SleepersApril 6, 2006

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Sleeper Watch

By Eddie Siegel

“In a mad world, only the mad are sane.” Sometimes to pick a great sleeper, you have to go crazy. If it’s someone no one would ever suspect, then A) said sleeper probably isn’t on anyone’s roster and B) should this sleeper pan out, you will be hailed as a genius by your league mates.

Call me crazy for picking a Tampa Bay pitcher not named Kazmir to have a good season, but Seth McClung could surprise a lot of hitters in the AL East and fantasy owners everywhere. Take a look at last year’s AL pitching statistics. McClung held right-handed batters last year to a .197 average, which was second-best in the AL. What is odd is that even with that low mark against righties, he had a 6.59 ERA.

So what makes McClung a good sleeper? You can expect his 7-11 record last year to turn into something more like 12-6 now that he is a fulltime starter and has a surging offense behind him. One of his big problems last year was the long ball, having given up 20 jacks in 109 innings, including 15 of the 20 to left handed batters. This was the highest rate of his professional career at any level, including his previous stint in the majors in 2003.

Here are two things thathave me excited about this 6 foot 6, 26-year old. His K/9 and K/BB have been increasing for most of his professional career and he now has a secure job as a starter in the Tampa rotation. This is the part that did it for me though. With runners on base, the average and even the bad MLB pitcher’s WHIP deviates only about .1 from when bases are empty. For McClung, it deviated nearly .4. This shows that McClung was either very unlucky or very nervous. With a secure job and another year under his belt, McClung likely will have calmer nerves, and with any luck his WHIP will level out with runners on base, giving him a significantly lower ERA.

Finally, McClung was a lot better as the game got on last year. For the first 60 pitches, his ERA was scary — over 9.10. During the next 60 pitches, however, it was at 2.7. Again, this a sign of bad nerve. Most bad pitchers have ERA’s that jump around during the game. (IE 6.3 for the first 20 pitches, 2.1 for the next 20, then 11.2 for the 20 after that). The elite pitchers have ERA’s pretty steady throughout a game. If McClung can conquer his nerves, and with a little luck on his side, a 4.10 ERA with 160 K and 14 wins isn’t out of the question.

I’m not advocating you go pick him right now off your waiver wire. In fact, there’s a good chance I’m way off on McClung. But if he puts together one or two good starts, pick him up in a flash, because he really could be a good addition to many pitching staffs should he conquer his nerves.

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