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Tipping pitches: Patience can be a struggling pitcher's best friend


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It seems there may be a budding "Tipping Pitches" curse. Three weeks ago, Tim Lincecum was lauded in this very column for his impeccable command. So how's he done since that point? How does 23 1/3 innings and 20 walks strike you? It may not be to the level of the Madden curse just yet, but things aren't looking good.

This is the worst four-game span (in respect to walks) of Lincecum's career. He's had five walks in four straight starts. He totaled three starts with five or more walks in all of 2008 and '09.

The loss of control has sent Lincecum's once-elite K/BB from 6.40 to a more pedestrian 2.77. His BB/9 currently sits at 3.77, which would be the highest since his rookie year.

Lincecum is pitching in the zone less than ever, as his Zone% (percentage of pitches seen in the zone) is under 50 for the first time in his career. His FS% (first strike percentage) is 51.0, way down from last season's 56.7.

The walks are also taking a toll on his workload. Lincecum averaged 16 pitches an inning through his first seven starts, but that's climbed to 19.23 in his past four. Shorter starts mean fewer opportunities for wins, especially with an offensively inept group like the Giants.

The good news is his K/9 is still a healthy 10.42. And his GB% is 50.0, which is the best of his career. Everything except the BB/9 (plus the resulting K/BB and WHIP) looks fine.

The bad news is that Lincecum's Zone% and FS% show this recent spike in walks is not a result of bad luck. Considering he's also allowing more steals than usual (13 so far this season), it seems concentration has been an issue. With a pitcher as established as Lincecum, still in his early prime, you have to simply wait it out.

Wandy Rodriguez 2.0

As the real Wandy Rodriguez fades toward waiver-wire fodder, with a 1.80 K/BB and 4.24 Fielding Independent Pitching rate (FIP), he shouldn't be starting for fantasy teams right now. A new Astros pitcher has emerged to take his place.

Say hello to Wandy Rodriguez 2.0, a.k.a. Felipe Paulino. Paulino has the 8-plus K/9 (8.19) and mid-3s FIP (3.61) that made Rodriguez a sensation in '08 and 2009. The downside is Paulino's ugly 5.16 BB/9. His rate was 3.41 in '09, so he may see a drop.

Paulino does have the kind of inconsistency that will drive a fantasy owner batty: May 8 -- seven innings, 11 strikeouts, zero walks, one run; May 14 -- 4.2 innings, four strikeouts, five walks, seven runs. So patience is a must.

Owners in deeper leagues should pay attention and take advantage of this cheap source of strikeouts. At 26-years old, there's some upside. Don't worry too much about his 0-7 record, he's getting just 1.97 runs of support each game.

He's still Liria-mazing

Francisco Liriano looked like the American League's Ubaldo Jimenez through his first four starts, only to come back to earth in his past six. In those six starts he allowed 21 earned runs over 38.2 innings.

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Even after the rough run, he still is the only pitcher in the majors with a better FIP and K/9 than Jimenez -- which is really saying something this season.

Liriano's 2.42 FIP is even better than his impressive '06 season, while his strikeout and ground ball numbers are comparable.

Here are the pitchers with FIP's under 3.00, with K/9 also listed

Roy Halladay - FIP: 2.40, K/9: 7.33Liriano -- 2.42, 9.05Jimenez -- 2.62, 7.84Josh Johnson -- 2.69, 8.87Adam Wainwright -- 2.74, 8.77Ricky Romero -- 2.78, 9.19Lincecum -- 2.82, 10.42

Uncage the Tiger

It was very clear something was wrong, either mechanically or health-wise, with Max Scherzer through his first eight starts. After a demotion to the minors, Scherzer came back with a vengeance May 30 against Oakland.

He lasted just 5.2 innings, but struck out 14 batters. That's a strikeout for over 82 percent of the outs in the game!

One start doesn't put him back into must-start status (his FIP is still 5.46), but don't wait too long to get him back into your lineups.

Scherzer's K/9 was 10.61 in 2008 and 9.19 in 2009, with a FIP under 4.00 both seasons.

Hudson harnessing contact

There may be no batted ball line more impressive than Tim Hudson's. His 66.7 GB% is the highest in baseball and his 11.1 LD% is tied with Ryan Dempster for the lowest. That's helped him keep his BABIP to .222 and kept him effective this season despite a big drop-off in K/9 (6.38 in 2009, 4.22 in 2010).

Other batted ball wonders likely to keep low BABIPs:

Fausto Carmona -- GB%: 55.4, LD%: 12.7, BABIP: .271Doug Fister -- 52.5, 13.0, .240Jimenez -- 54.9, 13.3, .271C.C. Sabathia -- 49.8, 13.7, .272Jaime Garcia -- 60.1, 15.5, .270

Cardinal benders

What's in the air in St. Louis? Chris Carpenter (11.5 runs above average) and Adam Wainwright (10.0) have the two best curveballs in baseball, and it isn't very close. Gio Gonzalez has the next-best curve, at 7.2 runs above average.

Other bests -- fastball: Jimenez (15.8 runs above average); slider: Colby Lewis (10.7); cutter: Halladay (10.8); changeup: Lincecum (11.2); and split-finger fastball: Brad Penny (5.7).

Ervin Santana -- Santana is back to fantasy usefulness after a messy '09. His LOB% (82.5) and FIP (4.37) mean his 3.43 ERA is somewhat lucky, but his 8.05 K/9 makes him roster worthy even in shallow leagues.

Anibal Sanchez -- Sanchez is currently sporting the best FIP of his career by over a full run. Yes, even in his breakout, 2.83 ERA '06 season, his FIP was just 4.22. Right now it's 3.01 and he's pitching very well.

1.76: Home runs per nine innings (HR/9) rate of Dan Haren, well higher than his career 1.08 rate. Haren has allowed 10 home runs over an 18.2-inning to close out May. He won't stay this unlucky on long balls, but fantasy owners must be disappointed to have Haren struggling in the first half, usually his best part of the season.


Carlos Silva -- Silva dominated the Cardinals May 29 (seven innings, two hits, no runs, no walks, 11 strikeouts) and has been mostly solid all season. There's almost no reason to think he can maintain his current success, but a hot pitcher is a hot pitcher and fantasy owners should take advantage short term.

A.J. Burnett -- Despite his lowest K/9 since '01 (6.69), Burnett's FIP is 3.62 - much better than last season's 4.33. He'll always be inconsistent, but with five starts with one earned run or fewer so far, he's been very good.


Derek Holland -- After copious amounts of buzz, Holland has hit the DL just 19.1 innings into his season. Be careful when he comes back as his 5.08 FIP wasn't pretty. Batters were hitting him hard, as his 1.86 HR/9 suggests. Holland did post a promising 2.67 K/BB, so keep him on the radar once he's healthy.

Brian Matusz -- While he started off '10 in promising fashion, Matusz looks a little lost lately. He's allowed 16 runs (14 earned) in his past three starts. There's still reason to believe, mainly because of his 7.34 K/9 and 3.98 FIP. Fantasy owners need to be patient and ride out the rough spots.

Statistics are current through June 1.

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