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A Few Thoughts On Bruce Chen

I noticed this comment by ESPN's Tristan Cockcroft today in a chat:

"I can't believe no one is talking more about Bruce Chen, especially with Mazzone now in Baltimore. Everyone seems to focus on Daniel Cabrera and Erik Bedard as the breakout candidates, but Chen has pitched pretty well for the Orioles of late. I think he's a lot better candidate to repeat his 2005 totals than people think; it's not like he lacks the talent to be a successful pitcher. Plus, he hasn't been picked in a single one of my mixed drafts to this point. I'd take a flier on him."

Interesting case, Bruce Chen.  He surprised many with a career high 13 wins in 2005.  It was his age 28 season, and he also posted a 3.83 ERA and 1.27 WHIP.  His strikeout rate was league average, and 197 innings was a career high.

Chen gives up a lot of home runs, but he's a solid back of the rotation type.  I project him at 11 wins with a 4.08 ERA and 1.26 WHIP this year.  PECOTA calls for 4.24 and 1.32.  This ain't bad, but Chen is waiver wire material in mixed leagues.  I project his value at $1.58.  Still, I'd take him over guys like Jarrod Washburn and Mike Mussina.

Bedard doesn't project a whole lot better, but he's gotten a lot more press.  I have Cabrera valued over $7, however.  He could rack up 175 Ks and an ERA around 3.50.

Still, if you're searching for boring back-rotation guys, why not take the safe money?  I think Paul Byrd, Greg Maddux, and Jon Lieber will be better than any of the previously mentioned starters and have better health/performance track records.  Control pitchers don't get your blood pumping, but you should take these guys over Cabrera.

Liebs especially could surprise some folks.  220 innings from him means 150 Ks, and his WHIP is always near 1.20.  He could win 15-16 games in 2006.  He posted a 3.28 ERA after the break in '05, and with just a couple less HRs could post a 3.75 ERA in '06.  Underrated fantasy starter. 

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