Relative Waiver Wire: Brandon McCarthy, Vance Worley

Two pitchers who have changed scenery in the past four months and have rediscovered better versions of themselves with the relocation. Either of them could have a shelf life that lasts into the season’s final weeks. The first is pretty much entirely in control of that possibility, for fantasy baseball owners. The second’s rotation spot may be in jeopardy, but if he survives the week, then you might want to take a look.

SP Brandon McCarthy, New York Yankees

Ownership: CBS 61% | Yahoo! 26% | ESPN 27.2%

I was already on this kick once, and I wasn’t alone. Which basically just helps me to feel a little less wrong. And now that McCarthy is in the Bronx, where the park factor for homers is worse than it is in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ yard, he could be even worse. Which makes me a glutton for punishment.

I’ll take my chances. The Yanks seemed to have bet on McCarthy’s xFIP, particularly appealing thanks to his fly-ball prevention and low walk rate. The increased velocity has been nice, too. But, according to multiple media reports, the club’s front office has also bet on its evaluators’ prognostications. The Bombers dissected the data and discovered that the righty was effective as long as his cut fastball was in the game plan. The team’s catchers have also changed the way McCarthy attacks hitters, apparently.

Undeniably, the mix is different. It appears either that the Yankees have asked McCarthy to reintroduce the four-seam fastball or that there’s a classification issue on his Brooks Baseball page, lately, too. Early on, the lanky hurler was perhaps too reliant on what had become his signature pitch. The subtle differences in horizontal and vertical movement of his fastballs, along with the contrasts in movement of the curveball, could certainly conspire to make him a more unpredictable, effective pitcher. That appears to be something in which he’s been searching for much of the campaign.

I’ll buy that these changes have played a part in his recent fortunes. The Yanks’ stat guys surely broke down McCarthy’s total batters faced more intricately than any of us have. Brian McCann remains one of the most reputable catchers in the league for his work with and preparation of his staff. Besides, I can’t quit him, at least this season.

I’ve already owned and dumped McCarthy in two leagues. I kept tabs on him in Mixed Tout Wars Draft league, a 15-teamer, so that I could bring him aboard in case I came across a positive development regarding his arsenal, but someone beat me to the punch. I picked him back up in my FSWA Industry Insiders League, though. I guess I’m going to live and die with the guy. It may be die, but at least I’m resolute, or something.

Upcoming schedule: DET, CLE, @TB, HOU, @DET

If the Yankees stay on turn, then I guess we’ll find out if this latest new McCarthy is fantasy legit, with a couple of matchups against the formidable Detroit Tigers coming in the next month.

SP Vance Worley, Pittsburgh Pirates

Ownership: CBS 28% | Yahoo! 8% | ESPN 3.6%

If the Bucs don’t trade for a starting pitcher by Thursday’s deadline, then Worley is surely a worthwhile pickup, at least in the short term. (It’s not like an injury to one of the team’s other starters would be shocking, but let’s not look that far down the road just yet. Maybe Jeff Locke has outlived his usefulness, too, though. We’ll see.)

Karl de Vries last month highlighted the right-hander Pittsburgh rescued from a certain sentence to the scrapheap this past March. That was for those in deep leagues. Those in shallow leagues may be interested, by now, thanks to his 2.54 ERA (3.77 xFIP, 3.95 SIERA) in eight games (seven starts, 49 2/3 frames) for the ‘Burgh.

Pittsburgh has garnered a bit of a reputation for the reclamation of hurlers who have enjoyed prior, fleeting success in the majors. Worley is the latest example, thanks to the apparent wisdom of Jim Benedict, the organization’s special assistant to the general manager. The Pirates have clearly done something with his horizontal and vertical release points. I haven’t detected any discernible differences in the other resultant data, otherwise, other than some subtle changes in directions and degrees of the movement in his offerings. Perhaps those are indications of fixes of his command. Whatever they’ve done, it’s worked so far.

I don’t think that Worley is a long-term solution. I’d be skeptical of riding him well into August and September. But I plan to give him a try in my FSWA IIL (the 12-team mixed league) for his next couple of starts, and I might be willing to test him against the Atlanta Braves. But not against Motown, and I may cast him aside after this stretch. He’s already owned in my Tout division, so I won’t get to try him there.

Upcoming schedule: @ARI, SD, @DET, ATL, @MIL




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Nicholas Minnix oversaw baseball content for six years at KFFL, where he held the loose title of Managing Editor for seven and a half before he joined FanGraphs. He played in both Tout Wars and LABR from 2010 through 2014. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasMinnix.


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