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Buy Low and Sell High Starting Pitchers for Week 9


So you want to buy a pitcher but you don’t want to pay a lot for him? Join the club, so does everyone else. What is your advantage? You were smart enough to click the link that brought you to this article and you’ve got me on your side. I’ve found four new buy low starting pitching candidates. Some of the players listed below can still even be classified as sleepers because of the team they play on or their name brand. On the other hand, if you’re loaded with starting pitching and need help in other areas, I’ve got two guys who are pitching over their heads that you need to move now while their value is at its highest. Check out my latest picks for starting pitchers who can be bought low and sold high.

 

Starting Pitchers To Buy Low

Jason Hammel, Chicago Cubs

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Sometimes when you pitch for a terrible team, no matter how good a pitcher you are, you can often get overlooked by Fantasy Baseball Owners. Such is the case with Jason Hammel, a 31 year old pitcher who has won five games, pitched to a 3.08 ERA and a .903 WHIP for the miserable Chicago Cubbies. How has he done it? For starters, he took his 7.1 swinging strike rate from last season and raised it to a gaudy 10.5% rate (anything over 8.5 is considered very good for a starting pitcher). He has also taken last season’s 22% line drive rate and sliced it down to a brilliant 17.3%. With the major league average being 20% and 70% of line drives usually landing for hits, this has helped his overall performance.

He has also lowered his HR/9 rate to .77, one of the lowest levels of his career. With a career ERA of 4.70 many are waiting for Hammel to implode, and he is bound to regress a bit at one point, but in his defense he started out his career pitching for a bad Tampa Bay team and then pitched in Colorado and Baltimore, two teams that play in hitter’s parks. At Wrigley Field he still pitches in a hitter’s park but maybe the adjustments he’s made have helped contribute to his success, and maybe the move to the NL from the AL has helped him,  and maybe you can land him in a trade without having to give up anything too significant.

 

Rick Porcello, Detroit Tigers

Sometimes it seems that being featured in this column as a buy low candidate is a lot like the mythical jinx associated with being on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Rick Porcello was cruising along with a 7-1 won/loss record, 2.90 ERA and 1.01 WHIP and I start writing an article which includes him as a buy low candidate and then bang – he gets lit up for 8 runs on 5/24 and his ERA jumps to 3.88 and now he is probably mad at me. The good news is that after his last start he is an even better buy low prospect. With the Detroit Tigers firmly ensconced as the leader in the AL Central I’d be willing to bet that you want to own a piece of their starting rotation. Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, their two standouts will not come cheap.

A smart owner will go for the next best thing: Rick Porcello. Even after Porcello’s last miserable start, his numbers are actually considerably better than Verlander’s and even Scherzer doesn’t have more wins than he does. Over the course of his career, Porcello has slowly become a better pitcher.  His ERA has declined in each of his four major league seasons and at this rate he may post his first season with an ERA of under four. He is using his slider more often this season, making opposing batters swing at pitches outside of the strike zone, and he is doing a better job of getting ahead in counts with his 61.6% first strike rate. If you take into account that he has also lowered his walk rate and the defense of the infield that plays behind him has improved, picking up Porcello is a move that can help your fantasy team in the win, ERA and WHIP categories. Porcello has been dealing with a recent oblique issue which coupled with his last lousy start might just put enough fear into his Fantasy Baseball Owners so that you can work out a deal that is in your favor. Monitor his next start closely before agreeing to a deal.

 

Kyle Lohse, Milwaukee Brewers

If I told you that Kyle Lohse was 6-1 with an ERA of 2.67 and a WHIP of 1.05, would you be surprised? In researching this article I was surprised at just how good his numbers were. As one of the unsung heroes of the Milwaukee Brewer’s early season success, Lohse is one of those under the radar type pitchers who is a classic buy low candidate. By throwing over 66% of his first pitches for strikes he has been able to get ahead of hitters and utilize pitches that tend to fool hitters.

He is using his sinker, slider and curve more frequently this season which has helped his K/9 rate to increase from 5.66 to 7.22 in the past year. I’d like to see him throw more ground balls but even though his GB rate is just under 40% (50% or more is considered very good) his HR/9 rate has dipped to .94 this season which is a good sign. With Yovani Gallardo (he was a sell high candidate in one of my previous articles) and Matt Garza slumping, Lohse may just be the pitcher who will help to keep the Brewers in the playoff hunt. Maybe he can do the same for your team.

 

Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros

When you play for the worst team in baseball you tend to get overlooked in the world of fantasy baseball. Luckily for Fantasy Baseball Owners who need to swing a deal for a starting pitcher, Dallas Keuchel pitches for the lowly Houston Astros. With six wins, that is 30% of the Astros total wins this season, a 2.55 ERA and a .976 WHIP Keuchel has seemingly come out of nowhere to become one of fantasy baseball’s most effective pitchers. What’s the difference from the pitcher who posted a 6-10 won/loss record and 5.15 ERA last season? Better control and better stuff.

His swinging strike rate increased by almost three points from last season and is currently at an incredible 11.5. That helped Keuchel’s K/9 rate increase to 7.77, up from 7.20 last season. He also drastically reduced his walk rate from 3.05 to 1.53. The rest of his stats are equally impressive. Opposing batters are hitting his pitches for line drives at a rate of just 14.1%, well below the 20% league average. He is throwing ground balls at a rate of 66.5%. Remember, groundballs have a tendency to turn into outs at a very high rate, and they always stay in the park, and anything over 50% is considered very good. All signs point to Keuchel continuing his mastery of opposing hitters. Look beyond the major league team he plays for and buy him low, now.

 

Starting Pitchers To Sell High

Josh Beckett, Los Angeles Dodgers

By Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as "Josh Beckett") [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

On the heels of his 128 pitch no hit effort I advise you to put Josh Beckett on the trading block as soon as possible. His value will never be higher. There is no place for Beckett to go but down and with the recent rash of injuries to starting pitchers you might just find a fellow Fantasy Baseball Owner desperate enough to overpay for him. Beckett has some impressive numbers, like his 52/20 K/BB ratio and 2.43 ERA, which you could use as bait in your trade negotiations.

Other than a lower line drive percentage and higher ground ball percentage, Beckett’s stats are just about the same as when he was posting ERA’s of over 4.50 during the past two seasons. Beckett went into his last start with the lowest first pitch strike percentage of his career, batters are swinging at less of his pitches that are out of the strike zone and I don’t think he has the stamina to remain healthy for the long haul. Trade him now and let his latest high pitch effort and inevitable visit to the DL be somebody else’s problem.

 

Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

Something is definitely wrong with Justin Verlander. When he has three straight starts where he gives up at least five earned runs and strikes out just 7 batters in 17.1 innings it is time to take advantage of whatever respect the Verlander name still commands in fantasy circles and trade him. Maybe there are lingering effects from his January core muscle surgery or maybe there is something else brewing that has not yet been made public, but let’s face it, Verlander is not the dominant pitcher that he once was.

He’s lost a couple of ticks off of his once electric 95 plus fastball, his strikeout rate is down and his walk rate is up. He owns a very mediocre 4.03 ERA, but his SIERA which is designed to determine a pitcher’s underlying skill, sits at 4.67, which is pretty bad for a guy who has a lifetime 3.43 ERA. My advice to you is try to hold out until Verlander has his next good start and then put him on the block. Don’t sell him cheaply, but get rid of him while the name Justin Verlander still means something to your fellow Fantasy Baseball Owners.