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AL SP Musings: Harrison, Tillman and McCarthy

With only a week of baseball in the books, it is time for small sample size analysis! Here are some thoughts on various AL starting pitchers.

Matt Harrison

The former Braves prospect opened eyes after his sterling performance against the powerhouse Red Sox offense this past Sunday. He was immediately added in my shallow 12-team mixed league, so I have to assume he was picked up in many others as well. In fact, his ownership percentage in CBS leagues skyrocketed from 10% to 40% since the first scoring period began. Two encouraging signs suggest that this could be his breakout year : His average fastball velocity jumped last season and not only was that level sustained during his first start, it actually increased another 0.3 miles per hour. Second, his SwStr% was an impressive 11.1%, a mark that would have ranked fifth among all Major League starters last season, to give you some perspective. He has always shown pretty good control and induced ground balls at an above league average level, so might as well give Harrison a shot if he is still available in your league.

Chris Tillman

Tillman is another former top prospect, but one who was thought of highly a little more recently than Harrison. His first start got him picked up in my league, but I am not getting too excited. His average fastball velocity dipped just below 90.0 miles per hour, while his SwStr% was a lowly 5.9%. Along with just okay control and a fly ball tilt, I do not see what all the fuss is about. He is nothing more than a gamble in AL-Only leagues, just as he was coming into drafts.

Brandon McCarthy

After somewhat hyping up the supposed new look McCarthy several weeks ago, he started his first game on Tuesday and the results were mixed. The good news was that his control was outstanding, and his GB% was at a career best of nearly 47%, the first time it crept above 39.0%. On the downside, he struck out only two and generated a SwStk% of just 3.4%. Unfortunately, Pitch Type and Velocity data have not been posted yet at the time of this writing, but I am very interested in seeing what his fastball averaged. Back in 2006, McCarthy’s fastball averaged almost 91.0 miles per hour, but that figure dropped to just under 89.0 miles per hour last season. If he is truly healthier than he has been in years, I would hope and expect that his velocity has improved. Either way, he remains an intriguing and cheap AL-Only find.