What to do with players in keeper leagues is one of the more difficult calls to make each season. Do you hold on to a guy who likely won’t help you this year but may be a future all-star in order to pick up that guy that could put you over the top this season? Do you trade your leading veteran slugger for an up and coming hurler with tons of upside? In today’s column I’ll address the question of keepers from two different angles – how do these hurlers grade out for the remainder of 2009 as well as moving forward?
I am in a keeper league, salary not a consideration. How would you rank these 3 pitchers: Fausto Carmona, Clayton Richard, Ian Snell
a) for the remainder of this season
b) as longer term keepers
— Don, Connecticut
I have to compliment Don for looking at this situation in both short and long term, exactly what you should be doing in keeper leagues. Here are my thoughts on each hurler before I grade them out.
Fausto Carmona: Flat out awful. Here is what I see, hopefully you will all agree, quickly, that my analysis is on point. Carmona was 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 2007 and that was the worst thing that ever happened to him given that it completely skewed the way that people view him. Talk about the planets aligning. I would be utterly shocked if Carmona ever produced a line remotely close to that one again. Why the dubious point of view? What does the number 1.39 say to you? To me it says plain awful when it’s put in the context of being his K/BB ratio for his career. To refresh your memory we look at 2.00 as the level we want our hurlers to reach (it’s the major league average), and Carmona isn’t even in shouting distance at this point. Moreover, that number has been 0.82 since the start of the 2008 season, and yes math whizzes, that means Carmona hasn’t even been 50 percent of average the past year and two-thirds. I don’t care how much sink you get on a 93 mph fastball you cannot, c-a-n-n-o-t have success in the big leagues with a number like that even with an impressive 2.69 G/F rate in his career.
Clayton Richard: This is a hurler who should clearly benefit from a chance of scenery moving from the move offensive minded AL to the NL. In addition, a move from the ballpark in Chicago to the one in San Diego is akin to trading in your Ford Festiva for Shelby Cobra (those are cars by the way). Richard has upped his K/9 rate this season to 6.82, more than a batter above his rookie mark last season though at the same time he has added a batter and a half to his nine inning walk rate completely negating his strikeout growth. In truth, it’s even worse than that as the struggles with the walk have dumped his K/BB rate down to 1.73. Still, Richard has shown a strong ability to keep the ball on the ground with a ground ball rate of over 49 percent in his brief career. The move to Safeco could really help this area of his game as it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see that Petco Park will help to reduce his HR/F rate of 11 percent a wee bit, and with that his ERA should fall. Richard has also done a very good job of late at limited runners from crossing the plate with five runs allowed over his last four starts (1.65 ERA).
Ian Snell: Awful with the Pirates, Snell asked to be demoted to Triple-A to work on his game while at the same time telling the team he had no interest ever pitching for the Pirates again. Snell went down to the minors and simply dominated like never before posting a 0.96 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 11.33 K/9 and a 3.62 K/BB mark over 37.1 innings. Snell had a nice first start with the Mariners before imploding in his last outing (three runs, six walks and only four outs). Since the start of last season, a span of 48 starts covering 252.1 innings, Snell owns a 5.06 BB/9 mark, a pathetic 1.35 K/BB mark an ERA of 5.42 and a WHIP of 1.72. Face it, no matter how dominating he looked in the minors, Snell just cannot get big league hitters out on a consistent basis because for some reason he simply cannot control the strike zone at all.
For the Rest of 2009
Snell has the best stuff of the three, but without more strikes it won’t matter.
Carmona has a sometimes dominating sinking fastball that records copious amounts of grounders, despite all the walks (6.03 per nine this season).
Richard is young, pitches in the best environment in baseball for a home ball yard, and also pitches in the National League.
Add up those facts and I would, at this point, say that Richard is the best bet, at least until the other two hurlers remember that throwing strikes is the name of the game.
By Ray Flowers