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AL SP: The Sell High Guys

Last week, I looked at several American League starting pitchers off to disappointing starts and asked whether we should buy low or not. This week I am not going to do the same as the only possible argument one can make for continued success from these pitchers is their team’s defense. As such, all are strong sells as I would much prefer to bet on skill winning out that expecting elite defensive support to continue.

Derek Lowe

Seriously? How has a guy who has walked more than he has struck out managed to post an ERA near 2.00 over 58.2 innings? A nearly 67% ground ball rate obviously helps immensely, but when you have only struck out 15 batters in those innings, you are walking quite the tight rope. Speaking of walking, at least Lowe has issued only 18 free passes, but his F-Strike% is at a career low and well below the league average. What happens if his control regresses plus his luck runs out? It’s bombs away and his ERA skyrockets towards 4.50-5.00. I honestly wouldn’t even touch him in an AL-Only league. Trade him for anything you can get at this point to someone desperate for any pitcher with a pulse.

Jeremy Hellickson

Hellickson would normally appear in this type of column, but he is doing exactly what he did last year. It is still too early to completely redefine the rules and claim he has some crazy BABIP and base-runner stranding skills. At this point, it still could be nothing more than some good fortune over a little over a season’s worth of innings, but I have officially given up trying to come up with an explanation. I will tell you one thing- just like Matt Cain, he will never appear on my fantasy teams!

Brandon McCarthy

He would have been a solid candidate, but now on the DL with a strained shoulder, it will be tough to trade him away. A more than 1.00 difference between his SIERA and ERA means you might not have a chance to let him reestablish his trade value when he returns.

Kyle Drabek

It might still be difficult to get single season leaguers to bite, but keeper leagues should be trying their best to give away Drabek. The ground ball rate is fantastic, but man his control is terrible. He is last among all starters in baseball in Zone% and third to last in F-Strike%. So yeah, that walk rate is no fluke and not looking to decline anytime soon. He’s actually not too different than Edinson Volquez, but his stuff and strikeout ability isn’t as good, and he plays in a much worse division and home ball park. While the nearly 18% HR/FB ratio will obviously come down, that BABIP is going to rise, while his LOB% falls precipitously.

Henderson Alvarez

Alvarez is the Blue Jays version of Derek Lowe. And yes, another Blue Jays pitcher makes this list. You might be wondering if maybe the Jays defense is a factor here, but the answer is curious. While they do indeed lead baseball in BABIP against, they are actually below average in UZR/150. I have read that they have been employing the shift quite aggressively this year and more so than in past seasons. This would suggest that the low BABIP may be sustainable. Last year, the Rays led baseball with a .265 BABIP and no team has posted a mark below .270 in previous recent seasons. It is hard to believe the Jays’ BABIP doesn’t rise some, especially since their UZR/150 is below average. When that defense starts to fall back to Earth, Alvarez and is putrid strikeout rate are going to crash as well. He may even find himself back in the minors as a starting pitcher simply cannot sustain success with a strikeout rate below 3.0.