StrategyJune 6, 2009

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Double Dipper: Not Just a Spot Start

By Michael Marinakis

Welcome to the newest installment of the Double Dipper series, where we check out the upcoming week’s two-start pitchers and give you weekly-league owners some strategic pickups to help you get a leg up on the competition. Our picks last week did quite well as both pitchers were very deserving of wins but ended up coming away with no-decisions. Kyle Lohse left the game after the second inning with a forearm strain, but his late replacement in the article, Gavin Floyd, pitched very well en route to a no-decision (7 IP, 4 hits, 2 ER, 3 BB, 8 Ks). Our second option and deep league pick, Randy Wells, dominated the Braves in another no-decision (7 IP, 2 hits 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 Ks). Both will be making their second starts of the week on Sunday, after which, we’ll be able to get a complete look at how the picks did.

First, let’s look at the two-start pitchers that are available in 50-95% of Yahoo leagues. Then, I’ll analyze the best options on this list and give you my thoughts on who is worth a spot start next week. If you like streaming in your weekly-lineup league or you simply have an extra roster spot to burn, check out our suggestions below.

PitcherStart 1Start 2% Owned
Scott Baker@OAK@CHC44%
Brian Bannister@CLEvs CIN21%
Scott Feldmanvs TORvs LAD8%
Armando Galarraga@CWS@PIT24%
Jon Garland@SDvs HOU5%
J.A. Happ*@NYMvs BOS28%
Kenshin Kawakamivs PITvs BAL13%
Braden Loopervs COLvs CWS7%
Jason Marquis@STLvs SEA23%
Brandon McCarthyvs TORvs LAD5%
Jeff Niemann@NYYvs WAS5%
Josh Outman*vs MIN@SF17%
Andy Pettitte*vs TBvs NYM45%
Brian Tallet*@TEXvs FLA6%
Chien-Ming Wang@BOSvs NYM39%
Jarrod Washburn@BAL@COL40%
Dontrelle Willis*@CHW@PIT10%
Jordan Zimmermannvs CIN@TB12%


Mixed League Pick
Scott Baker
Baker came into the 2009 season as a popular sleeper, getting overlooked until the mid-to-late rounds of drafts despite an excellent 2008 season. He started the season off on the disabled list due to right shoulder stiffness, and he didn’t make his first start until April 15. Despite the clean bill of health, Baker has struggled mightily so far this year, posting a huge 5.88 ERA over 59.2 innings. While that number may seem terrible, the underlying statistics show a very different picture. Baker’s 7.39 K/9 is almost exactly in line with his 2008 number, and his BB/9 has actually improved from a 2.19 mark last year to a minuscule 1.66 this year. The skills still seem to be there for Baker to be a dominant pitcher, and it is pretty clear where the problem lies. After only allowing approximately 1.0 HR/9 over the last two years, Baker has suddenly become extremely prone to giving up the long ball, racking up a rate of 2.26 HR/9 so far in 2009. Some of this can be attributed to the 5% increase in the number of fly balls he allows, but the bigger culprit is the 15.6% HR/FB, a 7% increase over last year’s rate. Expect this number to regress down to 10% or even lower, where his career average lies. Along with the huge amount of home runs he’s given up, Baker has also only stranded 64.2% of runners. Stranding runners is largely out of the pitcher’s control, but this should rise closer to the average strand rate of 72%.

This week, Baker will start in Oakland, where he will be facing one of the weakest offenses in the league in a great pitcher’s park. In his second start, he’ll go up against the Cubs. While they have a much better offense than the A’s, they’ve been largely ineffective this year without Ramirez in the line up. They are no longer the powerhouse they’ve been in recent years. Needless to say, the match-ups look good for Baker this week.

For those of you with Baker in your free agent pool, now is the time to grab him and be ready to reap the rewards. He’ll not only be valuable as a two start pitcher this week but also as a solid second half sleeper who can definitely help your team during the stretch run. In those leagues where Baker is not a free agent, it may be time to try to buy low off a manager who only sees that huge ERA and is willing to dump him cheap.

Second Option
Josh Outman
After a rough start to the year and a short stint in the bullpen, Outman has lived up to his name, posting a 2.49 ERA in 43.1 innings over his last seven starts. He also has a solid 2:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and is 3-0 over that span. While his .242 BABIP and 77.5% strand rate are sure to correct themselves, Outman should continue to be at least a solid fantasy spot starter. As a two-start pitcher next week, he is a great guy to insert into that open roster spot to boost your numbers.

Outman will begin next week with a start against the Twins, and then he will get his second start against the Holy Grail of teams to spot start against, the Giants. The Twins have been pretty average offensively against lefties this year, but the start against the Giants is what makes Outman a great spot start for this week. Even if he pitches well against the Giants, however, don’t expect a win in that start. He’s scheduled to be up against Tim Lincecum.

Here’s R.J. White with some Sunday spot starters for you fantasy gamers looking to get one last pitching push in your weekly matchups.

Ricky Nolasco (38% owned) vs. San Francisco

I highlighted Nolasco as a sleeper for the rest of the year as soon as he was demoted. He’s coming back up after regaining his form in the minors and is facing a terrible San Francisco offense at home. It’s wise to not play a starting pitcher in their first game back from the DL or minors, but I feel confident bucking this trend and telling you to snatch up Nolasco if he’s available.

Rich Hill (7% owned) at Oakland

Hill takes the hill in one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the majors to take on a poor offensive team in Oakland. Hill has struck out over a batter an inning this year, and his one poor start came in Baltimore. He’s available in over 90% of Yahoo leagues at this time and should be the perfect spot start for tomorrow.

Randy Wells (24% owned) at Cincinnati

The best option from last week’s Double Dipper, Wells outperformed even my lofty expectations in his first start. He travels on the road to take on the Reds, but his matchup shouldn’t even matter at this point. Only his line is important: 32 IP, 1.69 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 27 Ks, 7 BBs.

Hail Mary

1. Vin Mazzaro vs Baltimore — Strong first outing (despite the walks), and one more will make him a hot pickup.

2. Josh Geer vs Arizona — 1.18 WHIP, 13/6 K/BB at home this year.

3. Antonio Bastardo at LA Dodgers — For the gambler in you; can he build from first solid start?

Michael Marinakis is a 23-year-old unemployed fantasy addict. You can find him roaming the Cafe all day where he posts as GiantsFan14 and waits for Bruce Bochy to be fired for incompetency.
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