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Billy Beane Adds a Pitcher, and Hill We Go Again

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Rich Hill is about to turn his career around at age 36, and he might be able to turn your team around too.

Rich Hill's left arm can be a valuable Fantasy asset
Rich Hill's left arm can be a valuable Fantasy asset
John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Since he entered the league in 2002, Rich Hill spent more time in his U-Haul truck than on the baseball field. The former fourth round pick spent a good portion of his last 7 years traveling around the country. Take a look at his travel log (no need actually to read them).

· February 2, 2009: Purchased by the Baltimore Orioles from the Chicago Cubs.

· November 3, 2009: Granted Free Agency.

· January 26, 2010: Signed as a Free Agent with the St. Louis Cardinals.

· June 30, 2010: Granted Free Agency.

· June 30, 2010: Signed as a Free Agent with the Boston Red Sox.

· November 6, 2010: Granted Free Agency.

· December 16, 2010: Signed as a Free Agent with the Boston Red Sox.

· December 12, 2011: Granted Free Agency.

· December 13, 2011: Signed as a Free Agent with the Boston Red Sox.

· November 30, 2012: Granted Free Agency.

· February 7, 2013: Signed as a Free Agent with the Cleveland Indians.

· October 31, 2013: Granted Free Agency.

· February 1, 2014: Signed as a Free Agent with the Boston Red Sox.

· March 24, 2014: Released by the Boston Red Sox.

· March 26, 2014: Signed as a Free Agent with the Boston Red Sox.

· July 1, 2014: Purchased by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim from the Boston Red Sox.

· July 9, 2014: Released by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

· July 16, 2014: Signed as a Free Agent with the New York Yankees.

· October 30, 2014: Granted Free Agency.

· February 27, 2015: Signed as a Free Agent with the Washington Nationals.

· June 24, 2015: Released by the Washington Nationals.

· August 14, 2015: Signed as a Free Agent with the Boston Red Sox.

· November 2, 2015: Granted Free Agency.

· November 20, 2015: Signed as a Free Agent with the Oakland Athletics.

Pardon me, but I took the liberty of just copying off Baseball-Reference for this one. I just want you to get a good feel for what this guy had gone through.

He is 36 years old and owns career 4.53 ERA in 513.0 IP. From 2010 to 2014, he only pitched 75.2 IP in the majors, and he hasn't even been outstanding in the minors as he put together uninspiring 4.09 ERA in 12 seasons.

So why are we talking about this middle-aged career minor leaguer? Let me start from this. While not many people would be excited to have such guy on board, he was chosen by the voice which matters the most in business: Billy Beane. The Moneyball GM is no longer treated as the one-of-a-kind executive, but he is still easily a better one with a very good track record, especially with pitchers (I have started to have some doubts about his decisions on hitters, especially since Billy Butler). A's is a very cheap team, so there is a no way that the organization dropped 6 million dollar on some random old lefty just out of curiosity (Hill's last recorded Major League salary was 1 million with Indians back in 2013. 6 Million is a major pay raise for him). I believe Rich Hill could turn into Beane's another Scott Kazmir.

Last year when he first got the call from the Red Sox, he was flat out awesome. In his 4 starts, his line reads stunning 1.55 ERA, 0.66 WHIP, 11.2 K/9, and 1.6 BB/9 in 29 IP. It's obviously not fair to expect him to continue such otherworldly excellence, but of all those numbers, we can at least trust his K rate. Even in his early days with the Cubs, he was always considered as a great strikeout talent, and since 2011, he has been putting up 11.7 K/9 (career 8.9 K/9).

His problem always has been the walks. He doesn't possess any scorching fastball to bypass the hitters, so he needs to rely on his awesome curve. In his last outing against the Royals, where he struggled with 3 ER in 4.1 IP, he had trouble locating his fastballs (a career long issue), so he started throwing breaking balls for strikes (surprisingly, he is one of those guys who can locate his breaking pitches better). Despite his swung and miss potential, when the curve ball lands inside the zone get the count, the pitch's lack of speed could lead to an easy base hit for the right handed hitters.

We are still seeing the same old problem from him, so I admit that he is not perfect. Nonetheless, K is a very expensive category to fill especially from the starters, so when we can get them for free of charge, we at least need to give him a look. He is not some boring 8.0 K/9 guy whom you can pick up from time to time. He has potential to lead the league in K rate. Since the last year, his K% comes out at 32.7%. There is only one starter who put up a better number, and it's Clayton Kershaw with 33.1% (3rd is Jose Fernandez with 31.7% and followed by Chris Sale's 31.6%). He is a true elite K machine, and as long as he keeps his job with the A's, he can contribute.

He is also equipped with a new pitch this year. He began to throw more sliders, and he has seemed to be comfortable using them even against the righties. Just like his famous curve ball, it has a very good vertical movement, and I've watched him using them very effectively to punch out the hitters after two strike counts. One of his biggest problems in the past has been the lack of secondary offerings after the curve, so more confidence in his other pitches cannot hurt him going forward (this year, he has been using the sliders just as much as the curves, both around 25% of the times. He never used the slider more than 3.8% in previous years, so this is a major change in his repertoire). This could be an explanation for his current career high 52.9% ground ball rate (or it could very well be just the small sample size).

I also won't worry too much about his age, since he is somehow throwing 90.3 mph fastballs, about a mile higher than his career average. If he can actually get his groundball rate up, his high walk won't be enough to blow up his ERA. Even if he doesn't, the spacious Coliseum can at least help to avoid the disasters. Moreover, as for a small bonus, if you are in a Rotisserie league, you can also benefit from his high pitch counts that would prevent him from soaking up your precious inning limit.

K/9

BB/9

ERA

WHIP

Rich Hill

9.43

4.06

3.77

1.30

Francisco Liriano

9.53

3.66

3.41

1.25

Steamer Projections on Hill and Liriano. Remember Steamer is usually conservative on the guys without the track record. You would pick up Liriano if he is floating around your waiver wire, right?

I don't see him ever being a low WHIP guy, but that's just a small price you need to pay to check out his enormous Fantasy upside. Gamers, this is time to take the action. In the end, he won't cost you a thing especially after his last rough outing against the Royals. Buy low, and enjoy the Beane ride.

Rest of the season Steamer projection

SP Rank

IP

W

ERA

WHIP

SO

Rich Hill

64

150

9

3.77

1.30

158