by Ray Kuhn
Just because football is here, that doesn’t mean you stop paying attention to baseball. Well, at the least that statement stands if you are in contention to finish in the top part of your standings. You have worked hard all season; this is not the time to let those efforts go to waste. This week offers a few intriguing opportunities, including a returning Michael Wacha:
- Depending on the format of your league, it is possible Michael Wacha was forgotten about while he was on the disabled list. Now that he is back, there is no reason why he shouldn’t owned in all leagues. Before he got hurt he was having the dominant season expected from him as takes a 2.80 ERA and 1.13 WHIP into his two starts this week. Yes, I know he only pitched three innings in his last start, and first start back, but it is understandable that the Cardinals would want to work him back slowly and carefully. In those three innings Wacha did look good, allowing one run on three hits and one walk while striking out three batters. This week the matchups are also in Wacha’s favor and, even if he is maxed out at about 12-13 innings between these two starts, I think the strikeouts will be there and he should also be in contention for a win in each start.
Let’s take a look at everyone who is taking the mound twice this week to help you plan your lineup:
|Pitcher||Opponent #1||Opponent #2|
|Clayton Kershaw||vs. San Diego||at San Francisco|
|Felix Hernandez||vs. Houston||vs. Oakland|
|Max Scherzer||vs. Kansas City||vs. Cleveland|
|Jon Lester||at Chicago White Sox||at Seattle|
|Jordan Zimmermann||vs. Atlanta||at NY Mets|
|Sonny Gray||at Chicago White Sox||at Seattle|
|Doug Fister||vs. Atlanta||at NY Mets|
|Chris Tillman||at Boston||vs. NY Yankees|
|Chris Archer||at NY Yankees||at Toronto|
|Jered Weaver||at Cleveland||vs. Houston|
|Jacob deGrom||vs. Colorado||vs. Washington|
|Yovani Gallardo||vs. Miami||vs. Cincinnati|
|Hiroki Kuroda||vs. Tampa Bay||at Baltimore|
|Justin Verlander||vs. Kansas City||vs. Cleveland|
|Mike Minor||at Washington||at Texas|
|Marcus Stroman||vs. Chicago Cubs||vs. Tampa Bay|
|Edinson Volquez||at Philadelphia||vs. Chicago Cubs|
|Danny Salazar||vs. LA Angels||at Detroit|
|Shelby Miller||at Cincinnati||vs. Colorado|
|Hector Santiago||at Texas||vs. Houston|
|Michael Wacha||at Cincinnati||vs. Colorado|
|Miguel Gonzalez||at Boston||vs. NY Yankees|
|Mike Leake||vs. St. Louis||at Milwaukee|
|Trevor Bauer||vs. Minnesota||at Detroit|
|Jonathan Niese||vs. Colorado||vs. Washington|
|Jason Vargas||at Detroit||vs. Boston|
|Tom Koehler||at Milwaukee||at Philadelphia|
|Joe Kelly||vs. Baltimore||at Kansas City|
|Jeremy Guthrie||at Detroit||vs. Boston|
|Yusmeiro Petit||vs. Arizona||va. LA Dodgers|
|Jeff Locke||at Philadelphia||vs. Chicago Cubs|
|John Danks||vs. Oakland||vs. Minnesota|
|Jordan Lyles||at NY Mets||at St. Louis|
|Kyle Kendrick||vs. Pittsburgh||vs. Miami|
|Brad Peacock||at Seattle||at LA Angels|
|Dylan Axelrod||vs. St. Louis||at Milwaukee|
|David Buchanan||vs. Pittsburgh||vs. Miami|
|Trevor May||at Cleveland||at Chicago White Sox|
|Brad Penny||at Milwaukee||at Philadelphia|
- If you are in the fantasy playoffs this week and have an elite starting pitcher, chances are you have a distinct advantage over your opponent. Maximizing the number of starts you have in general is already a prudent strategy, but in a week where Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Felix Hernandez, Sonny Gray, Jon Lester, and Jordan Zimmermann all take the hill twice it has an even greater importance. You already have an advantage in the pitching categories and there is less of a reason to take risks with your other pitchers that could potentially erase the advantage from one of the aforementioned aces. The opposite is true if your opponent has one of these aces and you do not as loading up and taking educated risks is potentially the only way to counteract Kershaw and his 17 innings of two runs and 20 strikeouts. In season long leagues, this is where the issue of innings limits come into play, as you don’t want miss out on a start from a top starting pitcher because you hit your innings limit streaming subpar options. On the contrary, should your position in the standings dictate it, this is the time to stream to ensure you utilize your full complement of innings.
- Entering the season Danny Salazar was a popular name on sleeper lists as he came on strong at the end of 2013. Unfortunately for those who bought into the hype, Salazar disappointed and ended up in Triple-A. He is back now, is rewarding fantasy owners who kept their faith in him and in reality will end up having a pretty good season from a total statistical standpoint. Going into this week he has a 3.80 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP, which looks even better considering his early season struggle. Prior to his last start against the Tigers, Salazar was averaging just over five innings per start, but the good sign is that he had only walked eight while striking out 23 batters in 26 innings. For the season he has struck out 92 batters in 87.2 innings and, in a week where he makes two starts, every strikeout will help. Salazar doesn’t have the easiest of matchups, but based on the way he has been pitching it is still not enough to deter me from using him.
- Joe Kelly is not an exciting option, but he is an interesting one now that he has a steady role in the rotation with the Red Sox. For starters, he is attractive because he is owned in just 34% of CBS leagues. If you look his WHIP of 1.39 his lack of ownership might start to make sense, but for a streaming option late in the season you could do a lot worse than his 4.13 ERA. This week he faces two teams that are in contention for a playoff spot, though neither offense is especially frightening as a whole. Kelly’s strikeouts are respectable, 49 in 69.2 innings, but the fact that he starts twice does help to make up for that. Perhaps more importantly, Kelly is in the midst of a nice little streak where four of his last seven starts have been considered quality and in one of the other three starts he threw five shutout innings. As he transitions to being a full time starter, his stamina is beginning to increase as he pitched 17.2 innings in his last two starts allowing five runs on nine hits and nine walks while striking out 15 batters.
- A pitcher who is available in even more leagues, but might be a better option, is Miguel Gonzalez. Gonzalez, who is owned in just 30% of CBS leagues, is coming off a complete game shutout against the Reds in which he allowed four hits and one walk while striking out eight. That start came after he pitched seven innings allowing one run and he is in the midst of a stretch where six of his last seven starts have been quality starts. In those starts, he has allowed 11 earned runs in 46.1 innings and is certainly a pitcher trending in the right direction. Gonzalez gets the Red Sox and the Yankees this week and both offenses have had their share of recent struggles, which makes Gonzalez one of the better options this week if you have a pitcher spot to fill.
- Yusmeiro Petit replaced Tim Lincecum in the rotation with much fanfare, as he was in the midst of a streak that saw him retire 46 consecutive batters. His first start in the rotation saw that streak come to a close, but his performance still was just what the Giants were looking for; six innings, nine strikeouts and just one run. Unfortunately he did not continue that success in his next start as he lasted just four innings while allowing six runs. I wouldn’t base my opinion of Petit on either start as I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle, but what is certain is that he is a better pitcher than his 27% ownership in CBS leagues shows. For the season he has a 3.89 ERA and 1.04 WHIP but more importantly he has a 101/18 strikeout to walk ratio in 90.1 innings making him a pitcher, at the very least worth considering.