Is it time to stop slighting Brad Hand?
A recent hot streak has gained some notoriety for the Marlins' lefty, but does he have what it takes to help down the stretch?
Nestled among the ten most-added starting pitchers in CBSSports.com leagues is a lefty who has almost certainly never had that distinction before. Just one month after being inserted into the Marlins' rotation, Brad Hand has started to gain a following among Fantasy owners (with an ownership rate that has risen from 9 to 18 percent in the past week), and he is showing some signs that this could be the beginning of something bigger.
Over his six July starts, Hand crafted a 2.70 ERA and 1.23 WHIP, and it was with his second start that Hand may have sown the seeds for sustained success. That outing against the Diamondbacks was the first time that Hand used a sinker as a major part of his arsenal, throwing the pitch 32 times (according to BrooksBaseball.net). In each of his four successive starts, Hand threw more than 25 sinkers, and over that stretch, he got grounders on 83 percent of his sinkers in play.
The effectiveness of Hand's sinker allowed him to limit hitters to a .308 slugging percentage. He has also shored up his control, which has been a long-standing weakness, walking 10 batters over his last 36 2/3 innings. To maintain a low ERA, Hand will need to continue these trends, because he is allowing contact at a high rate. Though his velocity reaches into the mid-90s, Hand has induced whiffs on just 5 percent of his pitches over the past month.
Up until recently, Hand was the pitcher I wouldn't even pick up in NL-only leagues and would rank at the bottom of my two-start pitchers lists. He actually is in the midst of a two-start week, and I ranked him 35th out of 41 on this week's list. That didn't even qualify him as a borderline option in standard mixed leagues, but he was no longer a candidate to be the worst among the worst.
Maybe I'm being too conservative in my assessment of Hand, because he's certainly worth using if he can repeat what he has done over the past month. The low whiff rate leaves Hand with a very small margin for error, and he's been using the sinker for all of five games, so I'm not yet ready to move beyond a wait-and-see approach.
If he can keep the streak going this week against the Pirates and Reds, it will be time to view him in the same light as Charlie Morton or Kyle Gibson (who is also underowned, but that's another story) -- pitchers who are useful in mixed leagues in two-start weeks. Unlike those ground ball specialists, Hand can be used in a reliever slot, which only enhances his value.
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