I’m in a 12-team head-to-head mixed league and my pitching has been horrendous, to say the least, to start the season. I thought it would be one of my strengths, but so far my players just haven’t lived up to expectations. We start a typical 5-man rotation and I have Verlander, Beckett, Kazmir, Floyd, Zambrano and Niemann as my mainstays. I’ve also been playing some matchups with Wade LeBlanc and Brett Myers and have added some solid arms in Colby Lewis and Derek Holland. I’m not too concerned about Beckett, but Kazmir looks very hittable and Floyd has just been plain awful. I’m also not sure if Zambrano will ever find his way back into the starting rotation. Do you think I need to make a move for another more reliable arm or will my rotation improve enough to allow me to compete?
– Mike, Boston, MA
Well Mike, I have to compliment you on rostering a tremendous group of arms. Obviously not all of these arms are currently on your roster, but I thought I would run through the 10 arms mentioned and give my quick thoughts on each before giving my recommendation.
Justin Verlander: A top of the rotation hurler. Verlander routinely throws high 90′s gas late into games, is currently sporting a solid 8.51 K/9 mark, and has allowed four earned runs in his last four starts.
Josh Beckett: His back issue seems minor. As for his performance, I have no idea where his .365 BABIP has come from (career .303), nor his inability to locate his pitches early on (his 3.51 BB/9 mark would be his worst mark since 2003 and is three-quarters of a batter above his career rate of 2.76). I think he should be fine and is a great buy low candidate – provided he is healthy.
Scott Kazmir: Will get at least one more shot at staying in the rotation for the Angels, but his performance has been troubling. His fastball speed is 90.1 mph, a career low, and the third straight year of a mph decrease. His vaunted slider? That one is down to 79.4. It was 84 mph in 2006. You cannot have success with a 1.26 K/BB mark.
Gavin Floyd: He has a 6.92 ERA but his Fielder Independent Pitching ERA (FIP) is just 4.16. The problem this year has been the walk (3.69 compared to a mark below 3.10 each of the past three years) and the fact that his BABIP rate is .371 (career .296). He is primed for a turnaround.
Carlos Zambrano: Will remain in the pen for now, but I would be shocked if that lasted all year (Carlos Silva and/or Tom Gorzelanny will eventually fail). In 27 innings this season Big Z has 32 Ks (10.67 K/9) and his current 2.67 K/BB mark is a career best. All of this has occurred despite and absurd .482 BABIP mark (career .283).
Jeff Niemann: More of what we saw last season. He won’t maintain his current ratios (2.27 ERA and 1.01 WHIP), not with the same K/BB (2.15 this year vs. 2/12 last year), HR/9 (0.82 vs. 0.85) and GB/FB (1.06 and 1.03) rate as last year, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be able to match his marks of last season.
Wade LeBlanc: He simply doesn’t have the stuff to sustain his early success (1.61 ERA, 7.39 K/9), but he also shouldn’t be saddled with his current WHIP of 1.46. He has balanced out his massive .356 mark by not allowing a single home run and is a solid depth arm at the back of a rotation, though not someone you want to start in all matchups.
Brett Myers: It may not always be pretty with Myers, but in seven starts he has four “quality starts” and every time out he has gone at least six innings. He’s had success by throwing strikes (his 2.54 BB/9 mark would be a career best) and by not being beaten like a piñata deep (0.78 HR/9 versus a career mark of 1.33).
Colby Lewis: His return to the States has gone swimmingly with a 3.15 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 9.66 K/9 mark. You’d have to think he has been a bit fortunate given his 7.8 HR/F mark, .273 BABIP and 0.79 HR/9, but it has been a wonderful first seven starts with the Rangers.
Derek Holland: The arm of the future for the Rangers, Holland had a great first outing in which he held the A’s scoreless for six innings. He has the stuff to be successful for a decade, and it looks like the Rangers might move Matt Harrison to the bullpen to allow Holland to remain in the rotation.
Verlander is a horse.
Floyd and Beckett should rebound and be just fine.
Kazmir seems done.
Niemann is a nice arm to hold on to.
Zambrano – sooner or later I’m assuming he returns to starting.
LeBlanc is only a spot starter.
Myers is a solid depth arm.
Lewis is bringing the heat, but you might want to sell high.
Holland has tons of potential, but will he reach it in 2010?
By Ray Flowers