h2h Corner ~ I’m a Believer: All-star Game, American 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.

I’m a believer that:

Andrew Bailey is a Jonathan Broxton clone. Who has the most strike-outs among relievers in the American League this year? Don’t cheat. Give up? Andrew Bailey, with 60, just five less than MLB relief leader, Broxton. Sure, Bailey only has half as many saves as Broxton at the moment. However, with Broxton’s toe injury and Bailey being the A’s full-time closer now, their second half values will be much closer than you think.

Josh Beckett owners who sold him at the beginning of the year are very sad and likely in trouble. Yeah, Beckett had a March/April ERA/WHIP of 7.22/1.81; however, if you traded him, you ignored his K-rate. In just 28.2 IPs, Beckett had 31 Ks and just 16 walks. I don’t need to tell you how his season has gone since then. He’s been his usual All-star self and posted the 14th best first half among pitchers.

Mark Buehrle isn’t nearly as useful as you think. Sure a 3.66 ERA and 1.19 WHIP are great, but just 66 Ks? That is only six more than Andrew Bailey, yet Buehrle has pitched 70 more innings. That’s absurd. If you’re using Buehrle you might as well trade him then grab a high K reliever. Buehrle is simply a better real life player (I kid) than he is a fantasy option – hey it happens.

Brian Fuentes can lead the league in saves. Sure, I’m cheating a bit, as Fuentes saved the most games over the first half. However, ask any non-Fuentes owner and I bet they wouldn’t know Fuentes posted three more saves than any other closer. You know what’s even more impressive, Fuentes’ 3.23 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. To think, his ERA through May was 5.00+ and his WHIP was over 1.50. Fuentes has been remarkable of late – he hasn’t allowed a run since May.

Zack Greinke is a great player *but* that doesn’t mean you can’t trade him. Greinke, the third best starting pitcher according to Yahoo!, has seen his strike-out to walk ratio settle around 5.00 after he posted an 11 K:walk ratio in May. For his career, Greinke’s K:walk ratio is just 3.27, however that includes his earlier unrefined seasons. Greinke will continue to be an above average pitcher, but I doubt he’ll finish in the top five of SPs. Make sure you get a top 20-30 hitter for him, but if you can, I’d have no problemo moving Greinke.

Felix Hernandez will earn the nickname “king” before LeBron James does. Hernandez has put it all together, posting a 2.53 ERA and 1.14 WHIP with 121 Ks over the first half. I don’t know if Hernandez is underrated, but there certainly hasn’t been as much ink written about his season as there has been for Greinke and Justin Verlander. I’d much rather have King Felix for the second half.

Edwin Jackson is prime for a second half decline. I like Edwin Jackson, I advised people to pick him up early on and I flipped him for serviceable players like Curtis Granderson –he made me look smart, which is hard to do. Anyway, there are a few things that give me pause when I think about Jackson continuing his success. The first is a .249 BAbip on the season, while his career BAbip is, not surprisingly, .305. That will correct itself, which will raise Jackson’s ERA and WHIP. Another problem is his strikeout to walk ratio is out of whack with what he has done in his career. Sure he could be blossoming, but lots of pitchers “blossom” over half a season and then come back to earth.

Joe Nathan is so good he is boring. There have been questions about Papelbon this year and Rivera in the past. However, have there ever been any questions about Joe Nathan, who just happens to have turned in the best first half among relievers? Nathan has registered 23 saves this year, which puts him on pace to have more than any other year. Still, since 2004, Nathan has recorded 44, 43, 36, 37, and 39 saves. If there is such a thing as a safe closer, Nathan is that man.

Jonathan Papelbon is not nearly as bad as some have made him out to be. If you’re paid attention this year, you’ve heard rumors that Papelbon is injured, that there is something wrong with him. Papelbon is on pace for 46 saves, which would be the most in his career. People are worried because he isn’t striking out as many batters this year. Well his K/9 is 9.5 this year. Last year it was 10.0. With all the negative issues swirling around Papelbon, he could be a decent value on the trade market.

Mariano Rivera is so good both as a player and a person (look at that style) that I can’t hate him. I love the Orioles, I hate the Yankees. But it’s hard to hate what Rivera has accomplished. There isn’t anything you can say to “quantify” Rivera, he will get at least 30 saves (has had fewer only once since 1997), post insanely good ratios and provide some good Ks. If Nathan is the Monet of consistency, then Rivera is the Manet.

Justin Verlander is not to be trusted. Sure, Verlander has been impressive this year, striking out 149 batters in 122.1 IPs, while also posting a 3.38 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. He did post a 1.23 WHIP in 2007, so this type of ratio is not out of nowhere. Still, his true ability is probably somewhere between 2007 and 2008 during which he posted a 4.84 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. This means his current season is a little out of whack with what you can expect, especially because he is a far better first half pitcher (3.48 ERA and 1.21 WHIP) than second half pitcher (4.96 ERA and 1.49 WHIP).

Tim Wakefield is the American League’s version of Jason Marquis. Listen, Wakefield is a fine pitcher and can eat IPs. That’s not necessarily a good thing, though, in a fantasy league, as he hasn’t posted an ERA lower than 4.00 since 2002 and has only done so three times in his career. So if he has a higher ERA and pitches a lot of IPs, that hurts your team rather than helps. If you are chasing wins, he could provide some support as the Red Sox are by far one of the better teams. But with the knuckleball, it is hard to predict when it will be on. He’s a fringe fantasy starter at best.

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