Pitching Planner: Chase talent, supporting casts, and wins follow
There is the famed fantasy word of warning with regard to pitchers: Don't chase wins. You know how it goes. Wins are not something a pitcher can control, because it depends heavily on run support the team provides, and maybe even the bullpen backing them.
That mantra goes more for week-to-week lineup decisions than it does year-to-year draft choices, though. You shouldn't avoid a back-end starter on a top contender -- Alexi Ogando (2-0, 0.00) and Matt Harrison (2-0, 1.29) -- because you don't want to chase wins on draft day. It makes complete sense to chase the potential for wins by their supporting casts going into a season.
But, when you're looking at the free-agent list week to week, don't sort by the wins column. An ability to win games is not something that is proven by the games won.
Sure, Bruce Chen (2-0, 2.34) and Kevin Correia (2-1, 2.70) look viable right now. But these are the wins you shouldn't be chasing.
Run support isn't just limited to how good the offense is around them. It can be a function of luck, or opposing starters. Jon Lester, at 3.26 runs per game, gets one of the lowest amount of support to date in baseball. That is a good Red Sox lineup, even if it hasn't taken off yet.
Derek Lowe, at 0.96 runs per game, gets the least support. That Braves lineup isn't bad.
Both of those pitchers have far more wins potential in their next starts -- and especially there on out -- than Chen and Correia. This might seem blatantly obvious to you, but it has to be reminded because so many fantasy owners chase wins when setting their lineups weekly.
The fact a pitcher has won games doesn't mean he will continue to do so. You have to stick strong to your evaluations of the pitcher, the defense around them, the bullpen backing them and the lineup supporting them.
And you always have to remember, baseball numbers can fool you in small sample sizes.
Don't chase last week's numbers, particularly in the case of wins.
Now, on to the rest of our weekly pitchers report, where we break down all the two-start pitchers and some of the fringy one-start matchups.
Outside of the obvious pitchers, here are some matchups to capitalize on this week, identified in italics.
Kevin Correia, PIT (2-1, 2.70) at
Wood is off to a solid start this season and draws a big mismatch between the Reds and Pirates. Wood allowed just two hits in seven shutout innings in a victory against the Pirates in his last start against them. This start to a two-start week makes him a must-add in mixed leagues.
This one is not what you might think. Romero looks like the must-start -- he probably still is -- while Matsuzaka looks like the must-sit. Well, the career numbers suggest the exact opposite. Romero (2-4, 7.42 in nine career games) and Dice-K (6-1, 3.80 in 11 career starts) are the exact opposite. It isn't enough to get you to sit Romero, as much as it is to merely worry about him if you are deciding between him and an ace one-start pitcher. Dice-K might seem intriguing, but his start to this season just makes him too risky.
Lackey looks like is name suggests out of the gate for the Red Sox, but he has a great history against the A's from his days in the AL West. He is 17-5 with a 2.90 ERA in 31 career starts against the A's. That is a season's worth of good numbers and that offense isn't scary, even if the opposing pitcher is. The two-start week helps you keep running Lackey out there in mixed leagues.
Last week, we warned about another hot-starting Pirates pitcher, Kevin Correia. This week's Pirate to avoid is Maholm. He gets a favorable second matchup against the Nationals, but he should be avoided outside of NL-only leagues because he is facing that Marlins ace as a heavy underdog. His fine start is promising, but not enough to trust him in that matchup. He has a 4.89 ERA in seven games against the Marlins in his career, too.
We advised Norris heavily last week and it paid dividends. Stick with him against the woeful Mets. Norris is good enough as a one-start pitcher in this matchup to use even in mixed leagues.
It isn't just the awful numbers Hughes is posting out of the gate right now for the Yankees. It is the lack of velocity that is the most disconcerting. If his ballooned ERA isn't enough for you to sit him in a mixed league, his one-start week against a team he has a 4.84 ERA against should be.
Floyd is notoriously a slow starter, so his solid early outings are real promising for his full-year success. He looks like a solid option in mixed leagues and is 3-1 with a 2.84 in four games against the Rays in his career. It also helps Niemann is a Floyd-like mess out of the gate.
James McDonald, PIT (0-0, 5.56) at
In an effort of balance and to avoid redundancy, we actually have to advise you to
Dallas Braden, OAK (0-1, 4.15) at
Pineda looks like the real deal. He is still available in one-quarter of fantasy leagues and shouldn't be. He is still active in less than 50 percent of leagues, too. Pineda looks like a must-start against that weak A's lineup in the friendly walls of Safeco Field in Seattle. Jump on the Pineda train.
Joe Saunders, ARI (0-1, 6.00) at
The Mets pitching staff is being laid to waste right now and it starts at the front with the hammering Pelfrey is taking. You have to consider sitting him in all formats, especially since he is 0-6 with a 6.69 ERA against the D'backs in seven career starts against them. Pelfrey relies heavily on a sinking fastball, throwing it almost exclusively and aggressive, young, fastball hitting teams like the D'backs tee off on him.
Matsuzaka, BOS (0-2, 12.86) at
Ordinarily, a matchup against the Red Sox couldn't possibly be considered favorable. Well, Dice-K looks like a mess and Boston just isn't winning games right now. A trip to the left coast shouldn't prove to be all that more successful, you would think. Santana is good enough to start in all leagues as a two-start pitcher, despite being winless to date.
Roy Halladay, PHI (2-0, 1.23) at
Stauffer was one of the favored sleepers of spring by many -- not here, mind you. He hasn't gotten off to a bad start, but he isn't trustworthy enough to use as a two-start pitcher right now, especially since you see him matchup against the Phillies and their ace of fantasy in his second start.
TBA, CLE (0-0, -.--) at
Pavano remains a fringy mixed-league fantasy arm, but his two-start week at the Orioles and against the Indians makes him a solid option in all formats this week. Pavano has a 2.78 ERA against the Indians in his career. His Twins should be a heavy favorite at home in this one and on the road at Baltimore.
Chen is off to a great start coming off his surprising finish to 2010. And he is getting the Indians in his favorable first start in a two-start week, too. But, this second matchup at Texas is a recipe for disaster. You still cannot completely trust Chen outside of deeper AL-only leagues yet.