Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
In what has to be a very difficult opening two weeks to their fantasy season, owners who selected aces Gio Gonzalez, Tim Lincecum, Ian Kennedy, Roy Halladay and Chris Sale as cornerstones for their pitching rotation are likely looking up at the other staffs in their fantasy league.
These five starters, who went a collective 74-51 last season and have four Cy Young Awards on their resumes, are currently languishing at the bottom of this week's SSRD360 starting pitcher evaluator while such lesser-known names like Matt Harvey, Paul Maholm, Clay Buchholz and Justin Masterson top the list.
The question for fantasy owners is whether the five stars can quickly right the ship or should be traded while their famous names can still bring solid fantasy value in return?
Below we will try to analyze these struggling starters:
Gio Gonzalez, Washington (SSRD360 - 4.119) - Gonzalez led the National League in wins last season, going 21-8 with a stellar 2.89 ERA, 1.129 WHIP and 207 strikeouts. During the offseason, however, his name was associated with Anthony Bosch and his Biogenesis clinic. Gonzalez shut out the weak bats of Miami in his first start and pitched well in his second before getting hammered by the Atlanta Braves on Sunday. The early bad outing has ballooned his ERA to 4.50, but we still believe he'll be a top-five fantasy starter. Do not trade unless someone is willing to grossly overpay for his services.
Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox (4.268) - Sale came out of the bullpen to become the White Sox pitching star in 2012, posting a 17-8 record with a 3.05 ERA, 1.135 WHIP and 192 strikeouts in 192 innings pitched. He threw very well in Chicago's opener, pitching 7 2/3 shutout innings, but against Seattle and Cleveland he gave up 13 hits and 11 runs in 11 1/2 innings. There doesn't appear to be anything wrong physically and he's still striking out close to a batter an inning, but he just hasn't pitched well with runners on base (.963 OPS versus .573 last season). He seemed to tire in the second half last season, so if he doesn't turn it around soon, he is a prime candidate for the trading block.
Tim Lincecum, San Francisco (4.654) - His two Cy Young Award-winning seasons seem so long ago for the struggling right-hander. His WHIP used to hover around 1.10, but was 1.468 in 2012 and is 1.563 in his first three starts. In a February study, we determined that Lincecum's problems were from the stretch - with runners on base he had an .804 OPS in 2012 compared to a career mark of .642 and that's still the problem. In his first three outings, batters have a .948 OPS with runners on. Sell while his name still can bring you something useful.
Ian Kennedy, Arizona (4.732) - Kennedy pitched well in his opener, beating the Cardinals, but in his next two outings he's been ugly to send his ERA soaring to 5.79. Against Milwaukee, he gave up seven hits and four runs in six innings, and against the Los Angeles Dodgers he was pounded for 10 hits and six runs over 5 2/3 innings. He led the league in hit batters last season and is doing it again through the first two weeks. This is not the pitcher who went 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA and 1.086 WHIP in 2011 and we believe he should be moved as quickly as possible while he still has trade value.
Roy Halladay, Philadelphia (5.202) - Heading into Sunday's matchup with Miami, "Doc" owned an unbelievable 14.73 ERA and 2.21 WHIP. He turned in an excellent eight innings of work against the Marlins, yielding just one run on five hits, but it was Miami, which was without slugger Giancarlo Stanton in the lineup and hits like a Triple-A team ... at best. We believe more information is needed before we can determine whether Halladay is back or just faced an inferior offense.