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Closing Time: Rick Porcello versus Mike Leake

Mixmaster Mike
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Let's hear it for Cincinnati's Mike Leake (AP/Matt York)

I'm not going to throw one of those Player A-Player B things at you. That bit generally drives me nuts. I'm not trying to trick anyone, not trying to play gotcha. You know it's about numbers over names, so let's be up front with everything before we start.

Today's debate is Rick Porcello versus Mike Leake. Why is Porcello considerably more popular (65-percent Yahoo owned) than Leake (35-percent owned)?

One reason it's fun to compare these pitchers is because they're so similar. Both are former first-round picks, now in their mid-20s, working for solid central-division clubs. Both are right-handed, and both rely more on nuance than raw power; neither guy is a strikeout ace or a velocity monster. Both pitchers went to the mound Thursday and did outstanding work: Porcello shut out the Rangers in Arlington (3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 6 K), while Leake cruised over the Giants (8 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 12 K).

Take a look at the seasonal numbers:

- Leake: 6 W, 108.1 IP, 3.41 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 23 BB, 84 K
- Porcello: 10 W, 97.2 IP, 3.41 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 24 BB, 64 K

And here are some of the secondary metrics:

- Leake: 3.64 FIP, 54.3 GB rate, 6.98 K/9, 1.91 BB/9, 7.2 SwStr
- Porcello: 3.80 FIP, 46.4 GB rate (usually a lot higher), 5.7 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 7.2 SwStr

I understand a lot of fantasy owners will ignore both of these guys, unimpressed by the strikeout numbers. And in shallow mixers, you're probably aiming higher. But in medium and deeper mixed leagues, there's a home for both - and if I had to take one of these guys right now, I'd go Leake.

Arguments for Porcello: He's tied to a better offense (Detroit is seventh in scoring, Cincinnati is 23rd), so the wins advantage might not be a complete fluke. He passes the eye test, checking in at 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds (Leake is 5-10, 190). He's developing an effective change, which is a wonderful asset when it comes to pitching against lefties.

Arguments for Leake: He has better career numbers and he was considerably better than Porcello last year. NL life is far easier, with the pitchers and the bunting and all that. The division also fits the profile: Leake's regular opponents in the NL Central rank fifth, 17th, 24th and 28th in scoring. For Porcello, it's sixth, eighth, 12th and 18th. Cincinnati also boasts a better bullpen than Detroit, though neither has been great - and perhaps the Tigers won't be trusting Joe Nathan all season.

And heck, if you want the simplest rule of thumb, go here: Leake is even in ERA, better in WHIP, better in K/9 and better in BB/9. More ground balls, too. What's not to like? 

Be careful with the ballparks here. Using the park indicies from 2011-2013 in the Bill James Handbook, you'll note that Comerica Park aided scoring by nine percent, while Great American Ball Park only floated it six percent. It's not a perfect metric, but it illustrates how Comerica is generally mislabeled as a pitcher park (and perhaps GABP is mildly overestimated as a hitter haven, though it clearly is helping). 

Bottom line, I'm not letting a few wins (or a more public team) trip me up. Maybe this discussion boils down to one simple thing: Porcello is a trifle overrated and Leake is a little underrated. Have your say in the comments.

Before we move along, here are the look-aheads. Porcello hosts Oakland (tricky) and Tampa Bay (friendly) for his next two turns, then travels to Kansas City (neutral). Leake lines up this way: at San Diego (lovely), hosting Chicago (good), hosting Pittsburgh (tricky).

• Although he didn't pitch Thursday, I'd like to add some Jeff Locke appreciation to this piece. Locke has been outstanding in his last four turns, including a Tuesday victory over Tampa Bay. Add them up, here's your return: 28.1 IP, 21 H, 8 ER, 4 BB, 18 K, 2.54 ERA. And even in his one bad turn that preceded this run, he had five strikeouts and zero walks.

We've already seen the unlikely upside with Locke: he was a 2013 All-Star. And then the downside spit back: he was batting practice in the second half. We know neither outlier serves as a fair projection, but so long as he's throwing strikes, why can't he be a left-handed version of Kyle Lohse? Embrace the sneaky potential here.

If you're ready to be Locked After Dark, you can make the add in 91 percent of Yahoo leagues. Even with Gerrit Cole coming back, I don't think the Bucs will push Locke out of the rotation. The lefty will probably face Arizona (home) and St. Louis (road) in his next two assignments.

• The stat page loves Adam Lind. Unfortunately, the schedule hates him.

Lind rocked a 5-0-3-3 box in Thursday's romp over the White Sox, pushing his roto line up to .342-30-4-26. That's nifty production for just 155 at-bats. The Jays are third in the majors in runs, and Lind is regularly in the middle of the fun. Enjoy the moving pictures

That established, Lind often takes off against lefties - or plays against them and does nothing. He's 2-for-20 versus the southpaws this year, and a .216/.260/.336 man against them for his career. This is a perfect player to spot-start, deploying when the other team supplies a right-hander.

With that theme in mind, we'll have to play the waiting game. The White Sox bring three left-handers to the YYZ this weekend (Danks, Sale, Quintana), and overall the Jays face just three right-handed starters over their next nine games. Be patient, Lind Youth. More active days are coming.

And while we're at it, more of you should be on board. Lind is still available in two-thirds of Yahoo leagues. Go where the runs are, hosers. Roll the bones. 

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