More September Pitching notes (AL)
September is one of the trickiest times of year in fantasy baseball,
primarily because of pitching. Between call-ups, dead arms and
pennant races, there are almost too many variables to account
for. It's next to impossible to predict how well minor league
pitchers will fare on their first showing in the majors. You just
never know how they will react to the larger than life stage, how
quickly hitters will recognize their pitches or what might go wrong
mechanically once they experience their first tough situation.
Will you have the next Bobby Madritsch or the next Felix Diaz?
Regardless of how good the guy's numbers are in the minors, you just
never know. So unless you are in a keeper league or simply
desperate for a pitching miracle I'd avoid September call-ups until
they pitch a couple of outings, no matter how impressive their resume
Most pitchers experience a dead arm period at some point during the
season. Fatigue usually sets in usually after a few more innings
than they pitched last year. For some pitchers, it lasts only a
couple of starts. For others, it may last the rest of the year
because they try to compensate and end up with irregular
mechanics. It really depends on how much the pitcher is
used per start, what kind of repertoire he has, how much support he
gets... many of the same things that affect his performance normally.
Nate Robertson, for example, is a strong play every start from here on
Although he looked like a pitcher on the downswing, he is not.
His dead arm period just happened to coincide with a brutal schedule in
which he faced the Yankees, White Sox, Indians, Rangers, Red Sox and
Angels consecutively. His slider flattened out and as a result he
got hit very hard. But since then his slider has rebounded, he's
pitched very nicely and the bonus is that his schedule includes Kansas
City, Tampa (twice), Minnesota and Baltimore, none of whom have had
much luck against lefties.
I suspect Mark Mulder's recent struggles are in part due to a dead
arm. He simply hasn't demonstrated his usual control.
Fortunately, the A's are scoring lots of runs for him so his win totals
keep rising. The question is just how long will this last.
Last year he finished an injury-abridged 186.2 innings. This
year, he's already at 197. He's averaged nearly 4 walks per
outing in his last 6 starts so he may be coming out of it soon.
He better because his scheduled starts for the remainder of the season
include the Blue Jays, Indians, Rangers (twice) and possibly Anaheim on
the final day of the season.
Several people have indicated that they expect Johan Santana to come
back to earth because of his workload this year. That may be a
little overcautious. Santana didn't do a lot of
pitching for the first month and a half of the season. The reason
was that he was still a little tentative about his post-surgery
elbow. He didn't feel comfortable letting go. The result
was that he couldn't locate his pitches and he got hit pretty
hard. he also had some problems tipping his pitches because he
was concentrating so hard on keeping his mechanics straight. In
knocked out early so often was probably a blessing in disguise.
If you look at his pitch counts this season, he has not gone over
the 120 pitch mark in any of his starts. In fact, he has topped
110 pitches just 7 times. Not only is he striking lots of batters
out, but he's pitching very efficiently. His 15.2 pitches per
inning is 7th best in the AL, which is amazing since Brad Radke (15.1)
is the only guy ahead of him that isn't an extreme groundball pitcher
(Jake Westbrook, Ryan Drese, Jon Lieber, Carlos Silva and Mark
Mulder are the others). As I pointed out at the All-Star Break
last year, Johan
Santana is arguably the best pitcher in the American League. He
was for the second half of last year and he certainly looks like it
Cliff Lee on the other hand, is probably going to continue his
struggles. He's already thrown 20 more innings than he threw last
year, but unlike Santana he's been terribly inefficient - 17.8
pitchers per inning - worst in the American League. Given
the woes of the Cleveland bullpen, it not a good bet that any runners
he might leave on base the rest of the way will be stranded. He's
a great pick-up for next year, but for the rest of this season he may
be a WHIP and ERA albatross that drags down your title hopes.
Had he pitched enough innings to qualify, Erik Bedard would be the most
inefficient pitcher in the AL, averaging 19.4 pitches per inning.
That's just terrible. He has also thrown 100 more innings than he
threw last year when he was recovering from reconstructive
surgery. I don't expect any long term issues there, but I doubt
be any help down the stretch. As a long range keeper, he's a
mixed bag. His biggest disadvantage is pitching to Javy
Lopez. Lopez is notorious for setting up well outside the
strikezone any time a pitcher gets a second strike on a hitter.
It's almost laughable watching veteran hitting teams like the Yankees
and Red Sox ease closer to the plate whenever they get a second
strike. Bedard's stuff is so good, mostly all they can do is foul
off pitches or let them go for balls, despite Lopez not moving his
glove. Maybe the umps are noticing that his glove is hovering
over the opposing batter's box. Who knows. But I don't
think it's coincidence that Bedard's longest outing of the year - a
7-inning, 10 strikeout performance - came with Robert Machado behind
Bruce Chen, on the other hand, might be a nice sleeper down the
stretch. He still has a gopherball problem but it's not nearly
as bad as it was in previous years when he got kicked from team to
team. It will be interesting to see
how he finishes. He's got what looks like a tough schedule, but
might not be as bad as it looks. Tampa struggles against
lefties and both Fenway and Yankee stadium favor lefties.
Minnesota hasn't been particularly strong against them either. If
can keep the ball in the yard in those starts, he could turn in a very
nice stretch run until his final two starts with only one speed bump
when he faces the Yanks at Camden. I would sit him regardless for
Scott Elarton, although risky, might be a nice play down the
stretch. He hasn't walked more than 2 batters in any start since
June 27 and has averaged 5 strikeouts a start over his last 9
starts. Like Chen, he has an excellent minor league pedigree but
the home run has been his bugaboo. If he can keep them to solo
shots the rest of the way, which certainly seems possible considering
he has 2 starts against KC (13th in the AL in walks), Anaheim (14th)
and Minnesota (10th), he may be worth the risk.
Jon Lieber has not been all the Yankees hoped he'd be, but there's
still a chance that he could be useful down the stretch. For the
past month, the Yankees have been using a 6-man rotation, which means
that each pitcher gets an extra days' rest. For a sinkerballer
like Lieber, that's not necessarily a good thing. Just like his
first few innings of each start are the most dangerous because he's
more likely to elevate the pitch, pitching on 5 days rest hurts both
his control and the sink on his pitches. Back into a normal
rotation and with a double header coming up, Lieber could pitch on
short rest a couple of times in September. That could be just
what he needs to silence his critics.