Risky Business Starring Carl Pavano

Last season, Carl Pavano was mixed league worthy. It was his first time holding such value since 2004 and — close your eyes Yankee fans — before he signed his big contract with the Yankees. As Pavano reportedly moves closer to a deal to re-up with the Twins, fantasy GM’s can’t help but wonder if he can repeat his 2010 performance. To expect Pavano to win 17 games and post a 3.75 ERA or better in 2011 is, well, risky.

Pavano had a couple of career best in 2010. He walked only 39 batters in 221 innings (1.51 BB/9), he held the highest groundball rate of his caeer (51.2 percent), the highest strand rate of his career (74 percent) and the highest chase rate of his career (35.9 percent). With those career high’s came a career low 4.76 K/9 (minimum of 100 innings pitched). At age 35 in 2011, it is very likely that those career highs will remain just that. Never a big strikeout pitcher (career 5.72 K/9), Pavano will need a lot to go right for him this coming season.

Low strikeout pitchers are risky in general, but the ones who display excellent command and get a good number of ground balls have a better chance of finding success. If Pavano’s ground ball rate regresses, which I believe it will, he’ll have to rely more on Delmon Young (-9.7 UZR in 2011) and Michael Cuddyer (-8.5 UZR in 2011) as his outfield flankers. That would affect his BABIP for sure and likely lower the number of runners he is able to strand on base. However, if he finds a way to keep the ball on the ground as he did in 2010, the combination of Danny Valencia, Tsuyoshi Nishikoa, Alexi Casilla and Justin Morneau will help his cause.

The bottom line is that there is just not a whole lot of upside to Pavano anyway. He won’t help your team in the strikeout category and any regression in BABIP, hit rate or walk rate would make his WHIP mediocre at best. Best case scenario would see him posting 14-15 wins with a high 3′s ERA, which should be somewhat easy to find on waivers, likely where owners found Pavano after draft day 2010. 

It’s likely that Pavano will be nothing more than a late round pick anyway, but I would much rather use that pick on a pitcher with much more upside.