May 2014

Pitch or Ditch for Wednesday, May 21

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Tampa Bay Rays

CORY’S PICKS

Scherzer @ McAllister – McAllister has a brutal stretch of matchups coming up.
Young @ Tepesch – Tepesch worth a gamble for the strong of stomach.
Hutchison @ Buchholz – Tempting on Hutchinson, but playing it safe.
Milone @ Bedard – Sticking to Milone as a home option only.
Quintana @ Guthrie
McHugh @ Weaver
Whitley @ Samardzija
Simon @ Roark
Ryu @ deGrom – Good return scenario for Ryu.
Tillman @ Wandy
Lohse @ Big Erv
Kendrick @ Eovaldi
McCarthy @ Wacha – Tough matchup for McCarthy but indicators are near-elite.
Cain @ Chacin
Hughes @ T. Ross – Streaking Hughes in pitcher-friendly venue.

Pitch or Ditch for Tuesday, May 20

MLB: San Diego Padres at Cleveland Indians-Game Two

ZACH’S PICKS

Verlander @ Bauer – Tough matchup for Bauer but he’s been dominant this season and has significantly reduced his BB rate.
Happ @ Doubront
Pomeranz @ Odorizzi – Pomeranz has been impressive but Rays have hit well at home.
Iwakuma @ Lewis – Lewis worth monitoring but he’s still giving up way too many hits and M’s rank 2nd in the Majors in runs scored on the road.
Rienzo @ Ventura
Feldman @ Skaggs – Gotta go with Skaggs here.
Cueto @ Fister
M. Gonzalez @ Liriano
Gallardo @ Teheran – Gallardo fading a bit though.
Beckett @ Montero – Beckett is hot. In a 12-team mixed, I’d play it safe with Montero for this matchup.
Burnett @ Desclafani
Tanaka @ Hammel – Hammel falling back down to earth but Yanks have been inconsistent offensively and they won’t have the DH.
Arroyo @ Wainwright – Arroyo can never be fully trusted.
Bumgarner @ Morales
Correia @ Kennedy

Two-Start Pitcher Notes – Week of 5/19

Zach back with you,

This is without question the most positive edition of the 2014 Two-Start Pitcher Notes series, as long-term, I’m even optimistic about my three ditches.. So let’s get started.

PITCHES

Wei-Yin Chen (@PIT, vs. CLE)

Chen has been far from dominant this year, and he’s still giving up too many hits. But he’s allowed two runs or less in five of his last six outings and is a guy who has always issued very few free passes (2.54 career BB/9). The Pirates and Indians are both middle of the pack offenses, so if you’re in need of an extra two-starter, Chen makes for a gamble worth taking.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Los Angeles Dodgers

Josh Beckett (@NYM, @PHI)

Although no longer the ace of years past, Beckett has been a pleasant surprise for his fantasy owners this year. He carries an outstanding 2.38 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 8.64 K/9 rate into next week’s play and his two opponents, the Mets and Phillies, happen to be the two lowest scoring teams in the NL at home this season.

Drew Smyly (@CLE, vs. TEX)

Smyly opened the season in the Tigers’ bullpen before moving into the rotation, and after getting roughed up in his first start, he’s settled down nicely, allowing two runs or less in three of his last four outings while whiffing 22 batters over that span (24 1/3 innings). The young lefty entered the year as a legitimate breakout candidate, and I’m fully aboard the Smyly bandwagon. The matchups here aren’t easy, but at least for the time being, I’d feel comfortable pitching Smyly against any team.

DITCHES

Drew Pomeranz (@TB, @TOR)

Not too long ago, Pomeranz ranked among the game’s top prospects, and maybe the move from Colorado to Oakland was all he needed to take his professional career to the next level. Pomeranz did a fine job pitching out of the bullpen to begin the season, and he’s been even better since shifting into the rotation (10 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 13 K). I’m high on Pomeranz going forward, but I’m nervous about these matchups. The Blue Jays lead the AL in both runs scored and home runs while the Rays rank 3rd in the Junior Circuit in runs scored at home. In a 12-team mixed league, I’d play it safe for next week.

MLB: New York Yankees at New York Mets

Rafael Montero (vs. LAD, vs. ARI)

I liked what I saw from Montero in his big league debut, and he could very well become a must-add in all mixed leagues at some point in the near future. But in 12-team mixed leagues, I’d be wary of starting him here, as the vs. LAD matchup kind of ruins the two-start week. That said, in deeper mixed leagues and of course NL-onlys, Montero is probably worth starting. And if you’re in a 12-team mixed and have an open roster spot, it’s not a bad idea to stash him and then start him going forward if he pitches well next week.

Jake Odorizzi (vs. OAK, vs. BOS)

I’m including Odorizzi here because it certainly seems like he’s turning the corner in his development, and you’ve got to love all those strikeouts. Be careful with him next week, however, as these are very dangerous matchups. In fact, I’d bench him in all mixed leagues. But if he somehow gets through the week in good shape, be ready to scoop him up!

Pitch or Ditch for Saturday-Monday, May 17-19

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Toronto Blue Jays

ZACH’S PICKS

SATURDAY

Volquez @ Phelps

Noesi @ Cosart

Kazmir @ Tomlin

Porcello @ Lackey – Porcello very effective thus far but his career numbers vs. BOS are brutal.

Norris @ Duffy – Norris versus sub-par KC lineup worth considering in deeper formats. Keep an eye on Duffy too.

Elias @ Deduno – Elias should get back on track here.

Buehrle @ Ross – This could very well be the inevitable Buehrle blowup.

Ramos @ Wilson

Harang @ Miller – Harang regression way overdue but Cards offense has been erratic.

Garza @ Jackson – E-Jax still cannot be trusted despite not so terrible start.

Colon @ G. Gonzalez – Colon on the road this year: 7.67 ERA, 1.67 WHIP.

Bailey @ Hamels – Homer turning things around.

Erlin @ Lyles

Kershaw @ Collmenter

Koehler @ Lincecum – This could be 2-1 or 10-9. No thanks.

SUNDAY

Chavez @ Masterson – Still not giving up on Masterson despite tough matchup.

Morton @ Kuroda (Gm 1) – Morton not a bad gamble in deeper leagues though.

Cole @ Nuno (Gm 2)

Jimenez @ Shields – Not a bad spot to try out Ubaldo, but he’s so unpredictable.

King Felix @ Nolasco

Danks @ Peacock – Gotta go with Danks here.

Dickey @ Martinez – Dickey @TEX is too scary for my liking.

Price @ Shoemaker

An. Sanchez @ Peavy – Schedule not exactly kind to Anibal for his return.

Wheeler @ Zimmermann – Wheeler far from an automatic pitch though.

Cingrani @ Lee – Cingrani penciled in to make his return here.

Floyd @ J. Garcia – Floyd belongs on the mixed league radar though. Garcia might join him soon.

Estrada @ T. Wood – Wood cannot be trusted right now.

Turner @ Vogelsong – Not a great matchup for Vogelsong but I’ll chance it.

Cashner @ Nicasio

Haren @ Arroyo – This could turn into a slugfest, but hopefully Haren gets the W.

MONDAY

Smyly @ Kluber – Both getting their acts together.

Carroll @ Vargas – Still don’t trust Vargas and White Sox tied for 3rd in Majors in runs.

Keuchel @ Richards – Keuchel has been pleasant surprise but I’m not a fan of this matchup, at least for mixed league purposes.

Leake @ Strasburg – Can’t discount how well Leake has pitched this year.

Peralta @ Minor

Closer Chaos Already

Zach here,

It seems like I say this every season, but this time I really mean it. I don’t remember a year with this much closer turnover this soon. So just for fun, I figured I’d conduct an official count, and out of 27 teams (we are excluding the Reds, Rangers and Blue Jays, as their projected closers began the season on the DL), ten teams are currently using a different reliever in the ninth inning than the one the majority of fantasy owners drafted as a closer a mere two months ago. And that number could grow to 12 fairly soon, as Tommy Hunter and Addison Reed are on shaky ground right now.

A quick look at these ten situations:

Indians: John Axford was rolling right along in April (2.79 ERA) but after allowing five runs over a four-game span that included two losses and a blown save, Axford was “temporarily” yanked from the role in favor of a committee that appears to consist of Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen. And we all know how much fantasy owners love committees! All kidding aside, I kind of want to believe that Axford’s demotion will be a temporary one, but 13 walks in 15 2/3 innings isn’t going to get it done.

White Sox: Nate Jones was considered the clear favorite to handle ninth inning duties for the South Siders this year, and he was a popular sleeper pick in drafts. But then Matt Lindstrom was named the opening day closer. And then Jones was sidelined due to a back injury that required surgery. Lindstrom hasn’t been terrible thus far, but with three blown saves already to go along with a 1.50 WHIP, he’s no sure thing to hold onto the job long-term.

Astros: Back in March, no one had any idea who would be the Astros’ closer, and not much has changed since. Among Houston relievers, Josh Fields was drafted first in almost all leagues, but he has only two of the club’s six saves. You’re better off avoiding this situation entirely.

Angels: After racking up 37 saves last year and saving a combined 60 games over the past two seasons, Ernesto Frieri was widely considered a borderline No. 1 fantasy closer in drafts this spring. But he got off to an erratic start and the Halos ultimately made a ninth inning switch. Frieri is pitching much better of late though, and he’s already back in the saves picture, for the time being splitting ninth inning duties with Joe Smith. That said, Mike Scioscia probably recognizes that the team is better off with Frieri closing games. And I think Ernesto will regain the full-time stopper role sooner rather than later.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Oakland Athletics

A’s: Oakland’s off-season trade for Jim Johnson hasn’t worked out at all, as Johnson sports a 7.16 ERA and 2.02 WHIP through his first 17 appearances as an Athletic. The club would ideally like to re-insert Johnson into their closer role but he’s giving them little reason for optimism. It’s not totally clear who the A’s closer is right now. Honestly, I don’t think there is one particular closer. Frustrated Johnson owners have little choice but to hold onto him.

Pirates: To be fair, Jason Grilli didn’t lose his job. He got hurt. The only problem is that he happens to have a top-notch setup man as a teammate, and Mark Melancon has done a fine job as Grilli’s ninth inning replacement, today’s blowup notwithstanding. Grilli is making progress in his rehab but his return date is still unknown, and the bottom line is that he’s a 37-year-old with an extensive injury history. Even if Grilli makes a successful comeback and resumes closing, Melancon is still worth a roster spot in 12-team mixed leagues.

Cubs: Entering the season, I actually liked Jose Veras as a decent No. 3 mixed league closer who could be had for a cheap price. Well, I was wrong about that one! Veras’ 2014 stat line is too embarrassing to even include here. He’s back from the DL now but will work in a setup role in front of Hector Rondon. But Rondon isn’t exactly a known commodity, which makes me think that Veras still has a chance to re-enter the closer picture if he gets his act together.

Brewers: Jim Henderson who? Yeah, Henderson was drafted in fantasy leagues with the idea that he would close for the Brewers. It didn’t happen. And there’s a very good chance it won’t happen in 2014, even if Henderson makes a successful return from the DL. At the one-quarter mark of the season, Francisco Rodriguez has been the #1 overall fantasy closer. He’s also been by far the most profitable waiver wire addition.

Mets: So let me get this straight. Kyle Farnsworth saves a game for the Amazins on Monday and then gets released on Wednesday. Huh? Well, the main reason for the release had more to do with the details of his contract, and the Mets wanted to save some money. Actually, his overall stat line wasn’t too bad. So who do the Mets turn to now? It sounds like Jenrry Mejia will get an opportunity, but then there’s Matsuzaka and Familia and…try to avoid this situation if you can. Oh, and I almost forgot that before Farnsworth there was Valverde. And before Valverde there was Parnell.

Rockies: LaTroy Hawkins was slated to be the Rockies’ closer from day one, but the general consensus was that he would lose the job to Rex Brothers within the first month of the season. Instead, Hawkins has converted all nine of his save chances, posting a 2.70 ERA in the process. Go figure.

Pitch or Ditch for Friday, May 16

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox-Game Two

CORY’S PICKS

Gray @ McAllister – McAllister cooling off and has a VERY tough stretch coming up
Volquez @ Phelps (PPD)
Scherzer @ Lester
Hutchison @ Darvish
Tillman @ Guthrie
Young @ Gibson
Quintana @ McHugh
Archer @ Weaver – Archer has not been impressive so far
Lohse @ Samardzija
Niese
@ Roark – Roark three gems in his last four starts, but one stinker
Simon @ Kendrick
Big Erv @ Lynn
Stults @ De La Rosa
Greinke @ Miley
Alvarez @ Petit – Giants have been surprisingly tough offensively, though

Pitch or Ditch for Thursday, May 15

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Toronto Blue Jays

CORY’S PICKS

Buchholz @ Hughes – Hughes is on a nice run but cash in your profits now

Salazar @ Happ

W. Chen @ Ventura

Bedard @ Skaggs – Skaggs somewhat erratic but Rays are mediocre vs. lefties

Kennedy @ Cueto (Gm 1)

T. Ross @ Francis (Gm 2)

Wandy @ Gallardo

Hammel @ Wacha

Whitley @ deGrom

Eovaldi @ Cain – Eovaldi rolling and Giants can’t hit righties

Pitch or Ditch for Wednesday, May 14

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees

CORY’S PICKS

Verlander @ W. Chen

Chacin @ Vargas – Vargas better at home but too shaky of late

Rienzo @ Milone – for Milone, see Vargas… Sox can rake

Odorizzi @ Maurer – taking a shot on Odorizzi’s K upside and adjustments in last start

Kluber @ McGowan

Peavy @ Correia

Tepesch @ Feldman

Richards @ Burnett

Fister @ McCarthy – McCarthy’s K-BB and GB rate are elite; fluky BABIP and HR/FB say hang with ‘em

Teheran @ Bumgarner

Tanaka @ R. Montero – put Montero on the watch list, solid prospect

Kennedy @ Cueto – Kennedy has tweaked his repertoire and is officially “back”

Liriano @ Peralta

Hammel @ Wacha – those waiting for Hammel to regress see no signs yet

DeSciafani @ Maholm

Pitch or Ditch for Tuesday, May 13

MLB: New York Yankees at Los Angeles Angels

CORY’S PICKS

Smyly @ Jimenez – just too scared of Ubaldo

Wheeler @ Nuno – Wheeler too erratic vs. solid Yankees; Nuno sneaky option vs. soft-hitting Mets

Masterson @ Dickey – tough call on Dickey; Tribe don’t strike out much so I’ll play it safe

Morales @ Shields

Doubront @ Nolasco

Harrison @ Keuchel – Keuchel has been tough but Rangers pound lefties… tough call

Carroll @ Pomeranz – Sox can hit but gotta go with Pomeranz at home

Price @ Iwakuma

Shoemaker @ Lee

Cashner @ Leake – Padres have suddenly started to hit; Quentin and Headley are back too

Cole @ Estrada

Arrieta @ Wainwright

Strasburg @ Arroyo – do you ever trust Arroyo, regardless of his recent performance?

Turner @ Beckett

Minor @ Vogelsong – hang with ‘em on Minor

***ZACH SAYS “Though I’d ditch for now, keep an eye on Vogelsong, who has allowed 1 ER or less in four of his last five starts.”

Two-Start Pitcher Notes – Week of 5/12

Zach here,

Symmetry is the theme of this installment of two-start pitcher notes, as we have a neat three and three thing going. Let’s get to it!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           PITCHES

Mike Leake (vs. SD, @PHI)

A mediocre finish to what was on the whole a true breakout season for Leake last year had many, including myself, thinking that last season’s 14-7, 3.37 ERA, 1.25 WHIP stat line could not be duplicated in 2014. Wrong. Through seven starts this year, Leake sports a 3.40 ERA and 1.09 WHIP, and he’s even showing improvement in the K/BB department. The Padres rank dead last in the NL in runs scored and share the home run cellar spot with the Mets. Citizens Bank Park is a tough place to pitch but the Phillies are also a sub-par offense.

MLB: Miami Marlins at New York Mets

Tom Koehler (@LAD, @SF)

Look, we all know that Koehler is due for a stat correction, and maybe it happens in the @LAD start, but maybe it won’t. Even though the Dodgers have one of the more dangerous lineups in the Majors, Koehler has already had success against them this year (7 IP, 0 ER on May 2). The Giants’ offense has actually performed fairly well this season, but they have been better on the road than at home. And besides, how can you bench a guy who has allowed two runs or less in six of his first seven starts?

Drew Smyly (@BAL, @BOS)

These matchups are plenty scary and Smyly has been shaky at times this year, but I think once he gets into the routine of pitching every fifth day (he pitched out of the bullpen until April 18), we will start to see more consistency. And listen to this. In 202 2/3 big league innings (roughly a full season of starts), Smyly is 12-5 with a 3.24 ERA and 1.16 WHIP to go along with 198 strikeouts. Pretty good.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         DITCHES

Tim Lincecum (vs. ATL, vs. MIA)

As I mentioned in the Pitch or Ditch post below, Tiny Tim is getting dangerously close to DTM status. The former Cy Young award winner has recorded just two quality starts in seven tries this season and he’s allowed 50, yes 50 hits over his first 35 2/3 innings. I don’t care that both of his starts next week will come at home. The vs. MIA matchup might seem like a favorable one, that is until you realize that the Marlins have scored the second-most runs in the NL. Lincecum belongs on your bench next week in all mixed leagues. In mixed leagues of 12 or fewer teams, a strong case can be made that he belongs on the waiver wire.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays

Mark Buehrle (vs. LAA, @TEX)

Buehrle is the AL counterpart to Koehler in that you know that regression is coming but you don’t know when it will come. If it doesn’t come next week, I’d be shocked. The Angels rank 3rd in the AL in runs and 2nd in homers. @TEX is generally a matchup to avoid for all non-elite starting pitchers. I have a bad feeling about all of this.

Colby Lewis (@HOU, vs. TOR)

Lewis certainly deserves Pitch or Ditch attention going forward, as he could be a cheap source of strikeouts. He’s also done a nice job of limiting free passes so far this season, issuing only five walks through his first 25 innings. But the bottom line is that he’s been way too hittable, and until he can shake off more of the rust from his prolonged injury absence, he should only be used in ultra-favorable matchups. @HOU is one of those ultra-favorable matchups, so in a daily lineup league, I’d pitch him there, but vs. TOR is far from an ultra-favorable matchup. In 12-team mixed leagues, I’ll pass on Colby for the two-start week.

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