by Ray Kuhn
This is a deep week for two start pitchers. The list begins top heavy, although Roy Halladay’s previous start shows that there clearly is no sure thing when it comes to forecasting pitching performance. After the upper echelon, a large number of very favorable options are taking the mound for two starts. In one of my leagues, 14 teams with a ten man bench, there are only 4 two start pitchers available via free agency. Most teams probably have at least three of these pitchers going for them this week. If you are an owner without many quality two start options, fear not as it should even out within the next week or two. Do not force yourself into a bad decision, as you want to be in a good shape over the course of the season. When other owners are not taking huge chances with their pitching, do not do the opposite as long as better options are available.
Studs that should never be benched:
Justin Verlander – @ Seattle and @ Oakland
Jered Weaver – @ Minnesota and @ Texas
Roy Halladay – vs. New York Mets and vs. San Diego
James Shields – @ New York Yankees and @ Baltimore
Five Pitchers that should be starting in every format:
Ricky Romero – @ Oakland and @ Minnesota. Romero has, for the most part stayed consistent this season. Even in his last start when he gave up 5 ER, Romero was able to get thru 8 innings. Pitching deep into the game coupled with his ability to limit base runners keeps Romero in line for wins and allows him to be an asset in ERA and WHIP. To add to his value, Romero struck out 6 in his last outing. Pitching against the two teams he is facing this week, and both on the road in pitchers park, Romero is a must start for more than just talent alone.
Tommy Hanson – @ Chicago Cubs and @ St. Louis. Based on his likely draft price, it could be argued Hanson belongs in the above category, and after his latest start an argument could be made for the category below. Hanson’s performance against Philadelphia was the first where he lasted less than five innings (3.2 innings and 4 ER) and his worst start of the season. In the other start of 4 ER Hanson still went 7 innings with a WHIP of 1.00. With just under a strikeout an inning (31 K in 33.7 innings) and 3 wins, Hanson holds a lot of value as he very easily can have two dominating outings this week.
Lance Lynn – @ Arizona and @ Atlanta. Lynn has been beyond a pleasant surprise thus far this season. Since he shows no signs of slowing down, I would start Lynn until he proves otherwise. His last start against Pittsburgh was in fact his worse start of the season, 2 ER in 6.2 innings. He is averaging just under a strikeout an inning, pitched at least 5 innings in each start (also earning a win in each outing) and walked no more than two batters in a game. It seems to be impossible that he will keep this pace up all season, but for now start him without hesitation.
Wandy Rodriquez –vs. Miami and @ Pittsburgh. W-Rod might be one of the most underappreciated starters in the majors. Over the past few seasons Clayton Kershaw is the only left handed starter with a higher ERA. Rodriquez gets a raw deal due to the fact that he pitches for the Astros and lack of run support has limited his win totals. Now that Houston is beginning to produce some runs with their young lineup, he has won in each of his last three outings showing that he knows what to do with run support when he receives it. Neither team should be too imposing, both for Wandy and for the Astros batters this week and coupled with his 1.64 ERA and 1.10 WHIP, Rodriquez might start to get his due and should be started in all leagues.
Carlos Zambrano -@ Houston, vs. New York Mets. It appears that the change of scenery has worked well for Zambrano. He is pitching deep into games, 6 or 7 innings in each start, and aside from a 6 walk performance against Houston, the control has been there for Zambrano as well. Although both opponents have shown the ability to get some run support for their starters, at worst Zambrano should be able to limit the damage.
Five That Must be Debated Based on Your Situation:
Yovani Gallardo – vs. Cincinnati and vs. Chicago Cubs. It is very likely that Gallardo has seriously damaged to varying degrees your pitching categories and strategies thus far this season. Also based upon his draft price, he is a player that you need to produce for you and be in your lineup every week. In actuality, despite the unsightly stat line, 5.79 ERA and 1.65 WHIP, Gallardo has only had two dreadful outings. Granted throughout the season he has been putting too many runners on base, but the walks have not been dreadful and he has been close to a strikeout an inning. A little more run support and he will have had a few wins. The talent and the signs are there, the performance will follow. I would keep him in the lineup because you do not want to miss two starts when he figures it out.
Ivan Nova – vs. Tampa Bay and vs. Seattle. Nova has been a disappointment this season except for this 3 wins. The Yankees offense coupled with his propensity for pitching deep into games gives Nova a chance for two more wins this week. Granted there might be some collateral damages to your ratios, but it all depends upon your other options and where you sit in the standings. Personally I would start him in the hope that he will find success in at least one start to balance out the ratios.
Jonathan Niese – @ Philadelphia and @ Miami. Pitching in Philadelphia is not what it used to be and it seems that the new Marlins home plays quite large. When evaluating Niese, his last start in Houston was not for the faint of heart. Granted one of the home runs was a home run only because of where the game was played, but he just did not have it. However each of his other starts this season was a Quality Start and his WHIP of 1.15 will help your ratios. I would start Niese this week and expect at least one win.
Edwin Jackson – @ Pittsburgh and @ Cincinnati. Jackson is often a frustrating pitcher as his stat line does not match his skill level and he often throws a lot of pitches. But with an ERA of 3.69 and a start against the Pirates, who he has historically dominated, bodes well for his fate this week. He also appears to have the walks under control this season. The reward from the Pittsburgh start could counteract any damage done in Cincinnati. The talent and the stats so far this year say start him, and unless you really have better options, I would.
Daniel Bard – @ Kansas City and vs. Cleveland. Based on his start, Bard should have done a lot better in his last start as after the first three innings he was frustrating to watch. The control, except for one outing with 7 BB, has been there this season and in most of the outings the strikeouts have been as well. Bard is facing two younger, weaker hitting teams this week in two winnable games for Boston. This week he is worth the risk as at the worst he will reward you with some strikeouts and possibly two wins.
Three for Thought:
Matt Harrison – @ Baltimore and vs. Los Angeles Angels. After 3 successful starts to open the season, Harrison followed them up with two dreadful outings. Following his last outing with the help of pitching coach Mike Maddux, Harrison corrected a flaw in his delivery. To be honest, I am not sure how much I would read into this revelation, but with the success he showed earlier this season I would give it some attention. Although both teams have pretty good offenses, neither of them would turn me away from Harrison if he was my best option.
Philip Humber – @ Cleveland and vs. Kansas City. Humber followed up his no hitter with a dreadful start against Boston and a quality start, albeit with 6 walks, against the Indians. There is no reason why Humber should not at least be serviceable this week as he can usually be counted to help out your staff WHIP. I am not sure that I would move mountains to get him into the lineup, but he could be a nice spot starter this week.
AJ Burnett – vs. Washington and vs. Houston. After two excellent outings to open the season, Burnett more than used up his accrued goodwill in his 12 ER performance in St. Louis. For a pitcher with the mental situation as Burnett, those outings do happen, and you just hope they are not in the week you start him. These are two lineups that should not be overly imposing for Burnett, and I sense that there will be a rebound this week. Burnett for two starts could bring a little more benefit than a lot of other starters with one start.
What do you think of these options? Are there others who you are looking to start that were not listed?