The Rubber, Week Two: Starters Whose Ownership is on the Rise
We’re only a couple starts into the season for most pitchers, but one or two games are enough at this point in the season for a player’s ownership percentage to skyrocket. If Barry Zito had started the season with quite a few mediocre-to-bad starts and then ripped off a couple outings in which he went seven and allowed no runs in each, no one would have paid much attention. And his ownership percentage certainly would not spike in a big way. But because he started the season with two great starts, people see the 0.00 ERA and add him (his ownership percentage is up 36% as of Wednesday afternoon). But if it was mid-season and his ERA had gone from the high-fours to the mid-fours, he’d remain on the waiver wire where he belongs.
But such is the nature of things. People overreact to early season performances and don’t place enough consideration on the fact that regression will undoubtedly bite almost every player who exceeds draft day expectations in the first few weeks. And it’ll bite your roto stats as well if you’re one of those people. I’m here to help you not be one of those people.
Below are the guys whose ownership percentages have increased by 10% or more recently according to ESPN.com. I’ve only included the guys still available in more than 50% of ESPN leagues because there’s no reason to give you my thoughts on the guys who have already been added.
Jose Fernandez | Miami Marlins | 43.1% owned
Fernandez is 20 years old and has less than 150 total innings of professional ball. Admittedly, he’s excelled in his short amount of work. And his stuff is also admittedly great. But it’s insane to trust him and think there’s not going to be a serious adjustment period. The concern that he’ll be demoted is a real one, but it’s not the main thing fantasy owners should worry about. If he gets sent down, you can just drop him and pick up an adequate replacement. But you should be worried about what he’s going to do to your numbers while he’s up. He’s not Stephen Strasburg, and he’s not going to continue to be this good right off the bat. It just doesn’t happen.
Barry Zito | San Francisco Giants | 40.9% owned
Hopefully you got the point in the first paragraph.
Jeremy Guthrie | Kansas City Royals | 31.7% owned
In about 1,200 innings prior to this season, Guthrie established himself as guy with above average control but not much else. His 6.9% career walk rate is solid, but he doesn’t have another skill that’s even average. His 14.3% K% is well below average, and he has a real problem with home runs (career 1.27 HR/9). He’s struck out a few more batters than normal in his first two starts, but you know what they say about blind squirrels and broken clocks. And he’s already given up three home runs in two starts so that’s clearly still an issue. Stay away.
Jhoulys Chacin | Colorado Rockies | 17.6% owned
Chacin only walked 6% of the batters he has faced in his two starts, so he’s mildly intriguing. But he also hasn’t struck many out, so that makes him a little less intriguing. He has gotten quite a few ground balls, and that was a big part of his success in 2010 and 2011. If he keeps the ball on the ground, he’s worth watching. And if the strikeout and walk skills are decent, he’ll be worth adding. If he can even just post average strikeout and walk rates (think around 19% K% and 8% BB%) then he’ll be worth owning. If you play in league deeper than 10 teams or a league with enough bench spots, he’s worth stashing in the hopes that he has it together. Be cautiously optimistic.
Tommy Hanson | Los Angeles Angels | 44.7% owned
When Tommy Hanson was good back in 2009-2011, his average fastball velocity varied year-to-year from just under 92 to just over 93. But last year when he was hurt and ineffective his average fastball was just over 90. In his first start this season his average fastball velocity was just under 89. NOT INTERESTED.
James McDonald | Pittsburgh Pirates | 19.5% owned
McDonald has always struggled not to issue too many walks. He made marginal improvement as his walk rate dropped from 10.3% in 2011 down to 9.7% last year, but not enough improvement to think he’s going to be able to post a sub-4.00 ERA absent some significant luck. Through two starts this season he has walked 12.5% of the batters he has faced, and as long as his walk rate sucks his ERA will as well.