h2h Corner ~ I’m a Believer: All-star Game, National League Pitchers Edition

Welcome to June’s “I’m a Believer” column. Yes, I got the name from a Monkees’ song. And yes, I like the song. Did you know that Neil Diamond wrote it, as well as many other songs by the Monkees? Isn’t Neil Diamond cool (Red Sox fans)? Therefore – fantasy baseball love notwithstanding – aren’t I cool (hello, transitive property)?

Didn’t think so. But at least you now have “Then I saw her face, now I’m a believer…” stuck in your head (Co-Stan-Za, by Mennen).

For this month’s version, I’m focusing on your Major League All-stars. Yesterday I discussed the National League’s position players.

I’m a believer in:

Heath Bell – Joe Nathan, Jonathan Broxton, and Ryan Franklin – those are the only relief pitchers ranked ahead of Bell this season. Bell, the 42nd ranked player in Yahoo! leagues has a .261 BAbip this year, which is a bit below his career norm of .307. Unsurprisingly, his ratios are a bit lower than normal as well. However, there shouldn’t be an impending massive correction. Bell will continue to post an ERA around 2.00 and a WHIP around 1.10. What will limit Bell’s value in the second half is the fact that the Padres are abysmal – sound familiar Adrian Gonzalez owners? If you can, trade off his impressive first half for a comparable closer like Fuentes or Brian Wilson and some pocket change, go right ahead.

Ryan FranklinFranklin is much like Heath Bell, except his ratios are even better (0.82 ERA and 0.82 WHIP). Also like Bell, Franklin’s BAbip is out of line with his career norm. For his career Franklin has posted a .273 BAbip; this year it is .196. Good luck keeping that up. I’d be moving Franklin if you can get decent value for him.

Jonathan Broxton – Broxton has been unreal this year: 3.10 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and 65 Ks in just 40.2 IPs. Broxton’s BAbip is also a little better this year compared to other seasons (.309 for career vs. .260 in 2009). Still his Ks more than make up for any correction that might occur. While Broxton’s WHIP might rise, his ERA should probably decrease. He’ll continue to push Joe Nathan to be the top reliever in the game.

Francisco Cordero – Cordero is the 11th best reliever (statistically) and has the ninth most saves. He has been a steady reliever since switching to the National League in 2006. The save numbers will be there, however his ratios (1.75 ERA/1.14 WHIP) will not continue to be this good. Continuing the trend of NL relievers: Cordero’s 2009 BAbip is .264 compared against a career number of .306. His WHIP should remain low (in the 1.20 range), but his ERA will most likely rise (settling around 3.30 or so).

Francisco Rodriguez – K-Rod has been just as good as ever this year: 22 saves, 1.73 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and a serviceable 41 Ks in 41.2 IPs. Before the season, people were predicting doom and gloom for the 27-year old reliever; however a switch to the senior circuit may have recharged his career. His WHIP is right in line with his last three seasons, while his ERA is a bit lower than usual. Care to guess why? A 2009 BAbip of .231 compared to a career BAbip of .267. So there could be a minor correction in his ERA, but he’ll likely continue to be a very useful closer.

Chad Billingsley – Billingsley probably isn’t having the year you think. Sure he’s been good, really good in fact, but would it surprise you that he is the 23rd ranked starting pitcher in Yahoo! leagues? What is nice about Billingsley’s season is the number 119, as in the ninth most strike-outs over the first half. His ERA and WHIP are right in line with his career. I ranked Billingsley the ninth best pitcher coming into the year, and I don’t see him finishing the year outside the top 20.

Matt Cain – Everyone is talking about how much improved Matt Cain is this year (he is the 10th ranked pitcher). Outside of his win-loss record, I’m not sure people are correct. His K:Walk ratio and HR allowed are almost dead on with his career average. So, why is his ERA almost one point lower than normal? Well, his BAbip is .269 which is a little lower than average. I’m not hating on Matt Cain by any stretch (I did rank him as the 10th best pitcher going into this year), I’m just saying that his value is a bit inflated. If you can capitalize on this, sell high. I’m not sure Cain will continue to be in the top 10 among pitchers through the second half. Also, Cain was struck by a line drive Friday. Still, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, x-rays ruled out any fractures in the elbow.

Dan Haren – Haren, the number one pitcher in fantasyland, has been unconscious: 9 wins, 129 Ks, a 2.01 ERA and a 0.81 WHIP. His ERA is 1.00 – 2.00 lower than his last three years and his WHIP is 0.30 – 0.40 lower over that span. His BAbip this year is .233, while his career is .289. In addition, Haren’s career first half ERA/WHIP is 3.08/1.06, while his second half career ERA/WHIP is 4.12/1.33. This could be the year he puts it all together. However, I won’t bank on something until it occurs. Given his tremendous first half, I’d be trying to move Haren now.

Josh Johnson – Everyone’s preseason darling, Johnson turned in the ninth best first half among starting pitchers on the strength of his 102 Ks, a 2.82 ERA, and a 1.11 WHIP. There really aren’t any red flags with Johnson’s first half – his BAbip is in line with the norm and his first half/second half splits are quite similar. Johnson will likely continue to be an elite pitching option.

Ted Lilly – No one likes Lilly as much as I do, well aside from independent evaluators (Lilly turned in the 12th ranked starting pitching performance according to Yahoo!). I ranked Lilly the 16th best pitcher to start the season and he is making me feel good, with a line of: 101 Ks, 3.18 ERA, and 1.11 WHIP. The HR ball has hurt Lilly throughout his career, so you’d expect his 2009 line to reflect a decrease in HRs since his ratios are better. Not the case, my friend, as he is on pace to give up more HRs than anytime in his career. There are also no red flags with his BAbip or first/second half splits, so enjoy the Lilly-ride.

Tim LincecumPhenom(enal) freak Lincecum posted the second best first half: 149 Ks (the most in the majors), a 2.33 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. Lincecum is poised to become the Albert Pujols of starting pitchers. Man, is he good.

Jason Marquis – Marquis hasn’t really been a useful fantasy player (the 465th ranked player in Yahoo! leagues): 58 Ks, 3.65 ERA and 1.31 WHIP. The ratios are usable, but the lack of Ks and poor home ballpark really limit his value – them be the reasons he is owned in only 56% of Yahoo! leagues. In deeper leagues, he’ll be a good match-up option, but it shallower (10-teamers) he is fairly worthless.

Johan Santana – I guess I’m saving the second best for last. I am on record as not too worried about Santana’s struggles. What is wrong with this line: 109.1 IPs, 107 Ks, a 3.29 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP? Ok, over his last 37.1 IPs, Santana has only struck out 18 batters, while posting a 5.79 ERA and 1.45 WHIP. Santana’s strike-out to walk ratio is down to 1.14 over his last 28 days, which is nowhere near his career norms. Unless he is hurt, that number should correct itself and he should bring his ratios back in order. If you can buy low on him, I think that is a good speculative play.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jesse M on July 13, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    You’re a believer? Your advice on the first two guys you list – Bell and Franklin – is to trade them! And same with Haren later on…how can you both be a believer and try to trade them?

    Reply

  2. I thought i’d get into trouble with this, curse you Jesse for calling me on it (:-)).

    I should have wrote:

    I believe that…

    You should trade Ryan Franklin
    You should trade Heath Bell
    You should hang onto Jonathan Broxton
    You should hang onto Franciscos Cordero and Rodriguez
    You should hang onto Chad BIllingsley
    You should trade Matt Cain
    You should trade Dan Haren
    You should keep Josh Johnson
    You should keep Ted Lilly
    You should only trade Tim Lincecum for Albert Pujols, Chase Utley, or Hanley Ramirez (if fully healthy)
    You should trade Jason Marquis for $0.05
    You should be trading for Johan Santana

    That’s pretty optimistic for pitchers, as i generally like to trade pitching for hitting. Of course, this is an All-star squad.

    Sorry for being confusing — i will note it for future columns…

    Reply

  3. Posted by Evan Rosen on July 13, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    Sounds like a keep, trade, or drop post! Interesting stuff guys.

    Reply

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