Ryan Boyer

Draft Strategy

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New Ballpark, New Pitcher?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Last week I examined hitters that changed teams over the offseason who could see a notable rise or fall of their fantasy value due to the new home ballpark they’re in. This week, it’s time to look at the pitchers.

 

*Keep in mind that we’ll only be discussing players whose new parks are dramatically different than the one they called home in 2011. Chris Capuano, for example, landed at pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium, but he also left fellow pitcher-friendly Citi Field, thus, he doesn’t appear on this list.



Good Moves

 

C.J. Wilson, LHP, Angels

Wilson one-upped his surprising 2010 season by having an even better year in 2011, posting a sub-3.00 ERA for the American League champion Rangers. That he was able to boast a 2.94 mark despite making 16 starts at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington was pretty remarkable given that it’s seen the most offense in the AL over the last three years. Angel Stadium has played very pitcher-friendly in recent years, and Wilson held a 2.56 ERA the last two seasons on the road.


Mark Buehrle, LHP, Marlins

We don’t know, of course, exactly how the new Marlins Ballpark will play. But, if the dimensions are any indication, it will be one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the National League. Even if it turns out to be more neutral, Buehrle will still benefit from leaving the bandbox of U.S. Cellular, and, of course, he’ll also get to face the pitcher. The lefty won’t get you many strikeouts, but expect a nifty ERA and WHIP.

 

A.J. Burnett, RHP, Pirates

Burnett wore out his welcome in New York, but he could experience a revival in Pittsburgh. The veteran right-hander’s 5.15 ERA from last season was bloated due to the unfriendly confines of Yankee Stadium, as his xFIP was a much more reasonable 3.86. And, despite a dip in velocity, he still struck out a good number of batters. He probably won’t get many wins, but facing the pitcher and moving to more of a neutral park will really help.

 

Edinson Volquez, RHP, Padres

Volquez was the Reds’ Opening Day starter in 2011, but he wound up being a disaster, getting demoted to the minors a couple times while showing zero consistency. But, a move from Great American Ballpark, which produced the most homers of all National League parks, to Petco Park, which saw the second-fewest, can only help. Volquez’s stuff is still there, as he struck out nearly a batter per inning last season.

 

Carlos Zambrano, RHP, Marlins

Big Z was no longer wanted on the North Side, but old buddy Ozzie Guillen convinced the Marlins front office that the three-time All-Star still had some bullets left. As is the case with Buehrle, we’re not sure how much the new Marlins Ballpark will help Zambrano out, but we’re pretty sure he’ll find it more forgiving than Wrigley Field, which played pretty pitcher-friendly in 2011 but was more of a bandbox the previous two seasons. He’s obviously a risk, but one that could pay dividends in deeper formats.

 

Bartolo Colon, RHP, Athletics

Though he ended up fading down the stretch, there’s no doubt that Colon experienced a career revival with the Yankees in 2011. Not surprisingly, he was much better away from unforgiving Yankee Stadium, as he boasted a 3.45 ERA in 16 games on the road. He couldn’t have landed in much better of a spot for 2012, as Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum has consistently been a hitter’s graveyard. The 38-year-old could turn out to be a sneaky end-game mixed league option.

 

Huston Street, RHP, Padres

Street’s 2011 campaign wasn’t bad, but it was the worst of his career, and he wound up losing his closer job. But, he was elite away from Coors Field, holding a pristine 2.15 ERA and a WHIP just north of 1.00 on the road. And, not only will he not have Coors as his home park in 2012, he’ll be going to the friendliest venue for pitchers in the National League. A big bounce-back year should come.

 

Frank Francisco, RHP, Mets

Francisco was up-and-down as the Blue Jays’ stopper in 2011, bouncing back and forth from closer to setup man while providing inconsistent results. But, the Mets were encouraged by his strong close to the season and handed him a two-year deal to cover the ninth inning for them. The Mets have moved the fences in at Citi Field, but it will probably result in more of a neutral site now rather than suddenly a bandbox. That will be much better than Rogers Centre, which is among the most hitter-friendly parks in the American League.

 


Bad Moves


Gio Gonzalez, LHP, Nationals

The Nationals gave up a boatload of prospects for Gonzalez, and while he should certainly strengthen the middle of their rotation, there’s reason to believe his stats won’t be as good as they were the last two years in Oakland. While very good at pitcher-friendly Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Gonzalez was ordinary, at best, on the road, posting a 4.32 ERA and 1.47 WHIP away from home during his career. Nationals Park is more neutral and will probably result in a higher ERA even though he will get to face the pitcher.

 

Michael Pineda, RHP, Yankees

Pineda showed flyball tendencies during his rookie season, which is scary when you’re moving from the most pitcher-friendly venue in the American League to one of the most hitter-friendly. The good news is that Pineda is sure to tally a few more wins this season with the Yankees, and he’ll still be a healthy source of strikeouts. But, we could see his ERA and WHIP go up a little if more balls clear the fence.

 

Mat Latos, RHP, Reds

Like Pineda, Latos is likely to be the beneficiary of more wins this season moving from the Padres to the Reds. Going away from Petco Park is rarely a good thing for fantasy purposes, though, especially when you’re landing in a spot that saw the most home runs in the National League last season. Latos leans slightly to being more of a flyball pitcher, so his career HR/FB% of 8.0 is likely to take a jump in his move to the bandbox at GABP. He’ll still be good, but his ERA and WHIP could rise a bit. 

 

Hiroki Kuroda, RHP, Yankees

Kuroda seems to be overlooked by many, but he was terrific the last two seasons for the Dodgers, posting a 3.23 ERA and 1.19 WHIP while making over 30 starts both seasons. But, even though he gets a decent number of groundballs, he’s still likely to serve up more homers in 2012 while moving from Dodger Stadium to Yankee Stadium, and now pitching in the AL East won’t help, either. He’ll still be solid and will get his fair share of wins, but his ERA will likely be closer to 4.00 than 3.00.


Trevor Cahill, RHP, Diamondbacks

Cahill really took advantage of his home park during his three years with the A’s, posting a 3.24 ERA at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum and a 4.71 on the road. Last year, those splits were even more dramatic, as he held a 3.20 mark at home and a 5.23 mark on the road. It’s a big concern with his move to hitter-friendly Chase Field, though Cahill’s groundball rate has at least been climbing each year he’s been in the league. But, the downgrade in ballpark and his modest strikeout rate makes him a risky mixed league option.

 

Guillermo Moscoso, RHP, Rockies

Yet another former A’s pitcher that’s changing addresses, Moscoso came out of nowhere to have an impressive showing in 2011 with a 3.38 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. Like Gonzalez and Cahill, though, he did most of his damage at home (2.42 ERA, as opposed to a 4.70 mark on the road). He also was the beneficiary of a .222 BABIP, and he simply doesn’t have the kind of stuff Gonzalez and Cahill have. Combine all that with the fact that he’s moving to Coors Field and isn’t guaranteed a spot in the rotation and it’s easy to ignore him in mixed league formats.

 

Andrew Bailey, RHP, Red Sox

Another member of the A’s offseason firesale, Bailey landed in a great spot for save chances with the Red Sox. He’ll be moving to a much less pitcher-friendly home park, though it’s worth noting that he’s actually been even better on the road during his career, holding a 1.96 ERA away from Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. That, and the fact that he’ll almost surely see a boatload of more save chances, is enough for me to not worry about the downgrade in ballparks. My only concern is his health, as Bailey has had elbow issues each of the past two seasons.

 

Joe Nathan, RHP, Rangers

Nathan got off to a slow start in 2011 in his first year back from Tommy John surgery, even losing the closer role early on in the year. He eventually settled in nicely, though, posting a 3.29 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 26/5 K/BB ratio over 27 1/3 innings from July on. That was enough to convince the Rangers that the 37-year-old still had what it took to close games, as they brought him in on a two-year deal. It’s good that Nathan’s stuff came back in the second half last year, and he’s sure to net plenty of save chances for the back-to-back American League champs. But, keep in mind that we’re talking about a guy that’s been an extreme flyball pitcher at times who’s moving to a park that saw the most homers in baseball in 2011.



Ryan Boyer is a baseball writer for Rotoworld. He can also be found on Twitter.
Email :Ryan Boyer



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