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Circling the Bases: Five From Sunday

Ray Flowers

Ray Flowers

The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: M-F at 5-8 PM EDT), Ray Flowers has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. You can follow Ray on Twitter (@BaseballGuys), he never sleeps, and you can also find more of his musings at BaseballGuys.com.

Today I'm going to canvas starting pitchers focusing on five hurlers that made starts on Sunday. Are any of the hurlers options you would benefit from having on your roster the rest of the season, or would you be better off if you sent them packing right now in a deal if their currently taking up one of your roster spots?

Josh Johnson: 4-5, 4.18 ERA, 1.46 WHIP

In his last eight outings Johnson has lasted at least six innings seven times. In those eight outings he's allowed three runs twice and in the other six outings he's limited the opponent to two or fewer runs. In the process his ERA has come down nearly a run an a half from 6.61. Moreover, in those eight starts his ERA has been 2.73, his WHIP 1.22, his K/9 7.5 and his K/BB ratio 2.93. Let's compare those numbers to his career rates: 3.10 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 8.20 K/0, 2.73 K/BB. The only thing that's been missing is a strikeout per nine innings, but overall the Johnson we've seen the month and a half is pretty much the top of the rotation arm that we are used to seeing on the hill. BUY

Ivan Nova: 9-2, 4.32 ERA, 1.38 WHIP

Nova entered the year with a 5.38 K/9 mark and a 3.21 BB/9 mark. The walk rate was league average, but the K-rate was more than a batter an a half lower than the league average level. So how did Nova go 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA last year if his skills weren't near elite? Part of the answer to that was the heavy ball that he throws that led to a 53 percent ground ball rate and 1.83 GB/FB ratio. Flash forward to 2012 and Nova is a different pitcher. He's still winning games, though we all know by this point there's no way to really predict that, but take a look at how his game has changed. Through 13 starts this year he has a 7.70 K/9 mark. Guys rarely boost their K-rate by two batters from one season to the next. Not only has he done something unforeseen in the K department, he's also issued fewer free passes knocking more than three quarters of a batter of his per nine inning walk rate (2.43). Huh? He's also had all that success this year despite seeing his GB-rate dip to 47 percent leading to a significant regression in his GB/FB ratio down to 1.32. Has he really changed his pitching style to the point that we need to set new baselines for him? Thirteen starts isn't enough for me to make that determination, but I'll tell you this – even if he gets that HR/9 ratio under control (1.48 – double the 0.71 mark from last season) he's still not likely to see much improvement in his ERA given that his left on base percentage is really high at 79 percent and likely to regress. One last point. Despite the strides he has taken, his ERA and WHIP are both worse than league average marks and his 1.38 WHIP this season is actually worse than the 1.33 mark he posted last year. SELL

Max Scherzer: 6-4, 5.17 ERA, 1.52 WHIP

The most dominating righty in the American League? Of course you'll get plenty of arguments with that statement as all you need to do is to look at his teammate Justin Verlander, but the fact is that Scherzer's 11.49 K/9 mark is the second best total in baseball behind Stephen Strasburg (11.69). Given that he's sporting that massive mark and an impressive 3.45 K/BB ratio, those ratios (ERA, WHIP) don't make a lot of sense. Part of the reason is obviously the big time increase in his homer rate, up from 1.13 per nine in his career to 1.49 per nine this season. That number should decline as we move forward. It would also be nice if his .376 BABIP would regress. Given that his career mark is .314, the total that he posted last season, it would be wise to expect that to also occur. When those two issues resolved themselves maybe we'll see more of the pitcher that xFIP says should have a 3.19 ERA, almost two full runs below his raw ERA mark. BUY

Adam Wainwright: 5-7, 4.46 ERA, 1.31 WHIP

Wainwright started out slowly but he continues to round his way into shape as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery. In each of his last two starts he's lasted seven innings, and only once in six starts has he failed to work six innings (5.2 on June 6th). Take out the thrashing he was dealt by the Mets on June 1st (7 ER in 6 IP) and he's been pretty darn impressive since mid-May. Over his last seven starts he's held the opponent to two runs or less five times, gave up three runs once, and then got bombed in that one outing. On the year he has a 8.50 K/9 mark, which would be a five year high. He's also sporting a solid 3.08 K/BB ratio while his GB/FB ratio of 2.28 would be by far and away the best mark of his career (1.68 previous best in both 2009 and 2010). He may not be all the way back, but it's getting harder and harder to make that claim. BUY

Chris Young (NYM): 1-1, 3.06 ERA, 1.64 WHIP

Always effective when healthy, Young has tossed three games for the Metropolitans with average results. A guy who has walked at least four batters per nine innings each of his past four years on the field, Young is sporting a 2.55 mark right now, and there's no logical reason to think that will continue. His fastball velocity continues to tumble as well and his current mark of 84.1 mph, while being more than four mph below his career average, is one of the main reasons he has just eight Ks in 17.1 innings. As extreme a fly ball pitcher as there is in baseball (54 percent for his career), there's simply no way that Young can have an extended run of success with a 4.08 K/9 rate. Play up the fact he is healthy right now and that he pitches for the Mets... and hope someone bites. SELL

BY THE NUMBERS – R.A. Dickey Style

1: The number of runs that Dickey has allowed in his last five starts.

1: The place of Dickey amongst all NL hurlers in strikeouts. In fact, his 103 Ks tied him with Justin Verlander for the most in baseball. Dickey posted a career-high last year with 134 Ks over 208.2 innings. How about this. His 5.78 K/9 last year has jumped to 9.36.

2.00: The major leagues best ERA – the best. Dickey's ERA is 2.00 while Brandon Beachy – dealing with an elbow issue that could lead to surgery – also matches the mark with a 2.00 total.

5: The number of consecutive starts Dickey has made of at least eight strikeouts and no earned runs allowed, the longest streak in baseball history.

7: The number of consecutive games in Dickey has struck out at least eight batters --- with the knuckleball being his only pitch. The all-time record is 8-straight games in a row with at least eight strikeouts (Randy Johnson). In those seven games he's struck out a total of 71 batters while walking six.

8: The number of victories for Dickey in his last nine starts. His only loss of the year cam on April 18th.

8: The number of consecutive starts that Dickey has made while allowing two or fewer walks --- with the knuckleball being his only pitch.

11: The major league leading win total of Dickey. Again, he has only one loss.

42.2: The number of consecutive innings Dickey has thrown without allowing an earned run.

Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87 from 5-8 PM EDT, Monday through Friday. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.