July 14, 2011
We've already taken care of the Wiggys at the plate. Today we focus on the Wiggys on the mound, the surprise pitchers, likely undrafted, who proved most useful in the first half.
• Ryan Vogelsong(notes): We projected close to 1,000 players before the season but I'm sure Vogelsong wasn't one of them; he hadn't seen the major leagues since 2006 and he wasn't doing much when he was here. But his stint in Japan taught him how to pitch, and he's been especially effective in AT&T Park (1.22 ERA, 1.01 WHIP). I've enjoyed watching him live; he's a quick worker who spots his fastball well and has a sharp curve.
• Jair Jurrjens(notes): Expectations weren't much to begin the season, with Jurrjens coming off a 4.64 ERA and dealing with a quick DL stint (oblique injury). And he hasn't been missing a lot of bats since the return, getting swinging strikes just 7.1 percent of the time and collecting a modest 65 strikeouts in 110.2 innings. The batted-ball gods have looked fondly on Jurrjens, rewarding him with a .256 BABIP and a crazy-lucky 84.1 strand rate. We all know the 1.87 ERA is smoke for now; let's figure on something in the mid-3s going forward.
• Michael Pineda(notes): We knew up front that he would be nasty against right-handed batters, but would he have a way to get the opposite hitters out? That hasn't been an issue through 18 starts, with lefties batting just .201 against Seattle's newest star. Pineda strikes out a batter per inning and gets three whiffs for every walk, so he's got an excellent chance to keep that 3.03 ERA. The Mariners haven't talked of an imminent shutdown, even with the 22-year-old already at 113 innings.
• Alexi Ogando(notes): I think most of us have been waiting for the other cleat to drop on Ogando, as he's got most of the luck indicators on his side: skimpy hit rate (.240 BABIP), fortunate strand rate (74.2 percent), just 7.8 percent of fly balls leaving the park. And let's not forget that Ogando is new to the starting gig, shifting from the bullpen. He's been touched for 15 runs over his last 23.1 innings, although the schedule hasn't been easy (three Arlington turns, and one visit to Yankee Stadium). You're probably forced to hold him in most leagues, because the sell-high market isn't there.
• Fernando Salas(notes): Ryan Franklin(notes) was on fumes from the jump and the Cardinals sorted through several possible replacements before Salas stepped up and grabbed the ninth-inning baton. Yes, Springfield, you do win friends with Salas. He doesn't make the radar gun sizzle with his ordinary fastball (91.5 mph), but he has a positive score on all three of his pitches (fastball, slider, change), and he punches out four batters for every walk. If I were the Cardinals, I'd forget about Heath Bell(notes) and worry about adding more offense, or maybe a starting pitcher.
• Jeff Karstens(notes): He hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in a turn since the middle of April, but fantasy owners have been slow to trust, given that Karstens doesn't pile up the strikeouts and most of us took a while to accept the Pirates as respectable (at least I know I'm guilty there). Karstens has actually been unlucky with his HR/FB return, but he's got the other kismet stats in his favor (.240 BABIP, 88 percent strand rate - that borders on hypnotism). Okay, now I see why no one wants to dip into the pool.
• Philip Humber(notes): If you want to succeed with a paltry 5.45/9 strikeout rate, you need to do a few other things right. Keep the ball on the ground (47 percent), keep the ball in the park (5.5 HR/FB), and don't walk many batters (2.2/9). Humber's FIP is a respectable 3.49, just a shade under his out-the-door 3.10 ERA. I've started to trust on this one. The H is silent, by the way.
• Kyle Farnsworth(notes): He was a punchline and a punching bag in the spring, but he's taken hold of the Tampa bullpen, converting 17 of 19 saves and adding three wins. Farnsworth's strikeout numbers have come down, but it's worth the trade off for improved control (just five walks). Well played, Tampa Bay.
• Sergio Santos(notes): He's still learning the craft, just a few years into the position switch. And you worry about all those walks (4.5/9), but it's not like anyone is making contact off this guy very often (12 K/9). Santos wasn't the first choice in Ozzie Guillen's bullpen - Matt Thornton(notes) went through a slump and the worst defensive support in Chicago history, and Chris Sale(notes) was also a flop - but he's got a healthy leash now.
• Tim Stauffer(notes): Everyone knows how wonderful Petco Park is, but Stauffer's been just fine on the road (3.20/1.24) and deserves to be used in almost any situation for the second half, with the possible exception of Coors Field. It took eight years and several physical setbacks, but the Padres are finally cashing in on the fourth overall pick back in 2003.
• Bartolo Colon(notes): He's blinding them with science. He's got his mojo back, or some strange voodoo working. With all due respect to every name above Colon on this list, he's probably the guy we least expected to be anywhere near the circle of trust in the summer of 2011. The Yankees have also received a respectable contribution from Freddy Garcia(notes) .
Now it's time for your turn. Who are the no-names and nomads who have bailed out your pitching staff in the first half?
Image courtesy Associated Press