Sometimes hot starts are so hot we know that they have no chance of continuing (see the .403 batting average of Chris Davis). Other times players are so frosty in their performance that there is no doubt that, barring injury, things will turn around (Gio Gonzalez and his 5.85 ERA come to mind). In this article we’ll delve into a handful of hot/cold starters and try to point you in the right direction to help you to evaluate their performances in the proper context for the game of fantasy baseball.
PLAYERS TO SELL
Clay Buchholz, SP, Red Sox
Hello to the AL leader in ERA (0.90) and wins (four). Clay’s also sporting a 1.00 WHIP through 30 innings. Oh yeah, he also has 29 Ks in that time. Even if you disagree with me that he is a must sell candidate, I hope you aren’t looking at his 2.33 ERA in 2010 and thinking this is who he is. This isn’t who he is. Clay has a 8.70 K/9 mark this season that is fully two batters above his career rate. He’s not going to sustain that growth, especially since his fastball velocity is at a six year low right now. When that strikeout mark comes back down he will start to have issues given that he’s still walking 3.30 batters per nine. There will also be concern when his HR/F rate rises as his current mark of 0.30 is less than a third of his career 0.93 mark. It’s also a bit unwieldy to see him holding batters to less than a .185 average even though his current line drive rate would be a six year high. Oh, and he’s also generating fewer ground balls than at any point in the last six years. Add that all up and you should know what to do.
Roberto Hernandez, SP, Rays
Do I really need to even say it? From the sounds of a few questions I’ve gotten, it seems like I do. Hernandez, the thought goes, will drink the magic elixir with the Rays and return to his glory days. Uh, no. Hernandez only tossed 14.1 innings last year, and if we add in his 24.2 innings this season we have a guy who is 1-6 with a 5.77 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. Who wants that? Oh, and those 25 Ks in 24.2 innings this season are a sample size outlier. In 973.2 career innings he’s been a terrible option in the strikeout department with a 5.47 per nine mark.
Andy Pettitte, SP, Yankees
We’ve already seen the 40+ year old dealing with health issues and those aren’t likely to diminish as the innings pile up. Something no one seems to remember with Pettitte is that over the course of the 2011, 2012 and the start of the 2013 season that he has thrown a total of 97.2 innings. That’s it. Moreover, the last time he tossed 200 innings was 2008. And he’s over 40 folks. The last time he had an ERA under 4.00 in a season with 130 innings pitched was 2005. Read that again. The last time he had a WHIP under 1.35 in a season of 130 innings pitched was 2005. Read that again. The last time he struck out more than seven batters per nine innings in a season of 130 innings pitched was 2006. Read that again. Pettitte certainly has a chance to be league average, when he drags his body out onto the field, but it would be wise to explore the trade market as people seem to be greatly overestimating his fantasy value for 2013.
Travis Wood, SP, Cubs
Wood has only one win thus far, but through three starts he has a 1.83 ERA and 1.07 WHIP and people are getting excited. Don’t be one of those people. Wood owns a career 4.10 ERA and 1.24 WHIP over 384.1 innings. That level of performance is much more the type of hurler he is than the guy we’ve seen thus far this year. Wood currently had a four year low K-rate which is under six per nine innings. That’s awful. Wood has a career worst 3.66 BB/9 mark that is a half batter above the league average. After allowing more than a homer every nine innings in his career Wood has somehow managed to toss 19.2 innings without allowing a big fly in ’13. His BABIP is also more than .040 points below his career mark. I could go on, but hopefully that is enough information for you to come to the same realization I have – it’s time to sell the Cubs’ lefty.
Barry Zito, SP, Giants
In three of his four outings this season he has looked great. However, he was obliterated in his other start. Some have visions of Zito turning back the clock to his Athletic days. You shouldn’t. Here is why. (1) His ERA (3.42) and WHIP (1.27) are solid but not earth shattering by any means. (2) His K/9 is 6.46, which is below the league average, is a full batter better than the mark he’s posted the past two years. Is he likely to hold on to that? (3) Zito has a 2.66 BB/9 mark. That would be the best mark of his career and more than a batter better than his career rate. (4) His 0.76 HR/9 mark would be his best mark since 2003. (5) His 1.27 WHIP would be his first mark under 1.34 since 2005. (6) His 78 percent left on base percentage would be the second best mark he’s posted since 2002 and it would be a seven year best. (7) His 0.71 GB/FB ratio would be a career worst. (8) His xFIP is 4.44, a full run above his raw total. Deal Zito now before everything returns to the league average levels we’ve come to expect.
PLAYERS TO BUY
Billy Butler, 1B, Royals
Please tell me that you aren’t panicking with Butler, a .299 career batter who has hit at least .291 each of the past four seasons. So what if he’s hitting .216 right now. He’ll be fine. He’s working with a 20 percent line drive rate, slightly above his career rte, but somehow his BABIP is down .111 points. Sample size people.
Edwin Jackson, SP, Nationals
He has a 4.84 ERA and 0-3 record for the Cubs. People will focus on those two numbers and panic. Don’t be that guy. EJax has 24 punchouts in 22.1 innings and he’s holding batters to a .225 average in the early. A cheap source of production that you likely could add for peanuts.
Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers
Kemp has looked awful with a .235/.270/.294 line this April which is diametrically opposed to his phenomenal April last season (.417/.490/.893). He’s had some trouble with his timing which has shown itself in his ability to handle off speed stuff (he has one hit every 32 pitches of that nature that he has seen this year while that mark was one every 18 pitches in 2010-12). He’s also had a hard time turning on pitches on the inner half of the plate (of the 115 pitches on the inner half this season he’s only been able to put two balls in the air to left field). Despite all of that, and the fact that there are a lot of worries about the state of his shoulder, you really didn’t think I was going to say anything other than that he was a great buy low option, right?
Adam LaRoche, 1B, Nationals
If I get one more LaRoche question… it’s like no one knows anything about history. LaRoche is hitting .200 with three homers and a .698 OPS and folks are freaking out. Have you bothered to look at LaRoche’s career work? LaRoche is always awful in April – it’s his worst career month (.220/.315/.404). and guess what happens? He gets better as the weather heats up. He always does. Here are his career numbers per month:
LaRoche will hit .270 with his 25 homers and 85 RBIs. He always does. Just have some patience.
Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs
Rizzo is bating .210 on the season. Most probably aren’t panicking cause he has six homers and 14 RBIs in 17 games, and you shouldn’t be either. Pretty sure he’s not going to struggle along with a .184 BABIP this season. That average will come up – this isn’t Adam Dunn II here.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Friday at 5 PM EDT. For more of Ray’s analysis you can check out BaseballGuys.com or the BaseballGuys’ Twitter account where he tirelessly answer everyone’s questions.