Barry Zito's first start fantasy shocker

Published Apr. 12, 2012 1:00 a.m. EDT

While wondering what is wrong with Tim Lincecum (12.91 ERA through two starts), here are 10 other things on my mind after the season's first week ...

Are Sergio Santos' days as closer numbered?

Perhaps he's been distracted due to the birth of his child this week, but Santos is off to a rough start. Through three appearances, he's blown a pair of saves while posting a 15.43 ERA and a 1:4 K:BB in 2.1 innings. Santos said this week he's been "overthrowing." But if that's the case, why is his velocity down a mile per hour over last year? I am not a pitching coach, but if he's trying to throw harder and the ball isn't going faster, that's a problem.

Anyway, the Blue Jays traded for Santos over winter to be their closer, so the leash is likely long. His command and control have yet to make a showing in 2012, but three appearances do not a trend make. I'd be comfortable starting him.


While Santos is out on a brief paternity leave, Francisco Cordero will fill in. Given his 327 career saves, it's an obvious choice, and considering Santos' early struggles, Cordero should be owned in deeper mixed and AL-only formats.

Are we back in 2002 re: Barry Zito?

OK, silly question. Yes, it was Coors Field and Zito was impressive in tossing a four-hit shutout that included no walks and four strikeouts, but let's not go overboard. He's available in a 10-team NL-only league I'm in, and he'll be tossed a couple of FAAB bucks this week, but shallower leagues are safe to let someone else take the risk. Zito still threw that "fastball" that averaged 84 mph and threw 71 of 114 (62.5 percent) pitches for strikes, but that strike percentage is about in line with what he's done in recent years:

2007 - 60.1
2008 - 63.7
2009 - 63.3
2010 - 59.5
2011 - 62.3

The key was staying around the zone and enticing hitters to swing. When he did that, balls were hit at people and he got a bit lucky (unless you believe a .158 BABIP is sustainable). We'll see what happens next time out, but beyond a fringe NL-only guy, don't buy this performance.

Is Vicente Padilla a realistic closer option for the Red Sox?

Wow, has this gotten ugly or what?

Closer candidate 1: Andrew Bailey - Hurt, out until at least July
Closer candidate 2: Alfredo Aceves - 3 games, 1 inning, 27.00 ERA
Closer candidate 3: Mark Melancon - 2 games, 1 inning, 36.00 ERA

Padilla has received some play based on his 4.1 innings of 2.08 ERA ball, and Franklin Morales and others have also pitched well, but where is this headed? I'm not sure, but after watching Dan Bard allow five runs on eight hits over five innings in his first career start, I have to think serious consideration is being given to returning Aceves to the rotation and installing Bard as the closer.

I get the idea that it is good to let your better pitchers (Bard) throw more innings, but this is a team trying to win games NOW, and it's not working as is. That said, Bard likely won't get shifted back to the bullpen without being given a handful more starts, so what are the other options besides Aceves and Melancon in the ninth?

Scott Atchison - More of an innings eater. Doesn't have closer stuff - 88 mph fastball.

Michael Bowden - Really nothing in recent years to suggest he'd thrive in the ninth.

Matt Albers - Throws hard, but that 1.54 career WHIP eliminates him.

Franklin Morales - Has looked really good, but the unproven Justin Thomas is the only other left-handed option in the middle/late innings.

Vicente Padilla - Looked pretty good closing (very briefly) for the Dodgers last year before he got hurt.

If you really want to speculate here, Padilla is your guy, simply due to the process of elimination. Perhaps Morales gets a chance now and then, but if you're not a believer in Aceves, target Padilla.

Is Jonathan Broxton "back"?

It's early, but so far so good. Broxton struck out the side in his first save of the year and has a relatively firm grip on the closer role over Greg Holland. The key numbers for Broxton this year are velocity and control, both of which have tailed off the past few years:

2008 3.5 96.3
2009 3.4 97.8
2010 4.1 95.4
2011 6.4 94.1
2012 0.0 96.1

The velocity is encouraging and indicates that his shoulder and elbow are sound, and though he's thrown just two innings so far this year, the lack of walks is similarly encouraging. With Holland getting hit hard in his first 2012 appearance, Broxton appears to have quite a bit of job security, but continue to monitor the velocity and control before concluding that the 2009 Broxton has resurfaced.

Edit: I could have edited this after what Broxton did Wednesday evening, but I thought you would be interested to see my thoughts pre-meltdown. Broxton entered Wednesday's game up 4-3 in the 12th inning and endured the following sequence of at-bats: strikeout, error, walk, walk, fielder's choice (RBI), HBP, HBP. Yes, the infamous walk-off HBP. Now, I won't say to completely disregard what I wrote above, but his is obviously a concerning outing.

The Pirates lead the league in ERA (1.50). How sustainable is that?

Despite leading the league with a 2.05 ERA, the Pirates are a game under .500 through their first five games thanks to an offense that has hit just .189/.228/.277. Let's look at the rotation and see what sort of talent we have here.

Erik Bedard - Held the Phillies to one run on seven innings, but these aren't the Phillies of 2010, and Bedard averaged just 88.6 mph with his fastball. Wednesday, he gave up just two runs to the Dodgers, but he labored through five innings, throwing 88 pitches.

James McDonald - Two runs over six innings against the Phillies. I've always liked him, so perhaps things will come together this year. Gives up too many HRs and BBs, but did post a 2.75 G/F in his first start.

Jeff Karstens - One run over six innings against the Phillies, but it's hard to overlook a 5.1 career K/9IP rate. Talented enough to have good months here and there, but just when you start to trust him, he goes all Vin Mazzaro on us.

Kevin Correia - A no-decision to show for his six innings of one-run ball against the Dodgers. Hope he has another few solid starts and then try and sell high, hoping owners forget his 7.23 ERA after the break last year.

No. 5 starter - Not sure who this will be just yet.

The question on sustainability is easy to answer with a resounding "no," but in Bedard, McDonald and Karstens, the Pirates at least have three pitchers capable of being solid No. 3 starters.

Just how bad is the Red Sox pitching?

Overall team ERA: 6.40 (rank: 30)
Starter's ERA: 6.68 (rank: 29)
Reliever's ERA: 5.89 (rank: 27)

That's pretty bad, folks. Other than Jon Lester (2.40 ERA in two starts), Felix Doubront (3.60 ERA) and a few relievers, it's been ugly. Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz have combined to allow 14 runs in 8.2 innings, while late-inning relief help has been anything but relief.

That said, it's the first week of the season, so don't panic. Beckett isn't going to allow five home runs every time out, and Buchholz isn't going to post a 15.75 ERA for the year. I'm not entirely convinced that Buchholz is ever going to be a solid No. 2 or No. 3 starter, as he turns 28 in August and has just one big league season (last year) in which he's made more than 16 big league starts. Beckett and Lester will be fine, but they really need to figure out what to do with the bullpen. The starting pitching should take care of itself.

Jeff Samardzija - where did that come from?

Prior to this year, Samardzija had made five career starts with the following results:

8/12/09 vs. PHI - 3.1 IP, 7 ER
9/23/09 at MIL - 5 IP, 3 ER
9/13/10 at STL - 5.2 IP, 0 ER
9/19/10 at MIA - 6 IP, 3 ER
9/26/10 vs. STL - 4.1 IP, 8 ER

So two solid starts, a mediocre one and two ugly outings for a total ERA of 7.77.

Then he goes out in his first outing of 2012 and tosses 8.2 innings of one-run ball with no walks and eight strikeouts, making his NL-only owners look like geniuses. Samardzija has always had a big arm, averaging between 93 and 95 mph with his fastball for his career, but the control has been severely lacking - 5.3 BB/9IP prior to this year. We've seen some erratic pitchers "get it" (Clayton Kershaw) while others have faded into oblivion (Daniel Cabrera), and while it's too early to say which camp Samardzija falls into, the early results are highly encouraging. I'd grab him in most any format.

Breaking down the Mets rotation - anything to see here?

Outside of Jonathon Niese, I wasn't high on these pitchers to start the year, but through six games, they have a 3.27 ERA and 37:15 K:BB in 33 innings. Johan Santana has yet to find the W column, but he's allowed just one run in 10 innings with a 13:5 K:BB. The Mets are conscious about letting Santana throw too many pitches early, but though the walks are a little high, the early returns are encouraging. I think he can throw 175 innings with 150 strikeouts and an ERA in the 3.50 range.

The other guy off to an encouraging start (sort of) is Mike Pelfrey. After dealing with rumors of his release this spring, Pelfrey came out and fanned eight while walking just one over 5.2 innings in his first start of the year. He did allow 10 hits, but with a 3.33 G/F, Pelfrey was a bit unlucky as evidenced by a .556 BABIP. Anyone who has owned Pelfrey has been burned by Pelfrey, but there's enough to be encouraged about to throw a buck or two his way in NL-only FAAB sessions.

Fernando Rodney - really?

Yes. Really. With Kyle Farnsworth likely sidelined until late-May/early-June, Rodney has stepped into the vacant closer role. Rodney has recorded three saves already, and he's yet to allow a baserunner while recording eight outs. Rodney, of course, has quite a history of causing managers and fantasy owners to pull out their own hair. His career WHIP sits at 1.46, but he's been even worse the past two years:

2010 - 1.54 WHIP, 4.6 BB/9IP
2011 - 1.69 WHIP, 7.9 BB/9IP

With Joel Peralta and even J.P. Howell as solid alternatives, Rodney's leash could be rather short if he struggles the next couple times out. Rodney did have a 2.45 ERA this spring, but true to form, he also had a 4:5 K:BB in 7.2 innings. We have all kinds of history to suggest that a regression is right around the corner, but you may as well ride him while he's hot.

My pitching staff is a shambles - who are some minor leaguers we can expect to see, and soon?

Could be up any moment:

1. Trevor Bauer, ARI - Off to a solid start in Double-A and will await a Josh Collmenter meltdown.

2. Jarrod Parker, OAK - There will be an opening in Oakland. Could be via Graham Godfrey failing or Brandon McCarthy getting hurt.

3. Jacob Turner, DET - A slow start could have Drew Smyly on a short leash.

Mid-2012 debut likely:

1. Tyler Skaggs, ARI - Slightly less polished than Bauer and seventh (at best) on the depth chart.

2. James Paxton, SEA - He's probably the closest among the big three (Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen).

3. Nathan Eovaldi, LAD - Someone will get hurt or booted from the rotation/team and he'll be first in line.

4. Robbie Erlin, SD - Like him quite a bit in that ballpark.

5. Brad Peacock, OAK - Could even get a shot before Parker depending on how they are pitching.

See you in September:

1. Shelby Miller, STL - Miller is a top-three pitching prospect, but with Kyle Lohse and Lance Lynn off to solid starts, an opening may not be there for Miller until late in the year.

2. Jake Odorizzi, KC - Royals top pitching prospect is in Double-A, but he's polished and could be ready late this year.

3. Julio Teheran, ATL - Still quite a bit of long-term upside, but timetable has been pushed back a bit.

4. Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, NYY - With Andy Pettitte arriving in May, it's already a crowded rotation.

5. Martin Perez, TEX - Still relatively unpolished and could use a full year at Triple-A.

6. Chad Bettis, COL - Top Colorado pitching prospect outside of Drew Pomeranz.

7. Allen Webster, LAD - Far from polished, but if it clicks for him soon, he could move quickly.

8. Jenrry Mejia, NYM - Long-term future may be in the bullpen, but they could give him a shot in the rotation this year.

9. Deck McGuire, TOR - Not a ton of upside, but could settle in as a No. 3 starter eventually.

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

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