Two pitchers make their highly anticipated season debuts this weekend, one just beginning his career, the other refusing to let his end. Roger Clemens won 24 games the year Homer Bailey was born, but both pitchers will have an impact on your fantasy aspirations in 2007. Which of them do you want? That's what we endeavor to find out in our...
Need to Know
Homer Bailey gets the ball Friday for Cincinnati, and he will be given every opportunity to stay, having nothing left to prove in the minors. In his first season of Triple-A, Bailey is 6-1 with a 2.31 ERA, having held opposing hitters to a .191 batting average. Simply put, his stuff is sick, allowing him to dominate everywhere he has pitched with a devastating curveball and a blinding fastball. He should already be owned in NL-only leagues, so the question is: Is he mixed-league worthy? Bailey drew the worst matchup possible for his first career start -- Cleveland leads the league with a .816 OPS against right-handers -- so expectations should be tempered for his first start. After what could well be a tough game against the Tribe, there will be nowhere to go but up for the rest of the season. His ceiling would be about eight wins, 90 strikeouts and a low-3.00s ERA if he keeps his walks and home runs to a minimum. That's not a given, however, as Bailey has regressed a little bit and is allowing more walks this year against more polished competition. So keep an eye on walk ratio to see how quickly he adapts.
As Bailey plays savior to a struggling Reds team, Roger Clemens is supposed to play that same role for the Yankees. Clemens will take the mound Saturday versus the Pirates ... or should I say, "as of this writing" Clemens will take the mound Saturday versus the Pirates. Yes, the scar tissue in his groin has some worried about whether he will again move back his debut. Clemens is already owned in most leagues, so the question is: Do you want to trade, keep or acquire the Rocket? The short answer is trade for him, and trade for him now. First, we are talking about a veteran for whom Major League Baseball has reserved a Hall of Fame spot since the mid-'90s. The point is, Clemens knows better than anybody else if he can still be a dominant pitcher at this level. The man has some pride. Do you really think he would even risk the chance that he limps out of his career with a lousy season? Clemens knows he is going to pitch well; otherwise he wouldn't have come back. He doesn't need the money, as ridiculous as the sum is. Furthermore, despite the team's low win total so far, there is no lack of run support in New York. In fact, the Yanks are tied for third in the majors in runs scored. If he had that kind of support last year in Houston, he could have won more than 15 games despite starting the season in late June. The AL East is not the NL Central, but he should still be effective enough that health is the only thing that could hold Clemens back. So make that your only concern when trying to acquire him.
Scott Kazmir, SP, TB -- Kazmir has pitched better since adjusting where he stands on the rubber. Kazmir's 17.6 pitches per inning pitched leads the league, but in his two starts since moving from the third-base side to the first-base side of the rubber, he is down closer to 15 pitches per inning. Not a huge difference, and it is a small sample size, but if those five or six-inning games start to consistently go seven or eight innings, the improvement in ERA and WHIP -- as well as to his opportunity to win games -- will be noticeable.
Roy Halladay, SP, TOR -- Halladay blames bad mechanics for his brutal outing (12 hits, 7 earned runs) versus the Devil Rays Tuesday. Halladay says it's no big deal and that the problem can be ironed out. He'll draw the Dodgers on Sunday and wise fantasy owner might leave him on the bench to see if "Doc" has his groove back, especially H2H leagues.
Boof Bonser, SP, MIN -- A WHIP over 1.50 is starting to catch up with Boof Bonser. He has a neat name, but isn't as valuable in the fantasy realm as his strikeouts may insinuate. If you can spot-start him against weak offences, keep him. His ERA balloons to 5.36 if you take out two starts against the White Sox (29th in OPS) and two starts against the Royals (26th in OPS).
Dave Bush, SP, MIL -- Luck is starting to get onside with Dave Bush. It's well documented that Bush has been a victim of bad luck, as his balls-in-play average of .313 has been published several times (statistically a BIPA of .300 is normal). Even more alarming is his DIPS ERA (that's ERA independent of defense). BIPA affects the DIPS, but Bush still has the widest margin among starters between his ERA (5.67) and his DIPS ERA (3.87). He's only owned in 22 percent of ESPN leagues and luck is bound the smile on him soon.
Kevin Slowey, SP, MIN -- Slowey hit a bump in the road on Wednesday; giving up 10 hits in five innings versus the Angels. But if a "bump in the road" for this kid includes a win and no walks, the highway is going to be smooth sailing.
Yovani Gallardo, SP, MIL -- The hype is going to be so huge when the first suggestion of his call-up is made that if you don't roster him now, you won't be able to. If you have any room whatsoever on your team, pick him up now. Gallardo has a shot at being the cream of this year's crop of rookie pitchers and his arrival is inevitable. He is owned in only 1 percent of ESPN leagues, but will have an impact on all of them. Lincecum who?
Behind the Mask
Updated umpire statistics will appear here every month. These statistics can be used in deciding whether to spot-start a pitcher who has a decent K/BB ratio. To use them, you have to wait until after the first game of a series, as an umpiring schedule is not publicly available. Check the box score for which umpire what at which base. The umpires will rotate around the diamond clockwise during a series, so the home plate ump will go to third for the next game, third to second and so on. To find out more about the value of umpiring trends, you can still access the original piece in this year's draft kit.
The first chart identifies the umpires that call the most strikeouts per game (remember it's for both pitchers).
This chart identifies the umpires that call the fewest strikeouts per game.
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com and TalentedMrRoto.com. He can be reached at Alla_Rino@TalentedMrRoto.com