Pitching Planner: Two-start candidates to target, avoid
In small sample sizes, pitching just doesn't make sense sometimes. For example: Mat Latos is inexplicably 0-3 with a 5.94 ERA, while Justin Masterson is 4-0 with a 1.71 ERA.
Yeah, Latos is a potential Verducci Effect victim and Masterson is a third-year breakout candidate, but water will eventually find its level. The trick is trying to identify the real pitcher behind the numbers.
Here are some quick assessments of the surprising starters in fantasy to date:
These young arms look primed for a breakout season, because of their talent and their supporting cast.
• Masterson, Indians: He is coming into his own and the Indians just might be able to get him enough run support to make him a 15-plus game winner. He is a must-own and must-start now in all leagues.
• Matt Harrison, Rangers (3-1, 1.88): He has helped make Texas forget all about Cliff Lee. Considering this will be Harrison's first full season as a starter, he likely won't be this dominant later in the year, but he is definitely capable of a huge first half.
• Mike Leake, Reds (3-0, 4.94): His ERA is high, but Leake is winning games with the offensively potent Reds. Remember, as a rookie without any minor-league experience, Leake had a miniscule ERA and few wins to show for it. This is a market correction. That ERA will correct down to around 4.00, too. He is going to be a solid winner and stronger late in the season this go around.
These guys have shown value before, so their hot starts make some sense.
• Kyle Lohse, Cardinals (3-1, 2.01): Lohse was a question mark coming into the season because of his mysterious injury woes. He looks completely healthy and capable of posting a career year. Use him in mixed leagues with confidence now.
• Aaron Harang, Padres (4-0, 1.88): If the Cardinals grow surprising pitchers in their backyard, the Padres farm them in expansive fields. Harang is the latest veteran to rediscover lost magic in that pitchers' park in San Diego and has been rescued from the trouble he had in Cincy's bandbox ballpark.
• Brandon McCarthy, Athletics (1-1, 2.10): We have little confidence the oft-injured McCarthy can avoid the DL this season, but he has long been considered a potential double-digit winner in the major leagues. Despite seemingly being around forever, he is still just 27 and capable of enjoying a breakthrough.
These pitchers aren't likely to sustain their early success, but take advantage now if you can.
• Josh Tomlin, Indians (3-0, 2.33): Tomlin isn't a bad young pitcher, but you need to be wary of the teams he has shut down to date. He beat a struggling Red Sox lineup in his first start and then got the lowly Mariners, Orioles and Royals. He needs to beat some real lineups before you trust him.
• Kevin Correia, Pirates (3-1, 2.48): We haven't been the biggest fans of Correia and he just keeps proving us wrong. Maybe this is an every-other-year guy, but the bet here is that he finishes near his career 4.49 ERA when it is all said and done.
• Bruce Chen, Royals (3-0, 2.42): He was a surprise last season, too -- so at some point we have to stop considering him a surprise. After a bad first start, Chen shut down the Tigers, Mariners and Indians. He needs to prove capable against some better teams before you truly trust him.
As for you Latos owners: Stick with him. He might not be the top 10 ace you drafted him as, but he will be plenty dominant once he gets this start out of his system.
Now onto the rest of our weekly report, where we break down all the two-start pitchers and some of the fringy one-start matchups.
Playing the matchups: Outside of the obvious pitchers, here are some matchups to capitalize on this week and some to avoid, with the pitcher in question
Moseley might not have won a game yet, but it isn't because of his pitching. In fact, these two opposing arms get among the worst run support in baseball. Moseley is pitching well enough to start in mixed leagues, especially with this two-start week.
Kennedy isn't a good play as a two-start pitcher this week because of this tough first matchup. He has been struggling of late, too. You're best off avoiding him in mixed leagues in this two-start week.
Colon had a solid spring and a quality first start with the Yankees. His velocity is back and he looks like a sleeper to use in any format right now. His ownership suggests he is available in your league and a two-start week is a good time to jump on him.
Oswalt is easily the most overlooked of the Phillies aces, but he is the one pitching the best. This Hudson shouldn't have been picked before the Braves' Tim in any league, but he was in just about every league. Those people learned their lesson about young pitchers. The way he is pitching, you cannot trust Hudson in this two-start week.
They should name a surprise pitcher award after Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan. Every year he turns water into wine with a mediocre arm. It is Lohse this year and he looks like a must-start, one-start pitcher in all leagues with this matchup and his pitching performances to date.
Fantasy owners generally don't give Buehrle enough credit, but this does not apply to his starts against the Yankees in his career. He is a ghastly 1-7 with a 6.68 ERA in 11 career starts against the Yankees. And oh, he just happens to be facing the Yankees' ace in that wind tunnel park. Sit Buehrle in any league where you have a viable replacement.
Yet another Duncan project that is going over amazingly well. It should be obvious now that McClellan is a breakthrough pitcher of the year candidate and a must-start in all leagues. He just happens to be getting the weak Astros with their struggling No. 5 starter opposing him. Yahtzee!
This looks like a favorable matchup for Dempster, a top 30 fantasy starter coming into the season. His struggles, though, are as surprising as his history against the D-Backs. Dempster is just 2-7 with a 5.99 ERA in 18 career starts against the D-Backs, who seem to tee off on him. He will also be pitching away from home. Sit him in all mixed leagues.
We scored big-time taking advantage of a bad-looking Dice-K in his past start, so let's press our luck and go with him against the lowly Mariners at home. Even if he doesn't pitch well, he should get enough run support and bullpen help to win this game. Use him in deeper formats.
You are wont to get back on the Santana bandwagon amid his early season struggles. This is not a good week to do it. He draws Price and the Rays, against whom he has a 5.56 ERA in 11 career starts. Santana is not pitching well enough to trust in mixed leagues this week.
Lewis doesn't look all that useful right now, but you should stay confident in him in mixed leagues with this two-start week. Even though he is opposing Anderson here, he is facing a threatless A's lineup. Stick with Lewis one more week.
We are going to pile on Kennedy this week and warn against him in both of his starts. He might have two victories but he is dangerous to trust if you have a decent one-start pitcher to replace him with. Kennedy has been bashed by the Cubs (7.24 ERA) in his two starts against them. Use at your own risk.
Garland has one terrible outing and one great one to work with going into this two-start week. The latter outing is the one to consider. His matchups are winnable and he looks like an advisable two-start pitcher to use in mixed formats this week.
Dickey isn't pitching that poorly -- and he draws the Nationals in his first start this week -- but this second matchup should keep you from trusting him in mixed leagues. Please ignore the fact that he has a 2.25 ERA in four career starts against the Phillies. This is a mismatch.