Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Second Half Surgers (?)

I dislike/detest arbitrary endpoints as much as the next guy. But sometimes I can't help myself and wind up getting sucked into the Pre All-Star/Post All-Star dichotomy. Keeping in mind that we should take any arbitrary endpoint with a grain of salt, here are five pitchers that I think could improve markedly in the second half. Pitchers below are listed in order of preference.

Adam Wainwright 96 2/3 IP 6-8, 4.75 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 91 K
The HR/9 are a little higher than they were in 2009-2010, but the K/9 and BB/9 are comparable to 2009-2010 for Wainwright. What's different is a poorer strand rate and a higher BABIP. Even the HR/9 are misleading; Wainwright gave up seven of his 10 HR allowed this year in his first five starts. The breakout has already started; jump on board if you don't want to miss the rest of it.

Cliff Lee 89 1/3 IP, 0-5, 4.13 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 89 K
Unlike Wainwright, Lee had been headed in the wrong direction before today's win against the Mets. But I believe that Lee is better than this and is poised for a strong second half. A three or under from here on out wouldn't surprise me at all. Cliff Lee is really, really good.

James Shields 111 2/3 IP, 8-5, 4.11 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 104 K
It would almost seem as if Shields' 2011 was a fluke and 2009-2010 was his true level of performance. Wrong. Shields' has been incredibly unlucky at home (4.01 ERA versus a 3.06 xFIP) this season, and I think he'll improve at the Trop just by default. I said this about Shields at the beginning of the year and I'm sticking to my guns: Shields might not be the sub 3 ERA guy he was in 2011, but he's definitely capable of putting up a 3.40 ERA with his stuff and ability.
Dillon Gee 101 2/3 IP, 5-7, 4.34 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 93 K
Despite the 4.34 ERA, there's a lot to like about Gee. The ERA and BA against have gradually dropped every month. The K/9 has markedly improved over his 2011 rate (dovetailing nicely with Swinging Strike percentage theory). I'd like to see fewer long balls, but I get the impression that this has less to do with lack of stuff and more to do with lack of experience. I'm not touting Gee as a future superstar, but I think a 3.60 ERA with a good WHIP and a high K rate isn't out of question Post All-Star. If you're in a mixed league and need to gamble, there are worse gambles to take.

Jon Lester 108 IP, 5-5, 4.33 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 88 K
Jon Lester has had exactly one bad month this year...all the way back in April. His walk rate was high and all of his other numbers were thrown out of whack as a result. Since then, he's gone back to walking almost no one and his K rates have gradually been improving as well. His xFIP is under 3.00 since June 1 and while the ERA hasn't caught up, Lester has been pitching like an elite arm once again. I've buried Lester before - and I'm not about to anoint him a Roto ace yet - but Lester is a solid #2 in fantasy. If you can get him relatively cheap in trade because his owner has given up hope, grab him quickly.

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