by Ray Kuhn
As the calendar turns to June two months of the fantasy baseball season are now in the books. Not only does it give owners a substantial point of analysis for both their own teams and their league as a whole, but now individual statistics are starting to normalize as well. We are also getting to the point of the season where players are beginning to secure their status with respect to their past performances and preseason expectations. With that said, let’s get into some of this week’s options.
Studs that should never be benched:
- Yovani Gallardo – vs. Chicago Cubs and vs. San Diego.
- Clayton Kershaw – @ Philadelphia and @ Seattle.
- Cliff Lee – vs. Los Angeles Dodgers and @ Baltimore.
- Jon Lester – vs. Baltimore and vs. Washington.
- Anibal Sanchez – vs. Atlanta and vs. Tampa Bay.
- James Shields – @ New York Yankees and @ Miami.
- Jordan Zimmerman – vs. New York Mets and @ Boston.
Five Pitchers that should be starting in every format:
Ricky Romero – @ Chicago White Sox and @ Atlanta. The walks have been a killer for Romero so far this season just as they have been every other year. In his last start against free swinging Baltimore he did limit them to only 1 walk, however. Based on his trend this season I would not read too much into it, but his WHIP of 1.29 is right in line with his career performance so I would ignore his control problems. What Romero has been doing well this season is striking batters out and earning wins as well as eating innings. Based on that Romero deserves to be starting in all formats.
Ryan Dempster – @ Milwaukee and @ Minnesota. Even though Dempster sports a 0-3 record over 9 starts this season, I would not hold that against him when setting your lineup. The veteran will not let the trade rumors affect him as he is an example that it is difficult and counterproductive to plan for and forecast wins. He is striking out about a batter an inning and is facing two teams this week that should not pose too much of a threat. His ERA of 2.90 and WHIP of 1.15 are thus far career best performances in his free agent season and I would expect more of the same at least for this week.
Tim Lincecum – @ San Diego and vs. Texas. Granted this has not been his best year, but he still deserves to be in your starting lineup, especially when one of his two starts is in San Diego. If you are a believer in positive momentum, he did limit Arizona to 1 run over 7 innings in his last start. Aside from his 64 strikeouts over 60 innings, based on this season, there is not much positive to say about him. His ERA of 5.81 and WHIP of 1.57 are frightening for any pitcher, let alone a perennial All-Star. Lincecum’s control has been brutal all season, but you have to think at some point he will right the ship as this has not been a major problem for him in the past. With his two starts this week and the less than stellar options, he should be starting in just about all situations.
Jeff Samardzjia – @ San Francisco and @ Minnesota. Just to show how fickle wins can be, while pitching for the same team as Dempster, he has 5 wins this season. With his strikeout per inning performance and lack of baserunners allowed (19 walks and 1.19 WHIP), Samardzjia has been a pleasant surprise for the Cubs this season as he lives up to his potential and has earned untouchable status in potential trade talks. This might be a surprising inclusion on the must start list, but his talent and performance has backed this up and he is aided by favorable matchups.
Kyle Lohse – @ New York Mets and vs. Cleveland. Although both lineups have the potential to be pesky opponents, aside from a handful of players there are not many profound threats Lohse will have to deal with. He gives his team a chance to win as illustrated by his 5-1 record. With an ERA of 3.36 and a WHIP of 1.21 he also has the ability to limit both baserunners and damage. But with his average track record, at best, and the fact that he is not a strikeout pitcher (only 39 K thus far) depending on the deepness of your league there is even a chance that he is a free agent. He is not someone you would often think of as a must start, but with two starts this week it could prove to your to be advantageous.
Five That Must be Debated Based on Your Situation:
Chad Billingsley – @ Philadelphia and @ Seattle. Right off the bat Billingsley’s WHIP of 1.46 is alarming based on the potential damage it can do to your ratios. The walks have not been all that troubling, what has been is, even aside from the hits, is the lack of innings he is pitching. Although his WHIP is .10 higher than his 3 year average, it is right in line with last year so I would not expect it to change much. The fact that his ERA is 4.09 is more settling as he has been able to limit the damage. However, ultimately he is proving to be a pitcher that is maybe a little above average with some potential to end up on either side of that often times thin line. Philadelphia is not as imposing as they once were and pitching in Seattle (aside from their 21 run performance) might be one of the best matchups for an opposing pitcher.
Derek Holland – @ Oakland and @ San Francisco. Holland has talent and upside for sure and this week he takes the mound twice in two pitchers parks. Over his last 6 starts (not counting his 1 inning against the Royals), Holland’s performance has been split. In three starts he gave up 0, 1, and 2 runs. Then in the other three starts there were two outings of 5 runs and a third with 8. Walks have not been the problem as much as hits have been and Holland does strike out close to a batter an inning. Two starts away from his home park will surely help, as does the offensive backing the Rangers provide.
Andy Pettitte – vs. Tampa Bay and vs. New York Mets. This is not a name that I thought I would be including in this space this year, but Pettitte has picked up right where he left off. Although he may have a repeat of his outing against the Angels where he gives up 5 runs, Pettitte is skilled in at least limiting the damage, recording some strikeouts and not doing too much damage to your WHIP. It would not be surprising to see him win both starts as he has pitched deep into the game in each of his 4 starts. For someone that clearly would not have been on your radar a few months ago, this could be a sneaky play to fill a spot for the week.
Ervin Santana – vs. Seattle and @ Colorado. Santana always seems to me that he is underachieving based on his talent. Consistency is not his strong suit as after 5 consecutive quality starts he gave up 4 and 5 runs in his last two outings only pitching 5 innings in each of them. Despite the previous stretch his ERA still sits at 4.78 and his WHIP of 1.33 does not do him any favors either. As Seattle showed in Texas, any team is capable of busting out at least for one game and a visit to Coors Field is always unsettling for any pitcher, let alone Santana. As much as I would be inclined to roll the dice here to get two starts, I would more likely than not to bench Santana if I had a better option. With that said, even though I would not specifically add him for this week, I wouldn’t feel terrible if I did start him.
Joe Saunders – vs. Colorado and vs. Oakland. Saunders started the season off extremely hot to the tune of a 0.90 ERA in April. Aside from back to back 6 run outings in the middle of May, which inflated his season ERA to a still respectable 3.61, Saunders has been a solid and dependable option. The veteran hurler has two favorable matchups this week and therefore there is the potential for two wins and the potential to atone for a mediocre outing as well. He won’t give you too many strikeouts, but if you are looking for a pitcher Saunders could allow you to steal a win this week with minimal, if any, ratio damage depending upon your pitching situation.
Three for Thought:
Jarrod Parker – vs. Texas and @ Arizona. Since his recall Parker has 5 quality starts over his 7 starts. That coupled with his 2.88 ERA paint a picture of Parker that might be a bit overzealous. Although he has met expectations thus far and he clearly has talent, his 21 walks over 41 innings have lead to a WHIP of 1.35 are troubling to me. It would not be shocking to see an ERA of at least a run higher. That’s not to say Parker will regress to the point of demotion, but it would also be foolish to expect him to maintain this ERA. If I had a better option this week, I would stay away from Parker and then evaluate him going forward.
Scott Feldman – @ Oakland and @ San Francisco. Feldman does not have the track record this season as he has started only 3 times and has not yet pitched 5 innings. That is attributed to both stamina issues and performance issues. The fact that Feldman most likely is a free agent in your league and has two starts in pitcher’s parks (one of which is Oakland) makes him an attractive option to consider for this week. He will not get you many strikeouts and aside from the potential for at least one win, Feldman will not help you much, but also he probably will not hurt you much either.
Dillon Gee – @ Washington and @ New York Yankees. Gee is a young pitcher that seems to be starting to figure some things out for an over achieving Mets team. He should have had a win in last start against the Phillies but the Mets bullpen had other ideas. Aside from a 7 run clunker against the Brewers, Gee has pitched well registering 4 quality starts in May. With just about a strikeout an inning and a 57/17 strikeout to walk ratio Gee is certainly helping his cause this season. The Yankees are not what they used to and Gee has a pretty good chance to register two quality starts and at least one win this week. Based on the 7 run outing, his ERA of 4.69 could scare some, but I would jump on Gee before it is too late.
What do you think of these options? It goes without saying that there are other two start pitchers who unquestionably will be in your lineup this week. Are there others who you are looking to start that were not listed?