by Ray Kuhn
This week’s options are not as plentiful as in weeks past. For those owners looking to capitalize on some two start pitchers there is a little more risk and creativity needed. Also, since most owners will not be starting a plethora of no doubt two-start pitchers, there is less advantage to doing the same unless you really have nothing to lose. This week brings another wave of interleague play to consider when reviewing potential matchups. With that said, let’s take a look at who should make the cut into your starting lineup this week.
Studs that never should be benched:
- Madison Bumgarner – vs. Houston and vs. Seattle.
- Johnny Cueto – vs. Cleveland and @ New York Mets.
- Zack Greinke – @ Kansas City and @ Minnesota.
- Ian Kennedy – @ Texas and @ Los Angeles Angels.
- Brandon Morrow – vs. Washington and vs. Philadelphia.
Five Pitchers that should be starting in every format:
Josh Johnson – vs. Boston and @ Tampa Bay. Earlier in the season it did not appear that Johnson would deserve to be on this list regardless of the other options for the week. However he has registered a quality start in five of his last six outings. In his most recent start against Atlanta, despite having a quality start Johnson did take his first loss since April 29. The real bright spot, despite the loss, was his 9 strikeouts as it was another sign of Johnson starting to get his groove back. Also in May Johnson started to limit his walks which did not help his cause earlier this season. By keeping him in your lineup going forward, and if his current trend continues, Johnson should be able to reverse some of the damage his April caused.
Adam Wainwright – vs. Chicago White Sox and vs. Kansas City. It seems that Wainwright is still trying to fully find and regain his footing after last year’s injury. After giving up 7 runs to the Mets he seemed to recover in Houston earning the win and giving up 3 runs over 5.2 innings. He has had a complete game shutout earlier this season and is on pace for 197 innings, so the stamina clearly is there and he is on almost a strikeout an inning pace (65 over 70.2 innings). His ERA of 4.97 and WHIP of 1.36 are not indicative of either his talent or his expectations. As he continues to work his way back, his performance will as well. Like Johnson, it appears Wainwright’s best days are ahead of him this season and two starts against beatable opponents should be a nice start.
Josh Beckett – @ Miami and @ Chicago Cubs. Thankfully it does not appear the cramp Beckett experienced in the 8th inning against Baltimore should be anything to be concerned about going forward. Beckett has appeared to start putting it all together and recovering from his early season woes. I would not be concerned by the losses in last 2 starts but instead be encouraged by the fact that he went at least 7 innings in each of the starts and had a 25/5 strikeout to walk ratio. Performances like this are supported by his talent and as Boston’s bats wake up some of those 6 losses could easily be turned into wins and Beckett gives you a chance for two of them this week.
Colby Lewis – vs. Arizona and vs. Houston. Facing Arizona while Justin Upton is reeling followed by an outing against the less than imposing Astros gives Lewis an impressive outlook for the week. Lewis is an innings eater who will at the least keep his team in the game and present an opportunity for two wins. His 65/10 strikeout to walk ratio goes a long way towards increasing his value, allowing him to limit base runners and pitch deep into games. The opportunity to see your strikeout total rise and your WHIP most likely decrease cannot be overlooked here as with his 3.38 ERA, Lewis generally does not allow those that do reach base to score.
Edwin Jackson – @ Toronto and vs. New York Yankees. As illustrated by his 149 pitch no hitter, Jackson has talent but has fought control issues throughout his career. However this season Jackson and his 1.02 WHIP, at least thus far has exhibited control over the strikeout. Jackson always pitched deep into the games but just threw more pitches. His ERA of 3.11 also is indicative of his new found control. For as long as Jackson continues to keep his walk totals down, I would start the former highly touted prospect each week.
Five That Must be Debated Based on Your Situation
Ivan Nova – @ Atlanta and @ Washington. I will preface this by acknowledging his ERA of 5.09 and WHIP of 1.47, but also point to his 7-2 record and 63 strikeouts over 70.2 innings. It seems that no matter what, Nova usually ends up with a win when he takes the hill. Having two starts this week means you can just about guarantee Nova will get you at least one win. If you do not need help with wins or you really want to protect your ratios or you just have a better option, then Nova most likely does not belong in this category but you are probably in the minority. It seems that he has gotten over a rough stretch and is starting to stabilize and in turn those ratios will do less and less damage. Plus, as noted by his innings eating ability, Nova does not often go out and implode; it is more of a steady flow of base runners so at least there is less chance for disaster and increased chances for a win.
Max Scherzer – @ Chicago Cubs and vs. Colorado. It can be argued that there really is not much difference between Scherzer and Nova. The difference in records 5-4 and Nova’s 7-2 is minimal because Detroit’s bats certainly have firepower. Scherzer has only pitched 6 less innings and has 17 more strikeouts, although aided by his 15 against Pittsburgh a few starts ago. His ERA of 5.88 and WHIP of 1.59 are a bit more frightening as is the legitimacy of those numbers as, in general, he is just a more inconsistent pitcher. There have been 4 starts this season where he has not been able to even get out of the 5th inning and that clearly limits his win potential. With Scherzer there is also a greater propensity for a ratio busting outing. Chances are if you have rode with him all season, there is not much downside to starting him this week as the strikeouts will help. Having two items helps to smooth over the potential damage. He is not someone I would pick up for this week, but were he already on my roster I would start him in the absence of other options.
Bud Norris – @ San Francisco and @ Texas. Although Norris did take the loss against St. Louis in his last start, he also struck out 12 batters over 6 innings and did not allow any walks. Norris does have a record of 5-3 on the year, but with Houston’s lackluster offense he cannot be counted on as a sure thing for wins. You can count on him for strikeouts, 76 over 69.2 innings, and also to allow his share of base runners. Norris has shown the ability this season to limit damage and even show flashes of dominance. Facing the Rangers will be harder than Giants and there is some potential for WHIP damage and perhaps a little damage to the ERA. But if you are looking for a high upside play and bump in strikeouts, then Norris is a good option for you this week.
Wei-Yin Chen – vs. Pittsburgh and @ Atlanta. In his first season playing in the majors, Chen has entered the toughest division and has managed to hold his own thus far. Although with a WHIP of 1.30 Chen has had some control and command issues, walking at least one batter in every start except his last, he also has been able to limit the damage and has a 3.49 ERA. He cannot be counted on for an abundance of strikeouts, but it is reasonable to expect at least 5 in every start so there is an advantage in having him for two. Chen should have an easier time navigating these NL opponents than those in his home division. Owners looking for a solid option this week could do worse than Chen and he could also prove to be a valuable spot starter going forward.
Chris Capuano – vs. Los Angeles Angels and vs. Chicago White Sox. Capuano has been a welcome surprise for the Dodgers this season registering a quality start in each of his first 8 outings. It appears he has regained his form from a few years earlier in Milwaukee. With an ERA of 2.82 and a WHIP of 1.08, he is bordering on must start status. Now I am not advocating expecting these numbers to continue the rest of the season, but even a slight regression will still be better than a lot of options at his level, especially in weeks where he has two starts. This is a wave I would ride and enjoy while it lasts.
Three for Thought:
Alex Cobb- vs. New York Mets and vs. Miami. Cobb is another from Tampa Bay’s stable of pitching prospects and his first four starts have had mixed results. He is not a strikeout artist, but aside from 4 walks against Boston he has shown good control. With an average of 6 innings per start Cobb has managed to at least keep his team in the game and with his offense, there is always the chance for 2 wins. The potential is here for a dominant outing but I would expect more of the same that you have seen from Cobb thus far. Especially in deeper leagues and keeper leagues Cobb is someone that I would look to add this week and start depending on your options and matchups.
Randall Delgado – vs. New York Yankees and vs. Baltimore. Delgado also pitches for a team with a wealth of pitching prospects. He is coming off of the best outing of his career against the Marlins last week as he gave up 1 run over 6.1 innings striking out 7 and only allowing 2 hits and 1 walk. That lowered his ERA to 4.26 and as he begins to get more accumulated with the majors I would expect that to start to go down. He has walked 30 batters in 61.3 innings this season which has both increased his pitch count and has been a large part in the trouble he has found himself in. As Delgado starts to get his walks under control, you will see his value begin to rise. He is another young hurler who could be a nice addition to your staff at this juncture in the season.
Chris Young – @ Tampa Bay and vs. Cincinnati. The issue with Young has not been performance as much as health. He made his season debut this past week in Washington pitching 5 innings and only allowing 2 earned runs. Young will not strike many batters out, but he is a professional pitcher who will exhibit control and limit damage. As long as Young his healthy, he is a good pitcher to have on your roster to spot depending on your week-to-week options. This week he is healthy and has two starts so I would to insert Young for some ratio help. And in his two starts you can expect about the same number of strikeouts from a lot of other one start pitchers.