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Fantasy Baseball: Determining Which Struggling Pitchers Will Turn It Around

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Figuring Out Which Starting Pitchers Will Turn Their Fantasy Seasons Around

Rick Ostentoski-USA Today Sports

Fantasy baseball can be frustrating. One of my teams can attest to that:

Some things we can’t control (see above) and some things we can. Obviously, once a player has made his way into our lineup on any given day, what happens on the field is now out of our hands. Just ask Zach Greinke owners. The only thing you can control is if that player makes his way into your lineup or not. There’s no worse way to screw yourself than to be too stubborn about a certain player, whether it be because you drafted him early and can’t afford to drop him yet, or because there’s something that forces you to firmly believe that player will turn it around.

(As I type this, Ryan Dempster, who I'm facing this week, is cutting down the Tampa Bay Rays like a John Deere through grass. Alas, all I can do is sit here and try to see what I’m typing through streams of tears.)

One of those things that might force you to firmly believe that a player will indeed turn things around is because his superficial numbers — most likely the ones that your fantasy league counts — don’t exactly lineup with his underlying numbers. You know this. As shown in my article about Barry Zito from last Friday, we can do our best to make sense of things by crunching numbers and watching games and consoling ourselves at night, but sometimes stuff just doesn’t line up.

Well, as I’m sure you know, there are plenty of guys who don’t seem to be delivering the value you paid for, so let’s look at some struggling starting pitchers and decide whether or not their peripheral numbers portend an increase in superficial performance.

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Jarrod Parker, Oakland Athletics

Kelley L Cox-USA Today Sports

The most perturbing thing about Jarrod Parker’s start is the comparison to last year. Parker’s value in 2012 was his consistency; he racked up 20 Quality Starts and a 69% QS rate. Even if he wasn’t dominant, he kept his team in games and was often in a position to grab a W. Now, in three starts, he has zero QS — not to mention 6 IP, 3 ER isn’t great anyway — while doubling his BB%, halving his SO%, and tripling his HR%. Parker’s missing pitches high in the zone, not fooling many hitters with his normally-plus changeup, and is pretty hard to watch lately. If you care, I’m holding on to him for another start or two, but dropping him is totally justified.

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Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee Brewers

Benny Sieu-USA Today Sports

The part of Yovani Gallardo’s game that always made him appealing to fantasy owners was his ability to strike people out. Not his ERA, and certainly not WHIP. But in his first three starts, he, like Parker, has halved his SO% compared to last year’s rate. He, like Parker, also hasn’t delivered a QS. The Milwaukee Brewers are struggling as a whole, much more than expected, so a turnaround might be in store. Which do you believe: he’s in his prime at age 27 or that his high inning totals are finally catching up to him at age 27? Still, hold on for a few more starts, at least; he has the potential to still be awesome.

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R.A. Dickey, Toronto Blue Jays

John E. Sokolowski-USA Today Sports

R.A. Dickey is good and you paid a high price for him. You probably aren’t considering dropping him, but I also wouldn’t trade him for anything worse than a buck on the buck. Keep faith, you R.A. Dic-u-lans.

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CJ Wilson, Los Angeles Angels

Jayne Kamin-USA Today Sports

C.J. Wilson pitched better in his Sunday start vs. the Houston Astros, but don’t be fooled. The Astros are a cakewalk, and the one stat perhaps least affected by a bad lineup, walks, were still an issue for Wilson. He can’t hit the zone enough or put the ball past hitters enough to expect a rebound. He’s throwing his cutter less than when he was extremely effective for the Texas Rangers and is falling behind in counts more via his curveball. Couldn’t tell you why, but I’d be shopping him… hard.

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Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants

Kirby Lee-USA Today Sports

This isn’t the first time you’ve heard of his struggles. It actually pangs me to write this because how awesome it used to be to watch a longhaired skater guy, with his unorthodox motion, blow away professional hitters with ease. Unfortunately, those days are over. Perhaps for good. This isn’t solely a numbers thing. All those innings on a small frame are more detrimental than innings on a CC Sabathia frame.