StrategyApril 26, 2005

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Four to Trade For: Pitchers

By Arlo Vander

After looking at a quartet of hitters worth adding to your list of trade targets, let’s turn our attention to the pitcher’s mound. With starters having just three or four games under their belts, stats are still all over the board, and a weak outing or two can leave a pitcher with atrocious numbers. If those ugly stats are starting to make owners in your league nervous, jump in with a trade offer!

Javier Vazquez – SP, Arizona

You could pick Vazquez owners out of a crowd on opening day by the expressions of shock and dismay on their faces. Seven earned runs in 1.2 innings of work tends to have that effect…

Things didn’t get better in his next start, either. On April 9, he gave up five runs in 5.1 IP, and five days later, Vazquez allowed five Nationals to cross the plate. His ERA at that point: a hefty 11.77.

Things have improved considerably since then, however. First the Diamondbacks’ new ace blanked the Giants through seven, and in his last start, he gave up just two runs in a 4-2 victory over Los Angeles that evened his record at 2-2. Unfortunately, many owners will have left Vazquez on the bench for both of those fine performances.

Clearly, Vazquez is on the rise, and you won’t be able to get him as inexpensively as you might have been able to ten days ago. But his overall numbers, particularly his 6.11 ERA, still aren’t pretty, and chances are his owners will be feeling a bit frustrated at this point.

Greg Maddux – SP, Chicago Cubs

No wins yet by the man who has won 15 or more games each year since the deadball era? An ERA of 4.50? Not to worry…

Maddux’ WHIP has been solid so far at 1.13 (compared with 1.18 in both 2003 and 2004). His batting average allowed (.270) is also nearly identical to what it was in each of the last two seasons. And he’s only allowed a base on balls every eight innings, with a fantastic K/BB ratio of 4.33.

Maddux just turned 39, and his age and lack of wins might have his owner questioning whether drafting the crafty veteran was such a good idea. But a closer look at his performance indicates that Maddux isn’t done yet. Keep in mind that his April 2004 numbers were considerably worse (1-2, 5.65 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 1.6 K/BB) than his current stat line, and see if you can pry the all-time great from his current owner.

Troy Percival – RP, Detroit

Finally, Troy Percival picked up his first save of the season, pitching a perfect ninth to seal the Tigers’ 6-4 win over the visiting Twins. That’s eight saves less than Brandon Lyon, for crying out loud…

Don’t blame Percival, however – the Tigers simply haven’t provided him with ample save opportunities. Before April 22, he didn’t enter a single game in a save situation (he blew that one by allowing a home run to Justin Morneau, but wound up earning the win as Detroit prevailed in the tenth). Otherwise, his performance has been fine, as shown by his 1.08 WHIP.

Given time, the save opportunities will come, and with those opportunities, Percival’s value will rise. At this early stage of the season, job security is worth far more than save totals, and Percival is firmly in the saddle as Detroit’s closer.

Brad Penny – SP, Los Angeles

For some reason, there are those who are concerned about Penny after a somewhat rough first outing of the season in which he gave up four runs in five innings. Why? Not only is a pitcher’s first start after coming off the disabled list hardly a good indication of how well he’ll do over a full season, but this particular first start was at Coors Field, where future Hall of Famers can give up half a dozen runs faster than you can say “Blake Street Bombers.”

Relax. There’ll be plenty of time to judge Penny once he’s made a few starts at sea level. If you can land him now, before he’s had the chance to take the mound in pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium, don’t hesitate to do so.

Arlo Vander is still trying to negotiate his first trade of the season.

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