by Ray Kuhn
Another batch of injuries…
Another week for owners to scramble to fill holes and field a starting lineup that will give them the best chance to win…
This is still the point in the season where just about every owner feels that if they play their cards right, there is still at least a chance of them finishing in the money. Just because there are a lot of two start pitchers out there does not mean that all of them should be starting for you. Let’s take a look at those that you might want to have in your lineups this week.
Studs that never should be benched:
- Yu Darvish – vs. Detroit and vs. Oakland.
- Gio Gonzalez – @ Colorado and @ Atlanta.
- Clayton Kershaw- @ San Francisco and vs. New York Mets.
- Jake Peavy – @ Minnesota and @ New York Yankees.
- Stephen Strasburg – @ Colorado and @ Atlanta.
- CJ Wilson – @ Baltimore and @ Toronto.
Five Pitchers that should be starting in every format:
James McDonald – @ Philadelphia and @ St. Louis. Where exactly did this come from? McDonald has grown into a top of the rotation pitcher for the Pirates this season. The one dark spot on his resume is his 5 wins, however Pittsburgh’s offense is to blame for that. When evaluating pitchers, wins is almost the hardest category to forecast and especially in a week where McDonald has two starts, I would ignore his lack of wins. Instead I would focus on the fact that he has not given up more than 3 runs in a start all season and sports a 78/24 strikeout to walk ratio. At 27 it looks like McDonald is putting it all together and having what could be a career year. This is a wave you should ride for as long as possible.
Ryan Vogelsong – vs. Los Angeles Dodgers and vs. Cincinnati. After coming out of nowhere last year to sport a 2.71 ERA and 1.25 WHIP, Vogelsong has improved on that performance this season. With an ERA of 2.41 and WHIP of 1.15 there really is no reason not to be starting him each week. He has 12 quality starts which eliminates the fear of an implosion by the Giants hurler. In order to be a truly elite starter you would like to see more strikeouts and less walks, but for what you likely paid for Vogelsong that is nitpicking. Enjoy the value you got for at least putting some stock in him repeating last year’s performance.
Matt Moore – @ Kansas City and @ Detroit. In his last five starts Moore has begun to do what was expected of him entering the season. The walks are still there, but they are growing fewer. With his 79 strikeouts over 75.2 innings Moore does somewhat make up for the control problems. That domination has allowed him to limit the hits which in turn make his WHIP more appealing despite the 36 walks thus far this season. This is what was expected of the 23-year old all season so I would expect him to continue on the same trend with improved control and an ERA of 2.64 over his last 5 starts.
Yovani Gallardo – @ Cincinnati and vs. Arizona. Gallardo is another hurler that did not start the season as expected. In the past walks have always been a problem, but in the beginning of the season he was giving up hits to go with those walks and allowing a large number of those base runners to score. When Gallardo is going good, his strikeout per inning average eases the pain of the walks. That along with him being a durable innings eater makes him a must start. But when his ERA reached over 6 earlier this season, he found his way onto many benches. However with 9 quality starts in his last 10, Gallardo managed to drop his ERA by two runs and work his way back into starting lineups. This is where he deserves to stay for the rest of the season. Do not look at his season stats and instead look at his ERA of 3.43 over those last 10 starts when setting your lineups.
Hiroki Kuroda – vs. Cleveland and vs. Chicago White Sox. It appears that for the most part this season Kuroda has not had any problem adjusting to the AL East. The Yankees can be counted on for run support and as usual Kuroda is pitching deep into games to get decisions. With 62 strikeouts over 88.1 innings, he is not overpowering but will help some in that category. For the most part he does not walk many batters, and these are teams the Yankees should be able to beat giving Kuroda the chance for two wins this week. That is something I would take advantage of.
Five That Must be Debated Based on Your Situation:
Francisco Liriano – vs. Chicago White Sox and vs. Kansas City. Talent has never been the question with Liriano, it has been consistency, or lack thereof. However in his 5 starts after returning from the bullpen, Liriano is on one of those stretches where he looks like an ace. Do not be scared by his 5.74 ERA and instead look at the 2.67 ERA over this 5 start stretch. He just looks like a more confident pitcher and that is exhibited by his 35 strikeouts over 30.1 innings and only 12 walks. Liriano is also limiting the hits, seems to be building up some stamina and can be expected to go at least 6 innings. With two starts this week, I would ride his hot streak.
Justin Masterson – @ New York Yankees and @ Baltimore. Pitching for the Indians, run support is a major issue for Masterson. But once you get past that, look at his 2-2 career record and 2.76 ERA against the Yankees and the fact that Baltimore is a lineup that can be handled. It seems that Masterson has recovered from his early season struggles as his ERA is now below 4 on the season. With 40 walks, the free passes have been way up for Masterson, but in June he only issued 6 walks and had 2 games with no walks. He pitches deep into games, 97.2 innings so far this season, and has struck out 77 batters. Now that he has the walks under control, the WHIP should not be an issue and Masterson is someone I would start this week without hesitation.
Jason Vargas – vs. Oakland and vs. Boston. Vargas is another hurler who suffers from lack of run support. However his home park, where he starts twice this week including once against a weak Oakland team, helps keep his ERA down. But aside from the run support, Vargas is a solid hurler who will keep his team in the game and has a 7-7 record to show for it. He is one of those frustrating starters that will put runners on base and will give up runs. If you can deal with his 4.66 ERA and 1.22 WHIP then Vargas isn’t a dreadful play in search of a win. With 64 strikeouts over 102.1 innings, I would not expect much in that category. Against Oakland Vargas is a must start, but facing Boston’s bats could be an issue. I would start Vargas dependent on my situation, both in the standings and depending on what alternatives I had.
Erik Bedard – @ Philadelphia and @ St. Louis. Bedard could be one of the better risks to take this week as he takes the mound twice. It would be nice to see him pitch a little deeper into the game, only 72 innings this season, but his 69 strikeouts give him some appeal. However his 32 walks are an issue and play a large part in his 1.42 WHIP. But when he puts runners on, he has been able to limit the damage as he has a 4.13 ERA. If you are looking for some strikeouts, need a chance at 2 wins and could withstand some damage to your WHIP, Bedard would not be the worst choice this week. There is a greater chance for mediocrity than a complete implosion and with two starts some of that threat is spread out.
Jake Westbrook – @ Miami and vs. Pittsburgh. Westbrook is having one of his better seasons this year. In his last 6 starts, he has a complete game shutout of the Tigers, 2 quality starts and 2 outings of 5 runs over 5 innings. I would expect more of the same this week as he takes the hill twice. His ERA of 3.83 and WHIP of 1.32 are better than in seasons past and over 2 starts could give your ratios a little bit of help. My preference would be to go with the steadier Westbrook than some other younger, more inconsistent options this week if you are in the search for 2 wins.
Three for Thought:
Nate Eovaldi – @ San Francisco and vs. New York Mets. Eovaldi has pitched 30.2 innings over 5 starts this season since being recalled from AAA. All but one of those starts has been a quality start, and that is because Eovaldi only pitched 5.2 innings. However he is winless because the Dodgers have scored a total of 5 runs for him. He does not over power hitters as evidenced by his 20 strikeouts and 12 walks. That would concern me, but he has been able to limit damage with a 2.35 ERA. Based on his 1.30 WHIP, I would not expect that to last. Eventually he will get some run support and possibly a win, but the WHIP will hurt you some and Eovaldi does not offer enough strikeouts to offset the risk. I can also see his ERA begin to rise as at some point he will have a rough outing. If he is one of your better options and you want to ride the wave then he isn’t a bad play this week. Personally I think his ERA is misleading and I would stay away if I had a better option.
Drew Smyly – @ Texas and @ Tampa Bay. As of now Smyly is scheduled for two starts this week as he will return from the DL on Tuesday. It was a quick stint on the DL and he appears to be healthy. Prior to his injury Smyly was in the middle of a nice rookie campaign. With 3.96 ERA and 1.27 WHIP he was providing good value for a lot of fantasy owners and Detroit’s offense always will give him a chance at winning. With almost a strikeout an inning (58 over 63.2) and only 18 walks, there is some upside here. Granted Texas is a tough matchup, but this stage of the options it is all about taking chances and Smyly could be one of the better choices.
Jordan Lyles – vs. San Diego and @ Chicago Cubs. The highly touted prospect seems to have turned the corner with his last start, going 7 innings and giving up 2 runs to the Royals. The strikeouts have not been there yet, as he is learning how to pitch out of trouble and go deeper into games. He has limited the walks, 16 in 44.2 innings in total, with the exception with one game of 6 free passes. As the 21-year old continues to get more confident, this could be good value going forward and for next year in keeper leagues. Both matchups are favorable this week, so I would feel comfortable rolling the dice with Lyles.