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Nick Kappel’s Fantasy Focus: Three Pitchers To Buy Low On

Many starting pitchers who are usually reliable such as Brandon Webb, Jake Peavy, John Lackey and Roy Oswalt have been wildly unpredictable and/or injured through the first ten weeks of the season. If you are one of the unlucky ones who have been become frustrated with your staff’s inconsistency, you might want to look into these buy-low candidates:

Ricky Nolasco

IMG_1014: Ricky Nolasco
Image by ac4lt via Flickr

After a breakout campaign in 2008 which saw him go 15-8 with a 3.52 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 186 strikeouts in 212 1/3 innings, the former fourth round pick of the Cubs appeared ready to claim a spot among the top 25 starting pitchers in fantasy baseball.

A horrific April and May, however, landed Nolasco in Triple-A after posting a 9.07 ERA through nine starts with the Marlins.

After two starts in the minors, the 26 year-old found himself back in the big leagues, and appears to be back to his old self.

In two starts since returning to Florida, Nolasco has posted a 2.77 ERA, and a 13/4 K/BB ratio in 13 innings.

A closer look at Nolasco’s splits suggest he has been the victim of very bad luck.

Through 11 starts with the Marlins this season, Nolasco’s BABIP stands at a whopping .399, compared to the .284 mark he posted in 2008, and his Major League career total of .314. His high BABIP is supported by a line drive percentage of 24.7, up from 18.8 percent in 2008. These totals are all sure to drop.

What’s most promising is Nolasco’s K/9 ratio, (7.94) which is in line with his 2008 total of 7.88. While his BB/9 ratio (2.70) is higher than his 2008 total of 1.78, it’s still fairly low.

Another encouraging sign in Nolasco’s FIP, (Fielder Independent Pitching on an ERA scale) which measures only the factors that a pitcher is responsible for. Nolasco’s FIP is currently 4.11, a far cry from his actual ERA of 7.62, yet in line with his 3.77 FIP in 2008.

All of these factors lead me to believe Nolasco is prepared for a big turn around. Because of his horrific start, Nolasco’s 2008 totals are unattainable. However, I expect Nolasco to post a 3.50 ERA from here on out, which would give him the following year end totals:

IP

W

K

ERA

WHIP

PACE

164

6

141

7.62

1.73

PROJ

172

10

150

4.91

1.38

PACE represents the player’s 32-start pace based on their current stats. PROJ represents what I project the player’s stat line will be at the end of the season. These numbers are based on games played before Sunday, June 14.

Cole Hamels

SAN FRANCISCO - MAY 06:  Cole Hamels #35 of th...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

After failing to post a quality start in April, Hamels rebounded nicely in May, pitching six or more innings, while allowing three runs or less in four of his five starts. After a complete game, five-hit shutout on June 4 against the Dodgers, the 2008 World Series MVP had fantasy owners believing the Cole Hamels we all know and love was back.

In his next start, however, Hamels allowed four runs on 11 hits in five innings against the Mets, leaving many scratching their heads.

A closer look at the numbers show that Hamels, like Nolasco, owns an unusually high BABIP of .348. Hamels’ career mark of .291 suggests success is in his future.

Hamels’ current line drive percentage of 25.9 is sure to drop as well, based on his career mark of 20.7 percent. His HR/FB ratio is also elevated, currently at 16.4 percent, compared to 12.4 percent for his career. This total is likely to drop.

What’s even better is that Hamels’ K/9 (8.09) is up from last year’s 7.76 mark, and in line with his career total of 8.53. His BB/9 is actually the lowest it’s ever been, currently at 1.73, compared to 2.32 for his career. Hamels also sports a stellar 4.67 K/BB ratio, which further supports my “bad luck” theory.

Hamels’ splits show he’s historically most effective after the All-Star Break. While his ERA and WHIP are currently 4.62 and 1.38, respectively, now is the best time to trade for him. I expect Hamels to post a 3.00 ERA and 1.19 WHIP from here on out. If you can get him for anything less than what a top-five starter would normally be worth, pull the trigger.

IP

W

K

ERA

WHIP

PACE

180

12

162

4.62

1.38

PROJ

188

15

170

3.50

1.25

Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara
Image by Keith Allison via Flickr

The 33 year-old Japanese pitcher has gone relatively unnoticed in his first year in the Major Leagues.

His 4.37 ERA is somewhat misleading because of the beating he took in Arlington in his second start of the season. If you discount that game, Uehara’s ERA is a respectable 3.55

In four starts against the A.L. East, (one against Boston and Tampa Bay, two against New York) Uehara has totaled a 2.56 ERA in 24 2/3 innings, with 18 strikeouts and just three walks.

Six of Uehara’s ten starts have qualified as quality starts. In one of the non-quality starts, he pitched three scoreless innings before being removed with a hamstring injury. In his return from the DL on June 11, he allowed just one hit through the first two innings, before a 27-minute rain delay broke his rhythm. After the delay, Uehara allowed three straight hits, and was removed after five innings, allowing four runs on seven hits.

What’s most impressive about Uehara is his control. Through 55 2/3 innings, he owns a sparkling 1.94 BB/9 rate. Uehara has issued two or less free passes in nine of his ten starts; with the aforementioned Texas game being the only blip on the radar.

If your opponents have failed to noticed Uehara’s success, scoop him up now before the secret gets out. Because he plays for Baltimore, a low win-total is likely to limit his value. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Uehara finish the season with a sub-4.00 ERA and a sub-1.25 WHIP, to go along with a solid K/9.

IP

W

K

ERA

WHIP

PACE

177

6

130

4.37

1.24

PROJ

160

11

130

3.88

1.23

What do you think of my buy-low candidates, and who’s on your buy-low list?

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