Hitch, ditch, or pitch week 10

Two nights ago someone other than Jonathan Papelbon closed out the game for a 6-3 Red Sox victory. That man was closer-of-the-future Daniel Bard. The previous night saw a buildup of frustration by Papelbon explode upon umpire Tony Randazzo.

I’m sure Papelbon’s owners are equally as frustrated. The only difference is that Pap’s owners don’t have umpires to yell obscenities at and bump chests with. Instead they sit and watch their ERAs inflate and save opportunities disappear. In fact, Papelbon has had seven earned runs credited to him in his last six appearances . Should Papelbon owners cut their losses and jump ship? I figured if anybody is worth being the first reliever to hit the Hitch, Ditch or Pitch series it should be Papelbon.

Pitch for

Jonathan Papelbon RP BOS- I don’t think I could be any more adamant about a player than I am going to be in the next several sentences. My evidence supporting Matt Garza was great, and I still believe Garza is making important strides to becoming a future ace, but the evidence supporting Papelbon to regain his elite status is even greater I’m afraid.

First of all, Paps is dealing with the highest BABIP against of any current closer in baseball (.369). To add to his frustration, his FIP is 1.98. Compare that to his 4.32 ERA. In addition to these unlucky stats, Papelbon is pitching well in the dominance, control, and command facets that we all look at when examining future success of a pitcher. His K/9 of 12.24 is the highest of his career and in the top five of closers across the board. Furthermore, he’s only walked four batters to contrast his 36 strikeouts.

The only chink in the armor I could find was his decrease in velocity out of his slider (-3.3 mph from 2009), and he’s throwing it more than he ever as in his career. Honestly, if he can make it through this rough patch, I believe Papelbon could reward an owner/future owner with a tidy profit over the remainder of the season. Well, that is as long as Boston keeps giving him the ball. Theo Epstein is a saber guy, so I’m sure he knows Papelbon is pitching better than his numbers are saying.

Edwin Jackson SP CHW- I opened up my email the other day to see a Edwin Jackson/Joey Votto for Tommy Hanson/Alex Gordon trade offer. I pondered over the deal for about thirty minutes, mostly researching the future success possibilities of Jackson. I concluded that I like Jackson’s value right now, and I hastily accepted the offer.

Edwin started off the year scorching, but like his no-hitter last year, he has shown flaws even in his greatness. Gifted with an arm that throws lightning bolts and breaking pitches that are more than adequate, Jackson puts his teams, and likewise his fantasy owners, through yearly roller coasters of success and failure.

In my studying of Edwin, I didn’t notice anything too glaring good or bad in his statistics, other than a tough .349 BABIP. He’s pretty much running right with his season-long pace of 2010. So I figured I was going to have put down my dork glasses and computer and actually watch him play.

I was able to clear the schedule and watch his last start against the Tigers. I walked away from that game with a hopeful feeling regarding Jackson. Other than one mistake pitch to Brennan Boesch in the first inning where he left his breaking ball flat, high in the zone over the middle of the plate, Jackson’s actual stuff looked solid. He combined his fastball that was touching 97 with breaking balls in the bottom of the strike zone.

I wonder if his high walk rate might be more due to the location of his breaking pitches with which he seemingly tries to hammer the bottom corners of the plate. Many times, I saw Tigers batters sitting on the breaking balls because they knew they were going to be out of the strike zone.

My ruling on Jackson is that he’s worth a look if you’re a manager in need of some good starting pitching but can handle some bad starts intermixed. I feel Jackson may have more value to the roto guys than the H2H fellas because of his volatility. I think he’s worth a trade of a Zach Britton, Danny Duffy, Ervin Santana, or Austin Jackson. I would probably stay in this tier. Anything else and you’ll be losing value.

Zack Greinke SP MIL- Through six starts this year, Greinke’s 15.2 percent HR/FB rate is overshadowing some of his best pitching performances. It’s a small sample size, but Greinke’s dominance and command are performing at career highs. I’m a little concerned about the minor fall-off on the velocity of his pitches, but I think that as he gets healthier we’ll see more gas.

The reason Greinke makes the pitch for list is due in large part to his 5.29 ERA. A weak owner might be willing to sell Greinke at a discount. He’s still rocking awesome stuff, and I’m buying cheaply. He should be a top-15 pitcher from this point on.

Pitch away

Kyle Lohse SP STL- I do not believe in Lohse. According to Fangraphs pitch data, he appears to be abandoning his curveball in favor of his change-up, a move that his given him outward success as hitters are hitting a meager .218 against him.

Mental Health and the CBA
A particular bit of language in the latest CBA could have negative consequences for some players.

My problem with Lohse is that I feel like I’ve been here before. I know that he’s probably headed for the All-Star Game, but it still feels like a groundhog moment for me. I’ve had positive feelings about Lohse before, only to have them dashed.

According to CBS, Lohse has been traded in deals for Tommy Hanson, Dustin Pedroia, Lance Berkman, and Nelson Cruz. Now, I understand that you guys aren’t in leagues with owners stupid enough to do deals like this, but it should be sufficient evidence to you to start shopping Lohse. If you don’t, you’ll wish you did. I guarantee it.

Josh Tomlin SP CLE- See Lohse, except subtract previous success. Tomlin has had the second-luckiest BABIP of all starting pitchers at .212 through the first quarter of the MLB season. His pitches are slower than last year, although it appears he’s added an effective slider.

I know he’s not walking a lot of batters, but I think he’ll start showing his true colors as we enter the dog days of summer. He just doesn’t have the stuff or enough experience to convince me he’s ready to be held in high regards. Although I’m afraid that Tomlin owners should have shopped him earlier in his hot streak, I think he could still be the perfect throw-in pitcher in a 2-for-1 deal. I looked it over and I really like a deal of Tomlin/ Brian Wilson for Tim Lincecum or Andre Ethier/ Tomlin for Justin Upton.

Zach Britton SP BAL- This is the first guy on the Pitch Away list that I actually like as a pitcher. He’s got great poise and presence when he’s on the mound, which he needs night-in and night-out as he navigates the horrid AL East. He has the minor league pedigree that you want to see when prospecting for fantasy purposes, and if you asked me my favorite minor league pitcher heading into 2011, I would have said Britton.

That being said, I’ve seen him getting a nauseatingly high amount of love lately across the media platforms. All the while, I have been feeling that he’s more and more not ready to be the ace he will be.

If you need pitching, he might be worth the risk of an ERA dip from his current 3.33, but I think he’s got considerable value in some circles. As an early Rookie of the Year candidate, there might be owners, especially in the Northeast section of the country, who might overpay for a guy with so much hype and early success. I’m not buying. I might hold, but I’m not buying.


Brett Myers SP HOU- Folks, the home runs are back to plague Myers. It’s time to let 2010 sit as an outlier and pink slip Myers. I stood in awe at the success he mustered in 2010, but now I feel validated that 2011 has been a regression back to the Myers we all know and hate.

His ERA is bad. His FIP is bad. His WHIP is bad. His K/9 is marginal, and his velocity is down. What is there to like about Myers? I don’t know. His last start was the best of the season. I guess that’s a positive. I’d rather have a lot of other free agent pitchers. Heck, I’d roster a long reliever like Charlie Furbush over a guy like Myers. All those in non-NL-only leagues should cut him, and NL-only players should give guys like Zach Duke a shot.

J.A. Happ SP HOU- Let us stay in Houston as we clean house of the Astros. Happ’s 3.40 ERA in an injury-plagued 2010 gave us all hope that he could flash the brilliance he did for Philadelphia in 2009. Unfortunately, early signs in 2011 are showing that Happ has real control problems. Whether that is lingering effects from missed time and injuries will only tell. I feel that he’s given us enough of a sample size to see that 2011 is over for Happ.

I think I would be HAPPier with fat Josh Collmenter. I apologize. I couldn’t resist.

Bronson Arroyo SP CIN- I would hang out with Bronson Arroyo, but I’ve never been a fan of having him on my fantasy teams. I actually think his high leg kick is entertaining to watch as a baseball fan. I also understand his value has never been so low that he wasn’t worth owning. Normally he gives his owners a profit, but not in 2011.

The most alarming stat about Arroyo thus far this season is his departure from his consistent 88-mph fastball down to the 86-mph range. I mean, Bronson’s fastball has been as consistent as death and taxes over his career. His regression spells death to me. If I’m the Reds, I’m now looking to Sam LeCure or other pitching options. Arroyo is done, and if you still own him in all leagues other than shallow NL-only leagues, you’re ulcerating your roster.


Ted Lilly SP LAD- I’ve never been a huge fan until now, but Lilly is bringing the greatest control numbers of his career into the first part of the season. He was too unproven, and then I felt he wasn’t as good a pitcher as his numbers indicated while he was in Chicago.

Even going into this year I wouldn’t have rostered Lilly initially, but this is more of a battle cry to his owners. Don’t fret about Lilly. I think he’s showing generally the same stuff that made him such a valuable fantasy pitcher. Something should be said for a guy that goes out and consistently pitches six-plus innings every start.

Again, Lilly has more value as a real-life starter, but if you own him, I don’t see too many more promising options out there in shallower leagues. If you see a guy like Brian Matusz out there I might bite because I’m not risk averse at all. Lilly is stable and steady. He’s the kind of pitcher you marry, but he’s not the one-night-stand.

Tim Stauffer SP SD- Stauffer is only owned in 33 percent of Yahoo! leagues. I don’t understand how that’s possible. Obviously, I don’t think anyone expected Stauffer to replicate the success he had in 2010 as a reliever/starter, but his 2011 hasn’t been disastrous. He’s struggling through a high BABIP of .330 and still maintains a sub-4.00 ERA. Stauffer’s pitch fx data is a little hard to accurately analyze. His slider registers as a cut fastball and vice versa over the course of the year.

I don’t think Stauffer has been Lincecum, but I think he’s worth being owned in more leagues than he is currently. Stauffer is still a good control pitcher that calls PETCO his home, and as a throw-in, he has the highest K/9 through his young career as a starter (7.07). I think he gives profit into the second half of 2011.

Pritch Slap for week 10, “Pujols is back and ready to get paid.”

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Tom B
Tom B

Papelbon’s BABIP is high because he is getting crushed at the plate, not because he has been “unlucky”.  27% LD rate is not good and only shows the continuation of his decline over the last 2 years.

He’s actually getting lucky that he’s struck out so many guys, or he’d likely not be the closer anymore.

He’s way more of a “sell” than a “buy” right now.

Ben Pritchett
Ben Pritchett
You can’t use a “27% LD Rate” as justification and then use the phrase continuation of his decline over the last 2 years”. I say that because his LD rate was 17.7% in 2010 far lower than 2008 and 2009 in which he was dominant. Also I wouldn’t call a .257 AVG against and only four walks getting “crushed” at the plate. Heck, he’s only given up two home runs. LD rate can be a little fluky too, K/BB usually isn’t. I’ll take 34/4 all day from pitchers. I think he’s not the dominant Papelbon from previous years, but he… Read more »