Is Dustin McGowan Worth the Gamble?


In 2007 Dustin McGowan took a step towards entrenching himself as a solid backend starter for all fantasy owners.  Granted, his ERA was 4.10, not very enticing, but he posted a WHIP of 1.22 with a solid K/9 of 7.64.  Last season was supposed to be his coming out party, though those plans went down in flames both due to performance and injury.  He posted the following line:

6 Wins
111.1 Innings
4.37 ERA
1.37 WHIP
85 Strikeouts (6.87 K/9)
38 Walks (3.07 BB/9)
.316 BABIP

His season ended on July 8, ultimately needing surgery on his shoulder to fix some fraying in his labrum.  If that was the extent of his injury, things would be alright heading into 2008.  Unfortunately, also detected was a slight tear in his rotator cuff, though it was deemed surgery was not necessary at the time.

We’ll have to wait and see if he can pitch with the injury, but the presence of it makes him a tremendous risk to ultimately find his way on the DL again, this time for a much more serious procedure.  If that was the only problem, he may be worth the risk, but let’s dive into things a bit more.

His increased WHIP was not due to his control, as it actually improved (he posted a BB/9 of 3.24 in ’07).  No, the problem was that his luck simply ran out, having posted a BABIP of .283 in ’07, a number that never should have been seen as repeatable.

The only month that he had a WHIP under 1.34 was in July, but he only threw 10 innings that month.  As for the other months, he posted:

  • April: 1.51
  • May: 1.34
  • June: 1.36

That’s very pedestrian and nothing in his numbers would make me believe anything different.  His career minor league WHIP was 1.36 over 585.2 innings, so I wouldn’t target him expecting a huge help there.

He’s been consistent with his strikeouts since making his major league debut, though he’s far from an elite strikeout artist.  His K/9 since his debut have been:

  • 2005 – 6.57
  • 2006 – 7.24
  • 2007 – 7.64
  • 2008 – 6.87

While he showed more potential in the minor leagues (career K/9 of 9.2), by now I think it’s pretty safe to say that he’s not going to be able to repeat that type of level.  No, he is what he is and that’s a useful K producer, but not one that is going to carry your team.

Pitching in the AL East, it is almost impossible for me to see him posting an ERA under 4.  First of all, he hasn’t done it, with a career ERA of 4.71.  Secondly, the Yankees are much improved with Mark Teixeira now in the middle of the line-up, the Red Sox are the Red Sox and the Rays possess one of the best young nucleuses in the game.

That’s tough sledding to begin with.  You also have to take into account his struggles away from home, as he’s posted ERA’s on the road of 4.91 and 6.17 over the past two seasons.  That makes him a pitcher you can only even consider using at home, and even that’s based on the potential match-up.  We’re limiting his usability a bit, aren’t we?

So, with all that said, what do I expect from McGowan in 2009, assuming he actually stays on the mound for the majority of the season:

132.0 IP, 7 W, 4.23 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 106 K (7.23 K/9), 49 BB (3.34 BB/9)

Maybe I’m being optimistic with the number of innings he’s going to throw, but no matter how you slice it McGowan is not a pitcher I’d want to have on my roster in 2009.  There’s just way too much risk, including potential injury and the division he pitches in, without any real upside.  He’s not going to be an elite strikeout artist.  I don’t see him as posting a tremendous WHIP.  An ERA over 4 is not real helpful.

No, I’d say let someone else take this gamble, there are much better risks I’d rather be grabbing.  What about you?  Is McGowan a pitcher you are eyeing late in your drafts?

Picture courtesy of Icon Sports Media, Inc.


  1. I think looking at his previous major league numbers pre ’07 is a bit of a disservice to him, as he was bounced around between AAA, the rotation and the bullpen, and only threw 72.2 innings before 07. He was also coming off TJ surgery in ’05 so he was bound to be a bit rusty.

    As a former first round pick his talent has never been questioned, it’s just been putting it all together, and once he finally learned to just trust his overpowering stuff (95 mph sinker, hard slider, power curve, decent changeup) in the big leagues instead of nibbling at corners (similar to what Felix Hernandez needs to learn to do) the results were pretty impressive. His 2nd half stats from ’07 – 7 W, 98 IP, 33 BB, 87 Ks, 3.67 ERA, 1.14 WHIP. While he may have ended up a bit overhyped heading into ’08, it was for a good reason, the talent is for real.

    I don’t think his ability is in question, but his health is, and how he reacts to it. He underwent shoulder surgery in July on his frayed labrum and while his rotator cuff was inspected it wasn’t deemed bad enough for surgery, if it gets any worse he could have to go under the knife again. I think if he does pitch at all it won’t be until June, at least I would guess not very effectively before then.

    However, as a late round pickup in deep leagues (especially keepers) to stash on your DL, or a FA add in shallower leagues, he’s a great gamble. I’d much rather take his potential for greatness over a mediocre option like Jeremy Guthrie.


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