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Mound Musings: Is Michael Pineda Fading?

David Regan

David Regan

David Regan is a five-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner, and was named the 2010 Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year.

While watching me agonize over a $100 bet (I lost) during the Women's World Cup final, my wife had an interesting two-part question:

1A: How many Women's soccer games have you watched? Answer: parts of two others in my life

1B: Why don't you bet on something you know about - i.e. baseball?

I thought that was an interesting observation, and it was clearly the green light for me to head down to the local casino and check out the action. I saw the Buffalo Sabres at 25:1 to win the Cup, so we'll see if one of my colleagues actually reads my column now. Instead of throwing money at futures bets, though, I wanted immediate gratification, so I picked up a baseball parlay card and decided to bet $20 on a three-team parlay that would pay out $100. A small investment to be sure, but big enough to start a bankroll. I went with the following (all pick 'em games):

Giants (Ryan Vogelsong) over the Dodgers (Chad Billingsley) - Not exactly bullish on LA right now

Braves (Derek Lowe) over the Rockies (Jason Hammel) - Hammel inconsistent, Freddie Freeman hot (HR in this one actually)

Phillies (Roy Halladay) over the Cubs (Rodrigo Lopez) - David v. Goliath in this pitching match-up.

I hit the first two, but of course Halladay gets hit relatively hard, exits the game with an injury, and Lopez tosses 6.1 strong innings. I'm not DONE betting on baseball, but then again, I'm not going out of my way to hit the casinos for a while either.

Anyway, onto pitching ...

Is Michael Pineda fading?

With a 3.24 ERA, 9.0 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9, Pineda has had a fantastic rookie season and would run away with the AL ROY award if the voting were held today. That said, Pineda had a 2.45 ERA through June 23, and since then has struggled to a 6.55 mark in four starts, with his only good start in that span coming against the punchless A's. His 25:11 K:BB in those 23.2 innings says he's still missing bats. Velocity-wise, Pineda was hitting 93-96 mph with his fastball in the seventh inning, which compares favorably to his 95 mph average fastball rate this year. No concerns there, so are we left with chalking this up to some bad luck and just “one of those stretches?” Probably, but keep in mind that with 119.1 innings this year, Pineda is just 20 innings short of last year's total, so despite being a big guy, there may be some fatigue setting in. I'd be tempted to sell him in non-keeper formats, but with the recent bad run, the return may not make it worth it.

Who's come out strong in July?

Ubaldo Jimenez, COL -
No clue why the Rockies would even consider dealing an affordable ace, so don't expect it to happen. Jimenez has a 2.77 ERA and 30:6 K:BB in 26 innings so far in July.

Justin Masterson, CLE -
Congrats if you drafted him in your AL-only league - 0.78 ERA so far this month and he generated 17 ground balls in his last start.

Madison Bumgarner, SF -
26:2 K:BB in 27.2 innings. Jeff Keppinger isn't the panacea for the team's offensive woes, but if it can get a big bat, this is the team to beat come playoff time.

Cory Luebke, SD -
0.68 ERA and 20:2 K:BB in 19 innings. Has solidified a rotation slot for the year.

Jeff Niemann, TB -
May eventually get traded, but James Shields seems more likely to go. Niemann has a 0.84 ERA in three July starts, and they weren't against cupcake teams either - Cardinals, Red Sox, Yankees.

Javier Vazquez, FLA -
If you're like me, you've been burned here before, but Javy has a 17:1 K:BB in 20 July innings supporting a 2.25 ERA. He also has a 1.39 ERA in his last five starts over 33.1 innings with a 26:1 K:BB.

James McDonald, PIT -
Always liked this guy in the Dodgers farm system, so imagine my fury when he and Andrew Lambo were traded for 18.2 so-so innings of Octavio Dotel in 2010. McDonald hasn't allowed more than three runs in a start since May 13, and though his BB/9 remains high at 4.5, it's trending downward recently (3.7 over his last four starts). I'm not sure how Pittsburgh pitching coach Ray Searage doesn't get managerial consideration this winter for the job he's done with the Pirates hurlers.

Trade rumor notes

I fully expect the Phillies to trade for an outfielder, but it won't be at the expense of Vance Worley. Worley held the cubs to one run over eight innings Wednesday to lower his ERA to a sparkling 2.02. Look for Philadelphia to deal a guy like Jared Cosart or Trevor May as part of a deal for an outfielder along the lines of a Hunter Pence or Carlos Beltran. Must be nice to be a Phillies fan. ...

Padres owner Jeff Moorad supposedly told Mike Adams that he would not be traded. Clearly that could change if teams get desperate, but, right now, Heath Bell appears to be far more likely to be dealt. Bell just makes too much sense for a team like the Phillies. Good news for Adams owners, not so good for Bell owners, as Bell would be a candidate to be a setup man for a contender, depending on where he goes. ...

Absolutely love the Pirates' story this year, as the last time they were relevant, Barry Bonds came up about 30 feet short trying to throw out Sid Bream. It's a team that has holes all over the infield, so I'd love to see them deal for a couple bats. ...

Jim Johnson is interesting for AL-only leaguers. I don't think Kevin Gregg gets dealt, but Koji Uehara is generating plenty of interest. With Gregg as shaky as ever, a guy like Johnson could be a candidate for saves down the line. Johnson has a 2.64 ERA in 58 innings, and though he's getting consideration for a rotation spot, he could also see time as closer at some point. ...

Mike Dunn has allowed just one run in his last 8.2 innings. He could be sleeper for saves should Leo Nunez and his soon-to-be cost prohibitiveness be dealt. ...

Neftali Feliz has three strikeouts in his last two innings, so perhaps his peripherals (6.4 K/9, 4.5 BB/9) are on the verge of a turnaround. The Rangers, though, are in the hunt for bullpen help (Heath Bell?), so Feliz's fantasy value could be on the verge of a sharp decline.

Is Clayton Kershaw the best LHP in Dodgers history?

Kershaw - OK, dominating the Giants isn't a huge feat, but watching Kershaw/Lincecum in a bar during the day isn't a bad way to spend an afternoon.

Fernando Valenzuela - Fernandomania was incredible, but Fernando's 1981 Topps rookie cards aren't worth all that much.

Sandy Koufax - Failed to pitch through an elbow that probably looked like ground beef if you saw the MRI scan.

Winner: Kershaw.

What to make of Josh Collmenter?

This season: 2.65 ERA, 0.94 WHIP

Through June 13: 1.12 ERA

June 14 - July 1: 7.54 ERA

Last two starts: 0.00 ERA

Other than that one rough stretch, Collmenter and his funky delivery has been a revelation, but is this for real? Eh ... in 2010 for Triple-A Reno (admittedly a tough place to pitch), Collmenter notched a 5.77 ERA in 57.2 innings, but look at his other minor league numbers prior to that - pretty impressive. Collmenter, though, averages just 87.2 mph with his fastball while allowing more flyballs than grounders, so there's a lot that says “fluke” here. Collmenter's xFIP sits at 3.51; expect some regression the rest of the way. Of course that's an obvious statement to make, but don't expect him to fall apart, either.

Will the Tigers call up Jacob Turner?

The Tigers can certainly win the AL Central with the team they have, but other than Justin Verlander and occasionally, Max Scherzer, it's an inconsistent rotation. Turner, meanwhile, is the team's first-round pick out of high school in 2009, so he's just 20, but the Tigers have a well-documented history of aggressively promoting their young arms (Rick Porcello and Jeremy Bonderman to name a couple). In 105.2 innings for Double-A Erie, Turner has a 3.49 ERA and 1.20 WHIP with an 82:31 K:BB in 105.2 innings. Those aren't spectacular numbers by any means, so Turner is in need of more development time, but considering his pedigree, he'd be worthy of a pickup in most formats should he get the call. Charlie Furbush, Andy Oliver and Duane Below are the other options, though none has near the upside of Turner.

Groundball artists worth a look

When you can't blow hitters away, the ability to induce them to hit the ball on the ground isn't the worst skill to have. Here are so-so pitchers who have that ability:

Charlie Morton, PIT -
The league leader in GB at 61.1 percent, Morton has seen his share of ups and downs this year. Sporting a 5.3 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 Morton has seemingly been pitching a bit over his head this year. I have to think he's going to continue to experience his normal ups and downs over the last couple months of the season, but Morton's xFIP sits at 3.49, so what we're seeing so far may actually be legitimate.

Fausto Carmona, CLE -
Carmona ranks sixth in the league with a 57.4 GB%, and with an xFIP of 4.04 versus a 5.63 ERA, he's been quite the personification of the underachiever. Carmona is the only Cleveland pitcher who pitching coach Tim Belcher hasn't been able to help, but perhaps at some point the lightbulb will come on.

Tim Stauffer, SD -
Stauffer has a 6.8 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 with a solid groundball rate. Factoring in his home park, it's hard to argue that Stauffer isn't a solid play the rest of way (well, outside of tough road teams).

Jonathon Niese, NYM -
Niese is one of the few Mets hurlers I'm optimistic about. With a 52.1 GB% and solid peripherals (7.5 K/9, 2.7 BB/9), Niese is really the only Mets starter I'd want to own the rest of the way this year.

Jason Marquis, WAS -
Can't believe I just typed that name actually, but with a 53.7 GB% to go with a 2.8 BB/9, Marquis is going to have the occasional solid outing. A 5.4 K/9 indicates there will be a handful of ugly outings, but you could do a lot worse than Marquis in NL-only leagues.

Quick hits

Fernando Salas blew the save on Wednesday, leaving relievers like Jason Motte and Mitchell Boggs worth NL-only looks. That said, the Cardinals have to be looking into the likes of Heath Bell and Joakim Soria. ...

Andrew Miller picked up the win for the Red Sox on Thursday despite six walks. Miller is 4-1 despite an ugly 16:22 K:BB in 31 innings. Jon Lester (shoulder) is due back Monday, with Clay Buchholz (back) due back in early-to-mid August, rotation openings are going to become scarce quickly. ...

Ryan Vogelsong's 2.02 ERA leads the NL. Incredible. Guessing he's the No. 1 pick in my Strat-o-Matic draft next year.

Speaking of miracles, Jeff Karstens has an ERA (2.28) that is nearly half a run better than Clayton Kershaw, who may be the best pitcher in baseball at the moment. Karstens has a 1.5 K/9, giving much hope to all the command pitchers out there. ...

Scott Baker (elbow) returns Saturday to a 3.01 ERA. Baker has a 38:7 K:BB over his last 43 innings. He'll never be an ace, but at least he's finally somewhat reliable when healthy. ...

Zach Britton will remain in Triple-A until August, as he'll have his free agency delayed by a year if he sticks in the minors until then. ...

Chien-Ming Wang (shoulder) might need just one more start in the minors before making his return to the big leagues. Not sure what to make of Wang, but I'll put in a claim in my NL-only league. ...

I like Jason Isringhausen for saves in the short term, but I fully expect he'll be dealt this month, leaving Bobby Parnell as the Mets new closer. Parnell has the stuff to be successful in the role, but expect a few bumps in the road.

Regan, a four-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner, was named the 2010 Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year.

Follow @vtadave on Twitter.