week 26 Two-Start Pitchers

Everyone is happy when one of their pitchers is scheduled for two starts in a week. But that is not always a good thing. Here are five pitchers you may be on the fence about (or should be on the fence) putting into your lineup for Week 26.

Wade Davis – In four games in the majors, Davis has a 10.36 K/9 rate, which makes him a good start on strikeout potential alone. Davis has pitched very well in three of his four outings, with the exception coming in a start at Boston. He has two road starts this week, but the latter one comes on the final day of the season in New York with the Yankees likely resting a lot of their stars. Put him in the lineup this week but do not be surprised if he gets held back from his last start due to a concern about innings pitched.

Zach Duke – In his last five games, Duke is 0-4 with an 8.54 ERA. He has allowed five homers in 26.1 innings over that stretch. His starts this week come against LA and CIN, the last two teams he faced. Expect Duke to get lit up in one of those games so keep him on the bench.

Hiroki Kuroda – In his last nine games, Kuroda is 5-1 with a 2.48 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 54.1 innings. He also has seven Quality Starts in that span. Kuroda missed two months at the beginning of the season with a strained oblique, so he has less mileage on him than most pitchers at this point. Additionally, he has only topped 100 pitches in two starts this season, none in the last 13 games. Look for Kuroda to finish the season on a high note and get him in your lineup.

Jeff Niemann – Despite going winless in his last five starts, Niemann is still pitching well at the close of the season. He has a 3.58 ERA in that stretch with 28 Ks in 32.2 IP. Look for him to break into the win column this week with two home starts. At Tropicana Field this year, Niemann is 5-2 with a 2.63 ERA and a 1.156 WHIP.

Anibal Sanchez – After returning from a stint on the 60-day DL with a strained shoulder, Sanchez has pitched very well. He has a 2.58 ERA with 36 strikeouts in 38 innings in his last seven starts. In Sanchez’ last outing, he two-hit the Phillies over eight scoreless innings. Make sure he is active this week.

Other scheduled two-start pitchers in Week 26 are listed below. Please remember that these are projected pitchers and changes can and will happen between now and next week.

Verlander, F. Hernandez, Beckett, Hamels, Jurrjens, Burnett, Dempster, Pineiro, Danks, Feldman, Marquis, E. Santana, Wells, Porcello, Hunter, Blackburn, D. Davis, Bailey, Duensing, Cahill, Masterson, Richmond, Norris, Laffey, Hochevar, Moyer, VandenHurk, Morton, Narverson, Figueroa, Hendrickson, Karstens, Detwiler, Bazardo.

Check back Sunday for an update of two-start pitchers.

Now, I would like to take a step back and provide some accountability for previous picks. There needs to be a two-week time lag because last week’s pitchers have yet to complete their second start. So here are my selections for Week 24 and how they did.

Garland – Advised to start. 2 W, 1.29 ERA, 6 Ks, 1.14 WHIP (2 starts)
LeBlanc – Advised to start. 1.50 ERA, 5 Ks, 0.67 WHIP (1)
Pavano – Advised to start. 3.46 ERA, 8 Ks, 1.38 WHIP (2)
Snell – Advised to start. W, 2.38 ERA, 6 Ks, 1.32 WHIP (2)
West – Advised to sit. W, 5.23 ERA, 13 Ks, 1.65 WHIP (2)

Fantasy Links — 9/24/2009

The Yankees clinched a playoff berth the other night and the Cardinals’ magic number sits at 1. It’s going to be an exciting October yet again, with some really intriguing match-ups forming in both leagues.

Major pro sports leagues no longer really have offseasons, especially when it comes to coverage. We’ll be here all winter, up to our usual tricks. And if you haven’t already, check out FanGraphs’ beautiful new iPhone app. I’ve been playing around with it all morning and am simply in love. Let’s check out some other sites who are doing great work…

The fellas over at FakeTeams are beginning to look ahead to next season, starting with a breakdown of the Top 10 fantasy pitchers for 2010. The usual suspects top the list: Zack Greinke, Felix Hernandez, Roy Halladay and CC Sabathia.

Still plugging away in your fantasy league this season and looking for a few spot starters? R.J. White of Fanhouse suggests looking at Bronson Arroyo, who has pieced together 11 straight quality starts, Brett Anderson, who is coming off a 10-strikeout game and Vicente Padilla, who has struggled recently but is facing Washington.

Matt Snyder, also writing for Fanhouse, provides an early preview of the 2010 group of closers. A lot can change in the offseason with free agency and trades, but it’s a nice look into the future.

Rotoworld’s Aaron Gleeman reviews Tim Hudson‘s impressive return to action. The veteran right-hander is 2-1 with a 3.56 ERA in five starts since returning from Tommy John surgery and was impressive in damage control Wednesday against the Mets. As Gleeman notes, “His average fastball has clocked in at 90.1 miles per hour after living between 90.3 and 90.9 in the four seasons prior to going under the knife, his breaking-ball velocity is also similar to pre-surgery levels, and perhaps most importantly he’s maintained the extreme ground-ball tendencies that have long keyed his success.”

The Hardball Times’ Derek Carty asks an interesting question, and THT’s Eriq Gardner provides an answer: “What do you think has a greater impact on one’s ability to win a fantasy baseball league: player evaluation or strategy?” It’s something to think about as the 2009 season comes to a close.

Have a question, comment or link to share? E-mail me or find me on Twitter.

The A.L. Closer Report: 9/24

For the purposes of the “Closer Report” (which will be a weekly feature), we’ll place the relief aces in one of three categories: Death Grip (these guys have no chance of relinquishing the closer’s role; think Mo Rivera), In Control (a good chance of continuing to rack up the saves) and Watch Your Back (the set-up man is planning a coup d’etat as we speak).

Death Grip

Mariano Rivera, Yankees

The Panamanian with the deadly cutter will be 40 this November, yet it’s actually shocking any time that Rivera allows a run. He gave up two in a blown save vs. Seattle on the 18th. Those are the only tallies against Mo since August 11th. Rivera has 9.96 K/9, with 1.73 BB/9 and a 2.54 XFIP. His percentage of contact within the zone is higher than usual (89.8% in ’09, 85.9% career), but Mo remains as effective as ever.

Joakim Soria, Royals

Soria has worked four times since the last Closer Report, collecting three saves and striking out five in four scoreless innings. Joakim has yet to allow a run this September, while racking up an insane 19 K’s in 10.2 IP. The Mexicutioner has 12.06 K/9 in 2009, with a 31.1 O-Swing% (25% MLB avg). It’s no wonder why the 25 year-old is so difficult to touch up: he can unleash a 92 MPH heater (+0.61 runs/100), 80 MPH slider (+0.62), 70 MPH curveball (+4.95) or an 85 MPH changeup (+0.42). How many relievers have four plus pitches?

Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox

The major league leader in Win Probability Added (+4.79), Papelbon has punched out 11, issued two walks and surrendered 2 runs in 9.1 September innings. Boston’s 4th-round pick in the 2003 draft has been much sharper in the second half of the season, with a 5.5 K/BB ratio since the All-Star break (2.28 K/BB prior).

Joe Nathan, Twins

Nathan has seen extensive action as the Twins attempt to catch the Tigers in the A.L. Central standings. Joe has pitched 7 times over the past 10 days, collecting six saves. He has whiffed 8 in 6.2 frames, but has also issued 4 free passes. Nathan struck out 9.67 hitters per nine innings in 2007 and 9.84 in 2008, but his K rate has climbed back up to 11.86 this year. His contact rate (68.2%) is his lowest since 2005.

Andrew Bailey, Athletics

Bailey has pitched 79.1 innings in relief this season, the most by any closer in the majors. But if the 25 year-old with the nasty fastball, cutter and curve is tired, he sure isn’t showing it. Bailey chucked four scoreless innings since our last Closer Report, with 6 K’s, zero walks and one hit. With 9.87 K/9 and 2.61 BB/9, the 6-3 righty has a 3.37 XFIP. Opposing batters have made contact with 75.6% of Bailey’s pitches within the strike zone, the lowest rate among all relievers.

David Aardsma, Mariners

Can you believe that Aardsma hasn’t walked anyone in over a month? A highly-touted prospect taken 22nd overall by the Giants in 2003, Aardsma drifted through many organizations (San Fran, both sides of Chicago, Boston) before breaking out in Seattle. Control problems plagued him throughout. Yet, the 27 year-old has now gone 11 consecutive frames without allowing a free pass. His walk rate is down to 4.32 for the season. Punching out 10.26 batters per nine innings and showing adequate control, Aardsma has a 4.16 XFIP in 2009.

In Control

J.P. Howell, Rays

Howell has collected just one save this September, with the Rays fading down the stretch. His control has been MIA, with seven walks in five IP (this after 9 BB in 12 August frames). J.P. hasn’t been easy to hit (10.67 K/9, and a 68.1% contact rate well below the 81% MLB avg). But he’s struggling to locate, with a 45.8 Zone% (49% MLB avg, 50.1% Zone% for Howell in 2008).

Frank Francisco, Rangers

Watch out for: C.J. Wilson

Putting the finishing touches on a fine (if injury-riddled) 2009 season, Francisco has picked up two saves in five scoreless frames since the last Closer Report (6 K, 2 BB). In 46.2 IP, Frank has a 4.0 K/BB ratio, with a 3.78 XFIP. He’s pounding the zone (55 Zone%, 49% MLB avg). But when he does bury a pitch in the dirt, hitters are chasing more often (27.1 O-Swing%, 22.8% career avg).

Matt Thornton/Octavio Dotel, White Sox (Bobby Jenks out for the season with a strained calf muscle)

A calf injury closes the book on Jenks’ 2009 season. Bobby’s ERA soared from 2.63 in 2008 to 3.71 in 2009, but it’s questionable how much he actually declined. The 28 year-old’s XFIP was 3.86 in ’08, and a slightly-lower 3.77 in 2009. Jenks’ K rate bounced back this year (5.55 K/9 in ’08, 8.27 K/9 in ’09), but a huge 17% home run/fly ball rate put a big dent in his season. He’s basically the same guy: a good late-inning arm, if not an elite one.

With Bobby out of commission, Thornton and Dotel figure to get dibs on any save ops for the Pale Hose. Per Win Probability Added, Thornton (+2.87) has Dotel (+0.74) beat by a healthy margin. Same goes for XFIP (2.92 for Matt, 4.33 for Octavio). Thornton has whiffed 10.72 hitters per nine frames this year, firing a blistering 96 MPH fastball nearly 90 percent of the time.

Jason Frasor/Scott Downs, Blue Jays

The Jays haven’t had a save converted since Sept. 12th, when Frasor took down the Tigers. Frasor (a former Detroit prospect himself) blew a save op against the Tigers on the 14th (3 runs allowed, including a homer), then took a loss against the Yankees on the 16th (2 hits and a run). He allowed another run in an appearance vs. Baltimore on the 21st, then finally tossed a clean inning yesterday against the O’s.

Downs, meanwhile, has had some trouble of his own. He blew a save op vs. the Bronx Bombers Sept. 16th, giving up 3 hits two runs and a homer. He hasn’t appeared in a game since.

Brian Fuentes, Angels

Watch Your Back: Kevin Jepsen

Are the buzzards circling Fuentes? Shiny save total aside, the former Rockie hasn’t enjoyed a stellar first year with the Halos. His XFIP, 3.25 in 2008, has soared to 5.09 this year. Fuentes’ K rate (7.71 per nine) has dipped considerably, and is the worst mark of his big league career. The lefty’s fastball has still been effective (+0.66 runs/100), but he’s lost control of his mid-70’s slider (-0.82 runs/100). That has led to more contact (79.5 contact%, 73.4% career) and plenty of hitter’s counts (52.2 first-pitch strike%, 58% MLB avg).

As Eno Sarris noted, Fuentes’ hiccups could open the door for Jepsen. A 25 year-old right-hander toting upper-90’s gas (96.2 MPH), Jepsen missed many bats in the minors (8.4 K/9) while generally having no idea where the ball was going (5.4 BB/9).

Jepsen appears to have made some progress on that front. In 50.2 IP this year, the 6-3, 215 pounder has whiffed 7.46 per nine innings, with 2.84 BB/9. Using that zipping fastball (+1.56 runs/100) and a hard 90 MPH cutter (+1.61), Jepsen has generated grounders at a 57.1% clip. If Jepsen can keep the walks in check, Fuentes’ hold on the closer job could become tenuous.

Kerry Wood, Indians

Watch Out For: Chris Perez

Hardly all that the Indians had hoped for this season (0.5 WAR, or $2.1M worth of value while making $10M), Wood surrendered a run vs. the Royals on Sept. 13th then pitched a clean inning against Oakland on the 19th. Kerry’s O-Swing% fell off a cliff this year, from 31.3% in 2008 to just 19.4% in 2009. That’s one of the 10 lowest rates among all relievers. Wood’s 90 MPH cutter (+1.18 runs/100) and 79 MPH curve (+2.01) worked well, but his 96 MPH heater (-0.52) was often hit hard.

Perez has followed up a dominant stretch of pitching with some rocky outings (4 R, 2 H vs. Minnesota on the 14th and 2 R against the Tigers on the 22nd). The former Hurricane was quite sharp in July and August (4 BB in 19 IP), but he has dished out 5 walks in 8.1 September frames. If Perez can find the strike zone more consistently, he could challenge Wood for ninth-inning glory in 2010.

Fernando Rodney, Tigers

Rodney is having a rocky September, with 7 runs and 8 walks allowed in 9.1 IP. The 32 year-old could be headed for a big payday, if some team sees a “proven closer” who collected 34 saves in 35 attempts this season.

A more thorough examination, though, would uncover mediocre peripheral stats (7.93 K/9, 4.7 BB/9, 4.31 XFIP). Other warning signs: Rodney’s rate of contact within the strike zone jumped up to 83.6% (79.5% career avg.), with his overall contact rate climbing to 76.7% (73% career avg). Rodney hasn’t posted a WAR total above 0.7 dating back to 2002; his performance has been worth an average of $2.4M per season over the past three years.

Jim Johnson, Orioles

September has not been kind to Johnson, as he has coughed up 11 hits and 9 runs in 6 innings pitched. His XFIP for the year is 4.06. The 26 year-old has posted rates of 6.62 K/9 and 2.84 BB/9, with a 52 percent groundball rate.

Looking forward to 2010, Johnson’s principal competition, assuming the O’s don’t look outside of the organization, might be righty Kam Mickolio (currently sidelined with an elbow injury). Part of the Erik Bedard trade (the gift that keeps on giving for Baltimore fans), Mickolio stands 6-foot-7, sits in the mid-90’s with his fastball and has punched out 10.6 hitters per nine innings at the AAA level. However, inconsistent control has stalled his progress.

Watch Your Back

No one, at the moment.

The N.L. Closer Report: 9/24

For the purposes of the “Closer Report” (which will be a weekly feature), we’ll place the relief aces in one of three categories: Death Grip (these guys have no chance of relinquishing the closer’s role; think Mo Rivera), In Control (a good chance of continuing to rack up the saves) and Watch Your Back (the set-up man is planning a coup d’etat as we speak).

Death Grip

Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers

Big Jon is untouchable right now. The 25 year-old closer with NFL lineman size has not allowed a run to score on his watch in over a month (Aug. 19th, to be exact). Over that time frame, Broxton has laid waste to hitters with 26 K’s and three walks in 14.2 IP. Jon has 13.69 K/9 for the year, while inducing weak grounders when hitters actually do manage to make contact (55.2 GB%). Broxton’s +3.60 Win Probability Added is tops in the National League.

Heath Bell, Padres

Is Heath tiring in September? Bell has gotten his bell rung for 13 hits, 8 runs and 5 walks in 13 frames this month. There’s nothing wrong with his velocity (93.6 MPH in Sept.), but the pitch has been smacked (-0.6 runs/100, compared to +1.67 for the year). Rough finish or not, Bell has been outstanding the season. With 9.86 K/9 and 3.11 BB/9, Heath has a 3.18 Expected Fielding Independent ERA.

Huston Street, Rockies

Sidelined since September 1st with a biceps injury, Street returned to action on the 22nd against the Padres. Franklin Morales could get a couple more save ops as Huston gets back into working order, though there’s no reason to doubt that Street will have the job back before long. In 55.1 IP this season, the former A has whiffed 10.25 per nine innings while issuing just 1.79 BB/9.

Trevor Hoffman, Brewers

Hoffman has collected four saves since the last Closer Report, K’ing four and walking none in four innings from Sept. 13th to the 23rd. Trevor hasn’t been at dominant force that his 1.84 ERA would indicate (his HR/FB rate is 3.5%) , but his XFIP is a solid 3.63. That low HR/FB rate and good fortune on balls put in play (.254 BABIP) inflate the figure somewhat, but Hoffman’s 85.5 MPH “heat” has been worth +2.81 runs per 100 pitches thrown. He continues to pull the strong with aplomb, too (+4.08 runs/100).

Brian Wilson, Giants

Wilson continues to roll. He hasn’t coughed up a run since August 25th, a stretch of 10 innings in which the high-octane righty has punched out 12 and walked just one. Putting an exclamation point on an excellent season, Wilson has struck out the side in each of his last two appearances (Sept. 21st and 23rd vs. Arizona). In 70 frames, the former 24th-round pick has posted rates of 10.16 K/9 and 3.21 BB/9. Wilson’s fastball, straight as an arrow in 2008, has shown more tailing action this year. His run value with the pitch has climbed from +0.89 runs/100 pitches in ’08 to +1.67 this season.

Francisco Rodriguez, Mets

K-Rod is missing plenty of bats as a forgettable 2009 season comes to a close (10 K in 6.2 IP), but he has also allowed four runs in the process. Rodriguez’s K/BB ratio (2.03) is the lowest of his career, with a 4.06 XFIP (his XFIP has increased every season since 2004). K-Rod’s 93 MPH fastball has been adequate (+0.03 runs/100 pitches) and his mid-80’s change is still sweet (+4.2 runs/100), but his 80 MPH curve has lacked bite (-0.18 runs/100, +2.56 career). Rodriguez has thrown a first-pitch strike just 50.5% of the time (58% MLB avg).

In Control

Rafael Soriano, Braves

Watch Out For: Mike Gonzalez

Soriano got slammed against Philly on Sept. 19th, giving up 5 hits, 4 runs and a homer. The Mets have been more accommodating, as the pending free agent notched back-to-back saves on the 22nd and the 23rd. Soriano has a career-best 11.9 K/9, with both his 93 MPH fastball (+1.21 runs/100) and 83 MPH slider (+1.55) giving hitters fits.

Jose Valverde, Astros

Valverde hit a bit of a rough patch since our last Closer Report, giving up 5 hits and 2 runs in 3 frames from Sept. 19th to the 23rd. In his walk year, Papa Grande has punched out 9.88 batters per nine innings, with 3.18 BB/9. Valverde has gradually increased the usage of his splitter, while tossing fewer heaters:

2006: 84.4% FB, 9.8% SF
2007: 77.8% FB, 20% SF
2008: 74.1% FB, 24.4% SF
2009: 69.4% FB, 26.5% SF

Counter intuitively, Valverde’s K rate has dipped all four years (from 12.59 per nine in ’06 to the aforementioned 9.88 this year), while his outside-swing% has jumped (22.4% in ’06 to 32.6% in ’09).

Francisco Cordero, Reds

Cordero collected five saves in five scoreless frames from Sept. 12th to the 17th, whiffing three and walking none. The wheels came off against Florida on the 18th, however, as he coughed up four runs and four hits. Entering the 9th with a 3-0 lead, Cincy had about a 95% chance of getting the W before it all blew up like a cheap Acme bomb.

Cordero has turned in back-to-back ordinary seasons, with a 4.08 XFIP in 2008 and a 4.11 XFIP this year. His K rate (7.79 per nine) is down, the product of fewer outside swings (25.2% in ’09, 30.4% in ’08) and more contact (75.5% in ’09, 70.7% in ’08).

Carlos Marmol, Cubs

Marmol continues to make Cubs fans and fantasy owners all twitchy. The 26 year-old with the wicked slider is generating huge whiff totals in September (13 K in 9.2 IP), but those punch outs are accompanied by eye-popping walk totals (six so far this month). Marmol has issued a mind-bending 7.47 walks per nine frames in 2009. To put that into context, the closest “competition” for Carlos among relievers (minimum 50 IP) is Florida’s Renyel Pinto, at 6.79.

As one might expect, Marmol is falling behind hitters often (50.2 first-pitch strike%, 58% MLB. avg). Opponents have responded to Carlos’ oscillating from unhittable to unable to toss a strike by laying off his stuff thrown off the plate:

O-Swing%, by year:

2007: 30.1
2008: 24.2
2009: 21.1

(25% MLB avg.)

Ryan Franklin, Cardinals

The 36 year-old righty enjoyed a charmed 2009 season until the calendar flipped to September. Franklin posted minuscule ERA’s for most of the year, despite just so-so peripherals (6.56 K/9, 3.2 BB/9). This month, Franklin has surrendered 12 hits, 7 runs and 7 walks in 7.1 IP. Ryan’s XFIP for the year is 4.14, over two runs higher than his ERA (1.98). Franklin is a decent middle reliever, not a shut-down late-inning option.

Matt Capps, Pirates

Watch Out For: Joel Hanrahan

Hanrahan is battling a sore elbow and ever-present control problems (20 BB in 29.1 IP with the Bucs), so Capps probably doesn’t have to worry about someone stealing his job right now. Of course, that point has been entirely moot, with the Pirates plummeting toward a possible 100-loss season (56-94 at the moment).

In limited September work, Capps has allowed 9 hits and 3 runs in 8 IP, with 5 K’s, 1 BB and 1 HR. His K’s and walks aren’t as bad as his 5.79 ERA would suggest (7.36 K/9, 2.81 BB/9), but home runs have been a serious problem (1.75 HR/9). Capps’ home run/fly ball rate (13.9%) is a little inflated, but the flyball-centric hurler has a yawn-inducing 4.52 XFIP.

Watch Your Back

Matt Lindstrom/Leo Nunez, Marlins

Watch Out For: Dan Meyer

Nunez notched saves on Sept. 15th, 16th, 18th and the 22nd, but Lindstrom did collect his first since June when he subdued the Reds on the 19th. Here’s a tale of the tape between the two in 2009:

K/9: 8.03 Nunez, 7.14 Lindstrom
BB/9: 3.18 Nunez, 4.63 Lindstrom
HR/9: 1.80 Nunez, 0.96 Lindstrom
XFIP: 4.26 Nunez, 4.73 Lindstrom

Juan Gutierrez, Diamondbacks (Chad Qualls done for the season with a dislocated kneecap).

Gutierrez tallied scoreless saves vs. the Padres on Sept. 14 and the 15th. However, his last two appearances have been bumpy. He gave up two hits and a run while still getting a save against Colorado on the 18th, then surrendered 3 hits and 3 runs vs. San Francisco in a non-save situation on the 22nd.

Overall, Juan has 8.38 K/9 and 3.99 BB/9 this year. The 26 year-old former starter has an unusually deep mix of pitches for a ‘pen arm, with a mid-90’s fastball, 83 MPH slider, 80 MPH curve and a mid-80’s change. The slider (used over a quarter of the time) has been Gutierrez’s key offering, with a run value of +3.25 per 100 pitches.

Brad Lidge/Ryan Madson, Phillies

Watch Out For: Brett Myers

Want an example of why saves are a lousy barometer of relief performance? Look no further than Lidge over the past couple weeks. Brad was “successful” three out of four times by the letter of the save, despite getting slammed for 6 runs, 8 hits and 2 walks in 3.2 innings pitched. His latest blow-up occurred vs. Florida yesterday.

It’s hard to find any redeeming quality in Lidge’s season. His XFIP is 4.78, the result of a ballooning walk rate (5.53 BB/9), among other things. His feared mid-80’s slider has been ordinary (+0.07 runs/100, +2.06 career), while Lidge’s fastball has been downright toxic (-3.08 runs/100). When Lidge has actually tossed a pitch over the plate, opponents are making contact far more often (84.4 Z-Contact%, 75.1% career avg). Per Wins Above Replacement, Lights Out has seen a full 3-win swing in value (2.2 WAR in 2008, -0.8 in 2009).

With manager Charlie Manuel not having the utmost confidence in Myers’ health, Madson figures to reclaim the role if Philly finally admits that Lidge just isn’t rounding into form.

Mike MacDougal, Nationals

MacDougal has been mauled this September. In eight innings, Mac has issued 10 walks, while allowing 13 hits and nine runs. The 32 year-old righty hasn’t shown any semblance of control in 2009, with a Marmol-esque 6.7 BB/9. He’s not even fooling hitters like he used to, with 5.44 K/9 and a contact rate (84.2%) well above his career 78.1% average.