Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Last week I took a look at some of hitters that likely wouldn't have been drafted in your leagues and tried to pick out those that would be able to help you this upcoming fantasy baseball season. This week I'll examine starting pitchers who may still be available and could have an impact on your roster.
WOODY WILLIAMS (SDP): For those of you who haven't figured it out yet, Petco Park, the home of the Padres, is one of the best parks for a pitcher in the National League. Using the "2005 Bill James Handbook" the Padres and their opponents scored 129 fewer runs at Petco Park last season then they did on the road in pretty much the same amount of at-bats. What does that mean? Petco is the NL's version of Safeco Field. Pitchers should feel free to throw the ball down the middle of the plate and dare batters to hit it out. Don't believe me? San Diego's team ERA on the road last season was 4.22. The Padres' team ERA at home last season was 3.85. So why Williams? The 38-year-old righthander will be underrated because he's leaving a great team for a merely good one. Some people may think that his wins will fall off. However, the Padres may be a better a team then people think, and if Williams starts off well he may just take off. He still managed a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.5:1 (131-58) so he still appears to have something left in his tank. It was only a year ago he was coming off an 18-9 season so it's not impossible that he almost reaches those heights again.
ADAM EATON (SDP): He won 11 games and lost 14 with an ERA of 4.61 last season. He also managed a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3:1 (153-52), which is impressive. The 153 strikeouts put him 16th best in the NL last season. He was 27 years old and that's the age pitchers usually start to come into their own. Teams scored 11 unearned runs against him, meaning he was unlucky. On top of that, Eaton was actually much better on the road with an ERA of 4.21, compared to an ERA of 4.99 at home. Seeing the effect that Petco has had on all other pitchers, last year may have been a fluke as far as Eaton was concerned. With the Padres and Eaton both improving, and some luck, his wins, strikeouts, and ERA should all improve this season. Putting these factors into perspective, you're talking 15 wins, 170 K’s, and an ERA of 3.80.
CLIFF LEE (CLE): Why Cliff Lee? Why not Cliff Lee? Tied for 8th in the AL with 14 wins. He was 11th in the AL with 161 K’s. Oh wait. That's right the reason not to draft him is his ERA of 5.43 last season. Yet Bartolo Colon and Jose Contreras have been drafted in all the leagues I'm in and they had ERAs over 5.00 with less strikeouts than Lee. Like I mentioned when talking about Adam Eaton, Lee has a couple of key things going for him: 1) The Indians are only going to get better, 2) Lee who is just 26 is on the verge of developing into a fantasy stud. The Indians are improving and he still managed to win 14 games last season. This year they're expected to challenge the Twins for the division so the wins have to come from someone and Lee is the person who may get most of those. If you're in a keeper league it wouldn't be a bad idea to get Lee now and watch him grow into a star just as the Indians become a powerhouse in the AL Central.
Brandon Webb: One of the most disappointing things I heard this off-season was Bob Melvin, the Diamondbacks new manager, saying he thought that Javier Vazquez, Russ Ortiz and Shawn Estes could all fill the role of opening day starter. Vazquez I can understand. But Russ Ortiz? Or Shawn Estes? Why are they blowing off Webb? Because he lost 16 games and the three other guys all had winning records. That's ridiculous. If Vazquez had played for any team other then the Yankees he would have had a losing record. Ortiz is incredibly overrated and is going to be a disaster in Arizona. Estes managed a winning record in Colorado but wasn't anything special. Webb was just as good as any of those guys last season. Webb had the best ERA (3.59) and the most strikeouts (176) of the four players. He had less wins because, I'm sorry, the Diamondbacks were awful last year. Vazquez should be the best pitcher of the bunch this year followed by Webb, Estes, Ortiz in that order.
Bronson Arroyo: The only reason this guy isn't being drafted is because no one is sure if he has a spot in the rotation. After going 10-9, with an ERA of 4.03 and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3:1 (142:47) that shouldn't be in doubt. If he played for any other team he may have been the opening day starter. The Red Sox, like the Yankees, are starting to add older more expensive pitchers as free agents instead of promoting cheaper alternatives who could perform just as well from within. This year Red Sox have three starting pitchers over the age of 38 and you can bet with injuries and just the wear and tear that comes with having an old rotation that Arroyo will be in the starting rotation for the entire season. I expect that Arroyo, after coming away from two experiences with national exposure against Alex Rodriguez, will be cocky and a better pitcher this year. He could win 17-18 games pitching in front of the Red Sox explosive offense.
Kip Wells: Wells had some elbow problems last season which limited him to 24 starts. Fortunately for you that scared everyone away from him at the draft. His combined ERA of 3.44, from the previous two years, would have ranked him as the 11th best in the NL last season. He can strike batters out and is playing for a team moving upwards towards mediocrity. Wells isn't a world- beater but with a little luck he's a pitcher that should be good for 14-15 wins, an ERA around 3.60 and 160 strikeouts.
Jason Marquis, Jeff Suppan and Matt Morris: In case you missed it, as many fantasy owners have, these guys went a combined 46-26 with an ERA of 4.20 with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2:1 (379-191) last season. Add in that the fact that these guys pitch for the Cardinals who are an incredible team and these pitchers should be able to put up numbers comparable to those of last season. Mediocre pitchers on great teams get wins. Look at any team you feel is going to win the division and if they have a starter in their projected rotation that you don't know look at his strikeout-to-walk ratio and if it's good grab him because they should be good for 13-15 wins and a good ERA.
Danny Haren, Joe Blanton and Dan Meyer: Everyone is writing off the three new starting pitchers for the A's this season. Don't you be one of them. Last season these three pitchers produced a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4:1 (471-121). That means these guys can pitch. Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson and Mark Redman, the pitchers they are replacing, had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 1.77:1 (345-195). Which would you prefer. These guys are all rookies, but all of them are ready to pitch in the big leagues. Each one of them can win between 12-15 games and strikeout 150 batters with an ERA in the low fours. Let the other people in your league take Mulder and Hudson with their high picks just sit back and pick up one of these guys late and you'll get numbers comparable to the two departed members of "the Big Three"