July 29, 2010

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With all due respect to Tampa Bay's Matt Garza on his no-hitter July 26, the Detroit Tigers weren't exactly fielding an All-Star team that night.

Will Rhymes (.000 batting average), Ryan Raburn (.204, including .183 against right handers), Don Kelly (.206), Gerald Laird (.182) and Danny Worth (.250) all made their way onto the Tigers' lineup card due to a rash of injuries.

A no-hitter is a rare and spectacular feat (although not as rare in 2010 as it used to be) that takes the requisite amount talent and luck. That said, fantasy owners should realize Garza is not a fantasy ace. Useful and talented, yes. The pitcher of April 2010 (2.06 earned run average), no.

The 26-year old is hauling around a 4.46 Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) and 2.87 walks per nine innings (BB/9) rates -- both in line, or better than, his career totals. The problem for those Garza investors is that he hasn't progressed in the past three years.

Garza in 2008 -- 6.24 K/9, 2.88 BB/9, 4.48 xFIPGarza in 2010 -- 6.78 K/9, 2.87 BB/9, 4.46 xFIP

Garza flashed excellent strikeout ability in the minors and seemed to bring it to the big leagues with an 8.38 K/9 in 2009. But he's regressed back to the mean.

His slider and curve haven't been as effective as they were last year. His slider was 12.4 runs above average last season and is 2.4 below this year. The curve went from 5.9 above to 1.0 below.

That's led to a big increase in O-Contact% (percentage of pitches batters swing at and make contact with outside of the zone) from 60.1 to 70.5. Once that happened, Voila, the strikeouts went away.

Expect Garza to maintain his current pace in both K/9 and xFIP for the balance of 2010, making him a solid mid-rotation fantasy pitcher.

A few more notes from around baseball:

Brandon Morrow has the best strikeout rate in baseball at 9.96 K/9. That's certainly respectable, but it's also unusually low.

If pitchers continue their current pace and no one finishes above 10.00 in K/9, it would be the first time that's happened since 2006.

Is this an indication of some big trend? Likely not, just a slight fluctuation across the board. Expect a pitcher or three to break the double-digit mark by season's end.

Chicago's Ted Lilly is a popular name in trade rumors, but fantasy owners need to worry because he would suffer from a move to a more homer-friendly park.

Lilly has the lowest GB/FB rate in baseball at 0.58. His flyball percentage (FB%) is a career-high 51.4. He's living dangerously by putting so many balls in play in the air. A move to a team like Philadelphia would make him a very risky start at home. Combined with those batted ball figures, he doesn't have the strikeout ability he once did. His 6.55 K/9 would be a career low.

Speaking of Morrow, the Blue Jays hurler has been impressive. His 4.22 BB/9 is much lower than last year's 5.68 rate and the best of his career.

Impressively, Morrow is holding batters to a .255 Batting Average Against (BAA), while his .343 Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) is very unlucky. In fact, his BAA was .251 last season with a BABIP nearly 50 points lower at .296.

Consider Morrow if he's still available in your leagues.

Max Scherzer impressed again July 27 against Tampa Bay (of course, Garza had a decent game on the other side too). Scherzer has a tendency to give up the big innings, but his numbers looks strong.

Just like Morrow, this is a young guy (Scherzer just turned 26) with big-time strikeout ability. Fantasy owners should be rostering these guys universally while they are still inconsistent enough to keep the price down. If Scherzer can knock 1.00 off his BB/9, he would be absolutely deadly.

Johnny Cueto -- Mr. Inconsistent is finally settling down. He hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in a start since June 12. He hasn't been as potent with a 4.63 K/9 in that same span, but the 24-year-old has helped Fantasy owners more by keeping runs to a minimum than he did by striking out bundles of batters.

Madison Bumgarner -- Bumgarner, who is about to turn 21, struck out a season-high seven batters July 24. He has plenty of stuff and now with some return in his velocity (90.4 mph fastball average), he's just getting better.

4.65:Matt Cain's xFIP, more than a run and a half higher than his ERA. Cain's career xFIP is 4.51, compared to his career 3.47 ERA. He always seems to find a way to outperform his underlying statistics in the standard 5 X 5 categories.


Tommy Hunter -- Hunter's 2.31 ERA is a mirage, pure and simple. Even so, he's still hot right now and hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in any start this season. His strikeout rate doesn't help at all (4.62 K/9), so cut bait in yearly leagues the moment he strings a couple of rough outings together. With a 4.81 xFIP and .234 BABIP, that might happen soon.

Wade Davis -- Hold off the calls for Jeremy Hellickson in Tampa's rotation - Davis is showing signs of life again. There are holes in Davis' game (his 1.57 K/BB being a glaring one), but the kid has piles of potential.


Ubaldo Jimenez -- After allowing one total home run in his first 11 starts, Jimenez has allowed a long ball in four of his past six starts. His K/BB is down to 2.18, a product of his 3.68 BB/9.

Scott Baker -- His .337 BABIP and 3.77 xFIP suggest he's been unlucky. Baker has talent, but the story is always the same: Too many hits and too many home runs.

Statistics are current through July 27.

Don't forget to check out our Xclusive Edge Rankings to help with tough lineup decisions.

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