This week’s two-start starter piece features a trio of righties, including two young fireballers and an aging former ace who may soon find himself in a new locale. As a reminder, team wOBA versus whatever handed the pitcher is will be what’s listed. Let’s dig right in:
Bartolo Colon (16.5 percent ESPN/21 percent Yahoo!) – @COL (.337), v. SD (.288)
The ageless Colon — a bad ass name for a band, I might add — has again re-invented himself over the past year and change after going M.I.A. on the White Sox. Colon leads the junior circuit in games started, a testament to the re-charging of the durability mojo for which he was once so revered (7 of 8 seasons over 200 IP earlier in his career). At this time Colon is in the Pavanian part of his career — despite being older than Carl — as he’s moved to allowing the most hits in the league, but is getting by as a result of slashing the free pass (1.1 versus a career mark of 3.0) and pitching in a more accommodating home park. The Rockies are a good offensive ballclub, especially against righties (fourth in wOBA in MLB), and Colon’s HR rate may not be too accommodating (10 in 82.2 IP).
But I’m taking Colon this week for a couple reasons. For one, he gets a woeful San Diego offense later in the week, and when picking through the scrap heap for two-start guys, sometimes all it takes is one awesome matchup. Secondly, its interleague play; most of these guys haven’t seen anything of Colon other than clubhouse video and some advanced scouting reports. I think Colon, at this stage of his career, has enough wit and wisdom to sneak it by a Rockies team that’s otherwise not been too good (24-32, percentage points better than Houston for the fourth-worst record in the NL). In other words, it’s a gut feel from a guy with a gut, on a guy with a gut.
Ivan Nova (37.0 percent ESPN/47 percent Yahoo!) – @ATL (.317), @WAS (.307)
Nova’s been my right-handed Felix Doubront this year, as I’ve pushed him mercilessly this season on friends and fantasy foes alike. Not only does he have a couple pretty good matchups against below-average/middle-of-the-pack clubs, but he’s still fanning a good number of hitters (8.0 per nine, though only 4.6 per nine over last three starts) on the season, and after all, he’s still backed by the world-beating Yankees offense (third-best in wOBA despite .285 BABIP).
But Nova isn’t without fault this week. The 4.6 K/9 has to be a bit worrisome considering the A’s and Rays are two of the more strikeout-prone teams in the league, and prior to this season, Nova had only fanned 5.4 per nine. Furthermore, he was fanning more hitters with stuff that was relatively the same, with the exception of a slightly faster slider (with a five percent usage increase). To summarize, I like Nova because I think he’s underachieved (3.86 xFIP agrees), is backed by a solid offense, and has a couple of nice matchups. Still, I don’t know that he’ll even continue to fan 8 per nine, and as a result, I think he’ll continue to flounder around 35-45 percent ownership.
Brad Lincoln (2.5 percent ESPN/9 percent Yahoo!) – @BAL (.312), @CLE (.334)
There hasn’t been much hitting over in steeltown, but the rotation has been pitching the heck out of the baseball, to steal a phrase from Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire. The Pirates starters have combined on a 3.74 ERA, which has largely kept a fledgling, flailing Pirates offense from completely derailing the team (which enters play today 29-27, tied with St. Louis for second in the NL Central). Lincoln hasn’t been a big part of this success, as he’s only tossed 30 frames, but he’s been a good contributor thus far, fanning 9.3 per nine with a 1.07 WHIP while allowing only three longballs in those 30 innings tossed. On the first trip out Lincoln gets a good, but plummeting O’s ballclub that has the second worst team wOBA (.297) over the past two weeks. The Birds have also fanned 22.6 percent of the time (fourth highest) in that time span, so Lincoln and his new found whiffery — made-up word I’m sure — should match up well.
The biggest difference for Lincoln this year has been improved fastball velocity — 93.1 up from 91.8 in 2011 — but he’s seen velocity rises across the board with his curveball and even his changeup, though the added velocity in his change has been minimal and has actually led to a better velocity differential from his heater. That’s not a concept I’ve researched at length, but it certainly can’t hurt to have a bigger speed difference there. Additionally, Lincoln is simply throwing more strikes (65.9 percent, up from 63.4 in ‘11), so that, combined with decreased contact rates, has made Lincoln into a rather nice back-end option for Clint Hurdle and the Bucs.
The Cleveland matchup isn’t quite as good for Brad, but the Indians have also been stumbling along a bit over the past couple weeks (.313 wOBA, tied with the woeful Twins offense in that period), and have seen their otherwise sterling K/BB rate widen out a bit more as time has passed. Add in the interleague intrigue — which my gut tells me favors the pitcher a bit more, but I can not confirm — and I think Lincoln could be a sneaky play this week.
Deep League Potential:
Kyle Kendrick (5.4 percent ESPN/5 percent Yahoo!) – v. MIN (.301), @TOR (.319)
It’ll seem weird to have Kendrick as a deep league sleeper because he’s owned in more leagues — in ESPN anyway — than Lincoln, but there’s far more projection in Lincoln’s numbers and I’m pretty sure he’s the better pitcher. Kendrick gets the nod as a deep league type because he gets the dreadful Twins road offense before going on to a much stiffer challenge at Rogers Centre later in the week. The Twins matchup alone might be reason to reach for Kendrick.