Ahead of the Curve: Major Injuries Cause Disturbance in the Force

As if you needed more of a reason to pick Clayton Kershaw as your baseball boyfriend.

It's common sense, right? If you lose two of the biggest offensive stars in the game, there's going to be extra match-ups to exploit in the coming weeks. Right now, as of writing this, it looks like Matt Kemp will miss at least four weeks after re-aggravating his hamstring, and as much as I like Alex Castellanos as an NL-only and deep mixed league pickup, it would be a severe understatement to say this will be a downgrade. Then we have Troy Tulowitzki going on the DL in Colorado, leaving some combination of Chris Nelson and D.J. LeMahieu to get way too many at bats for their own good.

But that's not all! He's certainly not on the Tulo/Kemp level, but now the Orioles will be without Nick Markakis for at least 3-4 weeks with a hamate bone fracture. Xavier Avery is interesting in that he's one of those toolsy outfielders who was finally showing signs of putting it together at AAA earlier this year, but he also had a 615 OPS in 60 at bats during his first stretch of action this year. Overall, the lineup shouldn't produce much less offense, but from a fantasy perspective, the Orioles will present opposing pitchers with plenty of strikeouts. And we like strikeouts.

THE POTENTIAL OUTPERFORMERS


Clayton Kershaw (@PHI, @SEA, CHW, @OAK, @SF, NYM)

What other superlatives are we supposed to use about Kershaw at this point? He's one of the best pitchers in baseball, and he will be for years. But the most interesting thing about his season so far is his increased ground ball rate. In his three full seasons, this rate was 39.4%, 40.1% and 43.2%. This season it's 48.9%. And the amusing thing is that generally increases like this stem from pitch selection or improvement, but Kershaw is generating more ground balls than last year on all four of his pitches and with no dramatic change in selection. That's either improved command or improved quality of stuff across the board -- and with Kershaw, either one is a scary thought.

Lesser pitchers coming after the jump..

Andy Pettitte (TB, NYM, @WSH, @NYM, CLE)

I'll be the first to admit, I was not expecting much from Pettitte once I heard he had signed the minor league deal with the Yankees. But after four starts, he has a 3.15 xFIP -- which is really only interesting because if he were to finish the season at that level, it would be tied for the lowest xFIP of his entire career. Of course, it's easy to say his four starts have been against Seattle, Kansas City, Cincinnati and the Angels (in LA), but this schedule doesn't get any more difficult for a while.

Madison Bumgarner (CHC, @SD, HOU, @SEA, @OAK)

Bumgarner's been good this year, but you could make the case he's been a little disappointing in fantasy because of his 6.4 K/9 (as compared to his 8.4 K/9 last season). That being said, this schedule is about as ideal as you can hope for -- all five games are being played in parks that heavily favor pitchers, and against bad offenses/teams to boot! So don't waste any time, go feel out his owner in your league and see if you can pull a deal before his stats start to look more in line with his lofty preseason expectations.

Jaime Garcia (@NYM, @HOU, CHW, KC, @KC, PIT, COL)

Will the real Jaime Garcia please stand up? His stats have been a bit of a paradox this season. His velocity has consistently been down about 1.5 MPH across the board, but his swinging strike rate is up from last season. His swinging strike rate is up from last season, but his K/9 is down. He's also only allowed 1 HR on the year in 64 1/3 innings. In the end, I still believe, and this stretch should help.

Blake Beavan (@LAA, SD, SF, @SD)

I know, I know. Beavan's probably still available in some AL-only leagues, but if there were ever a time to use him, this stretch would be it. You just won't like yourself for doing it.

Other Potential Outperformers:

Trevor Cahill (@SD, OAK, @LAA, SEA, @ATL, SD)
Brian Matusz (@TB, PHI, PIT, @NYM)
Johnny Cueto (PIT, CLE, @NYM, MIN, @SF, @LAD, @SD)
Max Scherzer (CLE, @CHC, COL, @PIT, @TB, MIN)
Luke Hochevar (OAK, @PIT, MLW, @HOU)
Felipe Paulino (OAK, MIN, MLW, @HOU)
Ervin Santana (SEA, @LAD, ARZ, LAD)
P.J. Walters (@CLE, CHC, PHI, @PIT)
Anthony Bass (SF, @SEA, @OAK, SEA, @HOU)
Clayton Richard (ARZ, SF, @SEA, TEX, SEA)
Matt Cain (CHC, @SD, HOU, @LAA, @OAK)
Jason Vargas (@LAA, LAD, SF, @SD, OAK, BAL, @OAK)
Jeremy Hellickson (BAL, @MIA, NYM, @WSH, @KC)
Colby Lewis (@LAA, @OAK, ARZ, HOU, COL, OAK)
Yu Darvish (@LAA, @OAK, ARZ, @SD, COL, OAK)

THE POTENTIAL UNDERPERFORMERS

Jordan Zimmermann (ATL, @BOS, NYY, TB, @COL)

Such is the life of a pitcher on a team playing the AL East during interleague play. I'm a big Zimmermann fan, but his numbers are going to look worse at the All-Star Break than they do now.

Jonathan Niese (STL, @NYY, @TB, BAL)

Ditto for Niese, who's been better than you would think given his 4.55 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. His strikeouts (8.3 K/9) and his ground ball rate (52.2%) suggest that there's better times ahead, they just unfortunately are unlikely to be during this four start stretch. But keep your eye on him, he could be a great buy-low target towards the end of June.

Christian Friedrich (@ARZ, LAA, @DET, @TEX)

Yes, it's only been five starts, but Friedrich's 5.59 ERA is not even in the same universe as his 3.01 xFIP or 2.54 FIP. There are going to be owners who will give up on him after this stretch, but you can't underestimate the value of a 9.9 K/9, even if that pitcher calls Coors Field home. The rest of his numbers will come around eventually.

Other Potential Underperformers:

Brandon Beachy (@WSH, TOR, NYY, @NYY)
Paul Maholm (@SF, @MLW, DET, BOS, @ARZ)
Matt Garza (@SF, @MLW, DET, @CHW, @ARZ)
Jose Quintana (TOR, @STL, @LAD, MLW, @NYY, TEX)
The Ghost of Jaime Moyer (LAD, @ARZ, OAK, @PHI, @TEX)
Lucas Harrell (STL, @CHW, @TEX, CLE)
Kevin Correia (@MLW, @CIN, @BAL, MIN, DET, @STL)
Gio Gonzalez (ATL, @BOS, @TOR, TB, @COL)

#STREAMEROFTHEDAY UPDATE

As you may know, I post a streamer of the day owned in less than 10% of leagues on a daily basis at @tfw_bret on Twitter. And as a staple of this column, I'm going to review my picks as the season goes on. Here are the final numbers for the past seven #streameroftheday picks:

2 wins, 2.84 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 19 K's in 38 innings.

And the details:

Date Pitcher Opp IP ER H BB K ERA WHIP Dec
25-May AJ Burnett CHC 5 1/3 0 6 2 6 - 1.50 W
26-May Paul Maholm PIT 5 2 4 5 2 3.60 1.80 ND
27-May Hector Noesi LAA 8 3 5 2 0 3.38 0.88 L
28-May Bronson Arroyo PIT 4 4 8 1 1 9.00 2.25 L
29-May Homer Bailey PIT 9 1 4 1 5 1.00 0.56 W
30-May Dillon Gee PHI 6 2/3 2 6 1 5 2.70 1.05 ND
31-May Josh Lindblom MLW 0 0 0 0 0 #DIV/0! #DIV/0!

This week was a mixed bag, with the ratios being very solid, the two wins being OK, and the 4.5 K/9 being rather underwhelming. The pick of Josh Lindblom on Thursday was due to Jeremy Guthrie being the only qualifying SP and me wanting no part of him. That's how I roll.

Follow me on Twitter at @tfw_bret

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