by Ray Kuhn
This week there does not appear to be a plethora of options for those owners looking to load up on two start pitchers. There are a few top tier options, as per usual, some above average options but then the selection starts to go downhill. Regardless of how deep your league is, there should be multiple options available on your waiver wire but in most cases those options might be better left there. Let’s take a look at some pitchers that could help you make up some ground in the standings this week.
Studs that never should be benched:
- Madison Bumgarner – vs. New York Mets and @ Colorado
- Cliff Lee – @ Washington and vs. Arizona
- Tim Lincecum – vs. New York Mets and @ Colorado
- David Price – @ Oakland and vs. Baltimore
- Stephen Strasburg – vs. Philadelphia and vs. Miami
- Jered Weaver – @ Texas and @ Chicago White Sox
Five Pitchers that should be starting in every format:
Kyle Lohse – @ Colorado and vs. Milwaukee. Lohse is one of those pitchers that usually ends up being more useful than he is projected, and more useful than he should be. Pitching in Colorado is never an attractive matchup but Lohse generally is able to keep the ball down and neither opponent poses an extraordinary threat. He is already up to 10 wins this season, has not allowed more than 2 runs in his last 7 starts and consistently pitches deep into games. Lohse is also limiting not only base runners, as he has a 1.09 WHIP, but runs as his ERA is only 2.71 this season. The one knock against Lohse is a lack of strikeouts, but with the way he is pitching this year he is a must start every week, and especially this week since he takes the hill twice. He gives you a chance at two wins plus your ratios should see some benefit.
Tommy Hanson – vs. Miami and vs. Houston. Hanson has been a disappointment this year, but at the same time he has not pitched terribly and should be counted on for the stretch run. He starts twice this week, once against a Marlins team that just traded away Hanley Ramirez and even with him has not performed to expectation, and a second time against an Astros team that has been a disaster. With an 11-5 record and 110 strikeouts over 121 innings Hanson has rewarded fantasy owners by consistently pitching deep enough into games to compile strikeouts and wins. His 4.39 ERA has been both below expectations and his talent level, but not dreadful especially when compared to his WHIP of 1.43. His 51 walks have been the cause of trouble this season, but it has not been a consistent issue. Hanson’s short outings have been all attributed to his control problems, but his overall performance is still deserving of a spot in your lineup.
Homer Bailey – vs. San Diego and vs. Pittsburgh. Bailey has been enjoying a successful season but even more so his performance in July has been a pleasant revelation for fantasy owners. By winning 5 straight starts he is finally starting to realize his potential. This stretch has lowered his season ERA to 3.53 as he has pitched to a 1.43 ERA in July. His WHIP of 1.27 is still a bit higher than owners would prefer, but nothing to prevent him from starting and, aside from 5 walks in his last outing, he has been exhibiting pretty good control. Bailey’s 95 strikeouts this season will help pad your statistics as will taking the hill twice, especially with a start against the Padres. As Bailey begins to realize his potential I would make sure he is in your lineup.
Josh Beckett – vs. Detroit and vs. Minnesota. Beckett is not enjoying his best season, but what puts him in this category is the fact that he has two starts including one against the Twins. Beckett only has a 5-9 record this season, although now that the Red Sox offense is healthy he does have a better chance at earning a win. Normally Beckett could be counted on for some strikeouts, but this season he has only struck out 82 batters over 108.1 innings. With 29 walks he has been able to limit the amount of base runners but he still has a 4.57 ERA. His last stretch of starts (aside from 6 ER in 5 innings against the Yankees) has not been that bad, or that good. Chances are you do not have better options this week as he is one of the more sure thing two start pitchers available and I would have him in my lineup.
Max Scherzer – @ Boston and vs. Cleveland. This is another pitcher that frustrates me just as much as Beckett. He is a little more unreliable (4.49 ERA and 1.38 WHIP) as he has a propensity to walk more batters, but he makes up for it by striking out 142 batters over 116.1 innings this season. That alone should earn him a spot in your lineup most weeks, and especially those when he takes the hill twice. Backed by Detroit’s offense he also has a 10-5 record and the risk to your ratios is something you must take by starting Scherzer. He has been on a bit of a winning streak and has a 3.46 ERA over his last ten starts, so that should add a little comfort to starting Scherzer this week.
Five That Must be Debated Based on Your Situation:
Tommy Milone – vs. Tampa Bay and vs. Toronto. Milone has been pitching deep enough into games to factor in the decision as he has a 9-7 record for the A’s and has pitched 128.1 innings this season. He has struck out 93 batters as compared to 26 walks, which has contributed to his success. By taking the hill twice you should see a little strikeout boost from Milone. With a 3.50 ERA and 1.19 WHIP, there is not much more Milone could do this season. He has two difficult opponents this week, but he limits the walks and has been nearly unbeatable at home with a 0.91 ERA. I would definitely get him in my lineup.
Clay Buchholz – vs. Detroit and vs. Minnesota. Much of what I said for Beckett applies here as well. His ERA of 4.93 is a little, uglier but he has been on a positive trend lately. Over his last two starts he has pitched 15 innings and only given up 1 earned run in each outing. Prior to his DL stint he also had a complete game shutout against the Orioles. With 73 strikeouts over 107.1 innings he will not over power hitters or provide a huge benefit to your strikeout totals by pitching twice, but he will not hurt you either. If you ignore the statistics, Buchholz is inching towards must start status and with 2 starts this week he should be in your lineup.
Mark Buehrle – @ Atlanta and @ Washington. Buehrle is a solid starter who has appeared in this space often this season. He is an innings eater, as illustrated by his 9-9 record, but he is not a strikeout pitcher. With an ERA of 3.31 and WHIP of 1.16 Buehrle will aid your ratios by giving you a chance at two wins, albeit against two difficult opponents. He is still most likely a must start option in pretty all formats as he should not do any damage to your team.
Edinson Volquez – @ Cincinnati and vs. New York Mets. With 73 walks this year you would expect Volquez to be having a worse season then he is. Despite all those walks his WHIP is only 1.32 and most of those base runners have not scored, as his ERA of 3.30 is must start worthy. Volquez has continued to over power hitters striking out 118. There is always the worry of Volquez imploding and those walks doing some damage to your ratios, but he deserves to be starting this week and most other weeks based on his strikeouts and his performance.
AJ Griffin – vs. Tampa Bay and vs. Toronto. Griffin benefits from two starts this week both in the cavernous confines of his home park. I would start him as Griffin has registered a quality start in each of his 6 outings since being called up from the minors. He sports a 3-0 record and 29 strikeouts in his 36 innings and has limited damage to extent of a 2.25 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. There is so far nothing bad to say about Griffin as he has not gotten into much trouble and has looked confident. Until he proves otherwise, Griffin should be starting in all formats.
Three for Thought:
Matt Harvey – @ San Francisco and @ San Diego. There is not much negative to be said about Harvey after his debut against Arizona. He struck out 11, walked 3, gave up 3 hits and did not give up any runs. The only knock could be that he only lasted 5.1 innings and it took him 106 pitches to get thru it. The fact that he struck out 11 also contributed to his high pitch count, but as he earned the win I do not think many fantasy owners were complaining. He got into a little trouble but kept his composure throughout the start and did not appear to be in much danger. Based on his strikeouts alone, Harvey should be in your lineup this week and beyond. Especially in keeper leagues, Harvey should no longer be available on your free agent wire.
Roy Oswalt – vs. Los Angeles Angels and @ Kansas City. Oswalt has been plagued by both back problems and shaky performances in his abbreviated season thus far. He has mixed 3 starts of about 6 innings each where he only 1 run in each of those starts, along with 2 starts where Oswalt absolutely imploded. Oswalt has not pitched since the July 17 due to back problems but is on schedule to start twice this upcoming week. Based on his track record and success in his last 2 starts there is nothing to suggest that starting Oswalt would not be a prudent move, but the possibility for implosion exists and his back still has some level of uncertainty. Unless you have a better option, I would start Oswalt as long as his back remains healthy at the lineup deadline.
Luke Hochevar – vs. Cleveland and vs. Texas. Hochevar has often been an inconsistent enigma, but prior to his implosion against the Angels in his last start he had 3.61 ERA in his 10 prior starts. Despite that stretch his ERA for the season is still 5.26. He has a 6-9 record on the season and has only struck out 83 batters to go along with a 1.40 WHIP. While those 10 starts showed the potential he is capable of, his season stats show how bad he also has the potential to be. With one of his starts coming against Texas, I would stay away from Hochevar unless you do not have better options as he won’t provide you with enough strikeouts to deal with the risk and the chance for two wins is slim.
What are your thoughts on these options? Anybody else you have your eye on that could be a sneaky play this week?