Last week I focused exclusively on hitting trends so it seems only fair that this week I focus on pitching. Eventually, I hope my format will evolve to the point that I'll be analyzing a mixture of both pitchers and hitters, but for now let's get started!
Fantasy Baseball Pitchers Trending Upwards
Matt Garza (SP), Milwaukee Brewers
On the season, Matt Garza is pitching to a 3.78 ERA, 6.78 K/9 and 2.78 BB/9 line. I believe it was the ERA over 4.00 that led many of you to ask me what you should do with Garza. Let's take a look at his most recent performances and see if you can infer for yourself: in his last time out, Garza arguably had his best start of the season against the Reds, going the distance for a shutout and allowing just four baserunners while striking out nine. In his last four starts, including the one in which he gave up four runs to Colorado, he is pitching to a 2.67 ERA, 7.12 K/9 and 1.19 BB/9, which doesn't include Garza's most recent effort against the Phillies, which would make the line look even prettier). His ERA is on its way down, his strikeouts are up and his walks are down. These are the keys to success, RotoBaller.
Rest of the season:
In the preseason, many fantasy experts ranked Garza as close to a top-30 starting pitcher. While I don't believe that is the case, I could see him finishing just outside the top 40. I don't rank him higher because of his poor start and the fact that there have been many surprising pitching performances this year. However, even as a top-40 fantasy starting pitcher, he has way more value than the waiver wire fodder that some have accused him of being. You could try packaging Garza with another piece to get a higher end SP back, but being "stuck" with Garza is far from the end of the world.
Corey Kluber (SP), Cleveland Indians
I've been a Kluber Trooper since the preseason and his peripherals suggest he's been pitching at an ace-type level for at least a year and a half. On the season, Corey Kluber is pitching to a 2.86 ERA, 9.81 K/9 (good for sixth in MLB behind David Price and ahead of guys like Zack Greinke, Felix Hernandez and Masahiro Tanaka) and a 2.15 BB/9 line. Kluber is definitely one of those early season surprises that I mentioned above. So how has he improved on that season line? By pitching to a 1.24 ERA, 9.00 K/9 and 1.24 BB/9 line in his last four starts. He may have sacrificed some strikeouts, but I believe most owners would take that in return for the much lower ERA. Those are the kind of numbers that would earn him a Cy Young award.
Rest of the season:
My one concern with Kluber is that it's just before the All-Star break and he's already nearing his career-high in innings pitched. Otherwise, nothing about the underlying numbers suggest that he will regress. I predict that Kluber will finish as a top-25 pitcher for the season, and if his owner has some doubts then now is the time to buy!
Ervin Santana (SP), Atlanta Braves
Ervin Santana was supposed to dominate once he switched to the National League. Unfortunately, things did not turn out as planned, with a 4.01 ERA, 7.85 K/9 and 2.54 BB/9 on the season. The K/9 and walks aren't terrible, but the ERA is certainly higher than anyone expected. However, in his last four starts Santana has pitched to a 3.67 ERA, 8.00 K/9 and 1.67 BB/9 line. More importantly, he's allowed just 0.74 HR/9 for the season. Giving up fewer homers, walking fewer batters and striking out more hitters are definitely something I can get behind.
Rest of season:
Santana's K/9 this season is second only to his career-high of 8.79 in 2008. His HR/9 is also way below career norms, and his walk rate is diminished as well. In terms of ERA, Santana's batting average against of .259 is about nine points higher than his career norm, and hitters have a .317 BABIP against him, which is way worse than his career norm of .284. This all suggests to me a pitcher that has been getting a little unlucky, and I could see the ERA coming down as long as he keeps his home run rate down. I'm still not sure how much I trust Santana, but he should at least finish as a top-50 starting pitcher, making him quite useful. On the other hand, if you could package him and someone else for, say, Corey Kluber, I'd do it in a heartbeat!
Fantasy Baseball Pitchers Trending Downwards:
Mike Minor (SP), Atlanta Braves
Mike Minor came into the season highly touted as a top-20 pitcher. Unfortunately, after an early shoulder injury sidelined Minor for a bit, the results have not really justified that optimistic outlook. Minor has been inconsistent at best on the season, pitching to a 4.54 ERA with an 8.61 K/9 and a 2.68 BB/9. Perhaps most importantly, he's allowed an unsightly 1.63 HR/9. It's hard to believe that his past four starts were even worse, especially since he had a fairly good game against the Mets his last time out, but they were. Minor allowed nearly two homers a game over that stretch, the equivalent of video game numbers against a pitcher, and that's not a good sign for Minor.
Rest of the season:
Another not-so-great sign is that these last four starts included two starts against the light-hitting Mets.Yikes. Contrary to what you might think, though, I still believe in Minor. As a top-20 pitcher? No, at this point I don't see that for this season. But can he at least reach the top 40 going forward? Absolutely. Most of his numbers are in line with what he did last year when he pitched to a 3.24 ERA. His major bugaboos have been the home run, and the frequency with which balls in play are finding the holes. If he can get the homers under control and turn the luck in his favor, then he could still be a very serviceable pitcher going forward.
Phil Hughes (SP), Minnesota Twins
Speaking of people who have a reputation for being homer prone, haaaaave you met Phil Hughes? Funny enough, Hughes actually has the homers under control this season, and he'd been pitching fairly well until a handful of bad recent starts. On the season, Hughes has a 3.70 ERA, 7.87 K/9, 0.85 BB/9 and a 0.69 HR/9 rate-- Hughes has managed the second-best K/BB ratio in the majors. Those numbers are very solid, and they'd look even better if it weren't for his last four starts. Sure, he did well against the Mariners his last time out, but his numbers for the past four starts still look like this: 5.81 ERA, 8.20 K/9, 1.03 BB/9 and 0.68 HR/9. That looks like his season line, minus the ERA. So what got Hughes in trouble here? Maybe it's the insanely high .398 BABIP against him. Or the fact that the last four teams he's faced have been the Mariners, Yankees, Rangers and Sox, each one a fairly powerful team.
Rest of the season:
It could be my personal bias of wanting to see Hughes succeed, but it's pretty hard to give up on a player who has the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in the majors. Just for fun, let's see what his line would be like without those last four starts: 3.09 ERA, 7.77 K/9, 0.80 BB/9 and 0.70 HR/9. That is a very serviceable pitcher, especially for the middle or back end of your rotation. As long as Hughes can continue being the new Hughes who doesn't allow as many homers, I'm a believer at the right price.
Dallas Keuchel (SP), Houston Astros
Dallas Keuchel was someone who if you missed him on the waiver wire you were probably kicking yourself for not making the pickup. While he doesn't strike out a ton, as suggested by his 6.79 K/9, his 3.20 ERA and 2.18 BB/9 on the season is great, especially when you consider some of his more recent starts. Until very recently, there was a lot of talk of Keuchel being a top-30 pitcher for the season, and then his wrist got inflamed and his recent numbers have not been pretty. Since June 17th, Keuchel has pitched to a 6.20 ERA with an even lower 4.38 K/9 and a higher BB/9 of 3.65. Going down the path of striking out fewer and walking more is the path to Mt. Doom for pitchers.
Rest of the season:
The All-Star break should help Keuchel to heal his wrist a bit. If that doesn't work, I could see a DL stint being in his future. This is still a guy who is better than most of the waiver wire options out there, but especially because he will never strike out a ton of guys, he is definitely not a top-30 option. Personally, I'd rank Keuchel within the top 60, maybe even 50, if he really turns it on in the second half. If I were a Keuchel owner, I'd be holding for now but monitoring him very closely from start to start. If he runs into trouble after the All-Star break it may be time to cut ties.
An important thing to note is these stats are up to date as of the early afternoon of July 10th, 2014 and may not include the most recent starts. That said, one start won't change my advice regarding the rest of the season.
Thanks for reading guys! Feel free to give me feedback either here or on twitter @RekedFantasy. If there is a specific trend you'd like me to review, I'd love to hear about it! See you all next week!