Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Buy or Sell Low (?) A.L. Edition

Today I'll look at four players in the American League whose slow starts are quickly morphing into bad seasons and offer my two cents.

The numbers: 4-3, 66 2/3 IP, 73 H, 17 BB, 29 ER, 32 K, 3.92 ERA, 1.35 WHIP.
What I said in March($4) looks like a good price for Buehrle assuming a bounce back. The low K/IP rate makes me nervous, though. Buehrle is veering close to a sub-4 K/IP per nine innings, which puts him more at the mercy of his defense and luck. I don't mind paying $5 for that and hoping for a profit, but don't pay for 2008-2009.

Now: If you didn't buy low on Buehrle at the end of April, it's probably too late now. What I said above applies. Buehrle is a hittable pitcher, and pitchers who rely a lot on their defenses are subject to a good deal of luck. Buehrle's batting average against is actually higher this month (.287) than it was in April (.282) yet his ERA in April was 5.12 and in May he's sporting a cool 2.25. Buehrle's probably going to continue to put up an ERA in the high 3s/low 4s for the rest of the season but is also probably going to have games where he just gets shelled.

The numbers: 2-4, 61 1/3 IP, 72 H, 16 BB, 36 ER,  23 K, 5.28 ERA, 1.43 WHIP.
What I said in March: Pavano likely pitched to his upside last year. He's OK a couple of ticks higher than ($4), but he pitches to contact and isn't going to ever be dominant. The infield defense behind him helps; losing J.J. Hardy doesn't.

Now: It would be tempting to lump Pavano in with Buehrle, say that Pav has always pitched to contact, and bank on the improvement. Don't. Pavano is whiffing less than two batters an inning in May and has become extremely hittable. Some of it can be blamed on the Twins defensive slippage (7th in the Majors in UZR in 2010; 13th thus far this year), but most of it is Pavano. His velocity is down to where it was with the Yankees in 2008. Last year was the first time Pavano put up a WHIP under 1.3 in a full season since 2004. If he pitches to a 1.3-1.4 WHIP, his ERA won't get that far below 4.5. I'd stay away from him, especially in 5x5.

The numbers: 192 AB, 19 R, 50 H, 0 HR, 9 RBI, 7 SB, .260 BA
What I said in February: Pierre's game is absolutely nothing but speed, but 60+ SB and 100 runs go a long way in 5x5. The White Sox will continue to play Pierre almost every day, and if you can get your power from elsewhere, Pierre is well worth it at this price ($27)

Now: Oops. I apologize if you took my advice; if it makes you feel better I froze Pierre in my A.L. home league at $29 (25% inflation) and ultimately flipped him on Sunday in a deal for Edwin Jackson. This should provide a pretty big clue as to how I feel about Pierre going forward. He stole a base yesterday in his first attempt since May 3. Is Pierre not running because he's lost a step or because Ozzie Guillen is scared to let him run? I don't have the answer but I didn't want to sit around waiting to find out. If Pierre doesn't run, he's next to worthless in Roto. If there's a reason to keep Pierre, it's that the White Sox don't have any obvious in-house options to patrol left field. Brent Lillibridge is more of a utility type and Dayan Viciedo is still figuring out left field in AAA. My advice? If you're strong in seven other categories and just need Pierre to turn on the jets to win, keep him. IF you're flailing and need a bunch of Hail Marys to win, keep him. Otherwise, talk up that stolen base he had yesterday and sell.

The numbers: 126 AB, 13 R, 23 H, 6 HR, 16 RBI, 0 SB, .183 BA.
What I said in February: Posada was the most extreme example, as he was the last semi-decent option on the board and his price kept soaring. He isn't enough of a hitter to be the full-time DH and I don't think he'd hold up as a catcher all season long even if Russell Martin weren't on board. Even accounting for position, I wouldn't push him past $11-12, and that might be generous.

Now: I was down on Posada in February, but even that statement looks optimistic. The Yankees have started sitting Posada against lefties. I don't know if this will last, but if it does you're suddenly looking at a part-time DH. He's eligible at catcher in just about every league under the sun, so the occasional power is fine even in a deeper mixed league. The rub is that the Yankees might not feel compelled to hang onto Posada all year long. A part time DH with a 790 OPS against RHP isn't exactly the best way to push yourself toward a pennant. If you own Posada, you have to hang on and hope that he hits enough HR so that the possible average drag won't destroy you in that category.  

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