by Ray Kuhn
There is not a vast selection of pitchers this week making two starts. Instead of relaxing your expectations, I would take the opposite stance. As the season nears its conclusion, I would be a little more stringent in selecting your pitchers based on your place in the standings. With that said, let’s take a look at some of those options.
Studs that never should be benched:
- Madison Bumgarner – @ Los Angeles Dodgers and vs. Atlanta.
- RA Dickey – vs. Colorado and vs. Houston.
- Roy Halladay – vs. Cincinnati and vs. Washington.
- Clayton Kershaw – vs. San Francisco and vs. Miami.
- Cliff Lee – vs. Cincinnati and vs. Washington.
- Adam Wainwright – vs. Houston and @ Cincinnati.
- Jordan Zimmerman – vs. Atlanta and @ Philadelphia.
Five Pitchers that should be starting in every format:
Tim Hudson – @ Washington and @ San Francisco. It is clear that Hudson is on a roll and you shouldn’t let his age and recent injury issues fool you. It is a month and a half since his last loss and over his last 8 starts he has a 3.12 ERA and a 6-0 record. The strikeouts have not been there for Hudson, 79 K in 128 innings, but you can’t argue with his 12-4 record and his recent performance.
Tim Lincecum – @ Los Angeles Dodgers and vs. Atlanta. Lincecum has been anything but stud worthy this season, as his 5.45 ERA and 1.50 WHIP shows. In his last outing he pitched 4 innings and gave up 4 runs and 8 hits against the Nationals. Prior to that he had 3 straight quality starts where he gave up a total of 5 runs over 21 innings. Before that positive run Lincecum had another 4.2 inning stinker which came after 2 dominating starts. You get the point, Lincecum has been streaky this year. However, over his last 7 starts, 5 were quality and a few were on the verge of dominating (granted his 8 shutout inning, 11 strikeout outing came against the Astros). This season you have to take the good with the bad, although it seems recently there have been more flashes of good. He is a pitcher you are almost forced to rely on, so I would get him in your lineups for his two starts this week.
Max Scherezer – vs. Toronto and vs. Los Angeles Angels. Scherzer is another frustrating pitcher. He is worth his value in strikeouts alone, not to mention the 12 wins he has this season. He has struck out 178 batters in 140.2 innings and has 4 outings of double-digit strikeouts. While his WHIP of 1.39 is a little scary, his ERA of 4.42 actually has not been too dreadful. Those ratios make it a little easier to stomach Scherzer’s inconsistency, as he has been able to both limit the damage this season and have some dominating outings. The possibility for 2 wins and 20 strikeouts this week is too much not to have in your lineup.
Jeremy Hellickson – vs. Kansas City and vs. Oakland. Hellickson rebounded from 2 rough outings by almost matching Felix Hernandez pitch for pitch on Wednesday. Despite some poor outings this season, his ERA stands at a very good 3.39. What has gotten him into trouble and limited him from truly reaching that stud category is the number of base runners. He has walked 47 batters in 127.1 innings and has a 1.30 WHIP. For a pitcher who has only struck out 80 batters, that limits his value. Regardless, he still deserves a spot in your lineup just about every week and especially this week when he takes the hill twice against two weak hitting offenses.
Brandon McCarthy – vs. Minnesota and @ Tampa Bay. McCarthy may not overpower hitters, but he pitches deep into games and manages to get batters out. It is hard to pass up starting a pitcher with a 2.68 ERA and 1.19 WHIP who is taking the hill twice. Due to injuries he has only made 14 starts this season and has a 6-4 record. He recently returned from the DL by having 2 quality starts. Depending on your league, he might have been dropped while he was injured, so he could be a prudent free agent pickup for this week and beyond to help your ratios.
Five That Must be Debated Based on Your Situation:
Edison Volquez – vs. Pittsburgh and @ Arizona. Volquez is one of the more frustrating fantasy pitchers. He has talent, and has shown it in flashes, but he has trouble remaining consistent. A month ago his ERA was 3.30 but since then it has increased a full run to 4.31. In his last 3 starts he has pitched a total of 8.2 innings and allowed 16 earned runs. That kind of performance could easily ruin your ERA. It is not a secret that he likes to walk batters (86 in 142 innings) but he does have 133 strikeouts. If you can sustain the high risk Volquez posses to your ratios, then start him this week. If not, leave the risk to someone else.
Lucas Harrell – @ St. Louis and @ New York Mets. Harrell has developed into the most reliable starter for the Astros this season and somebody that fantasy owners can count on for their stretch run. In his last 7 starts he has a 2.06 ERA and a stellar 3.81 mark for the season. He has 103 strikeouts this season over 146.1 innings which isn’t great but is helpful. However over his last seven starts he struck out 38 over 42.1 innings. The one knock against Harrell is his 5.06 road ERA this season where he takes the hill twice this week. However, his last 2 road starts were quality starts and in general it looks Harrell has become a more comfortable pitcher. He has a 10-8 record this season so it has not affected him too much pitching for the Astros. He is a pitcher I would look to start this week.
Mike Leake – @ Philadelphia and vs. St. Louis. Prior to his last start Leake was in a bit of a rough stretch, giving up 12 runs in 13.2 innings. All he did was follow that up with a complete game 1 run effort against the Mets, showing what he is capable of. His 5-7 record is troubling considering he has pitched 140.2 innings for a winning team. Also, his 95 strikeouts do not add any value and his ERA of 4.29 and WHIP of 1.28 is not great either. Leake has flashes of talent, but do not become too enamored of him based on his last start. He is a decent option for this week since he starts twice, but I would consider other options first.
Miguel Gonzalez – @ Texas and vs. Toronto. Although he does not strike people out, Gonzalez is in the midst of stretch that could be very helpful to fantasy owners. In 21 innings, he has given up only 14 hits and 3 runs, but he only struck out 11 batters. He is 5-2 on the year with a 3.38 ERA and 1.22 WHIP and could be a useful option for those looking to add a starting pitcher down the stretch. The 28-year old doesn’t have much of a track record or expectations, and he has had some bad outings and his long term future is up for debate. He could be a decent option if you are strapped for innings and pitchers.
Homer Bailey – @ Philadelphia and vs. St. Louis. It looked like Bailey was finally living up to his potential, but his last 4 starts have reversed that trend. With an 8.24 ERA in his last 4 starts his ERA has risen from 3.53 to 4.16. His strikeouts have gone down as he only struck out 16 in that span and has 111 over 147 innings this season. He is pitching twice this week, and once on the road where he has a 2.92 ERA. He is somebody that I would probably look to start this week as with 2 starts the reward outweighs the risk.
Three for Thought:
Freddy Garcia – @ Chicago White Sox and @ Cleveland. Garcia has a high ERA, at 4.68, but he does have 7 wins in 13 starts pitching for a team where wins are never in short supply. Aside from facing Josh Hamilton, Garcia pitched well against the Rangers in his last start. When deciding whether or not to start Garcia, I would look at his performance since his July 2 insertion to the rotation. He is 5-3 with a 3.69 ERA. Sure, his WHIP might be a little high and the strikeouts might not be as high as want, but Garcia will be in position for a win every start. There are a lot worse options than the gutty right hander.
Will Smith – @ Tampa Bay and @ Boston. Smith is coming off 2 outings of 7 innings each in which he only gave up 1 run in each start. Remember, do not become too overzealous when looking for pitchers this week. His ERA on the season is 5.09 and his WHIP is 1.36. He only has 34 strikeouts in 53 innings so there is not much value there. Also, he is facing 2 tough opponents which would give me some cause for concern. Let him establish himself a little more before you take a flier on him.
Scott Feldman – vs. Baltimore and vs. Minnesota. Maybe the best thing you can about Feldman is that he always seems to be in the mix for the decision. In 15 starts he has a 6-8 record, which means that for those hunting for wins he could be a decent play this week as he takes the hill twice backed by the Rangers powerful offense. With an ERA of 4.63 you can expect some damage, but on a start to start basis Feldman probably will not implode. Plus he has a recent stretch of 3 starts where he pitched 22.2 innings and gave up 3 runs. He followed that start up with what is probably his floor (5.2 innings and 4 runs) and then a quality start where he went 6 innings and gave up 3 runs. Feldman probably won’t hurt you too much and there is the chance for two wins, but do not expect many strikeouts. He could be a useful addition for this week.
What are your thoughts on these options? Anybody else you have your eye on that could be a sneaky play this week?