Looking for more waiver wire advice? Head over here and I'll show you a handful of guys that you should pick up, avoid, or put on your watch list.
Pitching in fantasy baseball is a pretty unpredictable thing. Obviously you'd like to stock your team up with guys like Sabathia, Verlander, Lincecum, and Hernandez, who will give you 15+ wins, an ERA in the low 3.00's, and a mountain of strikeouts.
However, if you're in weekly head-to-head leagues, those cumulative numbers don't matter much. Lincecum might strike out 260 guys in a year, but there might be some match-ups here and there where he lets you down when you need some K's and only deliver a few.
The same is true of ERA. These two stats are very volatile on a weekly basis, and to win these stats in weekly head-to-head leagues, it takes some strategics; playing the match-ups. Often that involves plucking guys off free agency who are slated to pitch and seem safe to have a favorable outcome.
That said, if you need pitching help in the very near future, what guys should you be looking at on the waiver wire? Dallas Braden, coming off of his 2010 debut in which he struck out 10? Maybe Chicago's Randy Wells, who recently pitched 6 shutout innings against Atlanta? Read on to find out.
Luke Hochevar: WATCH
Hochevar, the first overall pick in the 2006 draft, was pretty bad last year. He had a 6.55 ERA, however, he had some bad defense behind him, as indicated by his xFIP of 4.34 and .326 BABIP in 2009.
It's not very likely he gets as unlucky again this year, although considering Kansas City's poor defense, it should be expected to see a higher ERA than he would post with say, Boston, an elite defensive squad. An especially weak point of their defense is Yuniesky Betancourt, who alone will probably cost Hochevar some runs.
In his season debut against a pretty good Detroit lineup, Hochevar tossed 7.2 innings of shut-out ball with a pair of strikeouts. He was clocked at 96 MPH at the highest. His next scheduled start comes against Detroit, this time in the Motor City.
However, I wouldn't advise rushing out and picking him up quite yet. He's shown flashes of greatness in the past, as well as terrible flashes. I'd wait out a few more of his starts to see if his success is the real deal this time, and seeing as how he's owned in just 3% of Yahoo! leagues, he'll be there when you go to add him in a week or two.
Dallas Braden: AVOID
I have to set the record straight on Braden right now: his 2010 debut was not what you can expect on a consistent basis. He's a control pitcher first. Scouts have rated his control 66 (on the 20-80 scale), his K-Rating 56. His big-league numbers agree. His K/9 last year was 5.3, and his career K/9 is 5.9, way down from the 10.1 he maintained throughout his minor league career.
Braden isn't overpowering by any means- his fastball hits in the mid-to-upper 80's, his change-up sits in the low 70's, and slider comes in at around 79 MPH. That repertoire isn't exactly tailored to bring home the K's, however he is a pretty crafty pitcher and might net 10 wins with a respectable ERA. Given the disparity between his K/9 in the minors and majors, it's hard to tell what to expect, but I'd take his big-league numbers as a better indicator.
Unless you're in a league in which you need every little win you can get, I don't see a terribly large upside to adding Braden to your staff; there are simply better options that are probably going to be out there.
Barry Zito: ADD
Simply put, Zito is a useful pitcher. He hasn't lived up to his huge contract with the Giants at all, but since he's fallen from the tier of elite starters, he has reinvented himself as a pitcher and can still have some fantasy value at the back of a solid pitching staff.
Last year he made big strides off his terrible 2008, dropping his ERA to 4.03, his BB/9 to 3.8 (down from 5.1 in '08), and upped his K/9 to 7.22. Thus, he finished with 10 wins, 154 strikeouts, and 21 home runs allowed (one of the lower totals of his career). Furthermore, after the All-Star Break, Zito was 5-4 with a 2.83 ERA, 7.7 K/9, and a 1.29 WHIP.
Playing for a competitive San Francisco team, Zito should give you some pretty good numbers this year. He isn't going to carry your staff by any stretch of the imagination, but if you have a solid pitching staff, Zito would be a perfect add to provide yourself useful depth, especially if you're trying to ride through an injury (ie: Scott Kazmir, Cliff Lee).