Injuries Making It Difficult To Make A Fair Deal
With the epidemic of pitching injuries continuing to deplete fantasy league rosters of live arms, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find hurlers to trade for, and if some are available, the law of supply and demand dictates that the asking price for a decent pitcher has gone way up. Finding buy low candidates or in-season sleepers in the world of starting pitching requires a great deal of diligence and research. On the other hand if you are a fantasy baseball owner who was wise enough to see the storm coming, and you have a stock pile of good pitching on your roster - you my friend, are in the driver’s seat. You have the opportunity to hold on to your best arms, trade away those guys who are playing way over their head, get top dollar for them and look for new options off the waiver wire. Check out my picks below for starting pitching candidates who can be bought low and sold high.
Starting Pitchers to Buy Low
Jeff Samardzija, Chicago Cubs
Jeff Samardzija is pitching his heart out this year, compiling a stellar 1.62 ERA and 1.11 WHIP and what does he have to show for it? An 0-4 record for the hapless Cubbies. This makes him a perfect candidate for someone that you can buy on the cheap. The numbers are all there. This season he is throwing just under 68% of his first pitches for strikes, well above the major league average of 60% and his HR/9 rate of .30 is way off of his career average of .92. He’s 29 year old pitcher in his prime who the Cubs will probably trade to a contender by mid season. Samardzija will not be winless for long. He is ripe for the picking so go get him.
Scott Kazmir, Oakland Athletics
You can’t talk about valuable starting pitching without bringing the Oakland A’s rotation into conversation. With five wins, a 2.39 ERA, 1.025 WHIP and the lowest HR/9 rate of his career, Scott Kazmir is definitely worth talking about. Working his craft within the pitcher friendly confines of Oakland Coliseum, Kazmir has been mowing down opposing hitters just like the Roman Gladiator’s did in their own colosseum. With a line drive percentage of 16.4, almost 4 points better than the league average, and a ground ball rate of 52%, way over the league average of 44, it’s no wonder that Kazmir seems to be coming into his own at the ripe old age of 30. Pitching at the Coliseum has helped Kazmir turn back the clock. His fastball velocity has been clocked at an average of just over 92 MPH, up a tick from last year. He is now throwing with the same velocity that he did way back in 2007. His overall numbers may go up a bit by the end of the season, but if you are a Fantasy Baseball Owner who has been bitten by the injury bug and need a starting pitcher Kazmir is your man.
Jordan Lyles, Colorado Rockies
Let’s face it, many Fantasy Baseball Owner’s dismiss trade offers when the pitcher you are getting in return is a member of the Colorado Rockies starting rotation. After all, how could a pitcher who starts half of his games in the homer friendly thin air of the Rocky Mountains help your fantasy roster? What if I told you that Colorado’s Jordan Lyles has a home ERA ( 3.24 ) than road ERA ( 3.72 )? Lyles, who has won five of his first 6 decisions while compiling an overall 3.50 ERA and 1.22 WHIP, has been one of fantasy baseball’s most consistent starting pitchers who has given up fewer than three runs in six of his nine starts this season. His miserable start on 5/17 in which he gave up six runs to the lowly Padres makes it even more likely that you could swing a favorable deal for his services. His ground ball percentage of over 55% and fly ball percentage of just over 20% (league averages are usually in the 44 and 36% ranges respectively) are important factors that have helped to make him the kind of starting pitcher that could help you fantasy team now. With a very good defense playing behind him and a team that seems poised to make a run at the playoffs, Lyle should definitely be on your radar. Put your “Colorado Rockies bias” aside and make a deal for this 23 year old young stud in the making.
Tim Hudson, San Francisco Giants
After his 2013 season came to an abrupt end with a devastating ankle injury, Tim Hudson was largely an afterthought in this year’s fantasy drafts. With four wins, a 2.08 ERA and a miniscule 0.81 WHIP Hudson is making Fantasy Baseball Owners wish they had paid more attention to him. Hudson is enjoying a homecoming of sorts, pitching like Cy Young in San Francisco, just across the bay from where he enjoyed some of the best years of his career in Oakland. The knock on Hudson’s value as a fantasy pitcher has always been that he doesn’t get enough strike outs but with so many pitchers dropping like flies the fact that he can get you wins, a low ERA and WHIP might just be what saves your season. He may not put up big strikeout numbers, but he gets ahead of batters with his 64.9 first pitch strike percentage. (The major league average is 60%) Opposing hitters swing and miss at 10.5% of the pitches he throws for strikes, well above the 9.3% league average. His ground ball rates are high and fly ball rates are low so you know he is keeping the ball in the park. The only concern I would have in trading for Hudson is the fact that he missed his last start due to some tightness in his hip however he is expected to make his next start on 5/22. Monitor that situation carefully and if he is able to make his next start , more than likely it will probably be a good one.
Starting Pitchers to Sell High
Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee Brewers
Yovani Gallardo began the season just like his team the Milwaukee Brewers did: white hot. Gallardo wasn’t being picked up until the latter rounds of most drafts and those Fantasy Baseball Owners who did draft him looked like geniuses until… April 28th. That day marked the first of four straight starts in which Gallardo has given up more than three runs. On April 29th Gallardo’s ERA was sitting at a fantasy friendly 1.91. His ERA currently sits at 3.07. Reality is starting to set in. Gallardo is a pitcher who hasn’t won in seven starts dating back to April 6th.. The once mighty strikeout pitcher is throwing just 53.5% of his pitches for strikes, well below the major league average of 60%. His swinging strike rate which peaked at 9.2 in 2009 currently sits at a measly 5.4%. ( Anything over 8.5% for a starting pitcher is considered to be very good ) As the season progresses he is starting to look more and more like the pitcher who finished last year with a 4.19 ERA than the pitcher who put together a string of 15 2/3 scoreless innings earlier this season. My advice to you is to put Gallardo on the trading block while his hot start and all the excitement surrounding the Milwaukee Brewers is still fresh on your fellow Fantasy Baseball Manager’s mind. Trade him while his value is still relatively high.
Shelby Miller, St. Louis Cardinals
Shelby Miller has six wins so far this season and since he plays for the Cardinals you would expect that win total to continue to rise. He has a very respectable ERA of 2.79 and over his last three starts (17 1/3 innings), Miller has allowed a total of just four earned runs. So why is this the perfect time to trade him? If you look beyond the conventional stats you’ll realize that there’s a storm coming, and if you haven’t moved Miller by the time it hits, you’ll surely regret it. Need proof? Miller’s K/9 rate of 6.97 is the highest in his career and his BB/9 rate of 5.05 is more than 2 points higher than his rate from last season. Although Miller has a very good conventional ERA his SIERA, ( Skill-Interactive Earned Run Average) an ERA estimator that takes into account the intricacies of pitching and how well he actually performed, stands at 4.84 way higher than the league average of 3.90. Need more convincing? How about his declining swinging strike rate of 7.4%, the lowest of his career and considerably lower than the 8.5% rate that is considered good for a starting pitcher. When you take into consideration Miller’s lofty WHIP (1.41), high LOB % (90.9) and elevated HR to fly ball ratio (15.4) you have the recipe for the perfect storm that will ultimately derail Miller’s season.