Welcome, one and all to my weekly Dixon’s Picks piece. Last week, we saw the first ever Call Up Report from Clave, and of course Ask Nash has been a backbone of the site since our beginnings, so it’s time for me to join the party with a weekly flagship.
Since this is the first one of its kind, let me tell you what my weekly column is going to be about. I have written a lot about streaming pitchers in the past, but haven’t really ever given advice on who to look for. No, it wasn’t being lazy, more responsible. You have the let the season develop just a little bit before you can really give advice on patterns, and those kinds of things. Now, we’re at that point, so specific ideas will be coming at you once a week.
Every Monday, I will be writing a column laying out 3-5 specific players to at least take a close look at for the week. This won’t be exclusively pitchers, but that’s where the most week to week player movement takes place, so they will always be the biggest part of this.
I know that this is not a foolproof standard and that these guys may not be available to you, especially if you’re in a deeper league. If I suggest someone not available to you or you just want an opinion on someone else, feel free to leave me a comment, shoot me an email, send me a tweet, etc.
I am starting to ramble. I promise, I will only be rambling this time. Without further adieu, let’s take a look at some guys who look to be valuable from April 30-May 6.
Mark Buerhle, SP, Miami Marlins
You may or may not be riveted by today’s matchup against the Diamondbacks, and I certainly get that. But Arizona does struggle away from Chase Field and Florida’s new park is pitcher friendly, so I don’t see Mark Buehrle having a bad start.
What makes him extremely valuable this week is that Buehrle’s next start would appear to be over the weekend against the Padres. As part of our Cracker Jack Chat on Tuesday, Nash and I said that the Padres a strong bet to stream against, especially in San Diego. That is a pitcher’s park and the Padres’ offense is not a good one.
You can make up your own mind on the Monday start vs. the Diamondbacks. I would gamble, but I understand if you don’t. But despite a 1-3 record, Buehrle enters the week with a 2.63 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP, and is 4-for-4 in quality starts. You don’t want to miss that kind of production against San Diego’s anemic offense.
Jason Vargas, SP, Seattle Mariners
I wouldn’t normally suggest a guy who’s only starting once in a week, but there are exceptions to every rule, and Jason Vargas meets the requirements for an exception.
For one, he’s been a pretty reliable arm this year. Vargas has had a little bit of trouble against some of the better offenses in the league, but even that is nothing to write home about.
Two, he’ll be facing the Twins, who are not one of the best offenses in the league. As a matter of fact, they are pretty close to the bottom of the list, with apologies to Minnesotans Nash and Clave, and all of the loyal Twins’ fans who visit our site. Despite entering the week with the league’s fifth best team batting average, they are in the bottom 10 in runs scored.
Lastly, Vargas isn’t a bad option to have on your staff long-term. I know that the Mariners will struggle, especially in a division with the Rangers and Angels, which will limit his wins. Still, I like the rest of his numbers to be there. Safeco Field isn’t bad for pitchers. This is the kind of guy you can have on your roster, leaving him on the bench for the tougher starts.
But shifting our attention back to this week, look for his game against the Twins to be a good one. You will probably want to leave him on the bench for a while after this week, as the Mariners have a tough stretch coming up. Still, you can land a solid start from Vargas this against the Twinkies.
Jake Westbrook, SP, St. Louis Cardinals
Like Vargas, Jake Westbrook is only going once this week, but it’s a pretty good situation. The Pirates are not a dangerous offense in any way, and Westbrook is off to a nice start on the young season. As a matter of fact, he barely meets the criteria of available in 50 percent of leagues and may well not by the time you read this, so don’t waste a lot of time on this guy.
But getting back to why he’s valuable, St. Louis is also a good team, which will get Westbrook a fair amount of wins. Thus far, he’s kept the ERA and WHIP down. But even if those go downhill, the counted numbers will be there pretty reliably.
Again, let’s shift our attention to this week. The Pirates are one of the worst offenses in the league, ranking at or near the bottom of the barrel in just about every category. While Westbrook did take a loss against the Pirates earlier in the season, he didn’t throw bad, notching a quality start and only two earned runs.
At the very least, you can stream a hot pitcher like Westbrook against the Bucs and get another quality start, which all but guarantees a low ERA, probably a low WHIP, and quite possibly a win.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Boston Red Sox
Since this is the first one of these, let me tell you why the hitters won’t be the primary focus.
One, as I already mentioned, most in season “streaming” moves are done with pitchers. Two, the difference between a good hitter and a bad hitter over the course of one week (which is roughly what we’re looking at) is not much. If a hitter gets 24 at bats in a week (six games, four at bats per game), seven hits makes him a .292 hitter that week, six puts him at .250, while five puts him at .208. That’s quite the range when we’re only talking about a difference of two hits. I know, a hitter may not get 24 at bats, especially when he’s a catcher, and when you factor in walks. But just note that the fewer at bats a hitter gets, the more valid my point becomes.
Having said all of that, Jarrod Saltalamacchia is a nice pickup this week
At catcher, there are very few reliable big names; it’s just not an offensive position. So, riding a hot hand is always a good idea. Right now, Saltalamacchia is just that, as he hit .313 with four runs scored, three homers, and seven RBI last week.
Boston’s lineup is deep, which plays a big role in someone’s individual statistics. Pitchers can’t afford to walk anyone, as a dangerous hitter is not that far away. When a man gets on base, he has a decent chance to score. Beyond that, men are often on base, which leaves plenty of RBI chances.
This week, they are at Fenway Park for all six games, which will only help the overall offensive output for the team and its players.