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Shuffle Up: What's the play with Justin Verlander?

Scott Pianowski
Roto Arcade

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Where's it heading, Justin Verlander? (USAT)

Not a lot of new stuff happened on the Thursday sandlots. Edwin Encarnacion hit his normal two homers, George Springer dialed eight again. Another handshake for Jenrry Mejia. A.J. Pollock kept Pollocking. So let's use this space for a forward-looking piece; it's time to crank up the starting pitcher prices. And we'll start with the enigma known as Verlander.

No matter your opinion on the struggling Justin Verlander, someone agrees with you. Here's one scribe who says he's still a Top 10 arm. I found a web ranking in the teens, a ranking in the 20s. Two premium sites (subscription required) have him 30th or lower for rest-of-season value.

And then you have our own Michael Salfino, who wrote a Strong Sell Ticket on Verlander earlier this week. And that's the angle I'm lining up with.

If I owned Verlander, I'd sell him as soon as he presented something sellable. Maybe that happens in Seattle. Let's get to those starting pitcher prices. As always, we are trying to project future value.

$31 Clayton Kershaw
$30 Adam Wainwright
$29 Max Scherzer
$29 Yu Darvish
$28 Felix Hernandez
$28 Chris Sale
$27 Stephen Strasburg
$27 Masahiro Tanaka
$26 Johnny Cueto
$25 Zack Greinke
$23 James Shields
$23 Anibal Sanchez
$22 David Price
$22 Michael Wacha
$22 Hisashi Iwakuma
$21 Julio Teheran
$21 Madison Bumgarner
$20 Sonny Gray
$20 Gerrit Cole
$18 Jon Lester
$18 Jeff Samardzija
$18 Corey Kluber

I love Price's K/BB and I'll defend him to a point, but I'm not giving him a full pass for the homer problem. We've had this discussion before: I think xFIP leads us down a dangerous path. Sometimes extreme strike throwers have homer problems, no matter that most of the spreadsheet will defend them. Is it possible to throw too many strikes? I think so . . . It's a shame Kluber has to work in front of that rotter Cleveland defense; otherwise, everything here is lovely. Cleveland has punched us in the gut all over the place, but Kluber (and Brantley) are trying to take a sad song and make it better. Kluber shows up on the unlucky leaderboard (FIP/ERA delta), despite his strong front-door numbers.

$17 Scott Kazmir
$17 Alex Cobb
$16 Jered Weaver
$16 C.J. Wilson
$16 Matt Cain
$16 Mike Minor
$16 Homer Bailey
$16 Cole Hamels
$15 Justin Verlander

Let's establish one thing with Verlander up front. His mediocre performance can't be laughed off as a slow start; this isn't a small data sample that can be brushed aside like a mosquito on the arm. Consider what he's posted for the last calendar year: 12-12 record, 3.58 ERA, 1.36 WHIP. The K/9 is down to 7.4, the BB/9 has bloated to 3.3.

What does the radar gun tell us? A worrisome trend. He was a mid-90s gun in the salad days, but look at the velocity column:

- 2011: 95.0 mph (2.40 ERA, 0.92 WHIP)
- 2012: 94.3 mph (2.64/1.06)
- 2013: 93.3 mph (3.46/1.31)
- 2014: 92.1 mph (4.04/1.51)

Like most pitchers (and pitching coaches), Verlander will talk of mechanical adjustments when hard times hit. And it's not like he can't figure out a way to be effective at his current rate of velocity. But when it comes to depreciating assets, I'd rather be a year early than a year late. And given how hard it is for some rotoheads to let go of a name brand, I still think you can cash out on Verlander and make a profit. I don't trust him as an ace any longer, but I bet someone does.

We had all these same concerns with Verlander last year, and to be fair, he did have a revival in September (2.27/1.11, 48 whiffs). No one thinks he's Ricky Nolasco all of a sudden. But again, I like to be proactive with these sorts of things.

Verlander pitches at Seattle on Friday, obviously a good matchup. If he gives you a strong line at Safeco, there's your selling window. Wait until consumer confidence rallies a bit, and then start your "I want to move a starting pitcher" campaign (you don't have to point towards Verlander specifically). And I don't want to hear that my blog has killed your angle; there are plenty of respected writers who disagree with me on Verlander's rank. As always, it's a game about differing opinions.

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Cone of Silence (USAT)

$14 Marco Estrada
$14 Josh Beckett
$14 Kyle Lohse
$13 Ervin Santana
$13 Dallas Keuchel
$13 Lance Lynn
$13 Wily Peralta
$13 Hyun-Jin Ryu
$12 Doug Fister
$12 Tim Hudson
$12 Jordan Zimmermann
$12 John Lackey
$11 Dan Haren
$11 Nathan Eovaldi
$11 Ian Kennedy

All sorts of curious splits going on with Ryu. For one thing, he's super against righties (.239/.286/.333) but not as effective with the platoon advantage (.284/.328/.407). He's also been more effective on the road (2.91/1.13) compared to Dodger Stadium (3/14/1.26). Okay, sometimes you gotta break the rules . . . Lackey is another player who deserves the benefit of the doubt now that the data bank is large. His last calendar year: 3.58 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 7.69 K/9, 1.75 BB/9. The home park and division isn't ideal, obviously, but the AL East hasn't been quite so toothy in 2014 (only the Jays are mashing). The "best shape of his life" Mad Lib gets laughed at all the time, but in this case, it did point to Lackey's career revival last year.

$10 Rick Porcello
$10 Garrett Richards
$9 Chris Archer
$9 Yovani Gallardo
$9 Jesse Chavez
$9 Drew Smyly
$9 Trevor Bauer
$9 Phil Hughes
$9 Yordano Ventura
$9 Collin McHugh
$8 Shelby Miller
$8 Tyson Ross
$8 Jose Quintana
$7 Jorge De La Rosa
$7 Mike Leake
$6 Matt Garza
$6 Travis Wood
$6 Jon Niese
$6 Drew Pomeranz
$6 Mark Buehrle

I don't blame anyone who wants to drop Miller even lower than I have. Nothing in his 2014 performance will defend him. His fortunate ERA to this point has "pumpkin" written all over it. Maybe I'm clinging to past pedigree, I don't know. Maybe I think Yadier Molina can make anyone look good . . . Pomeranz and McHugh are both in the Escape From Colorado club. Oakland's roomy park will cover a lot of Pomeranz's mistakes, and while Minute Maid Ballpark isn't a pitcher's yard, it's not a pinball machine, either . . . Bump Buehrle up a buck or two or you're thinking head-to-head formats (we do all the shuffles assuming 5x5 roto), and take him down a notch if you're working with a low innings or starts cap. I'm not going to give you a silly "sell high" script, though. Your opponents are probably more sophisticated than that, and if they're not, you don't need any advice . . . If you rested Wood for the White Sox turn but used him everywhere else, you get a 3.41 ERA. That's useful. He's getting a few more ground balls this season, and there's a tidy strikeout jump.

$5 Tony Cingrani
$5 Tommy Milone
$5 Drew Hutchison
$5 R.A. Dickey
$5 Tim Lincecum
$4 A.J. Burnett
$4 Tanner Roark
$4 Alex Wood
$3 Jason Hammel
$3 Francisco Liriano
$3 Alfredo Simon
$3 Henderson Alvarez
$3 Tyler Skaggs
$3 Jason Vargas
$3 Brandon McCarthy
$3 Aaron Harang

I'd like to be patient with Cingrani but there's no guarantee the Reds keep him in the rotation . . . I'm still going to wait it out with Atlanta's Wood, though. I don't trust everyone in that rotation . . . Yes, you have my permission to drop Liriano . . . Harang is 36 and he was batting practice last year in Seattle. You want him? All you. I fear what he's capable of if he loses his command, even for 1-2 starts.

$2 Hiroki Kuroda
$2 Chris Tillman
$2 Bronson Arroyo
$2 Jacob DeGrom
$2 Rafael Montero
$2 Jaime Garcia
$2 Edinson Volquez
$2 Roenis Elias
$2 Nick Tepesch
$2 Charlie Morton
$2 Ryan Vogelsong
$2 Matt Shoemaker
$1 Jake Peavy
$1 Justin Masterson
$1 Zack Wheeler
$1 Bartolo Colon
$1 Jake Arrieta
$1 Ubaldo Jimenez
$1 Jordan Lyles
$1 Jake Odorizzi
$1 Bud Norris
$1 Scott Feldman
$1 Jeremy Guthrie
$1 Gavin Floyd
$1 Erik Bedard
$1 Danny Duffy
$1 Josh Collmenter
$0 Wei-Yin Chen
$0 Wade Miley
$0 Jarred Cosart
$0 Andre Rienzo
$0 Kyle Gibson
$0 Tom Koehler
$0 J.A. Happ
$0 Miguel Gonzalez
$0 Jhoulys Chacin
$0 Brad Peacock
$0 Colby Lewis
$0 Juan Nicasio
$0 Yusmeiro Petit
$0 Ricky Nolasco

Courtesy Injury Ranks - Not for debate
$19 Cliff Lee
$10 Gio Gonzalez
$8 Andrew Cashner
$7 Dillon Gee
$7 Michael Pineda
$4 Mat Latos
$4 James Paxton
$2 CC Sabathia
$2 Derek Holland
$1 Zach McAllister
$1 Joe Kelly
$0 Clay Buchholz
$0 Matt Harrison

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