Are you in need of some starting pitcher help? We all know about the struggles of Chad Billingsley and Jon Lester, but are they worth trying to buy low on? Let’s take a look:
Chad Billingsley – Los Angeles Dodgers
He has long been a frustrating pitcher for fantasy owners to own. Full of talent and potential, the numbers never appear to match the hype. Since 2009 his best ERA has been 3.57 (2010), with the other seasons all being above 4.00. The strikeout rate, which had once shown promise, fell to 7.28 K/9 in 2011. His control also wavered, posting a BB/9 above 3.9 for the second time in three years last season.
There’s a correction in place this season, and while the numbers don’t match yet the potential is there (4.15 ERA, 1.40 WHIP). His strikeouts are up, with a K/9 of 8.46, and his walks are at a career best 2.85 BB/9. Those two numbers alone give us a sense of hope that Billingsley can turn things around.
However, there is also a bit of poor luck that has been working against him as he has a BABIP of .338 and strand rate of 69.2%. Granted the line drive rate has been sub par, at 22.5% (his career mark is 19.5%). It also has been trending in the wrong direction:
- April – 16.3%
- May – 24.7%
- June – 22.6%
- July – 28.1%
Given his career mark I have to believe that he will be able to reverse that trend. You couple that with the strikeouts and walks and there is a lot to like.
Obviously I wouldn’t give up a lot to acquire him, but if you can get him for pennies on the dollar he is well worth the risk.
Jon Lester – Boston Red Sox
Trying to figure out exactly what has gone wrong for Lester this season is an almost impossible task. Entering the year as a potential Top 10 starting pitcher, the numbers have been horrendous. In his first 20 starts of the season he has managed a 5.46 ERA and 1.46 WHIP. The strikeouts are also down, at 7.48 K/9.
Yet, he is showing his best control in years (2.84 BB/9), hasn’t lost velocity on his fastball and is still, while down from the past two years, generating a good groundball rate (47.2%). That’s not to say that there aren’t problems, as he is allowing 1.20 HR/9 and is simply getting hammered (23.3% line drive rate). Considering his career marks of 0.84 and 19.0%, there is reason to think that he will figure this out.
In fact, the problems have strictly been at Fenway Park, where he is sporting am ERA of 7.39 (he is at 3.04 on the road). While that doesn’t mean I would be starting him at Yankee Stadium this weekend, it does give us a little bit of hope.
I wish I had a sound explanation for his struggles. Yes, the strikeouts are down but not enough to warrant the stark numbers compared to the past few seasons. While the lack of reasoning may scare some away, it actually makes me want him even more. It means there is no reason to think that he won’t be able to turn this around in time, doesn’t it?
Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I would definitely be kicking the tires to see if you can get him at below market cost. Best case scenario you are getting a Top 10 pitcher. Worst case, you sit him for home starts. Either way, you could get yourself a bargain.
What are your thoughts of these two pitchers? Are they worth targeting? Why or why not?