July 08, 2010

The 2010 season is officially past the midpoint, and that means it's time for the annual bickering about All-Star picks. It's safe to say the selections did not go exactly as planned again this year (see: the Joey Votto/Omar Infante conundrum).

Fans will huff and puff, but how much does an All-Star selection really matter in fantasy baseball? Not even a little, unless you can somehow talk up the All-Star selection as a selling point in a trade.

The best plan is to move on, don't think about the fact that neither Jered Weaver or Felix Hernandez will be pitching for the AL All-Star team (pending injury replacements, etc.)

Here are some mid-season awards, Tipping Pitches style, with fantasy relevance. Not all of them go to the best pitchers, but they do go to the most interesting.

The "I Don't Get No Respect" award goes to ...

Mat "Don't spell my name with two T's" Latos, hands down. An illustration:

Pitcher A -- Strikeouts Per Nine Innings (K/9): 8.22, Fielding Independent Pitching rate (FIP): 3.33

Pitcher B -- K/9: 7.52, FIP 3.69

Pitcher A is Latos, Pitcher B is David Price. That's right, kids, Latos has been better than Price in two of the most vital categories for pitchers, by a decent margin. Say what you will about an easier league and more pitcher-friendly home park, neither one of these guys is changing teams for a long time so those things don't really matter.

The lack of Latos fever is shocking, considering the 22-year old is the only pitcher in baseball holding batters under a .200 average (.199).

Thanks to solid marks in both strikeouts and walks (aforementioned 8.22 K/9, plus 2.35 walks per nine innings, Latos is 15th in K/BB ratio, ahead of guys like Hernandez, Tommy Hanson, Chris Carpenter and Phil Hughes.

Here, Mr. Latos, is your much deserved pub for an outstanding first half of 2010. Fantasy owners should value Latos similarly to Hanson and Hughes.

The "Darn That Thin Air!" award goes to ...

Dan Haren, who unpredictably lugged an ERA north of 5.00 into June. Haren suffered as nasty of a case of homeritis as you'll see from an elite pitcher, allowing 10 long balls in three starts to close out May.

Since that three-start span to end May, Haren has allowed just three homers in 49.1 innings, trimming his home runs per nine innings rate (HR/9) down to a more palatable 1.39 (though still way up from his 1.06 career rate).

Fantasy owners who were used to such spring niceties, such as Haren's april (1.54 era) and june (1.64) of last season are sorely disappointed. The rest of Haren's numbers look strong, so he will get better moving forward.

The "Watch your head!" award goes to ...

Jonathan Sanchez

While he's not first in wild pitches, Sanchez does have the highest BB/9 among fantasy-relevant pitchers (burn on Scott Kazmir!, who has the highest rate overall) at 4.59. Few pitchers can flash the same potential as Sanchez when he's on. The problem? Flashes don't last forever: First 50 innings of 2010: 8.46 k/9, 3.60 BB/9 Next 50 innings: 8.28 K/9, 5.58 BB/9 His K/9 rate is 8.82 (9.75 last season), and his contact% (percentage of pitches batters make contact with) is way up to 77.3 from 73.8 last season. The downturn is especially apparent in the zone, where batters are actually swinging less, but making much more contact (82.7 in 2009, 88.1 in 2010).

Despite all of this naysaying, Sanchez has a solid 3.15/3.87 ERA/FIP combo, and the strikeouts are still helpful. Owners should simply be wary of his control issues and increased hittability moving forward.

The "Rubik's Cube" award goes to ...

Fantasy owners who were patient enough to hold on to Ricky Nolasco.

Every fantasy expert with a keyboard and a zest for originality wrote off Nolasco's poor 2009 as a factor of some of the worst luck a pitcher has had for some time. Said experts felt awfully silly when Nolasco ran off a string of five consecutive starts without topping three strikeouts and had an era of 5.05 in mid june. For a while, things got very ugly for the pitcher who couldn't get a break v. 2009 ... Then he changed again. In his past three starts covering 21 innings, Nolasco has 28 strikeouts and two walks. That's a K/9 of 12.00 and a K/BB of 0.94 (*Cliff Lee 14.00). Go get Nolasco if you're feeling risky, there's high-reward potential there. *

The "I've been good enough in one category to have it named after me for a while" award goes to ...

Cliff Lee and his stellar 14.83 K/BB.

That's well over double of the second place pitcher, Roy Halladay.

The "Put a little extra knuckle into it" award goes to ...

Charlie Haegar and R.A. Dickey

Haeger for his outstanding achievements april 11 when he struck out 12 flailing marlins in six innings (don't mind that 8.40 season era), and dickey for his consistent solid pitching through 58.1 innings this season. Dickey's 2.62/3.02 era/fip rates are so out of left field, it's hard to imagine. His previous low season era was 4.62. His previous low season fip was 4.31. Not exactly the stuff of legends.

The difference this season is control. His BB/9 is 2.62, which is the first time it has been under 4.00 since he switched from mediocre pitcher to knuckleballer in 2005.

Knuckleballers are notoriously hard to predict, but smart fantasy owners will ride Dickey's fluttering, diving and ducking pitches while they're working so well.

The "What the *%&$&?" award goes to ...

Boston's $51 million man, Daisuke Matsuzaka. Sit back and enjoy this brief look at a four-start span that perfectly exemplifies Matsuzaka:

May 17 -- 4.2 innings, nine hits, three strikeouts, three walksMay 22 -- 8 innings, one hit, five strikeouts, four walksMay 27 -- 4.2 innings, two hits, one strikeout, eight walksJune 2 -- 6.2 innings, 10 hits, seven strikeouts, zero walks

The inconsistency, from hits allowed, to strikeouts, to walks is mindboggling. Keep Matsuzaka off your team(s), or at least on the bench, until he can get on some sort of a consistent roll.

Gavin Floyd -- Floyd has allowed one earned run or fewer in five of his past six starts. The slow start to 2010 is already a distant memory as his 4.43/3.37 ERA/FIP ratios look good again. His K/BB is almost exactly in line with 2009.

Joel Pineiro -- Very quietly, Pineiro has worked his way back to fantasy usefulness. The most encouraging thing about his excellent July 4th start was the 16 ground ball outs. His control has taken a step back from last year when he had a 1.14 BB/9, because his First Strike Percentage (FS%) has dipped from 65.4 to 58.6.

12.0: Francisco Liriano's swinging strike percentage, the best in baseball. That rate is still well off of his 16.4 percent in 2006, but it's clear liriano is clicking on all cylinders again in 2010.


Brian Matusz -- the rookie hasn't quite lived up to expectations, but do any of baltimore's young players? This kid is talented, as his july fourth start at boston shows (seven innings, two hits, no runs, and eight strikeouts). He will only get better.

Adam Wainwright -- now that wainwright is striking out more batters, he definitely deserves a spot among fantasy baseball's elite. He's been particularly unhittable lately with one earned run allowed in his past 15.1 innings.


Chris Carpenter -- Carpenter's strikeouts are up from last season, but so are his walks. The overall change isn't positive. Carpenter's fastball was rated at 24.6 runs above average last season and his slider was 17.4. This year, the fastball is 2.2 and the slider 3.6 below average.

Mike Pelfrey -- it appears the breakout claims were slightly premature. Pelfrey has sputtered into the all-star break with 11 earned runs in his past 11.2 innings. He hasn't struck out more than three in a start since june 8.

Statistics are current through July 6.

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Need more pitches tipped? Send questions and comments to amcfadden@rotoexperts.com. Don't forget to check out our xclusive edge rankings to help with tough lineup decisions.

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