AP Photo/Mark Duncan
Using full-season ERA as an indicator for whether a fantasy owner uses a pitcher for a given game is often misleading. Trends are a much wiser investment. If fantasy owners had avoided some of those with high ERAs for Monday night, like Gavin Floyd, Ricky Nolasco and Brett Anderson, for example, they would have missed out.
In the case of Floyd, his return to respectability is a bit shocking. Nolasco was awesome a year ago, and Anderson is a rookie with high upside, but what is Floyd? Is he supposed to be this good? Was 2008 a mirage? After yet another pounding May 17, the Chicago White Sox right-hander sported a 7.71 ERA, and even the most patient of fantasy owners had to jump ship, or at least consider it. Floyd had won 17 games with a 3.84 ERA in his breakout 2008, but enough was enough.
Of course, if you remained patient, good for you. Floyd allowed six runs May 17 at Toronto, an outing after the Indians pounded him for eight runs. Including Monday's terrific outing with 7 2/3 scoreless frames at Cleveland, Floyd has now given up a total of nine earned runs in his past eight starts. Quite a turnaround, eh? Floyd's ERA is down to 4.12, and over the past 30 days he is sixth on the Player Rater among starting pitchers.
I'll admit I wasn't exactly clamoring to draft Floyd for this season, because his standout 2008 seemed to come from nowhere and appeared unsustainable. Floyd had not pitched well in parts of his four seasons in the bigs entering 2008, and he was fortunate to have a .259 batting average on balls in play. Overall, he was barely selected in ESPN average live drafts (average draft position of 218). Throw in six or more runs permitted in half of his first eight starts this season, and it only confirmed to fantasy owners that this was not someone to trust.
Scratch that. Now Floyd is one of the hottest pitchers around. He induced 16 ground balls and only one fly ball against the Indians, which is stunning since Floyd is clearly a fly-ball pitcher. He allowed 30 home runs a year ago. The Indians, however, couldn't solve Floyd, scratching out five singles and no runs. It wasn't until the ninth inning, when Floyd had departed, that the Indians scored in the 6-3 loss. He struck out five and lowered his ERA over the past eight starts to 1.39. In June his ERA is 1.28. The last White Sox starter to allow one or zero runs in five straight starts was legendary Eric King in 1989.
Floyd's surprising change of fortune in the past two months is another reminder that giving up on a struggling pitcher, even one who was getting regularly lit up and who seemed lucky a year ago, is never a sure thing. It looks like Gavin Floyd is again someone to rely upon.
• While Floyd thrived in Cleveland, Carl Pavano pitched his best game in a while, permitting only two earned runs in seven innings. It was quite a change from his past three outings, when Pavano allowed 23 runs, 18 of them earned, in 13 1/3 innings. Pavano isn't really ownable in standard leagues, but it's possible the Indians will send him to a contender soon, which should draw the interest of fantasy owners if he's able to get run support.
• Fantasy's No. 3 pitcher came off the DL and pitched effectively, but it didn't result in Roy Halladay's getting his 11th win. Halladay made one big mistake in six innings, allowing Carl Crawford a two-run home run. He struck out seven and walked two, and his ERA jumped a tad from 2.53 to 2.56. By the way, this is the fourth time Halladay has made a start coming off the DL, and his career mark is 2-2 with a 2.78 ERA. Basically, he's someone you can trust in the first starts off the DL, though we hope there aren't any more.
• Mets right-hander Fernando Nieve went from being owned in less than 1 percent of ESPN leagues to No. 12 on the ESPN most-added list in a week, having won all three of his starts, and sporting a 1.31 ERA. He won't be added in many leagues Tuesday, however, after getting torched for 11 hits and three runs (it could have been much worse) in 3 1/3 innings at Milwaukee. Nieve had allowed 11 hits in his first 20 2/3 innings this season, then 11 more Monday. He does not come recommended later this week in Philadelphia.
• It used to be that Rich Harden was pitching great or was on the DL. So while he's stayed relatively healthy this season, his numbers have been subpar. Harden's victory Monday, in which he fanned nine Pirates in seven innings, was his first since May 12, and his best overall outing of the entire season. He lowered his ERA to 4.57, and he has 76 strikeouts in 67 innings. I'll remain skeptical that Harden will make all his starts the rest of the way, but going forward, he should pitch more like he did Monday.
• For those impatient Raul Ibanez owners who activated the outfielder in weekly leagues, there's potentially bad news: Ibanez might not return from the DL when he's eligible this Friday. The Phillies say Ibanez will be re-evaluated and will then go on "some type of rehab," according to GM Ruben Amaro Jr. Don't worry, Ibanez hasn't had a setback, but it might take more than 15 days. The Phillies likely will go with Greg Dobbs or Matt Stairs against right-handed pitching this week over struggling John Mayberry Jr., who fanned in seven of 12 at-bats while going hitless over the weekend.
• As a Ricky Nolasco owner in quite a few leagues, I stuck with the right-hander even when the Marlins demoted him to Triple-A. The investment in him was so strong that the decision was obvious, but now it's paying dividends. Nolasco went eight strong innings Monday, allowing two runs and four hits, striking out eight Nationals, to win for the third consecutive start. His June ERA ended up at 1.91. It's no surprise Nolasco is climbing ESPN's most-added list.
• As for other pitchers who did well Monday, Roy Oswalt went the distance on a two-hitter in San Diego, striking out eight. His season ERA is 4.02. We'd like to think this is a harbinger of good, but hey, it was at Petco Park. Oakland's Brett Anderson won for the fourth time in 11 decisions but also threw 107 pitches in 5 1/3 innings. It should remain a rough wide for a while. I like Detroit's Rick Porcello more, but he didn't have his best stuff Monday. Luke Hochevar of the Royals stymied the Twins over seven shutout innings for his third win; there's something here for the former No. 1 overall pick, who has pitched very well in four of his past five outings.
• Closer follies: After earning two wins and a save in the weekend sweep over the Marlins, J.P. Howell was unavailable, so Randy Choate picked up his fourth save in relief of Dan Wheeler, retiring Lyle Overbay. Brewers closer Trevor Hoffman picked up save No. 572 and threw only one pitch to get it, inducing a double-play grounder. One pitch, two outs. Nice work if you can get it. The last time Hoffman earned a one-pitch save with a four-run lead was 2005. Florida turned to lefty Dan Meyer again for a save, but he gave up a pair of hits in the ninth inning and Leo Nunez was called on to retire Josh Willingham. Nunez and Meyer are likely to split the save chances for a while, with Matt Lindstrom out at least a month. Jonathan Papelbon tied Bob Stanley's Red Sox record for most career saves with 132. The Cubs saved Harden's win as Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg combined for two perfect innings. Marmol leads the NL with 16 holds, and Gregg is near the save lead with 13.
J.J. Hardy, Brewers
The Milwaukee shortstop delivered four hits, including his eighth home run, and raised his batting average 12 points to .232. Hardy is streaky, and it's a bit surprising to see him on ESPN's most-dropped list. A year ago he hit nine home runs and batted .339 in July. Hey, July's a comin', so see whether you can acquire him cheap.
Tim Lincecum, Giants
This just in: Lincecum is good. He needed only 95 pitches to dominate the Cardinals on a two-hit shutout; one hit was an Albert Pujols double, the other a Rick Ankiel single. That's it. He faced 29 hitters and threw 60 strikes. Lincecum has gone nine innings three of his past four times out. That's how it's done.
Jon Lester owns the Orioles, in case you hadn't noticed. In his first scoreless start of the season, with seven innings of five-hit, no-walk ball in Baltimore, Lester improved his career mark to 8-0 against the Birds. Among active pitchers against one team, only Randy Johnson has done better against a franchise, going 13-0 versus the Cubs.
• Two weekends ago it appeared that Khalil Greene was overcoming his personal demons and being productive on the field, hitting home runs in three consecutive games at Kansas City. A 1-for-17 streak later and Greene is unfortunately back on the DL for anxiety disorder. The Cardinals acquired Mark DeRosa over the weekend, and he can play third base, but it is a shame Greene can't contribute. Expect more DeRosa at the hot corner, giving the crowded outfield one fewer option. Pitcher Clayton Mortensen was summoned from Triple-A Memphis, where he was an effective but unspectacular starter. On Monday for the Cardinals, he was an ineffective middle reliever.
• In spring 2008, it looked like the Cubs might give scrappy center fielder Sam Fuld a shot to win a starting job, but he didn't hit, then had a brutal season for Triple-A Iowa. Fuld is doing better these days, and after hitting .286 with 20 steals in the minors, he got the call to the bigs, with Aaron Miles heading to the DL with an elbow ailment. Fuld pinch-ran for Jake Fox and was caught stealing. Andres Blanco should continue to play second base; I'd be stunned if Alfonso Soriano moves there, though Aramis Ramirez's pending return and Jake Fox's progress could push things.
• The Rangers promoted outfield prospect Julio Borbon from Triple-A Oklahoma City, where he was hitting .298 with 19 stolen bases. There is no power here, however, and Borbon's major league stint could be a short one. Reliever Willie Eyre was demoted.
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Christopher Harris: Well, they're both mighty valuable. If this is a keeper league for just one year, it's closer; if it's a keeper league for multiple years, I'm easily saying Upton. The difference between them, obviously, is speed, which makes me answer Upton anyway. But Bay is going to make himself a whole lot of money this winter, and he'll deserve it.
-- Full chat transcript
Matthew Berry: Somewhat. He's been ridiculous at home. Not a great K/BB rate, which makes me slightly nervous. Right now, he's a spot starter at home in 10-team leagues.
-- Full chat transcript
Tuesday's fantasy chat schedule:
AJ Mass, 11 a.m. ET
Brendan Roberts, 3 p.m. ET
• The Blue Jays don't seem to speak much of pitching prospect Marc Rzepczynski, but the lefty won for the second consecutive start for Triple-A Las Vegas after a promotion from Double-A. Rzepczynski has struck out 16 hitters in 11 1/3 innings, including seven against Sacramento on Monday, and who knows, the parent club has been shuffling starters in the rotation all season long. Rzepczynski could get the next call over someone like Brad Mills.
• You might have missed this one from the California League on Sunday, when the pitching was absent for the Lake Elsinore-High Desert tilt. The final score was 33-18! The Padres' Class A team got the win, recording 32 hits in a game in which 10 home runs were hit. And you think the ball flies out of Coors Field!
• For two years, I've been comparing Seattle's Brandon Morrow to Joba Chamberlain and saying that both strikeout right-handers should be starters. Now they face each other at Yankee Stadium. Morrow is much newer to starting than Chamberlain, however, as he continues to up his pitch count each time out. He should probably be avoided for now, though he is striking out better than a batter per inning.
• Chris Carpenter just continues to draw former Cy Young winners as opponents. Carpenter, the 2005 AL Cy Young winner, faces Randy Johnson. Carpenter has lost two of his past three starts, to Johan Santana and Cliff Lee, though he has pitched well. Earlier this season Carpenter beat Barry Zito.
• And finally, the four-game benching for former NL MVP Jimmy Rollins should end, with the shortstop leading off in Atlanta. Rollins hasn't hit safely in his past 19 at-bats.
• For more on Tuesday's games, check Daily Notes.