Just like in real life, fantasy squads depend on the man on the hill to lead their team to fantasy greatness. The problem, as it is in real life, is choosing the right men to lead that squad. In what follows we'll profile five hurlers – Phil Hughes, Matt Moore, Jarrod Parker, Ervin Santana, Ryan Vogelsong – and give our thoughts on whether or not you should be counting on them. We'll then hit on some of the lead stories in the game from Tuesday night including the demotion of Bard, the en feugo bats of Quentin and Rasmus, and the suddenly dominating left arms of Liriano and Pettitte.
A Rotation of Arms
Here is a five-some, a rotation if you will, of pitchers that you may be on the fence about, frustrated with, or merely thinking 'so-so' about.
Phil Hughes and Ray Flowers are not best friends. He didn't steal Ray's girlfriend or anything like that, Ray's just not a fan of his game. Those that support Hughes will say that his velocity has crept back up this year (it's true he's gained a mph from last season). Phil's supporters will also say that he's allowed two or fewer earned runs in four of his last five starts (Howard Bender talks about Hughes' excellent work Monday in his article) and that he's almost striking out a batter per inning (57 in 61.2 innings). What does Ray Flowers say? He says that Hughes has a 4.96 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and batters are hitting .268 off him this year. All of that screams average. Ray will also say that he is 5-5, again average. Ray will then point out that since July 15th 2010 that Hughes has been average-to-bad, and he has the numbers to prove it: 17-16 with a 5.23 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 6.8 K/9, 2.21 K/BB with a 1.53 HR/9 over 211.2 innings. Frankly, saying that he's been average over his last 38 appearances is being too kind – he's been bad folks. Has he improved the last month leading to a glimmer of hope that he could return to the form he flashed in the first half of 2010? Sure. But Ray prefers to focus on 38 appearances and not five when determining the outlook of a player.
Matt Moore is 2-5 with a 4.45 ERA and 1.48 WHIP signaling that he has been a disaster as a rookie, at least that's what some would tell you. Of course, those are the same people that drafted a guy with all of 9.1 big league innings under his belt to be their #2 starter in mixed leagues this year. That's just too high an expectation to be placed on anyone. What I see is a pitcher who is slowly rounding into form, while dominating batters along the way. Moore has 62 Ks in 62.2 innings proving he's got true K-per-inning stuff. He's also allowed a total of nine runs over his last five starts – nine. Moreover, if we remove the two starts in which he was bombed to the tune of 14 runs in 11 innings, he's made nine other starts in which he's allowed three or fewer earned runs each time. Last time I checked, that was pretty darn good for a rookie. The issue for Moore are the walks since he's issued far too many at 4.45 per nine. If he brings that number down, say by a full batter, then we'd likely see the pitcher everyone who was sane was thinking they were drafting this year.
Jarrod Parker has made eight starts this year and has escaped with a 2.40 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, and the caper on his early season performance was the goose egg he tossed at the Rangers Monday night as he threw eight shutout innings against the most powerful offense in the game. Clearly Parker has arrived as a fantasy force, or has he? Well the runs allowed certainly say he has as only one time this year has he permitted more than two runs in a game (he gave up six to the Giants which just goes to show you no one can predict everything). That's an excellent run of consistent success. At the same time there are some concerns, chief among them an inability to throw strikes at times. In four of his last five outings he has walked at least four fellas in an outing, an on the year he has a far from acceptable mark of 4.44 walks per nine. Normally guys that walk that many have a dominating strike out rate, but that is not the case with Parker who has a 6.47 K/9 mark, almost a full batter below the big league average of 7.44 this season. The result is an unpalatable 1.46 K/BB ratio that is bound to lead to some terrible outings. The position that the future might be a bit bumpy is buttressed by his mere 1.00 GB/FB ratio. Parker has been amazing to this point of the season in terms of the results. However, some leading underlying factors point to rougher times ahead for the A's young hurler.
Ervin Santana is back on the losing trail, and his worst effort of the season might have come in his last outing when he walked six batters an allowed seven runs to the Mariners in just 4.2 innings (the Mariners for goodness sakes). Awful. Santana has also walked six and seven batters in two of his last three starts, so clearly he has no idea where the ball is going right now. I could explain away the half batter drop in his K/9 mark (6.42) as just some random fluctuation, but I'm befuddled by a few other numbers on the back of his baseball card. (1) Where is this 4.12 walk per nine mark coming from? A career 2.94 guy, Santana has kept the mark at 3.03 or lower each of the past three years. (2) A career 39 percent ground ball inducer, Santana has jacked that mark up to an impressive total of 52 percent leading to a literal doubling of his career 0.94 GB/FB ratio to 1.78. How can he be doing that and struggling so badly? (3) His BABIP is .260 which would be a career best (career .289). Again, how can more grounders than ever an a lower than ever BABIP lead to a terrible 5.33 ERA and 1.44 WHIP? It's all about the long ball. (4) Santana has allowed 1.18 homers per nine innings in his career. This season that number is through the roof at 1.94. Remember, he's permitting fewer fly balls than every before as his fly ball rate has dipped to 29 percent (career 42 percent). So how has he been taken deep so frequently? His HR/F rate has more than doubled – doubled. A career 10.3 HR/F for Santana has ballooned to an incomprehensible 23.5 percent. This makes no sense at all given that the worst mark he has ever been for a season is 12.8 percent. There would seem to be a significant rebound in his future, unless he is just having one of those seasons that defies explanation.
Ryan Vogelsong has won his last four decisions for the Giants an a year after coming out of nowhere to post a 2.71 ERA, remember that he didn't throw a single pitch in the big leagues from 2007-2010, Ryan has pushed his ERA down even further to 2.38. Also, just like last season, consistency has been his middle name. Vogelsong has made 10 starts this year an only once has he allowed more than three runs (he gave up four in his third start of the year). Furthermore, seven times in 10 starts he has allowed two or fewer earned runs. How has he done it? The man just knows how to pitch. I know that sounds a bit lame, but it's the truth. Having watched nearly all his starts this year I'm stuck by the fact that he is a master on the hill constantly disrupting batters timing. His stuff isn't great – 6.49 K/9, 3.44 BB/9, 1.13 GB/FB, a 90 mph fastball – an in fact all his measureables point to a guy pitching way over his head. Truthfully, if I were to see just those four numbers from above I'd tell you to look for better options to round out your staff cause all of that is boring as all hell. The fan in me says to stay the course with Vogelsong. However, the analyst in me is screaming sell while you can with this guy. Again, he doesn't possess a single outstanding skill. He's also supported by a middling offense, and sooner or later that ability “to pitch” is going to have to take a back seat to the fact that he is living rather dangerously given what he brings to the hill (as an example, his xFIP says his ERA should me two full runs higher at 4.40). See if you can sell someone on the 2.62 ERA over his last 40 outings and sell while you can get full value.
Around the Bases
The Red Sox demoted Daniel Bard to Triple-A. Frankly, I'm surprised it took this long. A few of the lowlights from his early season work include a 5.56 BB/9 mark, a pathetic 0.92 K/BB rate, and a fastball that has lost four mph in his transition from the bullpen to the starting rotation. His future role is in doubt, reports do suggest he will remain a starter for now, but when he will once again be a viable mixed league option in clearly in major doubt.
Francisco Liriano has made two starts since returning to the starting rotation with wondrous results. Over 12 innings he has allowed a total of one run while walking three and striking out 17. It's far too early to say he is back, but if he is languishing on your waiver-wire it would be wise to roster him on the chance that he might, just might, be putting Humpty Dumpty back together again.
Dustin Pedroia (thumb) avoided the DL and returned to action Tuesday going 0-for-3 with an RBI. The mighty mite will try to play through the injury but keep an eye on his production to make sure his macho act isn't going to kills his output.
Andy Pettitte continues to shock. He dominated the Rays Tuesday night with 7.1 shutout innings as he racked up 10 punchouts, the third time in four starts he's struck out at least eight batters. His current 8.07 K/9 mark would be more than a half batter above any mark he's posted since 2004, and his K/BB ratio of 4.57 would be a career best. Don't expect either number to continue moving forward.
Carlo Quentin is the best hitter on the planet right now. In 23 at-bats since returning from knee woes he is hitting .522 with five homers, nine RBI, seven runs scored an a 1.925 OPS. Don't go overboard, he's still a .255 career hitter with 25-30 homer power (pro-rated) over the course of a season.
Colby Rasmus has five hits Tuesday night as he scored four times and knocked in three runs. A potential 5-tool talent, Rasmus has looked lost for the majority of the time since the start of last season, but this young man still possesses oodles of talent. Don't forget that in 2010 he was quite the fantasy force hitting .276 with 23 HR, 66 RBI, 85 runs scored and 12 steals for good measure.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Friday, 5-8 PM EDT. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys and his minute to minute musings can be located at the Baseball Guys' Twitter account.
Rounding The Bases - Todd Zola Looks At The First 10 Rounds of a Likely 2014 Fantasy Baseball Draft
Master Fantasy Baseball Notes From Todd Zola - Looking Ahead To The 2014 Fantasy Baseball Season
Rounding The Bases - Master Fantasy Baseball Notes From Todd Zola
The Farm Report: Minor League Baseball Coverage From A Fantasy Perspective (20 Prospects for '14)
2013 Fantasy Baseball Waiver Pickups: Week 24
The Farm Report: Minor League Baseball Coverage From A Fantasy Perspective (September Call-Ups)
2013 Fantasy Baseball Waiver Pickups: Week 23
Rounding the Bases: A Day For the Little Man
Rounding The Bases: Morse, Willingham On the Move?
The Farm Report: Minor League Baseball Coverage From A Fantasy Perspective (Roster Expansion)
2013 Fantasy Baseball Waiver Pickups: Week 22
Rounding the Bases: Five Surging Pitchers & Hitters
Rounding the Bases: Rookies, Veterans & Roster Movement
The Farm Report: Minor League Baseball Coverage From A Fantasy Perspective (Pitching Help On The Way!)
2013 Fantasy Baseball Waiver Pickups: Week 21
Master Notes From Todd Zola - Taking A Look at Starting Pitching In Keeper Leagues
Rounding the Bases: Small Names, Big Production?
Rounding the Bases: A First for Stephen Strasburg and the (Near) Final Round-Up
The Farm Report: Minor League Baseball Coverage From A Fantasy Perspective (Hitting Help On The Way!)
2013 Fantasy Baseball Waiver Pickups: Week Twenty