Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Most starters have gotten three or four outings under their belts and we can get an idea of how they are throwing the ball.
It's still too early to jettison the "slow starter," but it's never too early to pick up a guy who is hitting his targets on a regular basis.
Dan Haren, Angels - Most of the media attention has been on his teammate Jered Weaver, who has pitched very well, but Haren has been just as dominant on the mound. In fact, Haren's last outing, in which he went 6.1 innings and yielded just two runs was his worst of the season. He has won his last three starts, has a minuscule ERA (1.16) and WHIP (0.645) and 27 strikeouts in 31 innings.
"I don't think you need numbers to see how well Dan's been pitching," said manager Mike Scioscia. "This guy's been very, very consistent."
Consistent is one of the most beautiful words in a fantasy owner's vocabulary. Haren, who was inconsistent last year pitching for Arizona and the Angels, was an All-Star from 2007-2009 and it appears that he is returning to form.
Derek Lowe, Braves - Lowe's isn't a flamethrower, who racks up strikeouts by the bushel, but he's pitching very well in his first four starts. He's 2-2 with an ERA of 1.82 and a WHIP of 1.095. In his two losses, the Braves scored a total of zero runs.
While Lowe is pitching well and available in one out of four leagues, I'd be wary of claiming him as a long-term fix for a weak pitching staff. Since coming to the National League in 2005, Lowe has only had one season with a WHIP below 1.25 and his career high in strikeouts is 147 in both 2007 and 2008. His fantasy value is as a temporary Band-Aid.
Mariano Rivera, Yankees - Even machines aren't this reliable. In his first nine appearances, Rivera has already accumulated seven saves and a win. He's pitched 8.1 innings and yielded four hits and not a single run while striking out seven batters. He's 41 years old, but there is no reason to suspect that he'll falter anytime soon. So while others are enamored by Brian Wilson and Carlos Marmol, old man Rivera just keeps on doing it and this year he was even a "bargain" as the third reliever off the board on Draft Day.
While the three pitchers mentioned above are likely already on rosters, here are a few pitchers who are owned in less than 60% of all leagues, throwing well and should be followed for possible waiver claims: Aaron Harang, Justin Masterson, Kyle Lohse, Alexi Ogando and Michael Pineda.
Harang has started out well and pitches in the cavernous Petco Park. Ogando got roughed up by the Yankees in his last outing, but the Yankees are playing long ball with almost everyone. Pineda will struggle for wins on the weak- hitting Mariners, but his numbers are good and could help you in the other categories.
Felix Hernandez, Mariners - "King Felix" had his second consecutive bad outing on Saturday and has now yielded 18 hits and nine earned runs in his last 11 innings.
Take a deep breath and don't be tempted to trade him. Just last year Hernandez was 2-4 at the end of May with an ERA of 3.50 and a WHIP of 1.388 and finished the season at 2.27 and 1.057, respectively.
Yovani Gallardo, Brewers - There is nothing pretty about what Gallardo has done so far this season. He's always had a relatively high WHIP (1.324 over his five-year career), but averaged more than one strikeout-per-inning to make up for it. He's now faltering there as well with just 13 K's in 25.1 innings. Gallardo has given up 11 runs in his last 10.1 innings.
At this point in time Gallardo should be benched until you see his strikeout numbers improve.
Wandy Rodriguez, Astros - If Dan Haren is "Mr. Consistent," then Rodriguez is "Mr. Inconsistent." Through three starts, the Houston "ace" has had one good outing sandwiched by two ugly ones. His start last Wednesday lasted five innings and yielded nine hits, two walks and five earned runs.
At this point, I can't recommend starting Rodriguez, though you could take a shot if he is at home where he has a lifetime record of 38-27 versus 24-39 away from Minute Maid Park.