Hey, sometimes you have to dig deep, right?
If you’re in a hole in innings pitched and/or you’re scrambling for wins any way you can find them, there are a couple names in Henderson Alvarez and Joe Saunders who are extremely likely to be available in your leagues. And as it happens, they’ve been pitching pretty decent. Should you take the risk?
Over the last month, Henderson Alvarez has posted a 2.18 ERA (3.13 FIP), 1.22 WHIP, and he’s won a pair of his five starts over 33 innings pitched. What he doesn’t get you are strikeouts but if you like Bartolo Colon, there’s not much reason to not like Alvarez because they’ve been nearly identical in the past 30 days.
What’s perhaps the most encouraging thing for Alvarez is progress relative to his old bugaboo, the longball. In his days as a Blue Jay, Alvarez coughed up home runs as if he were auditioning for All Star workout day. To date, he’s given up zero home runs over 38 innings pitched. While this is certainly progress, it’s also something that’s not likely to continue. So there’s that.
Take the few minutes to watch his highlights versus the Pittsburgh Pirates recently, and it’s hard to not to raise a curious eyebrow. He strikes out five over six innings pitched, which is surely saying something for a pitcher with an 11% K rate — but he hits 95, 96, even 98 with his fastball.
But before your undergarments begin to bunch, take a peek at his batted ball distribution. He’s currently giving up 31% line drives. That’s high. In fact, if you lump Alvarez in with all other starters with at least 30 innings pitched, it’s tops in the league, and it’s not even close. You look at his .282 BABIP and you think, “well golly, that’s not far from his career .288.” But you plug in his hit trajectory into the trusty expected BABIP and it ought to sit somewhere about .100 points higher. If batters continue to square up balls at this rate, they’re going to start to go places where people aren’t standing. Couple that with the likelihood that a few balls leave the yard and I think I’m just going to stay away.
Another no-strikeout type, who most definitely isn’t going to hit 98 on any radar unless he’s driving, is Joe Saunders (although don’t you get the feeling Joe Saunders drives something like a Ford Tempo? Maybe a Subaru Justy?).
Over the last month, Saunders has made six starts and he’s won four. In that time, he’s posted a 4.11 ERA and even a somewhat respectable 16% strikeout rate. Since the beginning of June, Saunders has seven wins, a 3.68 ERA, and a 15.1% K rate. That’s not so terrible.
The thing to pay attention to with Saunders would be matchups and home/away. There’s a reason they call him “Safeco Joe” this year, and that’s because his splits are rather telling:
Saunders gets the Milwaukee Brewers at Seattle this coming weekend, and while the Brewers rank 16th overall on the season in team wOBA, their win percentage is just a hair better than the Miami Marlins so the prospects for a win ain’t bad if Saunders can limit the damage (all apologies to J.P. Breen). If you’re fishing for a spot start, you could do worse. It’s probably a short-term investment, however, as he draws Texas at home and Oakland on the road for his next two starts, barring some unforeseen scheduling misadventure.
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