Top 70 starters for Week 9

Over the season's early weeks, a number of starting pitchers didn't really appear to be themselves.

For some, like Tommy Hanson and Madison Bumgarner, it wasn't necessarily a bad thing, as they had success despite not achieving it through their usual formula. For others, like Josh Johnson and Adam Wainwright, it has been a cause for concern. Still, Johnson and Wainwright have had their moments, and they have their respective recoveries from health issues as a plausible explanation for their disappointing results.

Then there's Ricky Romero. He has been a stalwart of standard mixed league rosters over the last two seasons, but he hasn't been the same pitcher this year. Specifically, he seems to have lost command of the strike zone in a big way, and his walk rate continues to escalate. Tim Lincecum has dealt with similar issues, and he now finds himself benched in half of the leagues on and on the outside of this week's top 70.

Owners have been more forgiving of Romero, who is still active in 68 percent of our leagues. However, he ranks just 69th for Fantasy Week 9 (May 28-June 3), and he could be on his way out as well, if he can't turn things around against a potent Orioles attack this week.

Also on the outs this week is Carlos Zambrano, even though he is the proud owner of a 2.85 ERA and a two-start week. While Big Z is getting more whiffs than he did last season, it's not translating into a substantially higher K-rate, and he still has control issues. If not for some help from favorable strand and BABIP rates, Zambrano's ERA would likely be close to 4.00.

Though he just missed this week's top 70, Josh Tomlin would actually be a better choice. He will come off the disabled list to start at home against the Royals and Twins, and Tomlin has generally fared well when pitching at Progressive Field.

Here are the starters who are worth a try in standard mixed leagues for the coming scoring period, along with their matchups for the week.

Starting Rotation breakdown for Fantasy Week 9
Rank Player Start 1 Start 2 Stat of note
1 Cole Hamels @NYM (Niese) MIA (Zambrano) Opponents' .189 Avg, last four starts
Hamels has pitched at an elite level all season, but he's actually cranked it up a notch over his recent starts.
2 Justin Verlander @BOS (Bard) NYY (Hughes) .258 opponents' SLG (lowest in AL)
Only a pair of tough matchups prevents Verlander from occupying the top spot this week.
3 Jered Weaver NYY (Hughes) TEX (Harrison) Career 2.59 home ERA
Weaver can be mortal on the road, but opponents rarely dig the long ball (0.8 HR/9) when facing him in Anaheim.
4 Roy Halladay MIA (Nolasco) N/A 284 batters faced (leads MLB)
Though Halladay's Ks are down, he is still efficient, providing owners with plenty of solid innings.
5 Clayton Kershaw MIL (Gallardo) N/A 14.9 percent line drive rate since '11
Even when hitters manage to make contact against Kershaw, they rarely are able to hit the ball squarely.
6 Cliff Lee @NYM (Gee) N/A 18 straight starts of at least six innings
Of course, Lee provides owners with great stats, but he is also practically a lock to pitch deep into a game.
7 CC Sabathia @DET (Porcello) N/A 69 Ks in 71 1/3 innings
Sabathia is showing no signs of decline, and his current K-rate is among his best ever.
8 Felix Hernandez @CHW (Peavy) N/A At least 6 Ks in nine of 11 starts
Hernandez is not immune to occasional meltdowns, but he is a consistent strikeout producer.
9 David Price BAL (Chen) N/A 1.25 GB/FB ratio, last five starts (entering Sat.)
Price's early increase in his ground ball rate might have looked fluky, but it has actually risen further over his most recent starts.
10 Zack Greinke @LAD (Billingsley) N/A 29 Ks, 3 BBs over last 27 innings (entering Sat.)
Greinke rarely struggles with command, and he has really hit his stride lately.
11 Jordan Zimmermann @MIA (Zambrano) ATL (Hanson) 3.09 career ERA vs. ATL
The Braves have been one of the majors' most prolific offenses this year, but they haven't intimidated Zimmermann in four past starts.
12 Matt Cain CHC (Garza) N/A Career 0.7 HR/9 at home
The Cubs have been one of the majors' weakest power-hitting teams, and they should have another long night when facing Cain at AT&T Park.
13 Chris Sale @TB (Moore) SEA (Millwood) 10 percent popup rate
Sale doesn't allow all that many flyballs, but a large portion of them don't make it past the infield.
14 Shaun Marcum @LAD (Harang) PIT (Bedard) 7 BBs over last 24 innings
Marcum seems to be over an uncharacterisitc bout of wildness that overtook him a few weeks back.
15 Yovani Gallardo @LAD (Kershaw) N/A 2 HRs over last nine starts
After yielding four dingers in his first start of the year, Gallardo has been close to perfect at keeping the ball in the park.
16 Yu Darvish @LAA (Wilson) N/A 7 Ks in 5 1/3 innings vs. LAA, 5/11/12
Darvish didn't last long into his first start against the Halos, but he racked up Ks versus a squad that doesn't strike out much.
17 Gio Gonzalez ATL (Beachy) N/A 79 percent strand rate
Even if Gonzalez reverts back to posting a mediocre WHIP, he won't hurt your ERA, as he consistently puts up high strand rates.
18 Anibal Sanchez WAS (Jackson) N/A 2.4 BB/9 rate
Sanchez gets accolades for his Ks, but he's on the way to reducing his walk rate for the third straight season.
19 James Shields CHW (Humber) N/A Career 3.38 home ERA
Shields often suffers from gopheritis on the road, but opponents have a much harder time getting to him at the Trop.
20 Madison Bumgarner CHC (Maholm) N/A At least 5 Ks in five of last six starts
After a paucity of strikeouts early on, Bumgarner is moving back towards his normal rate.
21 Stephen Strasburg ATL (Minor) N/A 12 percent swinging strike rate, last two starts (entering Sat.)
Strasburg is in the midst of a relative mini-slump, but he hasn't stopped whiffing batters.
22 Jake Peavy SEA (Hernandez) N/A 76 percent strand rate (entering Sat.)
Strand rates below 65 percent in each of the last two years prevented Peavy from realizing his potential, but that hasn't been an issue this year.
23 Johan Santana STL (Garcia) N/A No starts with more than 3 BBs
Santana's control is almost always sharp; the last time he issued more than three walks was on June 10, 2010 vs. SD.
24 Ryan Dempster SD (Bass) N/A 7 BBs over last 34 1/3 innings
Walks are sometimes a weakness for Dempster, but he's not handed out many over his last five starts.
25 Tommy Hanson STL (Lynn) @WAS (Zimmermann) 17 Ks over last 18 innings
Hanson started off the year allowing more contact and getting more grounders, but both trends have been reversing themselves more recently.
26 Matt Garza @SF (Cain) N/A 47 percent ground ball rate
Nearly two months into the season, it looks like Garza's improved ground ball rate from a year ago was not a one-shot deal.
27 Ian Kennedy @SF (Lincecum) N/A 7 HRs over last 23 innings
Opponents have been making a lot of hard contact against Kennedy, and if not for his track record and a matchup against the Giants, he would rank considerably lower.
28 Doug Fister @BOS (Doubront) NYY (Kuroda) 1.65 ERA vs. BOS and NYY since '11
It's only three starts (two vs. BOS, one vs. NYY), but Fister has kept a couple of beasts from the AL East in check since last year.
29 Brandon Beachy @WAS (Gonzalez) N/A Eight straight starts of at least six innings
Beachy is not especially efficient, but he is becoming a reliable innings-eater nonetheless.
30 Dan Haren NYY (Pettitte) N/A 11.6 percent swinging strike rate
Haren may be losing some velocity, but he is actually experiencing a mild rebound in his whiff rate.
31 C.J. Wilson TEX (Darvish) N/A 60 percent strikes thrown vs. OAK on Tues.
Wilson emerged from his three-game slump on Tuesday by throwing strikes at a rate close to his career norm.
32 Wandy Rodriguez @COL (Nicasio) CIN (Latos) No HRs allowed in eight of 10 starts
Maybe Rodriguez will give up a long ball or two at Coors Field this week, but given his 1.10 WHIP, there's a good chance they could be solo jobs.
33 Jeff Samardzija SD (Stults) N/A 1.82 ERA, last six starts
After a turbulent start to the year, Samardzija has been remarkably consistent, not allowing more than three runs in any of his last half-dozen starts.
34 Johnny Cueto @PIT (Burnett) N/A .429 BABIP, last three starts
Cueto's recent results haven't been good, but an unlucky BABIP seems to be the main culprit.
35 Josh Johnson WAS (Wang) N/A Seven grounders induced on Fri. vs. SF (2nd lowest total in '12)
Johnson was hit hard in his most recent start, but for the most part, he's been able to keep the ball down this year.
36 Lance Lynn @ATL (Hanson) @NYM (Niese) 22 Ks in last 23 innings
Lynn has been wilder lately, but he has also been increasing an already-impressive strikeout rate.
37 Josh Beckett DET (Scherzer) N/A 68 percent quality start rate since 2011 (entering Sat.)
Beckett gets pegged as being inconsistent, but he's been mostly steady going back to last season.
38 Jason Hammel @TOR (Morrow) N/A Career 3.56 ERA vs. TOR
Hammel's seven shutout innings against the Jays last month was just his lastest good performance versus Toronto.
39 Jeremy Hellickson BAL (Matusz) N/A 64 percent strikes thrown, last five starts
After a wild start to the season, Hellickson has settled down and found his control.
40 Daniel Hudson @SD (Volquez) N/A Career 1.72 ERA vs. SD
Even if Hudson looks rusty on Sunday in his first start off the DL, he should have an easy time against the Padres in his following start.
41 Derek Holland SEA (Beavan) N/A Six quality starts in nine tries
Holland has hung tough against some good opposition this year, as he appears to be building consistency.
42 James McDonald CIN (Arroyo) @MIL (Fiers) 1 HR allowed in 23 road innings
McDonald was highly vulnerable on the road last season, so his upcoming start at MIL will be a good test to see if he is really becoming a road warrior.
43 Jaime Garcia @NYM (Santana) N/A 14 percent swinging strike rate, last five starts (entering Sat.)
After a modest start, Garcia has gone on a rampage, whiffing batters at a phenomenal rate.
44 Adam Wainwright @NYM (Dickey) N/A No HRs allowed, last four starts
Wainwright has yet to establish consistency, but at least he is recovering from an early high home run per flyball ratio.
45 R.A. Dickey STL (Wainwright) N/A 19 Ks, 1 BB over last two starts
Dickey's worth a start, but owners should not expect as many Ks this time. His last two opponents -- PIT and CIN -- are two of the most strikeout-prone teams.
46 Drew Smyly @BOS (Lester) N/A 29 Ks over last 28 innings
Smyly isn't pitching very many innings per start, but he is making the most of the innings he's getting.
47 Mat Latos @HOU (Rodriguez) N/A Opponents' .213 Avg vs. righties
The Astros aren't exactly laden with left-handed threats, so Latos could have a productive week.
48 Matt Harrison SEA (Millwood) @LAA (Weaver) Opponents' .274 Avg on grounders
Harrison appears to be getting a raw deal on ground balls, especially since he has a very good defensive infield behind him.
49 Colby Lewis @LAA (Williams) N/A Career 3.00 ERA at Angel Stadium
Lewis has performed well at most of the pitcher-friendly parks, and the Angels' home is not one of the exceptions.
50 Trevor Cahill @SF (Zito) @SD (Suppan) 3.5 BB/9 rate over last five starts
Cahill is still no control artist, but he has taken his walk rate to a more reasonable level over the past month.
51 Erik Bedard @MIL (Marcum) N/A 2.3 K/BB ratio vs. righties
Bedard still has a respectable K/BB ratio against righties, but he should struggle against the Brewers' righty-heavy lineup a little more than he would against a typical opponent.
52 Justin Masterson KC (Smith) N/A 3.54 ERA over last six starts
Masterson is walking far too many batters, but as long as keeps churning out grounders, he can help you with ERA and wins.
53 Andy Pettitte @LAA (Haren) N/A 25 percent flyball rate
Pettitte has coughed up four homers already, but those are the only extra-base hits he's allowed, as he is keeping the ball out of the air.
54 Jon Lester DET (Smyly) N/A 18 Ks over last 30 innings
Lester is having a hard time missing bats, and the trend has persisted long enough that he is not a viable No. 2 or 3 SP for the time being.
55 Bronson Arroyo @PIT (McDonald) @HOU (A. Rodriguez) 1.2 BB/9 rate (lowest in MLB)
Arroyo's control is as sharp as ever, and if he can lower an elevated line drive rate, he could become a huge help to owners in the WHIP category.
56 Brandon Morrow BAL (Hammel) N/A .076 BABIP on flyballs
Morrow has been inconsistent, and some apparent good luck on flyballs could signal a coming increase in his ERA and WHIP.
57 Tim Hudson STL (Lohse) N/A 1 HR in 39 1/3 innings
Even in his 14th season, Hudson is a hard pitcher to go yard against.
58 Ryan Vogelsong ARI (Saunders) N/A 2.33 ERA vs. ARI in 2011
Vogelsong is extremely tough at AT&T Park, and he gets an opponent this week against whom he has had success.
59 Edwin Jackson @MIA (Sanchez) N/A 1.8 BB/9 rate
Jackson has been inconsistent in many ways over his career, but he's not giving back the gains he made in his control last season.
60 Wade Miley @SD (Richard) N/A No starts with more than 2 BBs (entering Sat.)
With sharp control and a good infield defense behind him, Miley just might be able to maintain his 1.19 WHIP.
61 Felix Doubront DET (Fister) @TOR (Drabek) 21 Ks over last 17 2/3 innings
Doubront may not be able to keep up his strikeout pace, but he is managing to get hitters to take called strikes at a high rate.
62 Matt Moore CHW (Sale) BAL (Hunter) 37 Ks over last 30 1/3 innings
Moore is living up to his billing as a strikeout pitcher, though he will need to cut back on his homers if he is going to be more than a streaming option.
63 Jonathon Niese PHI (Hamels) STL (Lynn) 63 percent strikes thrown, last three starts
Niese has been wild at times this year, but he seems to be settling in to a period with better command.
64 A.J. Burnett CIN (Cueto) N/A 57 percent ground ball rate
Burnett's home run rate had to be helped by a move out of the AL East, but he's helping himself by getting more grounders.
65 Bud Norris @COL (Guthrie) N/A One earned run over last 26 innings (entering Sat.)
Better control and some good luck have helped Norris on his recent streak, but without strong ground ball tendencies, a start at Coors Field is still risky.
66 Max Scherzer @BOS (Beckett) N/A 3 earned runs or fewer in five of last six starts
Scherzer is about as unpredictable as they come, but he is in a relatively stable groove right now.
67 Felipe Paulino OAK (Colon) N/A .296 BABIP
Paulino has frustrated owners with chronically high BABIP rates over his career, but that hasn't been an issue for him so far this year.
68 Jerome Williams TEX (Lewis) N/A 6.6 innings per appearance
Williams hasn't been flashy, but he has usually been good for a quality start, even with some difficult matchups.
69 Ricky Romero BAL (Arrieta) N/A 58 percent strikes thrown
Romero's command has gone from bad to worse. The Orioles aren't an easy matchup, but maybe this is the week he recaptures last season's form.
70 Alex Cobb CHW (Quintana) N/A 60 percent ground ball rate
Cobb didn't get many swings-and-misses in his first two starts, but he's had no problem inducing grounders. His history suggests the Ks will come, too.

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Data Analyst

Al Melchior has been playing Fantasy Baseball since 1994, getting his start in the Southern Maryland Anthropomorphic Baseball League (SMABL). He has been writing about Fantasy Baseball since 2000, getting... Full Bio

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