The continuing saga of Dr. Jurrjens and Mr. Hyde is set to begin again Wednesday as Jurrjens is set to come off the disabled list and start against the Giants. Jurrjens was positively dominant in the first half, winning 12 of his 16 starts while posting an ERA under 2.00 and WHIP of just 1.07. His success came largely without strikeouts — he had the second fewest strike outs of anyone with double-digit wins — which is part of the reason his regression was so brutal in the second half.
Jurrjens’ BABIP of .260 was unsustainable, though as Jonah Keri noted, it may not have been as far out of line as it seemed. Nevertheless, Jurrjens was not only getting lucky on the balls put into play, he was also allowing a ton of balls to be put into play. When his luck began to wear out, his low strikeout rate exacerbated the problem, and he was unable to turn in a quality start in three of his four starts since the All-Star Break. It’s unlikely that Jurrjens’ first half performance is repeatable, but he isn’t as bad as his last four starts would indicate either. The truth, as it so often does, lies somewhere between the extremes.
In his four starts since the All-Star break, Jurrjens’ WHIP skyrocketed not only because of his BABIP coming back to career levels, but also because of a walk-rate that nearly doubled. Luck is what it is, but if Jurrjens wants to get close to his previous level of effectiveness, he needs to keep the extra runners off base. It goes without saying that more strikeouts and fewer walks are the keys to effectiveness, but for Jurrjens, they’re the difference between being a solid SP2 and being a fantasy also-ran down the stretch.
He gets a soft test Wednesday, so activate him without too much concern, but do keep an eye on his walks and his strikeouts going forward.
I get the sense that Vazquez has burned a lot of bridges with fantasy owners, either in previous seasons or with his first 10 starts of 2011. I can’t blame owners for dumping him in May, after all, he had more earned runs to his name than strikeouts on June 1, but things have taken a turn for the better. Since the break, Vazquez has struck out nearly a batter an inning, and has given up more than 3 ER just once: His disaster start against the Padres on July 21.
That outing against the Padres — where he should have thrived instead of getting shelled — is emblematic of why Vazquez is owned in just 37 percent of Yahoo leagues and just 15 percent of ESPN leagues: All other things equal, a consistent player is vastly preferable to an inconsistent one, and Vazquez has been tremendously inconsistent. All pitchers carry some risk, but there aren’t many out there who offer the same range of possible production as he does.
If you need a spot starter for someone like Cole Hamels, Jonathan Sanchez, or Tommy Hanson, Vazquez is palatable in small doses, but recommending him for the rest of the season feels like a game of Russian roulette. The strikeouts aren’t a mirage, but his overall line is definitely propped up by a .262 second half BABIP. Though it is worth mentioning that his BABIP for the year is right at his career average, I would expect him to be closer to that .296 mark going forward than .262.
While upcoming starts against the Padres, Reds, and Mets don’t seem unduly arduous for Vazquez, it was exactly this kind of start that tripped him up last time. Nevertheless, if you need strikeouts, he’s a worthwhile risk for now, especially with his next start coming at PetCo.
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